Advice For New Writers

A month ago I had a newbie author reach out to me, asking for some advice and suggestions on how they could branch out with their own desire to write. It took a moment to sit back and think, trace my own steps. I’m very much in a world where terminology and steps are part of my known vernacular. I wasn’t always that way.

I went to Twitter to ask this question of other authors. Because we each have different first steps and different processes. Each of us has our own story but one reoccurring theme I saw through out: find the community. This could be other local writers or through the Internet, but connecting with others seems to be part of those early vital steps.

I ended up with way more responses than I could have hoped, thank you social media! I did my best to catch them all and copy, if I missed yours, I’m sorry, my notifications got a little out of hand! This list is long, so come back often and read a few more for additional inspiration.

Here’s the question I tweeted: Writers: what one step did you take that made a huge difference in your writing career? Thinking about newbie you, how did you go from dreaming to actively working towards your goal? Quote and RT, hoping to collect and blog ideas for newbies!

My response: For me, I found out about the (former) Amazon Breakthrough contest and joined the message boards. Learned a ton from other writers and that lead to being on twitter.

Linnea Schiff @Twin_Lotus: I joined twitter. I made writing friends. I learned how to critique, and be critiqued. I took a break from writing and started reading more.

Kaelan Rhywiol-Disillusioned Autistic @KaelanRhy: Setting goals. When I’m writing, I have a daily word count goal. Letting myself take breaks in between projects to recharge helped too

Joan He  @joanhewrites: I learned to revise. how? by CPing more and seeing how much (or little) writers changed in light of feedback. by receiving more gut-wrenching rejections and learning how to utilize it

beth merlin @bethmerlin80: Attending a pitch conference-not only did I get validation on my WIP but I learned how to craft a strong query letter and met some great people

June Hur, Queen of the Heo Clan @WriterJuneHur: I became an active reader, letting books become my teachers. i.e. I picked up a highlighter and tracked the emotional & character arc in Khaled Hosseini’s KITE RUNNER, because Agents kept asking me for an R&R regarding my character development

June CL Tan | 陈秋琳 @junescribbles: I stopped caring about what unsupportive people think, and pursued my dream because it’s MY dream, not theirs…and I’m the only one who can make it come true.

Mara Delgado  @little_mswriter: Learning craft. I’d been writing since I was a child, but had no guidance whatsoever into how to technically improve. I didn’t even know what to do/where to start with that. The writers around me weren’t interested writing more. My MFA (not needed to help you w/ writing) helped

Cristin Bruggeman @C_Bruggeman: Trunking my 1st novel. I loved that ms and didn’t want to give up on it, but…I ended up loving my 2nd just as much (and now my 3rd and 4th). My 2nd ms taught me that I have endless stories to tell and 1 rejected ms isn’t the end of the line for my career.

Erin Cotter @erinseaotter: Reading a craft book (@bethrevis‘s Paper Hearts series)! As a reader I knew how good plot and pacing felt, but had zero idea how to actually structure my own plot/pacing.

Elizabeth Lim @LizLim: I learned to let go of my characters. When I was a writing newbie, all my MCs had raven black hair & violet eyes & were perfect at everything so nothing bad ever happened to them blah blah blah. Flaws build character, bad decisions build conflict. character+conflict build story

Amira Kessem @Amira_Ke: I got alpha readers (people who read my chapters as I write them)

L.C. Davis @lcdavisauthor: I finished something. For such a long time, I would start ideas with fun characters, but I’d never finish them. Once I actually started to finish my works, I realized I could publish them…. After a few million rounds of revisions.

KA Doore  @KA_Doore: I started to treat writing as a legit job. That meant showing up a certain # of hours/week, setting deadlines (missing deadlines [revising deadlines [hitting deadlines }]), researching the business side, & respecting the process. It meant embracing the longterm.

Samantha Eaton @Samantha_Eaton3: I met some incredible CPs and Betas who constantly challenge me to be better and more thoughtful in what I put on the page. Oh, and they tell me I don’t suck like the voice in my head tells me I do.

Amanda Searcy @AeSearcy: I went to a local SCBWI conference and had my first chapters critiqued by the visiting editor. He requested the whole MS. It didn’t go any farther, but it was a huge confidence boost.

Annie Gray @AnnieSoulFire: When I realized that my favorite author’s first draft most likely sucked too it allow me to write badly. Before that I never finished my novels I thought they had to be perfect.

Karen M. McManus  @writerkmc: Found critique partners and started exchanging manuscripts. I couldn’t recognize the flaws in my work until I’d given and received feedback with someone at the same stage of the publishing journey.

Lillian J Clark @LillianJClark: Had someone whose talent I trusted look at my work knowing he’d (kindly) tear it apart. Because you can’t fix a problem you don’t know is there.

Lance Rubin @lancerubinparty: Started a regular writing practice of trying to hit 1000 words a day and began actively calling myself a writer to others. Universe can’t take you seriously until you take yourself seriously.

heidi heilig  @heidiheilig: Finishing a project.

Ellie Luken @EllieLuken: I joined Absolute Write to connect with writers and started participating in Twitter CP Match events. I’d written tons of first drafts, but didn’t start improving as a writer until I started having others critique my work.

Christine Lynn Herman @christineexists: I finally learned how to revise — like, actually revise, not just making cosmetic changes — and accepted that I would NEVER get a book right the first time around & it would be way more work than it seemed.

Teresa Tran  @teresatran__: I learned how to revise (which !!!) and I made so many new writing friendships and it warms my heart knowing that I’m not alone on my journey (‘:

David Goodner @RDGoodner: I joined a good writers workshop (Hi, @DFW_Writers!) where I found solid critique and accountability to keep me working when it wasn’t fun.

Christa I will finish this book MacDonald @CricketMacD: letting go of the notion that writing was all about inspiration and expression, and that if it felt like work you were doing it wrong. Sometimes it’s a hard slog and that’s okay.

