Do you really want to be published?

It is my guess that most writers want to be published in some form.

Not all, of course. There are some people quite happy to pen their thoughts purely for their own pleasure – or perhaps just for a small circle of family and friends.

There are many others who are striving hard to gain the nod of approval from publishers and desire to see their words in print. I’m one of them, and have enjoyed the thrill of seeing my stories and poems in print. To this point my success has been modest. I also get great pleasure in the knowledge that I have many hundreds of readers of my three blogs, including this one.

Fiona Maddock on the site Write for your life has written a thought provoking article called Unknown and unpublished: enjoy it while it lasts. She explains that the unpublished writer has freedoms not enjoyed by a published author and I’d agree. Unpublished writers can write whatever takes their fancy, have no set deadlines and can write as much or as little as they wish.

She doesn’t leave the article there, of course, going on to outline some basic but essential things to remember to do on one’s journey to becoming a published writer. We should not forget the basics of grammar, spelling, punctuation, editing and rewriting.

Sound advice.

Good writing.

Writing from life’s experiences

“When a writer is born into a family, that family is doomed.” Czeslaw Milosz

Write what you know.

Generally that is good advice, especially for writers starting out on their writing journey. Draw on your life experiences and use those in your writing. Your life is what you know best, so it’s a good place to start. A big part of those experiences revolve around your immediate family, so write about them and draw on their experiences too. In your formative years as a writer, especially when you are young, this might be all you have to draw on for your inspiration.

I know that my early stories and novels I drew heavily upon my own experiences and those of my family. Much of this early writing may never see publication; it is part of your apprenticeship in the craft of writing.

As I developed my writing skills I was able to cast a wider net. Now I find I am able to let my imagination soar and take over more and more. I am now less reliant on personal experiences and more on imagination.

Writing exercises:

To help you develop your writing skills, try one or more of these ideas:

  • Start writing a journal about your every day activities.
  • Write a page or so about your favourite toy.
  • Describe the place you went for a holiday when you were young.
  • What happened on a camping trip when you were still at school.
  • Think about your least favourite relative; describe why you don’t like that person.
  • Write about the events leading up to an accident or tragedy in your family or friendship group.
  • Write about your favourite teacher at school.

Good writing.

Walking is an essential writing exercise

I came across an excellent article recently and thought I’d better share it with my readers. It seems that many writers are also walkers. They use taking a walk as an essential part of the writing process. I’ve been advocating this from time to time on this site, especially in those times when you seem not to be making progress with a piece of writing.

The article “On walking and writing” is well worth reading.

Then go out and take a walk.

I would – but I’m writing this post late at night!

Good writing – and walking.

I’m back: Editing my novel

I’m back!

It has been a while since my last entry here.

Sorry about that.

I’ve been a little overwhelmed with life for a while now, but things seem to be getting back on track again, one step at a time. I have several large projects on the go which are taking – no – demanding my attention. I’m starting to chip away at them but the task sometimes looms far too large.

Having one of the coldest periods on record here in South Australia is not helping either. It is very tempting to linger in bed on these crisp, frosty mornings… and then linger some more. And my good wife spoils me by bringing me a hot cup of tea in bed some mornings. Bless her.

One of my major projects at present is finishing off my novel for children (I’ve written extensively about the process here.) I am currently working on the 7th draft and it is getting near to the final shape and form.

The editing and rewriting I am doing in the 7th draft comes from the comments made on my manuscript by my supervising lecturers. Both are experienced writers and editors and their help has been invaluable in shaping the novel into its present form. One thing I have found interesting is that their comments and suggestions are remarkably similar, even though they read the manuscript independently. They have been very picky, very critical of every word, sentence and even the whole structure of the story. This is good because it is helping me to produce the very best writing I can achieve.

Find a good critiquing friend

I would recommend that every writer find a trustworthy friend who knows about writing and how to do it well. Then get this person to critique your work. It could be a fellow writer, a neighbour, a member of a writers’ group or even someone who does this for a living. Paying someone to do this can be money well spent. I haven’t had to do that yet, but I have received much help from my lecturers (who get paid to do this) and from my writers’ groups (They do it because they like me! And I “pay” them by commenting on their writing).

Find a good editor

Along with finding someone to critique your writing I would suggest that your writing will benefit from good editing. You need to find a good editor. It can be the same person who critiques your work doesn’t have to be. I’m not talking about editors who work for publishers here. That stage comes later, after you’ve submitted the very best work you can do, and the publisher has accepted your piece for publication. I’m talking about someone with a good eye for picking up typos, spelling errors, punctuation boo-boos, grammatical blunders and structural flaws. Such a person can help you polish your work until it is perfect – or as near to that as you can. Publishers are more willing to accept your work if you make the effort to get it near perfect – so their editor has as little to do as possible.

Further reading:

  • Writing a novel – the process I went through to write a novel for children as my thesis paper for my Master of Arts.
  • Editing – more articles from my archives about the editing process.

Good writing.

Backup copies of your writing

A few days ago my son transferred all of my computer files from a positively ancient six year old computer to my new laptop. The transition took a while and was relatively painless. It would have taken me days to do what my son did in hours.

One of the topics we discussed during this process was the importance of having secure backup copies of all computer files. I don’t have to tell you how devastated you would be if you experienced what happened to a friend of mine.

He had been writing a novel on his laptop and this computer contained the only copy of this story. It was almost finished. He didn’t even have a paper copy or draft on paper. Some low life stole his laptop from his office and it was never recovered. Needless to say, he was devastated and took several years to get back to writing the story from scratch.

Always have backups of your writing.

My son has set up automatic backup systems of all my files. In adition, I will have copies on my stand alone USB drive. I am thinking of using DVD copies of all files, as well as on flash drives. They are now cheap enough to buy several of them and store them in different locations. Several years ago I copied all my writing files on to a CD and left them at my daughter’s home, some two hours’ drive away. This might seem overkill, but we live in an area where there is bush fire potential. We nearly got burned out five years ago so we are no longer complacent.

Good writing.