Tips for Aspiring Authors

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I love email. And I hate it. It ultimately saves me hundreds of phone calls a week. But becoming a master over it–rather than having it master you–can be a full-time job. (For some incredible tips on this, please visit this fantastic post by Michael Hyatt, which have helped me a great deal). I receive about 200 “legit” emails a day (after spam), and of those, one of the most commonly asked questions I answer is, “What advice do you have for writers just starting out?” Seeing as how just replying to those mails alone could take the better part of any morning, I’ve put together this post (also found permanently on my “Novels” page), which I pretty much ripped entirely from my friend Lisa T. Bergren’s website. A few of my own comments have been put in.

1) Read! Read! Read!

The best thing you can do as an aspiring writer is to read, read, read, especially the kind of books you’d like to write. Study your favorite books—how characters and plot and subplots develop, chapter by chapter, what principle action takes place…if you take the time to outline your favorite book, it might look a lot like what the author began with himself/herself! Likewise, be careful of reading bad literature; ingesting bad style will lead to outputting bad style.

2) Subscribe to Your Craft!

Subscribe to Writer’s Digest. It is a monthly magazine that helps aspiring writers of any genre with some craft basics. From it, I learned enough to write my first novel! You can too!

3) Study the Market!

Study the market. It is difficult for an unpublished writer to get published, so you have to work every angle you can. What does that mean?
(a) Target ONLY publishers who publish the kind of books you like to write!
(b) Study their current line of books—see if you can spot any trends, preferences. Again, make sure your project fits with their direction.
(c) Not sure where to start? Go to Sally Stuart’s Christian Writer’s Market Guide for a complete listing of publishers and their publishing needs.

4) Invest in Conferences!

The Christian Writer’s Market Guide is also an excellent place to find out about writer’s conferences near you. The four best Christian writer’s conferences that I know of are held every year at: Sandy Cove, PA; Estes Park, CO; Glorietta, NM; and Mt. Hermon, CA. Keep in mind that you can apply what you learn from a secular writer’s conference too…but one of the major benefits of attending a Christian writer’s conference is that you have access to editors and agents! If you spend the money to attend one of these conferences, you should plan on either (a) relaxing and just absorbing all the information/schooling you can as a beginning author; (b) go ready to learn at an intermediate level AND pitch your project. Sometimes it’s great to go two years in a row specifically to follow this plan. Be prepared…publishing is NOT a fast process!

5) Join a Group…Start a Group!

See if there’s a critique group in your area that you can join. The key is that you have to respect the author writers in your group AND their opinions. Don’t have one? I started one of my own with a few writing friends, called The Ink Blots. We meet one Monday a month at a pub or restaurant of our choosing and share our work samples.

Two things all writers have to work hard to define when starting:

SASE: Self-addressed, stamped envelope.

UNSOLICITED: Without an agent, or an accepted query, a publisher will not look at these proposals. Some won’t even look at queries! See the Christian Writer’s Market Guide for information on how to get in with a publisher.

*I’m sorry, but I cannot read your manuscripts—even a portion. While I’d love to help, I must dedicate any spare moments to family! But I do wish you every good thing as you pursue this passion we share! ch:

  • Thanks for sharing some great advice Christopher Hopper 🙂 I really appreciate it! I’m going to go check out those websites right now. I hope you are having a great day.

  • Bonny Hoeflein

    When people you respect all tell you the same thing, It’s probably the truth!! Thank you for taking the time to put this together. It is very generous of you!

  • You’re most welcome, Ryan!

    Bonny, have others shared this same sort of advice with you before? You’re very welcome!

    ch:

  • Seth

    Yes, thank you for putting this on here. One question though, something that just came to mind. I often spend time reading writing tips, but I wonder if I should spend more time writing then reading tips. What do you think?

  • I particularly liked the advice to read, read, read. For myself my general rule of thumb with that is if I’m not doing a lot of writing I ought to be doing a lot of reading. I need to always be doing a lot of one or the other.

    200 e-mails per day. Wow!

  • Awesome. You know me though, I can’t help but add my two cents. Maybe consider adding the one I find the hardest to do. Write, write, write. Sit your butt down in a chair and write. (Preaching to myself here.) Ideas are easy (I have a million I am selling for $1 each if anyone needs material!), work is hard.