Monday, March 18, 2013

General Stuff for New Writers

So, how do you like the blog title? Pretty literary, right? I was going to call it "Advice for Writers" but I don't know if any of this can fall under the lofty title of "advice." It's more a general collection of stuff, so there ya go.

When people ask me if I have tips for new writers, I always take a beat (or two or three). Over the past few years, there have been so many lessons I've learned (most of them the hard way), so much helpful knowledge passed on from much greater minds than mine. It can be difficult to know where to begin. But on the subject of writing I tend to divide my thoughts into "Writing" and "Publishing," so let's start there and see where we end up.


The most important thing I can say about writing is simply this: Do it. Write a lot. It can get hard, it can get frustrating, but keep at it. The more you write, the better you'll get.

Write what you love. Write what you enjoy. When we see mega-bestsellers making headlines and getting movie deals, it can be tempting to try and ride that wave. But write your books, not somebody else's. In the words of Robyn Carr: Don't write to catch the latest trend. Write the book that you want to read, and let the trends catch up to you.

Regardless of what kind of writing you do, I always recommend that writers join Romance Writers of America, both the national organization and a chapter near you. You'll find lots of helpful workshops, generous writing partners, and the kind of environment that can foster you while you build your career and become the best writer you can be. (And no, they didn't pay me to say any of that, darn it all!)

Here's a blog post I wrote a couple years ago on the subject of finishing your first novel:  Stages of a Writer's Career Part 1: Finishing Your First Novel.

And here's some advice  that I've found helpful:

Lisa Gardner's Writer Toolbox

Joss Whedon's Top 10 Writing Tips


In the past few years there have been major changes in the publishing industry. There are many, many publishing options for writers now. Authors can pursue the traditional publishing route, through a publishing house, or choose to publish independently, working with sellers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. Of course, more choices means…well, more choices. Trying to determine the path of your writing career can be daunting. Any way you go, there's bound to be a lot of work involved. So familiarize yourself with the publishing industry. Talk to other writers. Learn everything you can, and then make whatever decision feels right to you.

Here's a blog post that I wrote about getting published for the first time: Stages of a Writer's Career Part 2: Publishing for the First Time

Also, my friend Karen Cantwell and I put a blog together on the subject of self-publishing. While it's woefully out of date at the moment, there are still a few pearls of wisdom in here that you might find helpful: Self-Publishing Tips & Links

For advice from one of the most successful self-publishing authors in the business, check out Joe Konrath's blog, A Newbie's Guide to Publishing

And for advice on traditional publishing, try the Writer's Market website.

Two Final Thoughts

1) Not to over simplify, but information is only useful if it works. Listen to advice, but be willing to throw out any information that has proven untrue for you, regardless of where it comes from.

2) Whether you want to write just for the love of it, or because you want to make a billion dollars, your dreams are your own. Protect and cherish them. With hard work, persistence, and good old-fashioned common sense, you can accomplish pretty much anything.

So what are you waiting for? Get writing!


  1. Perfect post for the newbie writer . . . and also a good reminder for those of us who have been around the block a time or two.

    What a great resource, chock full of information & useful tidbits. I especially loved the last bit . . . "protect your dreams" because you're right it is my dream and if I want it to succeed, or if I want to follow it where it goes, I must nurture it and I must keep it safe in an ever-changing publishing world where it's sometimes hard to foster dreams these days.

    Great post, Misha!

  2. Thanks for this, Misha. It can be hard to protect and cherish the dream, but that's the key, isn't it? It can be what keeps us from chasing trends and it can certainly be what keeps us in the chair.

    Also, I've got to say I've never seen Joss Whedon's writing tips so I'm thrilled you've given us a link to them! Hooray! Now, you can imagine what my next stop on the worldwide web will be...

  3. I agree that information is only useful if it works. Or maybe it's useful when it doesn't work cuz then you know not to waste time on it.

    I've gone down my share of rabbit holes, thinking I was hot on the trail of the Writer's Holy Grail only to realize, yeah, not so much. I *think* I'm better at vetting my sources that before and I *know* I'm better at saying "hold up, not working" than ever before. Great food for thought, Misha!

  4. Candy - Glad you enjoyed it! Yes, it's so important to take good care of your dreams,especially when the publishing industry seems to be turning upside down! Keep writing. Your audience is out there, just waiting to fall in love with your stories! :-)

  5. Nicole - Yes, you're so right, protecting and cherishing the dream is what it's all about! Hope you enjoy Joss Whedon's writing tips! I found them funny and clever, just all of his writing! :-) Thanks for your comment!

  6. Keely - "maybe it's useful when it doesn't work cuz then you know not to waste time on it" - so true! And of course, what works for some writers doesn't always work for others, whether we're talking about GMC charts or 4-act structure or whatever. Thanks for the comment. Glad you enjoyed the post! :-)