So You Want to Write: Advice

Below is a handout I distribute when I discuss the topic “So You Want to Write.”

So You Want to Write…
By Meggie Tolkland
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• First, identify your goal: Why are you writing, and what do you hope to achieve from it?
• Study! Most working writers continually hone their PR/marketing skills and polish their craft. You can start with William Zinsser’s On Writing Well, Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, and my favorite, The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White.
• Read. Anything.
• Find a critique partner or group. Visit, and select “groups.”
• Find a mentor, ideally someone who understands your genre or project.
• Remember the mantra: “Writers always help each other.”
• Develop positive habits.
o Write every day.
o Maintain a running list of goals regarding your writing. Many writers divide their time between the craft and business.
o Develop a portfolio, even if you write for free.
o Realize you’re already a writer. Write e-mails, notes, everything, as if they’ll be published. Turn everyday writing into practice.
o Prepare yourself emotionally: Every writer faces countless rejections and criticisms, even—especially—the most famous.
• Start now: It takes a looong time to write a novel, and it’s axiomatic that a first novel never gets published. It may take a year to write a second manuscript, a year to find a publisher, and months to babysit the project until the book is published.
• Be the bright side. Don’t criticize yourself for mistakes; they’re only learning experiences. Read the work from the most established authors, and you’ll find the same mistakes you’ve made.


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