Saturday, July 2, 2011
A WRITER’S JOURNEY BY VONNIE DAVIS
Many of you are published; many are not. Even so, collectively we are all prodding toward publication. Even those of us who are published carry a heavy dose of “fear baggage” with us on this journey. We have a strong fear of what if I can’t get another book published? What if I can never move up from a small publisher to a large publisher? What if I stop growing as a writer? Angst. Insecurities. Fears. We’ve all got them in one form or another. It is these creative insecurities fueled by our ambitions that form our sisterhood.
If I were to dole out advice to new writers, I would lay it out in bullet format.
First decision: decide what name you will write under. Yours or a pen name. Start promoting that name. In your writing career, you will push a book, but ultimately and most importantly, you are selling yourself. A personal example, if I may. I have always hated my first name. How many times have I heard, “Vonnie? Is that with a V or a B or C?” I decided I’d write under something more feminine and easier spelled: Renee, Isabella or Olivia. But, by the time I was ready to submit, I already had my blog, facebook and twitter accounts under Vonnie Davis. I already had a handful of people who knew me by my real name. Would I lose them if I were suddenly Renee Davis? So, decide upfront what name will my writing persona have?
Start a blog. Make it a direct reflection of yourself. If you love scuba diving, include pictures to showcase that. I love flowers and traveling. Vintage Vonnie reflects those interests. Make your blog readable. If a black background with green printing floats your boat, know that some visitors to your site won’t stay long. I’m a busy writer who devotes an hour a day to visiting blogs and leaving comments. If I have to squint to read your post, I’m not staying. You have to decide which is more important to you, cool fonts and colors OR attracting readers and, thus, a following. Work hard to increase your readership by hosting other writers, having contests/giveaways and changing things on your site on a regular basis.
Utilize social media. Facebook. Twitter. Also, set up a website. You must sell yourself and promote your books. Your publisher won’t do it for you. Writing is the easy part of this journey. Self-promotion is time consuming, costly and painful. Can you tell I hate it?
Present a professional image so potential readership takes you seriously. Get an email account in your name. Do you want your fans to email you at toejam @ yahoo? Or drank2muchagain @ hotmail? If you want to be a professional writer, project a professional image.
Join groups. If a writers group is in your area, join. Join online writer groups. Get a critique partner. If you feel insecure about your writing abilities, find a mentor.
Research. Research the publishing industry. Which publishers want the sub-genre you write? What are their submission requirements? If they don’t like books over 90,000 words, don’t write a 128,000 word manuscript.
Will you want an agent? Research them. Pay attention here! Never, ever pay an agent! If an agent charges reading fees, RUN! If an agent charges you a monthly retainer fee, RUN! If an agent charges you for editing services, RUN! Find out how accessible an agent will be. How soon will he or she respond to your emails? You want to be treated as a person, not a potential dollar sign.
What you write the first time does not have to be perfect. Nor will it be perfect the second or third time. Writing is rewriting. But here’s the thing: don’t rewrite the spirit of YOU out of your book. I used to think I had to have every word, every comma, every emotion perfect in a scene before I could move on. I used to go over and over that scene until I thought if I had to read it one more time, I’d throw-up. And the results were awful. My book lacked spark. I’d rewritten my sense of humor and my gentle nature right out of the manuscript. My husband, also a published author, told me to write the whole book and then go back and start rewrites. I’m a born fiddler; I have to keep tweaking things. Taking his advice took some real effort. Professional growth always does.
As soon as you submit, take a breather for a couple days and then start another project.
STORM’S INTERLUDE comes out July 15th. I already have a full-length manuscript and a novella (38,000 words) before editors. I’m half-way into another book. Write. The more you write, the better you’ll get. It’s a journey of starts and stops, joys and tears, dreams and nightmares. Frankly, would you want it any other way?