Brynn Avery @YAwriting: outline outline outline Saved me from writing irrelevant chapters and helped me stay committed to the main plot lines Also, scrivener

Lauren E. @LaurenEats__: PitchWars! It was the first real writing deadline I worked toward & then when I wasn’t selected, it forced me to find other routes to bettering my writing (CPs, query writing classes, books on plot & romance vocabulary, etc).

Tara Leigh @TaraLeighBooks: I just wrote a thread on this, lol. For me, it was joining #RWA, attending their national conference & getting involved w my local chapter. Huge boost in motivation & quality of my writing!! @romancewriters  romancewriters

Lou Cadle @LouCadle: It was indie–Amazon and self-publishing–that let me be a full-time writer, though many years of work had my craft up to snuff when I made that change. Next I quit compulsively revising for months and months. That led to 1M new words over a little more than 2 years.

Isabel Sterling @IsaSterling: Seeking out critique partners with complimentary strengths, who can be honest with what’s not working in your story while also being a cheerleader when needed. My CP is killer w/ plot whereas I’m the word/grammar nerd.

Ctotheourtney @ctotheourtney04: The try and fail technique. I’ve been reading a bunch of blogs and #amreading a craft book at the moment which is showing me the errors in my ways. But I always always have to do things my way first and then explore other routes.

Rachel Connor  @ItsRachelConnor: I joined a writing group and got actual critique on my work. Not getting feedback can give an illusion of safety. Critique is hardly ever fun but it can improve your writing dramatically. Also it’s great to connect with other writers on same journey (hence why I love #PitchWars)

Jamie Me @JamieMeWrites: Since day one I’ve replicated the environment of working at the top of the comic industry. I’ve also sought out to be reviewed in the toughest possible places. It’s like in martial arts… you only get better testing yourself against tough opposition.

Maria Is A Proud Bengali  @logophile_maria: It’s okay for first drafts to suck. Just get it done. •Learned plot structure and character arc and my whole writing perspective changed •There’s no hurry to get published unless there is an apocalypse coming.

Dahlia Adler @MissDahlELama: The biggest for me was doing NaNoWriMo. It gave me a deadline by which to do a really solid outline and forced me to learn how to write forward without constantly stopping to edit. That I “won” and it turned into my debut feels secondary to that stuff.

bky-8 @allreb: Taking part in a writing group – specifically as a way to learn how to revise.

Roselle Lim @rosellewriter: Getting critique partners who were in a higher level than me and being able to really take in the criticism and learn.

Chuck Rothman @ChuckRothman: I decided to collect rejection slips. I wanted to get 100 of them (at first) because I figured I might get a sale before I reached that number. My first sale was after 88 of them.

Caitlin Sangster @CaitSangster: A well trained writing group where everyone contributed consistently and everyone followed a no prescriptive advice rule. It not only seriously improved the quality of my work, but trained me to be more analytical about what I was writing and why,

KD Proctor @kdpwrites: I had one goal: write something I was proud of and publish it. To do that I trusted my gut, took my time & asked for help when I needed it.

Cassandra @CassaCassaCassa: I volunteered and worked for a small press, and learned how a book is made. 2. I read Klinkenborg’s SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING, which taught me to ignore the popular “write a crappy first draft” advice. 3. I stopped following the advice of non-writers.

Belynda Rios @BelyndaRiosWord: Realized I wasn’t going to make it perfect with one edit! So learning to edit once and move on till the end!

Lindsey Klingele @SisterLindsey: Getting to the end of that first draft was everything.

E.V. Jacob एवे @EveyJacob: I just kept thinking about my stories. And writing down whatever scraps I could, whenever I could. Life will always have chaos and obstacles, and it’s important not to wait until “things calm down” to do what you love. Take breaks when you need them, but never quit.

Rebecca Schaeffer @rrschaeffer: Taking the time to find and work with critique partners. It was hard, and it was not an easy search, but finding good CPs has been integral to making my books the best they can be.

Shanna Hughes @writerShanna: Aside from GOOD CPs (take your time, it’s tough to find a match!), also allll the articles on @stdennard‘s website. And read, read like your life depends on it. Because it does.

meg eden @ConfusedNarwhal: Getting involved in my loca writing community, going to readings, submitting to local mags, helping out at local cons—I really began to feel a part of something larger

Fallon *has joined the DarkSide*  DeMornay @FallonDemornay: Reading critically – not just for enjoyment, but actually studying the novel for craft/character/plot/voice etc. Analyzing what works/doesn’t ESPECIALLY for books I didn’t enjoy quite so much. Strong CPs who helped beat my book into submission shape.

Justine Manzano @justine_manzano: I stopped introducing myself as an aspiring author. Introducing myself as a writer forced me into a whole new level of accountability that kept me working, even when I felt discouraged.

CS Keene @IAmTheReverb: I stopped forcing myself to write chronologically and just write whatever words I had.

Sean Easley @AuthorEasley: Starting a new document from scratch. When I realized that sometimes the fastest and best way to improve and abandon the old, I grew by leaps and bounds

Jeffery Reynolds @Trollbreath42: I started getting up earlier to write every morning. For me, it was important to build a habit, otherwise I’d find excuses not to do what I clearly loved doing.

Erica Davis Secor @thedavisgirl: I listened to my gut and shelved my WIP to launch my freelance editing biz an hour ago

(((deleted???)))Jamie Barber @JBarberAuthor: Honestly, joining Twitter. I had completed manuscripts before then, but once a part of the online writing community with CP’s and learning a ton from contests, that was the real push.

