Monday, September 11, 2017

Stages of Writing

This is a talk I put together some years back when I was first published and started talking to writing groups. I've added in about self-publishing and online groups.

 Believe – Believe in your abilities as a writer

Perfect – Take classes and workshops – read what you write

Network – get involved in writing organizations – online chats

Submit or self-publish – find the right agent, editor, market or do it yourself

Publish –  Now what

Promote – Put you and your work out there

Never Forget – who helped you along the way and give back

Believe – Believe in your ability to write a poem, tell a story, or depict events. If you don’t believe in yourself no one else is going to believe. Be convincing when you say you are a writer. You may not be published, but if you are writing anything other than grocery and to-do lists, you are a writer. Be it poems, lyrics, essays, short stories, novels( fiction or non-fiction), memoirs, or biographies – you are a writer.   
Perfect -  Take classes, learn all you can about your craft and the area you are writing. Subscribe to the Writer’s Digest, or any magazine or ezine in your genre of writing. These days there are many online groups, blogs, pages for like genre writers to discuss writing and keep abreast of the markets. Along with learning to write, you need to read. Read the genre you write.  See what others are doing and how they do it.  The various genres hold conferences all over the US. When I belonged to RWA I attended at least one conference a year to meet other authors, publishers, and editors and to learn craft and keep up with the business. I belonged to the Salem RWA chapter as well as National RWA. Now I belong to EPIC(Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition), Central Oregon Writers Guild, Sisters in Crime, Oregon Writers Colony, Harney County Writers, and a couple of others I can't think of at the moment.  There are many groups to join to learn craft and the business of writing.  

  • Colorado Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers 
  • Pacific Northwest Writers Association
  • Willamette Writers
  • Western Writers of America
  • Women Writing the West
  • Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America
  • Romance Writers of America. 

These are all good organizations to become familiar with even if you don’t join.  They are the people who know the people you need to know if you are trying to get a novel published through the traditional route or through Self-publishing.
      If you are a freelance writer wanting to break into the magazine market, you need to read the magazines you are interested in writing for and learn what style and stories they like.  Other freelance writers attend multi genre events such as the PNWA and WW. 

Another source for connecting to writer groups are yahoo and FB groups. Get on Yahoo or FB and search for the genre you write and groups will pop up.

Networking –Networking is something you do all the time as a writer. You network with other writers, finding critique partners, talking to people about editors, agents, helping at conferences, or becoming an officer or board member in a writing group.  Attending conferences is a good way to network with other writers, editors, and agents.  If you help at the conferences it also gets your name out in front of a lot of people. Part of networking is learning where your writing fits and connecting to people within that area. The other part of networking is visiting with people, letting them know you are a writer or author. If you have a published piece tell people and listen for places where you could read, do a signing, or even sell your book.  And you never know when you will also come across a person who will spark a great idea for a story or book. It is through my networking I first was asked to submit my work to The Wild Rose Press and subsequently became an editor.   Again if you are writing freelance articles, it never hurts to let people know. They may contact you with an interesting subject or someone who you spoke to comments about your work to a person who is looking for that subject. Networking is important not only for getting your work noticed, but also for learning where to send it and even getting ideas for stories. And again, connecting through Twitter, FB, or other social media sites is networking.
Submit or self-publish – Once you believe in your writing, have perfected your craft, and have networked and know where you need to submit your work- you submit or you learn all you can about self-publishing and take that plunge. ;)    
     If you want to go the traditional route: You go to either the agent or editor’s website or magazine submission guidelines and found out how they like to be queried or you look this information up in the Writer’s Market place, Writer’s Digest, or wherever you have found the information. Remember you put your best foot forward by submitting either a query or partial the way the editor or agent wants it, not the way you want to send it. If they ask only for a query letter, you keep it to the point. What your book is about, who you are, and what qualifies you to write on this subject, and thank them for considering your book or article.  If they request a partial or full, send a cover letter, again be brief, what the story is about, why you wrote it or were qualified to write it and again thank them for considering your work.  Unless a house says they do not take simultaneous submissions, you may send out to more than one place at a time, but do make sure that somewhere you state it is a simultaneous submission. And if someone does buy it, you follow up with a letter to the other people letting them know it was picked up.
     Rejection letters are a given in this business. If you don’t have a tough skin you won’t make it as a writer.  I threw away a file 3 inches thick a couple years ago.  Rejection letters can’t be taken to heart. It may be your subject isn’t what they are looking for or they just bought a book or story close to yours.  It’s hard to take a photocopied rejection that you know was sent to thousands of other writers, but the one that says, loved it, but- That’s a keeper.  That means what I stated earlier. Either they just bought something that was similar or they don’t have slot to fill it with- which is why I like Ebook.  They don’t have to worry about shelf space and they will purchase similar books simultaneously.
     If you decide to go the self-publish route, make sure you have taken craft classes, have had your stories edited and proofed, the stories are formatted correctly and learn what you need to know to upload.  There are many books, websites, an blogs out there with information on self-publishing. Here are some books I recommend: Secrets Every Author Should Know: Self-publishing Basics by Maggie Lynch and Secrets to Pricing and Distribution: Ebooks, Print, and Direct Sales by Maggie Lynch

