Each week Homebound Publications receives numerous phone calls and emails from unpublished writers who are looking for guidance as they desperately try to break into the industry. Each person usually asks the same questions: How do I know if my writing is good enough to the published? Will you read my manuscript and tell me if it is well-written? I’ve receive several rejections, does this mean I am not good enough to be a writer?
Receiving criticism and dealing with rejection is part of being a working writer and so, by the same hand, it would seem that, if a writer is to succeed, being a visionary must also play a role in being a working writer. Recently we asked our authors and editors what advice they would give to emerging authors.
Unpublished writers hold on to exceptional stories, the guy whose novel sat in the cellar for forty years, then suddenly became a bestseller. You are not that exception, so stop thinking that way. When I started out, I thought of myself as a fiction writer, but found that travel websites were hungry for content. I wrote travel narratives as a break from my “true calling” of writing novels. Those narratives led, strangely, to my first history book. History books led to a travel guide, the first book I was paid well for. That led to my first book-length travel narrative being published, right here at Homebound Publication. Are my novels next? Perhaps. But what is important is that I am evolving, not stuck on my first novel or on the first image I had of myself as a writer. Reach out in all directions, like an octopus with four typewriters. If your tentacles are flexible, something will stick.
To be a published writer you must first dedicate yourself 100% to your writing dream. Come rain or shine or snow, you must dedicate a piece of every day to your dream and never let yourself be discouraged by what others think or say about your path. It can take years to break into the publishing industry and you must be aware that even once you break the ice, there is still so much work ahead. Your dream must be the reason you get up every morning, if not it will slowly fade into the background of other priorities. If you can walk this dedicated path then you have a chance at manifesting your writing dream. Like an athlete who runs 10 km every day no matter what weather is outside, you must be willing to persevere no matter what obstacles are ahead.
David K. Leff, author of Tinker’s Damn, Finding the Last Hungry Heart, The Last Undiscovered Place, which was a Connecticut Book Award finalist, Deep Travel and Hidden in Plain Sight. He has also penned two volumes of poetry, The Price of Water and Depth of Field,
Writing is reflexive to reading so be voracious and omnivorous, especially with contemporary work which will point to what interests publishers and readers. Keep a journal, not as a diary, but as a workshop. Write in it several times a week. Use it for descriptions of people, objects, phenomena and landscapes; recollected conversations; your reactions to events; the sound of words; and even lists of future writing projects.
Like what Edison said of inventing, good writing is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. Don’t wait for the muse. Create time to write in a place that works for you and have at it. Don’t worry about what comes out in a first draft. Most of writing is about rewriting. First drafts may be a bloodletting, but revising has the allure of working on a puzzle or playing Sherlock Holmes to sentences and paragraphs.
You may want to start by volunteering to write for a small paper (like a local weekly) or magazine as a reviewer or similar regular gig. Try writing an op-ed for a bigger paper. If you have a book manuscript, look to see who is publishing similar works, and check them to see if the author thanks an agent or editor that you might contact.
Keep in mind an audience and write, write, write. You’ll never go wrong, if you just write.
Theodore Richards, Founder of The Chicago Wisdom Project, author of the award-winning title Cosmosophia: Cosmology, Mysticism, and the Birth of a New Myth; the award-winning novel, The Crucifixion; The Conversions, and Creatively Maladjusted: The Wisdom Education Movement Manifesto
I would say that getting into publishing requires two things above all else: patience and courage. Patience is obvious: things move slowly; you get rejected; you must wait and wait and wait…. Courage is perhaps even more important. There are many good writers out there who simply don’t want to face the fact that as soon as you put your self into the public sphere, you will be criticized. Even if you write something truly outstanding. In fact, the better is, the more criticism you get, because anything good will challenge.
Additionally—and this will sound obvious—the writer must read and write. All the time. Even when the writer is not writing, he or she is writing. Writing must become a way of engaging the world, not merely something done in front of a computer. This is why reading deeply—and reading good stuff—is so important. And when one cannot write, when the words do not come, the writer still writes; the writer goes over old stuff, edits, reads. Words must be like food, something that is a part of every day.
The fact that I am an Editor seems to eclipse the fact that I am a writer. When I meet an unpublished writer and they learn of my career, they don’t ask me as a writer, “How did you get published?” they ask me, “Will you read my work and tell me what you think? I need to know if it is any good.”
Being a writer means being the lone bannerman of your dream—being the sole representative and champion for your work. If you are lucky you will publish, gather and readership, and find those willing to stand beside you to lend voice to the value of your work. But, for the most part and especially in the beginning, being a writer means you must be a visionary—you must see the value in sharing your work with the world regardless of what any editor or critic might say.
The best advice I can give a new writer is this: Before you ever send out a query you must determine within yourself whether or not you think your work is good and if the answer is yes you must drive that conclusion to your core—to a place where it cannot be shaken—so that no matter what anyone thinks, you know the truth and will not be discouraged when the inevitable criticism comes.