Kira Butler @kirabutler: Started setting aggressive targets with the intention of generating more words instead of getting stuck in the obsessive editing loop that wasn’t helping me reach completion. Also leveraged bullet journal tracking guilt myself into doing the work:…

Michael Mammay @MichaelMammay: Met with other writers. Fought them to the death, hunger games style, with the winner taking all of the writing skills. Or maybe studied some craft stuff.

mx jen durbent @JenDurbent: Started submitting. So scared of rejection. Still scared of rejection.

Heather Spitzberg @HMSpitzberg: I attended a conference, craft classes, business of writing classes, got a critique group, joined a writing community. The one single step was putting the writing in front of other people with friendly but critical eyes and being open.

Shanna Swendson @ShannaSwendson: I registered for a conference. It was expensive for me at the time, but investing the money made me feel like I was getting serious, then meeting editors and agents and seeing other writers made it all seem real.

Stephen Coghlan @WordsBySC: I, listened. For too long I had convinced myself the intro to my first work was good, never taking the words “it started confusingly, but after that it was good” to heart. It took a blunt verbal slap to fix it. Two test intros later, and I was signed.

Kristen Callihan @Kris10Callihan: You get kicked down, you bounce back up like rubber. Every. Time. And always follow the immortal words of Han Solo: (Never tell me the odds gif)

Mog Moogle @Mog_K_Moogle: I grabbed the coattails of other authors and faked it until I made it. Seriously, I just started networking, got in with the community, and built a group of friend and mentors to help hone my writing

Jennifer Gracen @jennifergracen: In the same month, I joined #LIRW (local chapter of #RWA) and Twitter. Met writers both local and online through both things; that helped & shaped not only my writing goals, but *me*. Meeting, learning from, support from other writers = priceless.

Sofiya Pasternack @igotsaturnip: I went to an IRL #writing group, met other amazing writers, and made some of my best buds who don’t think I’m crazy when I talk about my imaginary friends.

Jamie @jaemijamie: I started taking an earlier bus downtown, gaining 30 minutes of writing in a cafe before work every day. 30 minutes in the morning five days a week makes a huge difference in not just productivity, but mindset.

Amber A. Logan @AmberAnnLogan: I became a volunteer slushpile reader for @flashfictionmag which has taught me what NOT to do more than anything. But when I read a piece that works it just sings and I study it like mad.

love, (rachel) Simon @rachelwrites007: I started a YA/MG writers group that meets once a month. We do no writing (except maybe @MarcyKate), but we do talk about the industry, writing, and life. It helps to find people in person who get it. (I LOVE my CPs but we are online based)

Destiny aka Machete Jack @TheDestinySoria: I gave myself a deadline to finish editing and start querying. Looped in an author friend to give me query tips/bug me with “Have you sent any yet?” texts. Deadline + accountability was my biggest step. Everything else rolled naturally.

Eleni Hale @EleniHale: Joining a local writing group & connecting with other writers who give honest feedback on work made a big difference to me. Helping others with their writing projects also trains your editor brain. I’ve met incredible friends through these local groups and it’s helped my writing.

Ashley Poston  @ashposton: For me, it was realizing that I would rather be, as [Title of Show] so eloquently puts it, nine people’s favorite thing than nine-hundred people’s ninth favorite thing. I will never please everyone, but to one person my writing might make a difference.

Joy McCullough @JMCwrites: Taking the leap to leave the agent who wasn’t the right fit. It was SO SCARY. I was sure I’d never get another agent. (But spoiler: I got the best one ever.)

Liz Long  @LizCLong: At first it was for funsies, just to DO IT (indie here). It went full speed when I started treating it like a business: marketing plans for each release, hiring a CPA, finance spreadsheets. The creative is easy for me, the business part not so much. Staying on it made it REAL.

Jessi Rauh @JessiLeeRauh: Followed the instructions in a craft book and saw what my MS looked like minus 12k clutter words. I learned what it really meant to improve.

Louise Miller @louisethebaker: Applying to, and attending a year-long workshop. There was something about taking the workshop participants and their work seriously that helped me to take myself and my own work seriously—it changed everything for me.

Bethany Robison @BethanyRobison: Reading #mswl hashtag (now website) Attending conferences Reading tweets/blogs of more experienced writers Lots and lots of “listening”

alex @fairyglitch: still in #amquerying purgatory, but big steps for me have always been psychological. I held back on writing my first novel for years, thinking I wanted to get “good enough” first, but then I realized I wouldn’t get better until I wrote the darn thing!

Linda Williams Jackson @LindaWJackson: I stopped wanting so badly to get an agent and instead focused on writing the best book I could write. I aspired to write beautifully and bravely.

Virginia McClain @gwendamned: My very first #NaNoWriMo was the biggest step in my whole writing career. Those 50k words that I eked out in every spare moment of Nov. 2007 were the tipping point that finally led to me FINISHING a first draft of a novel. Thread:

Virginia McClain @gwendamned: Prior to that year I had written and published a few short stories with literary mags, and had started MANY drafts of novels, but always quit around the 20k word mark–The place that all experienced writers recognize as the “my work is shit” phase that you just have to push past

Virginia McClain @gwendamned: But I was not an experienced writer at that point. So I kept giving up. Until I heard about #NaNoWriMo and signed up on a whim on October 29th 2007 with no plot or even a single character note.

Virginia McClain @gwendamned: But I was always a pantser anyway, so I started writing on Nov 1st undaunted. (By then I at least had my MC in my head.) November flew by. I wrote 53k in the gaps between work, karate, and dog walks. And come December 1st I thought, “I can finish this…I HAVE to finish this.”

Emily B. Martin @EmilyBeeMartin: For me it was adjusting my mindset from just my debut novel to building an entire career—not being obsessed with big, fast success, but rather paced, consistent work and building meaningful relationships with readers.

VirginiaHeath @VirginiaHeath_: I quit my full time teaching job!

