Amused Authors

What Beginning Writers Should Know by Christa Maurice
January 8, 2010, 3:12 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

For purposes of qualification I consider a beginning writer to be someone who has decided to write a book, but hasn’t finished one yet.

1. Nobody is going to steal your idea. Don’t be afraid to have someone critique your work because you think they’re going to take your plot and sell it before you. Critique is vital, especially to the new writer. Now I’m not saying that a book, movie or television show that looks hauntingly similar to yours won’t show up, but that doesn’t mean your story was stolen. My husband and I have a weird symbiosis with Joss Whedon. His character Buffy the Vampire Slayer bears a striking resemblance to my husband’s character Mara, Celtic Shamaness. Mara predates Buffy. I was working on a sci fi epic not long before Firefly came out. One of the characters in my sci fi epic is the ship’s mechanic, she used to be a dancer, but she’s a little crazy now and her name is Kaleen. Yeah, I shelved that puppy.

2. Make friends with other writers. Not only they not steal your ideas, they will (if you choose well) be your best support network and biggest cheerleaders. I’m a member of Romance Divas and they are an incredibly supportive group of romance writers. Your friends and family love you, but they don’t really understand the devastation of getting rejected on a full request after waiting for 5 months or the joy of a really good review.

3. Don’t let anybody tell you what you should write. For years I didn’t write romance because I was embarrassed. It’s so cheesy, y’know? At some point I realized all the fantasy and science fiction I was trying to finish and failing to was just romance in costume. If you want to write something, you write it. If you don’t love it, you won’t be able to finish it and even if you do, it won’t be any good because your heart isn’t in it. Just write what you love.

4. Know the rules of writing. Until you get good, or at least better, at this you’ll want to follow the rules. Yes, Nora Roberts headhops, but you aren’t La Nora. This is not to say that you can never break the rules, but for right now, while you’re learning your way around, follow them. After a while you can learn how to break the rules to good effect. Yes, it’s a pain, but when you were learning to compose paragraphs in school, you had to follow all the rules and now you’ve internalized them so you don’t have to think about it. That’s the idea behind this.

5. Enjoy yourself. Writing is hard, don’t beat yourself up over it. Expect to have trouble with the story at some point. Expect to want to chuck it out the window. Expect to have your characters do weird things. Also expect to have times when the writing is going to well that you don’t want to stop.

Just finishing that first book is a huge accomplishment. I remember finishing Three Alarm Tenant and thinking, “Even if it never gets published, I finished a book.”



4 Comments so far
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Another fine post, Charlotte. I appreciate the concept of writing what you want to write. If you don’t, what’s the point and how will it make you happy? Writing is one of those jobs that should make one happy.

Comment by graysonreyescole

The risk of never getting published is so high that you have to enjoy the process or you need to do something else.

Comment by Charlotte McClain

Hello Charlotte – this is a wonderful post and I couldn’t agree with you more. I often #1 from new writers and non-writers alike. Personally, I have to keep reminding myself of #5 and to set goals that are realistic.

Comment by Kristine Cayne

Thanks. I used to think #1 as well, but then I had so many ideas that I thought, ‘go ahead, steal it!’ And then I realized that the execution of an idea is like a fingerprint. No two authors will do it the same.

#5 is tricky for all writers at various times. You can be going along great and suddenly realize you’re approaching the work with grim purpose and it’s sucking all the fun out of life.

Comment by Charlotte McClain

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