by Therese Heckenkamp
Countless people dream about writing, but it’s the ones who actually sit down and do it who are moving closer to making their dream reality. My first and biggest piece of advice is to carve out writing time. Every day would be awesome, but I know that’s almost impossible for many of us. That’s okay. Take what you can–be it an hour every night or merely one hour each weekend. Words add up to pages, pages to a book.
Write about something that you feel strongly about, because this will come through in the writing, making it compelling for others to read. (And even if it’s never published, at least you will have enjoyed the process.)
What do you like to read? Mystery? Romance? Sci-fi? You’re familiar with the feel of your favorite genre, so write something along the same lines.
Use the all resources available. I can’t emphasize this enough. Resources abound! Live in the library, replace your credit cards with library cards, subscribe to writing magazines, scour the internet. . . For anyone who’s serious about writing well and getting it published, making use of resources is only common sense.
Practice writing by writing. Don’t expect to sell your first piece, or even your second. Writing is about learning the craft, perfecting the talent, art, skill–whatever poetic term you want to call it–it still comes down to hard work. In the same way you can’t sit down at a canvas and paint a masterpiece, don’t expect your first writing to be published.
Follow guidelines. When you do start sending pieces out, don’t–repeat don’t–just pick out a handful of publishers’ addresses and send your manuscript to them. Besides wasting postage (it adds up), stories sent to magazines that don’t publish fiction (no matter how well-written) spotlights you as an amateur too lazy to do research. Also, make sure your material is formatted correctly. This means no handwritten or single-spaced manuscripts. Your work deserves its best chance, so don’t screw up in easily avoidable ways. Don’t tie your manuscript in a fancy ribbon (it happens) or send scented stationary to catch an editor’s attention–because believe me, you’ll catch it–just not in the way you want.
With common sense and research, you can both narrow and target potential markets considerably. The Writer’s Market provides basic guidelines as to what kinds of material publishers publish, how they want you to contact them (many require merely a query letter before they’ll even look at an unsolicited [un-requested] manuscript). You can also write directly to publishers for their guidelines. But nowadays, you can usually find guidelines almost instantly via the internet.
Send out you manuscript and wait . . . yet don’t wait. Get busy with another project so you can keep your work circulating–thus increasing your output, skills, and chances of being published. Function as a productive writer.
Have hope! Writing is a wonderfully enriching, fulfilling experience–one worth striving for. Your chances of getting published increase with your effort. Getting published isn’t like winning the lottery (even if your “numbers” are finally chosen, don’t count on the money being enough to buy your dream home), and most writers are content with that. Sharing your words with the world, making a difference in some way, provides a reward all its own.
You may also be interested in Writing Advice for Catholic Fiction Writers