Lyn “Rule of Law” Miller-Lachmann @LMillerLachmann: I started listening to other people rather than thinking that because I’d worked at it a long time I knew what I was doing. My first one-on-one manuscript critique was brutal but 2 1/2 rewrites later I had a novel worthy of publication.

Jarrett Lerner @Jarrett_Lerner: I stopped writing the sort of stories that I thought I was supposed to write and started writing those that I myself would actually want to read.

Seleste / Julie @SelestedeLaney: Learning to take criticism. If you can’t take criticism (& I don’t mean letting assholes into your space, but legit criticism) you won’t last in this biz. There is a ton of rejection, & even after that, agents, betas, editors, and readers will critique. Embrace it & learn from it

ElisabethHobbes @ElisabethHobbes: Entering my ms into a contest with @HarlequinBooks. It was the point I thought I would have to let someone else see what I’d written rather than keeping it to myself.

wendymcleodmacknight @wendymacknight: For me, it was workshops and reading, reading, reading the best books. Then when I wrote, I was ruthless. Is this the best I can do? So many times, it wasn’t!

melanie conklin @MLConklin: I wrote to please myself. That’s what I still do on the first draft. (Then, revision!)

Rebecca Donnelly @_becca_donnelly: I made a commitment to professionalism. I don’t necessarily mean that I joined SCBWI (although I did), just that I started to look at it as a career I wanted, not a hobby. I was a student, not just a dreamer. (But, yes, I was also a dreamer!)

Jennie K. Brown‏ @jenniekaywrites: For me, it was joining SCBWI and getting up the courage to attend a critique-fest! It was at an SCBWI event and the early critiques of an agent and editor where I got the confidence to finish writing POPPY and enter the world of publishing.

Melonie Johnson @MelonieJohnson: Joining @romancewriters and my local chapters @ChicagoNorthRWA & @Windy_City_RWA . The other authors I met via these channels shared their wisdom and experiences and my writer’s soul soaked it all up like the thirsty little sponge it was (and still is).

Kristy Acevedo  GONE WRITING @kristyace: Not waiting for the muse. I set clear, reasonable writing goals & mini-deadlines along the way. Ex: If I set a goal of 70,000 words by Sept, I’d break that goal down into a daily word count and recalculate each week to stay on track. I often use @Pacemakr site for this.

Ellen McGinty @Mcgintytokyo: I joined SCBWI and was adopted by a few experienced authors who pushed me to be better and believed in me and my story. Mentors change the world. Forever thankful for @MollyBlaisdell

Averill Elisa Frankes  @averillelisa: Starting a writer’s group! I was new to the city and there was nothing really like what I was looking for, so I started my own. Now 1,400 members and four books later, I’m finally in the query trenches, looking to make this a professional thing!

Cassie Miller @Cmiller61408: Doing #CPMatch and trusting the fabulous @erniechiara with my first manuscript. It opened up tons of opportunities and brought me to more CPs and now dear friends, @kbrookemt @kbrookemt and @Evelyn_Lindell

Kate Canterbary @kcanterbary: Finding an editor who 1) knows and respects your genre and 2) enjoys your work. Be prepared to “test drive” a lot of editors by asking for sample edits and notes.

Leslie 2018_Dreamhunter @LeslieDRush: It had been MANY years since I’d written any fiction. My BFF was blogging and writing YA, and she let me write a book review. Then another. ANOTHER. Then she let me beta read her WIP and I thought, I COULD DO THIS, TOO. Without @MostlyMcLeod I would never have done it.

Juliana L. Brandt @julianalbrandt: Being honest about the books I NEED to write, rather than the books I thought I should write. (Also and forever, trusting writing friends with my writerly heart.)

Jemi Fraser @jemifraser: Joining – I learned SO MUCH about writing, revising, agents, queries, pitches, publishing, critiques, writing buddies, writing groups & so much more.

Jennifer Kitses @JenKitses: I quit working on a novel that had been driving me crazy for years and started something new.

Amanda Rawson Hill @amandarhill32: Submitting to #pitchwars.

Brooks Benjamin @brooksbenjamin: I stopped saying, “You know, one of these days I’m gonna write a book” and actually sat down every single morning before work and finally got it done.

Rena @Renathewriter: I entered the first #writersvoice, and @Monica_BW chose me for an alternate. Her comments on my first page changed the way I write. Then I got that book published!

Jeanne Renée @BooksBabiesBeer: Still unpublished, but I’ve made a gorgeous, wise, supportive tribe of writer friends by entering contests, attending workshops, and daring to embrace the title of Writer even if I’m not an Author. Yet.

Erin Blake @sneaky_monkee: I joined a writing group. I met great people and made writing a priority during that time. Having other writers to bounce ideas off of was priceless.

Nicole Willson @insomnicole: I wrote a novel for NaNoWriMo. From there, I revised a lot and wrote more novels and started submitting to contests like #PitchWars. But it all started with making myself sit down and write that first novel draft.

Thompson McLeod @MostlyMcLeod: I’ve blogged &reviewed YA 4 about a decade. Read some BAD that got pub. Thought I can do BETTER than that! Wrote my 1st &2nd ms. All good practice 4 this WIP wrg clears my head, helps me breathe.

Hillary Monahan. And Fielder, too. @HillaryMonahan: I finished the book.

MattForrestEsenwine @MattForrestVW: I connected with people. Yes, I wrote and studied and honed my craft, but I also started a blog, visited & commented on other blogs, spent time networking at conferences, connected on social media. If you want to be better, surround yourself with others better than you, right??

Elissa Dickey @ElissaDickey: It might sound cheesy, but I gave myself permission to take my dream seriously.

Mary Ann Marlowe @maryannmarlowe: Karate instructor asked, “What’s something you would do if you knew you couldn’t fail.” I said, “Write a book.” He said, “Do it.”

