Sunday, April 7, 2013

Tips from an Aspiring Author

Now that I am well established among my friends and family as an aspiring author, I have decided to impart some of my brilliant wisdom (ha).  In all seriousness though, I think some perspective from someone who is "new to the game" is sometimes helpful.  And, if it's not, this blog post allows me to sort through some of the major things I've learned since pursuing writing.

Tip 1:
Set measurable goals.  Just this week, I was feeling a little down and unmotivated.  After spending three days on the first page of Chapter Thirteen (no symbolism there), I finally decided what my problem was, and it wasn't the head cold I've been sporting.  I had forgotten my cardinal rule of goal setting.  Once I said, "Geez, April, you really should set a goal for this weekend," and I did, I found myself chipping the next four chapters.  Nice.
I am not one of those people who struggles with procrastination.   The earlier, the better.  Do your work.  Get it done.  Afterwards, have some fun.  That's me.  But if you are a Procrastinator, set goals closer together.  If it's Monday, set a writing goal for Wednesday instead of Friday.  Even if you procrastinate, you'll still have something done by Wednesday and even more done for Friday.
Tip 2:
Find beta readers after you have completed the majority of your manuscript. Beta readers are super awesome people who will read your work and give you super awesome honest feedback. Usually, they read in exchange for you reading their work. My beta readers come free (about which I'm always a little guilty). Since I write YA, they are a small group of students from my high school. They are fantastic and LitD is better because of them.  Seriously better.
Tip 3:
Start following the social media sites of both writers and agents. I have found blogs to be the most useful learning tool.  They post excellent things including upcoming events I wouldn’t normally have known about, great books to read, tips for writing and querying, what the market looks like, etc.  
It also gives me perspective and makes these people whom I aspire to be like less intimidating.  Let's face it.  Established Authors = Scary.  Agents = Terrifying.  However, when you find that A-List-Agent tweeting about her cat or the new dress she bought, she's a real person now.  Nothing to be afraid of...much.

Tip 4:
Research, research, research. Lots of this can be done by reading the blogs of legitimate people, but you never know what good advice comes up just because you happen to stumble on a good site.  Case in point:  I never would have guessed that the title of my manuscript should be in all caps.  I had clicked on a blog through a blog through an agent's website when I discovered that little gem.  Now I tell everyone about it because, heck, I'm proud I found it.
Tip 5:
Interact with as many writers as you can.  Now you must understand, I live nearly as close to the middle of nowhere as you can get in central Massachusetts.  Except for the small grocery store in the center of town, my nearest grocery store is 25 minutes away.  My closest neighbors are cows and coyotes, so interacting with other writers is not easy.  I'd join a writing group if the nearest one didn't meet on school nights and wasn't an hour away.  My main source is through forums and larger blogs, but let me tell you one thing: When I do connect with other writers, it keeps me feeling motivated, and I like feeling like part of a community.

And finally, because I had to call my high school English teacher (I graduated 11 years ago, by the way) and have a four-way conversation on speaker phone with her husband and cutie little toddler son while they drove to some unknown Saturday morning destination before I had even the slightest idea of where to start, here are some very helpful places to start:
This place is wow.  Just wow.
A lit agent with fantastic posts about writing/market/everything. I’ve gone to one of her webinars where I learned tons of things I didn't even know I should ask.  She also posts regularly, which is nice for someone like me who creeps the internet.
He’s got a very extensive ebook that is free to download. I recommend reading it.  Some of the things he says don't particularly jive with me, but the ebook is so jam-packed with info that I couldn't help learning something.
Check this out. You can get an account for free and you don’t have to buy the magazine. They’ll send you emails with tips. I love their Speakeasy Forum to connect with other writers. You can ask questions and find out the skinny on stuff like conferences.  From real people.  Who aren't selling stuff. Score.
Another literary agent with some helpful posts. Several of them have already helped to tighten up my writing.
There are a bajillian more out there, and it wouldn't do to list them all, but 
My favorite is: YA Highway! It’s very much YA driven (good for me), but they have a lot of good tips. I aspire to be like some of these fantastic women.  And actually, *they* tagged *me* in last Friday's Field Trip Friday for an article I brought to their attention! Can you imagine? Little ol' me? Okay, so it's not a big deal to anyone but me, but this blog had THREE extra hits because of it.  I'm not being sarcastic when I say that excites me.