Every writer has been there; on the precipice between reader and writer, wondering how, or if, to make the leap. Here are three steps to get you started on the path from reader to writer.
In a recent interview for Oprah Daily books, author Diana Gabaldon remarked that since she was a young girl she knew that she wanted to be a writer. However, like many would-be authors, she wasn’t sure she could make a living from her words, so she embarked upon a more assured career. Twelve years into her job as a university professor, Gabaldon felt the pull of time and decided it was now or never. In the dead of night, while working two day jobs, and raising three children under the age of six, she started the manuscript that would become Outlander, the first in a series that has sold over 24 million books in the US alone.
Gabaldon picked historical fiction as her trial project because she felt comfortable doing research. In the following days, she saw a random movie featuring a young man from the 18th century and her hero, Jamie Frasier, was born. No plot, no outline, no knowledge of Scotland in the 18th century, just a burning need to START.
While Gabaldon’s writing led her to historical/romance fiction, she’d originally thought she would write mysteries. Perhaps the free-write approach led her organically to what she was destined to create.
Meet other writers
There are many ways to engage with writers. Now more than ever, you can engage locally, virtually or far away! Most importantly, find a supportive community. Recently, the Miss Demeanors had a discussion about the ups and downs of writer’s groups. Good ones are a boost, the wrong one is equivalent to wearing lead boots. And don’t forget that a writing group can be virtual.
Look for other resources. I’m a member of several organizations that specifically offer support for mystery writers: Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, and Mystery Writers of America. Through them, I’ve met writers at every stage of their career, learned about the ins and outs of the publishing industry, and found fast friends. The support of these organizations reaches into communities through local and regional chapters, and provide dynamic discussion on line.
Attend a conference! Here is a list of some of our favorites. Think local, as well as regional and national. Remember that conferences have a focus. Are you looking for lectures and workshops on craft? Maybe you’re not there yet and want to consider a reader’s conference where you will have a chance to meet authors and learn about the profession one-on-one.
If you want to write, you have to read. Read broadly and read within your genre. Reading broadly teaches many aspects of writing: word choice, sentence structure, length of a story within a novel, what readers expect when they pick up a book (your book!), to name a few. Reading shows you how the genre has changed over time. (Charles Dickens, Leo Tolstoy and Jane Austin might publish the same STORY today, but not in the exact form their novels took a hundred or more years ago.) No one can predict the future, but you need to know what the present looks like.
Becoming a writer is a mix of talent, hard work, desire, and study. The more you know before you take the plunge (or as you take the plunge) the more confident you will be in your work.
We’d love to hear about your journey from reader to writer. Share with us on Facebook and Twitter.
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