Sarah Hollowell @sarahhollowell: I’m still in the process of being a Professional but for me, it was deciding to stop jumping from project to project and FINISH something. I spent years writing the first three chapters of a dozen books. I wasn’t ready. Last year I finished two drafts because I’m ready now.

Jennifer Austin  @JLAustin13: Decided it was my job, not my hobby. I stopped trying to find time to fit writing in and made it a commitment instead of a guilty pleasure.

Kate Dylan @TheKateDylan: I joined a writing group, then learnt to listen to what they said.

Esme Symes-Smith @ESymesSmith: NaNoWriMo. I realised what I wanted and that I could do it if I worked hard and pushed myself. I learnt how rewarding the work is.

Elizabeth Poole @ElizabethJPoole: I learned that editing will never feel done. And not in the “oh let’s play with commas” way. But the “oh heavens it’s all terrible” way.

Harry “Ask me about new 20 Palaces” Connolly @byharryconnolly: I revised my book over and over until I could see it clearly.

C.L. Polk @clpolk: Making a project schedule that included deadlines and using it as I wrote. I broke down a year and set dates to have certain stages complete, and then hit those dates. I figured I should learn to work to deadline now rather than later.

Carrie Callaghan @CarrieCallaghan: I wish I had a good answer. Maybe joining a writing group, where I learned a ton. But even that feels like one in a long progression of small steps I’ve made toward learning and improving. And I’m still walking that road.

Dax Murray, defiant. @DaxAeterna: 1.) Actually finishing the book I was writing. 2.) Deciding to do it _my_ way. I didn’t get bogged down in “is this the best tool?” or “should I be following this method?” or “is this enough words per day?” – Figuring out what worked for ME & not caring if it was the “wrong” way.

Jen DeLuca‏ @jaydee_ell: Joining @romancewriters and my local RWA chapter. Saying “I’m a writer” out loud for the first time to a group of people. That’s when I started making it real.

Pat Zietlow Miller‏ @PatZMiller: I realized if I didn’t truly TRY to write a book, it would be my biggest regret when I was 80. So I stopped watching TV and treated writing like a second job.

CM Fick‏ @CM_Fick: Get on social media/ forums and find other writers! Build a tribe of writers you trust! Those who will commiserate, sprint, brainstorm, critique, and be supportive. They are invaluable. #amwriting #amediting #amrevising

Joy R Keller‏ @jrkeller80: I actually wrote–LOL! And to help keep me motivated, I made decisions that forced me to write. I signed up for an agent critique at a conference. I joined a critique group with deadlines. I forced myself to make writing a habit.

Hannah Carmona Dias‏ @hannahcdias: Carving out time to write and joining a critique group made all the difference for me.

Christopherson‏@NicohleC: Getting a writing mentor in @authorvotey really boosted my career from a dream to a goal. He inspires me to work as hard as I can. #writingmentor

Rachel Mans McKenny‏ @rmmckenny: I upped my reading game significantly. Seriously. Reading more was the missing part of the equation to me. It made me want to add to the conversation.

Mindi Welton-Mitchell / Melinda Mitchell‏ @RevMindi: Attending my first writing workshop. Met an agent, met other writers, and learned some basic tools as a beginner.

Amy K‏ @playknice: When I was close to ready, I booked an editor. I had to put $$ down to save my slot, so I had to be invested and able to finish by deadline. I also got to work with an editor I truly admire (@GramrgednAngel). I treated my writing much more professionally after that.

Kristin Tubb‏ @ktubb: I joined @scbwi (@SCBWIMidSouth) and found lovely, like-minded souls. I joined a critique group with other SCBWI members. The self-imposed deadlines, studying craft – all of that came (and still comes!) via SCBWI.

Patricia Wentzel‏ @PJWentzelwrites: Joined multiple critique groups. Forced me to write something new for every meeting 8x/mo. Listened when both groups told me it was time I put together a book of my poems.

Dani Duck‏ @DaniDuck: For both my writing & my illustration career it was simply focusing on my career. It wasn’t until then that I started making any money. There are so many things you can do that are related, but wont get you to your goal. Just work on your projects & submit to places that will pay

Melanie Kyer‏ @fraudrk: Not trying to suck up to my Twitter friends, but joining Twitter was the biggest step in making me feel like a professional writer. The connections I’ve made with other writers, the info about agents & publishing, and the opportunities to enter contests has been invaluable!

Megan Derr‏ @meganaderr: Accepting that it was going to take time, and nothing would ever be perfect. That latter was especially difficult, I’m a perfectionist at heart, and I don’t mean that in a cutesy lol way. Accepting that, and just focusing on writing, getting stuff done, made all the difference

Tasha Hilderman‏ @room_for_cream: Still new to #kidlit but if you’re including PB writers, taking part in @taralazar ‘s #storystorm and joining @JulieFHedlund ‘s #12×12 were the two best moves to learning more and growing as a writer

Katie Slivensky‏ @paleopaws: Joined a critique group of other unpubbed kidlit writers, and in that group we set strict (but achievable) rules and goals. Together, we’ve stayed on task. Together, we’ve put a lot of published books out into the world.

Avery Ames‏ @AveryAmes: After my tenth NaNoWriMo, I decided I’d written enough awful words & loved my sloppy 2015 Nano project enough to get serious. I committed to taking my laptop to work and writing or revising at lunch every day. I miss a day now and then, but that commitment made it real.

Tanya Chris‏ @tanyachrs: Nanowrimo, both for the daily word count habit and for the attitude of just getting the first draft out without worrying about quality

Natasha Raulerson‏ @RaulersonWrites: I put myself into writing competitions. Didn’t get into any, but learned enough to land an amazing agent.

Jeff Esterholm‏ @jesterholm: Rewrite until it’s right.

BrokenFiction‏ @BrokenFiction: I’m still trying. Every day I’m still fighting for it.