Publish – You get the call! The editor loved your book and they want to publish it. If you don’t have an agent to help you through the contract (if it is for a book) you might want to get help from a lawyer who knows literary contracts. If you have sold a short story, or an e-book the contracts are pretty cut and dry and you don’t need any mediator to complete the transaction. With a book, you will get your manuscript back with the editor’s comments, they will give you a certain length of time to get it revised and you will send it back. Then they will send it to you in a galley. This is the last time you get to make any changes. Then it goes to print when it is scheduled. Usually if you are with an e-book/print publisher, the e-book will be out 6 months to a year before the print version.
    Magazines can be up to a year or better.
    If you are self publishing, the book will be out within 72 hours of hitting the publish button on most ebook vendors. 

Promote- You believed in your abilities, you perfected, you networked, submitted, and now you have a published book. Unless you are with a large NY publishing house and they paid monstrous dollars for your book, you are on your own to promote your work. If you can get on a local TV station talk show to promote an upcoming book signing or reading that’s good, as well as contacting your local book store and arranging a book signing, or  if you purchase books at the author’s discount you can set up book signings anywhere an establishment will let you.I have had book signings at Wine stores, chocolate shops, flea markets. The skies the limit for where you can sell your print books if you look for them. If you do have an event coming up, send PR to the local paper and always have your promotional packet up to date to send to the establishment where you are having the event. Try to set up book signings or readings in the area where you live, where you grew up, and where the story takes place. If you have an e-book - joining online readers and writers groups is a way to promote. They have chats with authors and highlight specific authors on specific days. Always be looking for an opportunity to promote your book.  Another form of promotion are blogs and websites.
I also purchase or make items to hand out at book signings and to send to conferences when they are looking for promo items for goodie bags to be given away at conferences.  I also have a monthly contest on my website and give away a book, chocolate and other small western items.  I am always on the look out for little things I can tuck into envelopes and send out as prizes.  When I do online chats I hold a contest and give away an ebook or print book I’m promoting.  You have to have people read your work to build a readership.

Never Forget- Never forget the people and organizations who helped you get where you are. Give back by talking at a meeting, giving a workshop at a conference, and telling others who helped you along your way. Remember those who helped you perfect, network, submit, publish, and promote - you didn’t get there alone. 


Pacific Northwest Writers Association
Issaquah, WA

Willamette Writers

Romance Writers of America
chapters all across the U.S.

Western Writers of America

Women Writing the West

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers

Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America

Sisters in Crime (Women Mystery Writers organization)

Horror Writers Association
Places where you can find information on submitting your work.

Writer’s Market Place

Publisher’s Market Place

Children’s Writer’s Market Place

Freelance Writer’s Market Place
Sources of writing information

Writer’s Digest

Poets & Writers

The Writer Magazine

Writer’s Journal

Magazine Writers

KidMag Writers

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