Lesson #1 for the Beginning Writer

I am a freelance writer and I have been working for over thirty years. I might amend that and also state that I have been getting paid to write. That is the most important part; isn’t it?
I am quite often asked to do workshops for beginning writers. They can be helpful if the beginner is willing to listen but, more often than not, they aren’t. Why would I say that? Beginning writers don’t usually take criticism well and telling one how to write is a form of criticism. I try not to give that sort of talk. I do my best to be positive at all times and to give out information that will help a beginner become proficient in their chosen profession.
Being a writer is not glamorous. It can appear that way if you are reading articles about people like Stephen King or Joan Collins but, more than I care to admit, most authors are not what would be considered “successful”. Success is usually measured by the amount of money a person makes in that profession. You won’t get rich being a writer. You can make a nice living by honing your craft on blogs, newspaper columns, articles, web content, and short stories. In fact, whether or not you want to face the fact, you will need to do this type of writing so that you will be able to afford to take time to write that great book that is somewhere deep inside of you. If you really want to be a writer; you need to face the fact that you will also have to do something else to earn a living; at least for a while.
As I said, I have been writing for over 30 years. I guess I really should also count the years in grammar school when I wrote plays and made my entire group of friends act in them but I usually don’t. I usually count from after college; in the 70’s when the “bodice ripper” became popular. I guess that was my first “wake-up call”. I discovered that to write for these publishing houses I would be required to write my stories by their “formula”. The publishing house would tell me what I could not use for a topic and then it would tell me what story line they were looking for. Once I agreed to write by using the formula and began the actual negotiations, I found out that the pay scale for this type of writing wasn’t exactly fabulous. What? The photos on the backs of the books (of the authors) made them all look so prosperous. I couldn’t believe I would be making a flat fee based on the length of time they felt it would take a good writer to do the job. Where was the promise of glamour and fame? It just wasn’t there but, what the heck, I wanted to be a writer and I knew I was as good as the ones out there. I would show them the best!
“Bodice rippers” faded into the background when several publishing houses began to showcase and publish something called “series romance”. Silhouette was one of these houses. Each series had its formula and no writer could deviate from it. There were house names that were used for many of the books. No, I do not refer to the titles but to the authors. If the author was Janis Teal, the book could be expected to follow the formula for all previous Janis Teal books. The man and woman met, fell in love, had a conflict, broke up, made up and lived happily ever after. The titles and characters were different. The setting was different. The author had the same name but may have been several people who had nothing at all in common. The publishing company actually owned all rights to the name. No single author could point out the Janis Teal books and say “I wrote these.” It was a trend in publishing at the time. New authors rarely managed to “break in” to this category. The “genre” authors were born and thrived for twenty years. Many of these writers eventually broke out and became writers with a name of their own. Jayne Anne Krentz is one of these authors; Sandra Brown is another. These two ladies started out writing for the series romance genre. They succeeded in a world that can afford to pick and choose who becomes well known. Yet, when I tell aspiring writers that this is one of the ways to begin they aren’t interested.
Aspiring writers often fight against the tide. They send unsolicited manuscript after manuscript to publishers who aren’t looking for”new” writers and they actually expect for their writing to be appreciated and chosen for publication. When it is inevitably returned they cry and become depressed and wonder what they did wrong. I can tell them. They did not listen to what they were told.
If you want to be a writer, decide what you want to write about. Find a niche and learn everything you can about it. Become an expert on something. Why? Because the first rule of writing is
1. Write about what you know.
More first time writers have their manuscripts rejected because they tried to write about a place, occupation, nation of people or a subject that they didn’t know anything at all about than any other reason. You can’t write a book about a subject you don’t know anything about. If you have never been to the South of France, you will not be successful in any endeavor to write a book set in that location. You may research it and you may think that you can make it “real” to your readers but it will not fly. If you stick to the first rule of writing, you can achieve success at some point in your career. Your knowledge and your feelings about the subject will come through in the words and sentences that you choose.
My message to you is plain. Hone your craft. Write and write and then write some more. Get published by magazines, newspapers, chap books; whoever will give you a shot. Get your name out there. Get a website and blog on it every day. If you want to be a household word someday then you had better start now. If you have submitted manuscripts and been turned down and you are still convinced that the book you wrote is good, self publish it. There are many self publishing sites that you can use but I recommend LuLu.com because you can publish there for free. The only person who pays is the person who wants to read the book. That’s what you want; right? You want readers who will follow you.
Join writing groups and groups that are about things you are interested in. Learn. Learning is a lifelong project. You can never know enough.
This will get you started on a firm footing. Where you go from there is up to you.

Author's Bio: 

P.D. Rivers is a freelance writer who has written for more than 30 years. She does self help courses and books for beginning writers and tries to help them learn and hone their craft. She resides in Orlando, Florida.