Katie Golding‏ @KatieGolding_Tx: Joined Twitter. Started entering contests. Started getting feedback. Revised. Made new writing friends. More contests. More feedback. Accepted that we are all, always, in some state of a revision

Ainsley Wynter‏ @AinsleyWynter: I went to the library and checked out a bunch of books on craft. Save the Cat and James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure were (and are) my favs. I needed the nuts and bolts of big story structure and scene structure to push past fun story ideas to A NOVEL.

Dani Duck‏ @DaniDuck: I’m not super far in my career but I have littles and had lots of other things that slow things down. Still working towards my goals. Just have learned what projects to turn down. Especially ones that don’t pay.

Vicki Johnson‏ @vickijohnson: Joining @scbwi and my local chapters, first @SCBWI_SoBreeze and now @SCBWI_MD_DE_WV, gave me confidence, tools, friends and resources.

Ash K. Alexander 🦄‏ @ashkalexander: The thing that definitely pushed me from newbie to out and out author was helping other writers with their work. Seeing how other people worked, learning from them, teaching them…it made all the difference in the world.

ΔиłĦи𝔹∌⊄ʞ  🐬‏ @BadPoemz: I entered a magazine short story contest & won 1st Place. Story was printed in Mag (I was a published author [other than at school]). I got to show my stuff to a publishing house rep—who said, “No thanks, BUT, we’d like to see your future works.” I was through the looking glass!!

Lily Williams‏ @lwbean: I write the things that little me wanted but never could find. I always create with a younger version of myself in mind.

FRW‏ @frwriters: Join a writers group, local if you can find one. One for your genre, whether romance, mystery, sci-fi, thriller etc. You can learn craft, network, about publishing.

Kara Seal‏ @KRwriter: I joined my local writers’ org where I met hundreds of other writers, learned from their classes at the annual conference and got experience pitching to agents.

Debbie Zaken‏ @dkzaken: I found amazing critique partners. Without their feedback, their encouragement, and their endless patience for reviewing countless drafts, my book wouldn’t be coming out next month.

Gabrielle K Byrne‏ @GKByrne: Yeah, for me it was attending my first conference (PNWA). I was already writing books, but I somehow hadn’t made the leap from, “I can write books”, to “I can write books people can buy and read.”

Cynthia Levinson‏ @cylev: I went to a Whole-novel Workshop @HighlightsFound —and ended up working with my mentor on nonfiction. Made all the difference.

Patricia Toht‏ @PatriciaToht: I quit putting so much energy into trying to get published, and poured that energy into improving my craft.

Deering‏@adeerLA: For me in the beginning it was saying it aloud & then getting my work published & bylines & my MFA & then finishing my novel! Finding my voice. As newbie, The Artist’s Way helped me a lot. Overcame obstacles & life but it’s my love- writing & reading. Reading other writers helps

Lana Wood Johnson‏ @muliebris: I picked between becoming a writer and getting my MIS MBA. When I picked writing I put the same energy into it I would have that MBA and put everything I learned from working with startups into it.

Lara D. Elliott‏ @lara_d_writer: I still consider myself a newbie, but at the very beginning I took the chance and entered 5 pages in a contest. Feedback wasn’t great but I learned a lot. I especially learned that I had way more to learn! Then I joined a large writing organization and found critique groups.

Lainey Cameron‏ @lainey_cameron: One step that made a huge difference: as soon as I knew my genre (women’s fiction) I joined @WF_Writers and from there got recommendations on which classes (Margie Lawson), conferences, craft books. More importantly, the supportive wisdom of other writers at different stages.

EKThiede aka Emily‏ @ethiedee: I enrolled in an Advanced Novel class at a nonprofit writing org, @writerhouse (a bold move, as I was a total newbie ) and began getting feedback, workshopping, and making writer friends.

Patrice Caldwell‏ @whimsicallyours: I stopped caring so much about what & how everyone else thought I should be writing. External feedback is helpful to a certain point. You have to learn how to find a trusted “crew” and ignore the rest.

Halli Gomez‏ @Ninja_writes: Most important step for me was finding critique partners. That made the biggest difference in my writing. A very close second was joining #SCBWI because that’s where I found my critique partners. Love all around!

Taylor Ramage‏ @TaylorRamage: I stopped calling myself “aspiring.”

Brittany J‏ @beegygreen: I don’t have a career *yet* but getting others (I.e. critique partners) involved in my work instead of trying to do it all alone has helped.

Cassie Belka‏ @CassandraBelka: One day, I randomly had the thought, “If I die tomorrow, what would I regret?” And the answer was crystal clear: Not writing a book. My first draft was finished 4 months later.

Emily Galle-From‏ @EmilySkeie: I made a conscious effort to surround myself with other writers: started a Twitter account, joined a critique group, went to @scbwi events, found and attended author signings, made connections at my local bookstore, etc. Being part of a community has made all the difference.

Troy Wilson‏ @TroyStoryToo: The biggest step was to keep taking steps.

jen has to work on book stuff shhhh‏ @bookavid: finish stuff. as much as i think it sucks and will lead nowhwere, just finishing drafts is so much more helpful than tossing away manuscripts and writing the next one.

JoAnna Illingworth‏ @glamorousjo: I stopped treating it as a hobby and began writing towards a goal: finishing a manuscript, polishing, getting critique from readers, querying.

Margot Harrison‏ @MargotFHarrison: I’d been writing forever, but when I went online and started getting the pros’ advice on querying and the market, things changed.

Sherry Howard‏ @SherLHoward: There are some wonderful MOOCs out there. I took an intense fiction writing courses several times from Iowa University, and it was MFA quality and free. Find MOOCs and get your feet wet.

Elizabeth‏ @OneSweetWriter: I carved out time to write w/ passion when I wasn’t doing client work. Now, my passion stories are finding homes, & I’m hearing they are some of my best. Not all projects have passion but I make time for them.

