Six years ago, when I started out, I had no idea what way to turn. I was writing, but what came next? I wondered; Is my writing any good? Where am I going right? What’s wrong with my writing? Has it merit at all?
I couldn’t ask my pals. They wouldn’t be honest, or might laugh at me.
My writing had two styles. I started a serious memoir/blog style and also had my fun, quirky, flash-fiction. Both evolved into longer pieces and I was stuck in a place of – what now?
The longer pieces were becoming novel length. There were rom-coms about people with dogs, who fell hopelessly in lust/love with unsuitable men (not memoir, I promise). Then there was crime fiction, with weird characters that lead no-where.
I stumbled into the following ways of moving forward.
People build their writing lives in many ways. These are mine. They are pretty simple;
Online writing groups and practice.
I found short stories and decided to try them. Flash-fiction continued and my online writing group helped me practice and get feedback. These lovely strangers were honest but kind. I cannot recommend highly enough finding your writing tribe or group. Some people need face to face contact, but I loved the anonymity of an online group. I gained in confidence and found a voice. Try a writing group, is the message here. (indulgeinwriting.com is one option)
Learning that my pieces were read and being taken seriously, was very helpful. If someone wished to publish something, I was over the moon. I learned about rejection here and to make each word count. The rambling stopped. I focused on my characters and making a plot happen in the given word count. I followed the submission guidelines. If I fecked-up, it wasn’t the end of the world. If it was well received, I had a glass of wine to celebrate and I wrote some more.
Readers’ Reports for me was the next step.
I felt then that I needed a professional to read and give me comprehensive and structured advice. I spent money on a reader’s report. This for me was with a very successful writer. I didn’t even google who she was. Hullo? I had no clue how lucky I was to have her do my report. I sent her what is probably the worse pile of cack I’ve ever written!
Lord love her, she told me I could write and gave me a full written report. It gave me feedback on character and plot development, writing style, areas that worked (There must have been some? I’m not sure where!). I remember too we talked on the phone. I cringed at some of her lovely but fortnight analysis. Why didn’t I think of the things she mentioned? I needed that impartial second opinion to help bring my book up to the next level. Inkwell do similar reports find them here – Inkwell writers services. Readers’ reports
You can also get other writing services from lots of different sources. ASK what exactly they will do for the money. I feel investing in your writing is necessary. Be careful that you don’t expect too much. Also, their opinion is one opinion. It will be hard to stomach, some, if not all, of what they say. None of us like criticism. You are paying someone to be critical of your precious words. You will be told what is not working, no matter how brilliant you are. Be prepared to pay someone to make you feel that you need to work harder. However, they will also bolster you with good advice.
You can also get help on your manuscript Submission Package Assessment – I had my writing group’s help here, but there are packages that will look at the opening chapters of your book, covering letter and synopsis and give you feedback on what needs to be done to catch an agent or publisher’s eye. Definitely, I needed help here and lots of it.
Paying for editing work.
If you are considering self publishing, having your book edited is vital. Whether it’s a structural edit, copy edit or proof-read. If I was to do things over again, I would get my submissions edited professionally before I sent them off. I was lucky that my agent believed in me, despite the typos and terrible punctuation. Making your work the best it can be, makes sense when you think about. I learned this the hard way.
Writing for free myself – Getting my writing out there, means I write blog posts, articles and other material for free. Some writers don’t agree with this, and I can see why. It can be very time consuming and you will have no tangible return. That said, I’ve found my freebies have helped me immeasurably. It might not be for everyone, but be prepared to practice and be immersed in what you love – and not always get paid.
Mentoring – I would have been lost without authors who took me under their wings and helped me each step of the way. I found wonderful writers, further along the road, who still give me advice and motivation. The Irish writing scene is wonderful. Go to events and launches and say hullo. Buy another author’s book and get it signed. Writers are my guides and I distract other writers a lot by asking them what they are doing and how it is going for them.