Advice I Wish I’d Been Given When I Started … Part 4

This continues our series asking some seasoned, experienced authors what three key bits of advice they would give new writers that they wished they’d known when they started writing. We all wish someone would give us gems of wisdom that would help us avoid wasting precious time and making serious career mistakes. So I hope hearing the advice from these various authors will help you in your writing journey!

Today’s guest post is by Marianne Spitzer, author of numerous novels and short stories:

I began my writing in the sixth grade with a dream. I had written a story for class about a magical bracelet and a beautiful princess. My teacher kept my story and gave it to my mom at conferences. Mrs. Decker, my beloved teacher, told my mom that she could tell I had the talent to tell a story and my writing ability was above my grade level. My mom believed that it was because I was attending a Catholic school and we were pushed harder to learn; however, she did encourage me. It was the beginning of my dream.

I fell in love with mysteries and read every Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy mystery I could find at the library. I wrote mysteries and loved them. As I grew, my love for mysteries also grew. I read more and wrote more. I pictured myself as the next Agatha Christie. Life has a way of changing our lives, but it can’t stop our dreams. Instead of going to college, I married and had two children. I worked in Human Resources, but I continued to write.

When I was thirty-three and my children were in school, I enrolled in the community college. I should have majored in English from the get-go, but with office work in my background, I majored in business. I was miserable. I did take as many English classes as I could and soon found my love of writing was as strong as ever. I attended three different classes taught by a wonderful professor who also encouraged me. Professor Rabby, who I will remember dearly for the rest of my life, suggested I change my major to English. I did and never looked back.

1. Immerse Yourself in the Writing Environment

This is the first thing I wish I knew before deciding to become a writer. If you know you want to become a writer in your heart and soul, do all you can to stay as close to writing as possible. If you are not majoring in English, try to find a job that will allow you to write and enjoy what you do. Try not to get stuck behind a desk where you have to look someone in the eye and tell them they have lost their job. The only writing I did was a few comments on the interaction with the fired or laid-off employee.

2. Learn about the Publishing World

The second thing I wish I had realized when I first began writing was how to get my book/books published. I knew it was very difficult and I had sent some short stories off to magazines and received polite rejection letters. When I first began to mail off the short stories, I had to do my research at the library. I didn’t have easy access to the Internet, and many sites were not yet available. Now there is a lot of information on the Internet that a person can learn quickly.

I should have hired someone to help me. Hiring a professional to help with query letters and where to send them would have been a great asset. I wish I had more of the modern conveniences that are available today. I pounded out those first short stories and my first novel on a second hand Royal typewriter. I edited the first draft and carried it to the copy store and had it printed. I worked hard on editing the second draft. The luxury of Microsoft Word and a printer at home would have been very helpful.

As a beginning writer, I couldn’t afford to hire the professionals and I muddled through the best I could. Novice writers face the same problems now even though they have the benefits of computers, printers, word programs, and unlimited amounts of informative articles online. My advice to the beginning writer is learn as much as you can before you begin to mail out query letters. Since the Internet offers more information than I could have found without it, use it to your advantage. Learn all you can about the publishers you are going to contact.

3. Learn about Self-Publishing Options

The third thing I wish I had known before I started writing was about self-publishing. I have been writing stories since I was twelve. My dreams included being a published author. I knew that was very difficult and that even the best authors tried for years and received rejection after rejection before being published. Self-publishing opened a new door for me and other indie authors. However, self-publishing is not as easy as it sounds. Yes, write a book, have a nice cover made, write an enticing blurb for the sales page of your book, and upload it and sit back and wait for sales. If you do, don’t hold your breath. Yes, you have a published book, but who knows about it except your mom and close friends? They each may buy one of your ebooks, and you’ll be excited by the sales of eleven books.

Going hand in hand with wishing I knew about self-publishing was that I needed to brand myself. I needed people to know who I was and what I wrote. Minimally, Facebook, a blog, a website, and a Twitter account is a good way to start. They should be started before you publish your book if you want a following when the book comes out. Unfortunately, I didn’t know this and did it in reverse. I self-published my book and then started a blog and website. The Twitter account started later.

To try to get my book into the hands of the public, I posted the link on every Facebook page that allowed book promotions. Then I read a few blogs about self-promotion and began leaving comments on every blog I read with a link to my blog or website. I contacted other indie authors asking if they would do a guest post on my blog. This drew new viewers to my blog. Most of the indie authors asked me to write a guest post on their blogs, and I was introduced to more new readers. Little by little my following grew and sales followed. If I had started earlier, I might have had more than those eleven sales.

All things considered, I’m happy I’m a writer. Even though I understand the process and marketing much better now, I am still pleased I self-published. The feeling of seeing the first sales show up on my sales report is amazing and something I will never forget.

Happy Writing!

Photo Credit: Un ragazzo chiamato Bi via Compfight cc

Marianne Spitzer is the self-published author of two books of supernatural short stories and a book of children’s stories. The third “spirit” book, Lena, was released in September 2013. She is currently working on a new Kellie Conley book, Black Velvet Roses. Visit Marianne’s Amazon Author Page.  Information can also be found on her blog, Musings Under the Willow Tree. She tweets at @MarianneSpitzer and is on Facebook at Marianne Spitzer, Writer. Check out her website here: Marianne Spitzer, Author

2 Responses to “Advice I Wish I’d Been Given When I Started … Part 4”

  1. Marianne Spitzer November 18, 2013 at 8:38 pm #

    Thanks for having me, C.S.

    Enjoy the day.

    Marianne

    • cslakin November 18, 2013 at 9:14 pm #

      Thanks, Marianne, for sharing great insights!

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