Dakota Shain Byrd on hiatus being a sleepy @ShainByrd: I signed up for a creative writing class in college and met with the professor beforehand at the push of a friend. That professors waved me on to CW2. Outside of that though, first TRUE professional thing was apply to the @LambdaLiterary Writing Retreat for @malindalo’s workshop

Rameerites‏ @Leeseray: Went to #scbwi summer conference. Realized this world I’d chosen was a whole community. Met my god send of a cp there. And was welcomed into convos w folks much further along. Saw only 3 other black writers. Knew that had to change.

Wendy Heard‏ @wendydheard: I opened myself up to learning all the craft stuff I could (story structure/plot, outlining, character dev, world building, genre expectations, all of it), found CPs and devoured critical feedback, and studied the crap out of the business of publishing. For a decade. #amwriting

Dee Garretson‏ @deegarretson: I sat down and really analyzed my favorite books to identify how the authors drew me into the story, then tried the same techniques on my own stories

Kristen Howe‏ @Kristen_Howe: I’ve learned a lot from getting feedback from my local writing group and then going to local conferences helped me twofold.

Sam B. Farkas‏ @SamBFarkas: I started talking about my writing. I was super shy and awkward and self-conscious about it, but when I opened up to friends, I grew my confidence, and that changed EVERYTHING.

TJMinde‏ @TJMinde: I submitted to my first anthology and happened to get an acceptance letter. From there, I was hooked on the positive direct feedback that someone thought I was good enough to pay. Since then, I have any more publications and a novel in the works.

While Reading and Walking‏ @reading_while: Ursula Le Guin once wrote that she didn’t want to be a writer, because she’s always been a writer. It helps your mindset to change the narrative. Newbie me’s most valuable realization was that I /am/ a writer, and I am working to get published, not to /become/ a writer.

Cara Allen‏ @CaraMiaAmore: Finally believing in myself. Trusting I had more than one book in me. Putting myself out there in the writing community and not just keeping it all hidden inside myself. Setting realistic goals and committing to kicking those goals in the butt.

Frie J. Ale‏ @AleFrie: I started putting looking up the process. Jenna Moreci and Kristen Martin helped a TOOOON

Shannon Kean‏ @ShannonKean: Personally for me, I had to start thinking of my #writing as a JOB not a hobby. I had to make it a priority. Once I did that, things started to fall in place.

andrea‏ @andreatome_: Write everyday and re-read often books that inspire me because of their writing style.

Ryan but New @ryandouglassw: I stopped trying to imitate other writers and write for market trends. I ditched the notion I had to center white characters. I started writing what I wanted to read.

Ally Ally Oxen Free‏ @AllyMalinenko: I wrote the kind of teenage girl I wanted to read when I was a teenager. She didn’t have to be the strongest in the room. But she did have to be clever. She didn’t have to kick ass but she had to outsmart. Smart is strong.

Ali Dow @alechiawrites: I stopped saying, oh I’ve got to make something truly unique but not too out there that people won’t get it. I don’t look at the work of others, and tell myself I don’t measure up, and I never will–anymore. Now, I try to own my achievements, which helps my confidence a bit.

Kerry Johnson @candidkerry: Attending a conference was a huge step forward. Also, studying books on the craft recommended by authors I read. Also—-> Network! Being an introvert may be valid but it’s also an excuse. There are SO many awesome writers out there. We need each other! #amwriting

love, emmet‏ @emlfc: I wouldn’t call it a “career” yet, but finding the balance between treating writing like work & like the fun thing i get to do to when i’m not working has definitely helped me head in that direction.

Miles Reaver‏ @MilesReaver: I stopped saying I want to do it and just did it. I focused on taking it seriously and I ended up being paid and published. Been taking it seriously ever since and it has helped. You CAN do it once you stop making excuses of why you cant

MrsTwitch2015‏ @JBerryAuthor: I created a professional Author Facebook page and started adding only authors, editors, etc. Then, I started asking them questions. Watching their posts (because they post quite a bit of stuff) and learning from the information they posted. Had to learn a lot about needing an editor to edit the books because while it might look right to you it probably isn’t. Hiring a professional cover designer (self pubbed) to design a cover. And especially, learning to social media and use it to my advantage.

Peggy Purser Freeman‏ @peggyfreeman: Critique groups that encourage submissions, like Chicken Soup for the Soul, short stories and contest brought me hope. Then moments of success like publishing in regional magazines keep a writer engaged and encouraged.

Robin Childs‏ @RobinofLeyLines: I researched how I was “supposed to” create, but often those “rules” became barriers. When I realized that I could do things MY way, in the way that was easiest for me, I stopped trying to do things “right” and instead did what I enjoyed and could actually finish.

Kimberly Bea‏ @KimBea: Maybe the #revision contract I made for myself. It helps me remember how to take critique, that organized, thoughtful revision will save me a lot of heartache, & that I WILL be breaking eggs, but the resulting omelet will be worth it in the end.

Brad Abraham‏ @NotBradAbraham: I stopped trying to write the stories I thought would sell and instead wrote the one I wanted to read (which ended up being the one that sold).

Aimee‏ @writtenvein: Attending a writing conference! Any one of them. Networking has helped me so much. I ran across a blog a long time ago of a unpublished writer who said she didn’t need a network. I wouldn’t be where I am today without validation, encouragement, and other POVs to the craft!

Lyla Is Cold  ‏ @bookishlyla: I befriended other writers. I felt stagnant as a writer, and at first I thought I needed accountability to finish my projects. But I’ve finished a lot (eight)! My real problem was lack of a curious, feedback-sharing community of writers committed to telling our *best* stories.

Erin Parisien‏ @erin_the_author: There were sooo many! First one was I believed that I could actually do it. Then I joined RWA and my local chapter. Being with other writers, and talking about writing and publishing and creating made a huge difference.

