The other day I received a ping on Facebook chat from one of my FB friends who wanted to ask me about how to go about getting published.
It is a common starting point question for those who have begun the process of writing a book. What do I do after I finish writing?
Well, before you finish your first draft, I recommend that you begin thinking of yourself as a writer. Start using that term when you refer to yourself. It is a psychological shift, but one you need to make in order to take yourself seriously as a writer.
You also need to work on your craft. That means you must write all the time. You must also read all the time.
Discover what you enjoy reading, and then write the kind of book that you would like to read.
Analyze your favorite books. Tear them apart. Dissect them. Take copious notes. Discover the plot points, the subplots, the plot twists. Think about the characterizations and settings. Could the story be set in another place and time? If so, how would it have changed the story?
Here are a few books on craft that will be thought provoking and help improve your storytelling ability:
Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass
Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass
Make a Scene by Jordan Rosenfeld
Here is another book that I adore for understanding drama:
Audition: Everything an Actor Needs to Know to Get the Part by Michael Shurtleff
Beyond working on your craft, you also need to start educating yourself about the business of publishing. I recommend that you subscribe to two different daily electronic newsletters.
Publishers Lunch and Publishers Weekly Daily
You should also read industry blogs. If you do not have a reader to help manage blog subscriptions, please remedy that today. I use Google Reader and I have far too many blogs to comfortably follow, but I do scan them. If you don't have a Google account, please get one. It's free and easy to obtain.
Here is one agent's blog that I think is helpful: Kristen Nelson.
Start there, check out her blogroll. Try a few others, subscribe to ones you like. Scour more blogrolls. Rinse, repeat.
You must also find a support network. Try and find a writers club near you. Check your Sunday newspaper to see if there are any listings for meetings in their author signings area. Look in the advertisements in your papers for meetings. Perhaps you have a writers club that meets that you've never heard of before.
Then again, maybe you'll have to dig a little deeper to find a writing community in your area.
You can also try and utilize a cyber community of writers. Absolute Writer Water Cooler is a great place to start.
Getting feedback from fellow writers is essential. Finding a good fit critique group is important in improving your writing skills. It is helpful to not only hearing from others about what works and what doesn't work in your drafts, but by reviewing others' work you begin to develop stronger editing muscles by identifying strengths and flaws in someone else's writing.
I feel it is more important to find someone you have good chemistry with in your critique group than it is to find a group of same genre writers.
Now onto a word of caution: there are many who will try and take advantage of writers. Please do not click on any links for "Publish your novel here" that you might see. It is doubtful that you will be happy with the result.
You should check out a website called Preditors and Editors and familiarize yourself with the various scams that are done to unsuspecting writers.
A companion blog that is entitled: Writer Beware Blogs!
Another tip is to find a good adhesive to secure your backside to your desk chair or as some of my friends call it: Butt Glue.
Any other suggestions from my writing friends for those just starting out?