Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tip O'Day #360 - A Mentor's Advice

Guest blogger Debbie Peters says we can all still learn more about writing.

In 1996, I was not even thinking about writing and thought I had no prayer of doing anything outside of the medical field. The decision to get one more degree, as a Social Worker this time, brought writing into my life. Trust me, I hated writing when I was younger and got D's in it, but I did rather well in English. One of the requirements for becoming a Social Worker was composition. I assumed that I would fail. To my surprise, the instructor said he wished there was a grade higher than an A, and asked why writing was not my career choice. Lacking confidence, I did not want to believe that I had talent at anything.

Since then I’ve made waves in the writing industry. Degrees help, but 16 years of writing experience helped more. Having passion for using my God-given talent did not hurt either. I wanted to help other new authors, so offered my help to make their dream of finding a publisher come true. I have mentored over the last 4-5 years and it amazes me how many times I repeat the same advice. Many newer authors today don’t seem to research the markets, or learn what it takes to write a good query letter, let alone proposals or a synopsis. They are in such a hurry to get published, they do not even want to finish the manuscript first.

Since I have the Mentoring Blues right now, here’s some advice to new authors:

1. Do not procrastinate. If you want to write, there are absolutely no excuses. I was nearly dying in bed when I wrote 72 manuscripts in one month.

2. There is no such thing as writer’s block. I always work on more than one story to keep from getting bored or blocked. Sometimes, I have resorted to a Story Gram, which are easy to make. You simply write the first word that comes to your head in the center of a piece of paper. Then you think of the first word that occurs to you when you think of that word. This can keep going until it unblocks you, or else you fill the page and then you might have a whole different story idea.

3. Always finish your manuscript before contacting a publisher. Make sure your story has plots, subplots, and more than one climax. You have to research the market. Make sure the particular publisher you query is actually interested in your subject.

4. Search the Literary Market Guide. This can be found in the library or on-line. Smaller publishers are more likely to try out new authors. The Literary Market Guide has a much better selection of those small or regional publishers willing to give new authors a chance.

5. Do not edit your own work. You should double check and maybe even triple check your grammar. One more pair of expert eyes is always best. I use three editors. I never use family or friends.

6. Be willing to do anything to sell your book. Even if you get a publisher, it still requires considerable time to make choices for the cover, bookmarks, fliers, and marketing of your book. I even had to research to make my own videos for one of my books.

7. Keep in mind that you are an artist. Drawing, singing, playing a musical instrument, painting, and even writing are all forms of art. Like other artists, you will probably not make much money. More than 20 of my books have been published, but it has also taken more than 15 years for me to get known.

8. Your On-line access is a valuable friend. Visit ASK or GOOGLE and type in “How to write a query letter.” Do the same for a synopsis, cover letter for publishers, and even a proposal letter. I suggest a one page synopsis and query letter, since that seems to be what most editors are looking for today.

9. Use your experience to write. This does depend mostly on your age. Research topics that you know little about. I have been using my 20 years of experience in the medical field for my suspense thrillers, as well as anything from my 47 years of life experiences.

10. Do not settle for “No.” If you think you have talent at writing and in a particular genre, go for it. You can always self-publish. You can always have more than one publisher. You can find get an agent to get you a publisher. I have not gotten a negative rejection letter. Positive rejection letters can be good, when they have helpful advice. I learned that some famous authors self-published first, so I took that route.

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