Rebecca Caprara‏ @RebeccaCaprara: Just. Keep. Writing. whenever I’m stuck, @veschwab‘s “all roads lead to writing” post keeps me moving forward (there’s even a video version …)

Jamie Howard‏ @JRHoward9: I read A LOT. And then I re-read all the books I fell in love with and tried to figure out why, taking tons of notes along the way.

Sabrina Kleckner‏ @sabkleckner: Everyone says outside eyes are vital, but for so long I was too self-conscious to show anyone my work. After 6 years of writing, I finally found a friend I felt comfortable sharing my WiP with. Thank god I did–I never would have progressed to where I am today without CPs

Aimee the Diva‏ @AimeeLRoss: Put your writing out there into the universe somewhere and keep revising toward better.

Mike Chen – I write sci-fi, therefore I am‏ @mikechenwriter: The most important thing I did was stop trying to fit into established genres and instead give myself permission to blend. That let me write what I really wanted, which led me to an agent and an editor that really understood me. More here: …

Sush says Preorder #DemonSpring for $0.99‏ @susherevans: TBH, finally deciding to do SOMETHING for myself, setting a goal, and then keeping myself honest. That was three years and 15 (10 published) books ago…

K.R. Conway‏ @SharkProse: 20 years ago I wrote an artist story for a blog. I wasn’t intending to be a writer, but that story gained attention and launched my career.

Elena George‏ @author_elena_g: I was 39 when I started my MS. I thought, If I’m not going to do it now, when am I? This article also really inspired me:

Alexandra Peñaloza Alessandri‏ @apalessandri: I went to my first @SCBWI_Florida conferences. I had a fledgling idea that had been fanned by a former prof & going to those conferences was water & fire & everything I needed to grow as a writer & learn the business & meet incredible ppl (some now close friends).

Kira Archer @kiraarcherbooks: Finding a really good critique group was one thing I did. I learned so much from writers that had been in the game longer. And finding with its amazing resources and forum was a life changer for me. Met my best writer buds in there. That forum gave me the first taste of a writer community. The act of writing might be solitary, but the journey doesn’t need to be.

My 2017 Reads

I did not read nearly as much as I would have liked in 2017. It was one of those years. At the start I had no goal of number of books I wanted to read, not after doing a Goodreads challenge in 2016 and feeling pressure because of it. In 2017 I only had one goal: to make sure half of my reads were diverse novels.

Why half? Because I already had a lot of non-diverse reads on hand, and non-diverse authors that I follow. I wanted the opportunity to branch out while still reading what I love.

Had 2017 been a better year, I’m sure I would have found a ton more diverse reads to love. As it is my total number of books read is scarily small, but I found some that I absolutely loved.

I want to point out some of the “other” books I’ve read. Many writers read books that aren’t yet published, or are part of a contest, or are from their friends, etc. That’s one thing that bugged me about the Goodreads challenge, since I read a lot that can’t be put on there.

In the “other” category I want to start with completed books I’ve read for an internship or contest. Basically, I can’t tell you anything about these novels, but they make up 9 of the books I read in 2017.

I also have a column for books I’ve read for other authors, friends, or for the #PitchWars contest. Due to #PitchWars it gets a little hazy, since I read a lot but not always full books. So I’ve read part or all of 8 books, plus about 600 pages for the mentor contest. Then, of course, reading my two mentees books 2-3 times. That’s a lot of yummy words!

Now for the main event. I read 18 published books. Of the 18, 8 were diverse. And to be clear, diverse in this case means that either the main character is diverse, the author is diverse, both are diverse, or it’s a own voice novel. So depending on how one is looking for a diverse book, some of what I’ve read might not fit. Also, not every author identifies themselves as own, so I in no way want to make any assumptions beyond what is obvious.

Rather than list all the books, which can be boring, I’m going highlight a few of my favorites. Narrowing things down is proving to be challenging, so rather than go small, I’m going with a slightly larger list since I read a lot of great books from newer or new to me authors that deserve some attention:

Level Up by Cathy Yardley

A Millionaire at Midnight by Naima Simone

America’s Next Reality Star by Laura Heffernan

Insert Groom Here by K. M. Jackson

North to You by Tif Marcello

Some Kind of Magic and A Crazy Kind of Love by Maryann Marlow

Hard Play and Hard Run by Sheryl Nantus

If you haven’t heard of these books, I highly recommend checking them out. All these authors are on my list and you can be sure I’ll be checking out their other books!

Writing Through the Darkness

2017 was a year of few words for me. I wrote, don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t write nearly as much as normal. Worse, as the year went on my words careened to an abrupt halt.

Now I stare at the page, be it blank and yearning for words or finished and needing polishing, and question everything about myself as a writer. Can I still write? Do I know how? Is my head cleared enough to tackle the bigger picture issues? Will my words be the same or different?

Most of this boils down to fear. I have seen many other writers wonder how to write again so I know I am not alone. But I’m also coming back from a very difficult year. Non productivity has become habit. I’m now on medication, still dealing with mental health issues. Which makes me wonder even harder: can I do this?

Have I recovered enough? My muse is chomping at the bit, ready to get out. Writing has always been a primary food for me. It’s part of who I am, my soul, my essence. I know I never want to stop, never want to quit. And yet that nagging curse of doubt persists.

Do I even know what I’m doing anymore?

I’m taking the New Year as an opportunity to push myself back into my words. It won’t be easy, I’m sure I’ll have set backs. But I am a writer. I have stories to tell. Characters to share. I have my own unique spin on my genre, on portraying characters with hearing loss. On putting little pieces of myself on the page.

I will not be defeated by myself. But I will listen to myself. If I need to rest, I shall rest. If I need to push, I will push. One way or another, 2018 will be a year of getting back to myself. Of recovery through words.

I can. And I will.