Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Questions from a New Writer

Louise recently left a comment on my blog, under Robyn Opie's Blog Tour. Louise asked me a number of questions, so today I thought I'd answer them.

Thank you Louise for posting these questions.

I have no formal writing qualifications but I do have a need to write. Do you think it's a necessity with all the competition today to have a piece of paper to make publishers take note of your work or is passion and a good story enough?

I don't have a piece of paper, not in the form of writing qualifications. I've completed short courses on writing children's books, none of which provide a piece of paper though they are all run by the government. I've read books on writing for children and, of course, I read a lot of children's books.

So, to answer this question, publishers are more interested in passion and a good story than formal writing qualifications. Formal qualifications do not make a writer, nor a great story. They can help but they are not a guarantee.

Yes, you have to have skills. Completing courses is important, in my opinion. I'm sure the courses I did improved my writing, knowledge and chances of getting published. Feedback from an experienced writer, tutor, is invaluable.

Publishers are looking for great characters, who react in interesting ways to a variety of circumstances. Think Harry Potter. He is a character and the world has taken to him in a huge way. Create characters that publishers and readers will embrace. Then you can put your character or characters into numerous situations and your readers will want to read about every one.

Where does your determination come from and how did you have the courage to push your first novel from beginning to end? I have always wanted to write a romance novel but found the task too daunting.

Firstly, I'm going to give you some advice on your desire to write a romance novel. Your thoughts are telling you that it is too daunting. That is one way of looking at this task. But I prefer to look at it another way - small, easy pieces. A romance novel is a bunch of chapters. A chapter is not daunting. A chapter is relatively easy. When you finish that small step, then you move on to the next one. I call this bite-size pieces. When a task looks too big, break it down into manageable steps. In the case of a novel, break it down into manageable chapters.

I usually work with similar targets. When I was finishing my last manuscript, I decided I wanted to write 500 words a day. I didn't stop until I'd written 500 words. One day I missed my target and had to write more the next day to make up for it. As I got further into the manuscript, I was writing 1,000 words a day, even 2,000 words near the end. Using this workable target kept me on track and eventually increased my productivity quite remarkably.

Give yourself workable targets - bite-size pieces.

This answer to the first part of your question might sound too easy. But, in my experience, it is simple. Writing is a habit. Get into the habit of writing every day and you will not be able to help yourself. You'll have to write every day. That's how life is for me. Just as I have a habit of biting my nails, I have a habit of writing. I've written every day for so long now I can't break the habit. I have to write. So sit yourself down every day, preferably at the same time, and write. Pretty soon, you'll find you sit down to write automatically, without thought. Your mind is programmed with a habit.

At first you'll have to consciously sit down and write. After a while, when you do this every day, the action becomes subconscious. Involuntary, automatic actions are part of the subconscious, such as breathing, walking, brushing your teeth etc. You don't think about these things. You just do them. They are programmed habits. Writing can be a programmed habit too. I'm living proof of that.

The other part of the answer is also simple. Publishers, agents, producers, all need writers. Without writers they would not have work, jobs or businesses. In my experience, publishers are happy to look at my manuscripts because my stories might make them money. I also live by the writers' mantra of "what if". If I don't try, I'll never know what could have been. I have to try to find out the answer. I don't want to be sitting around in my old age wondering "what if". I'm going to do now and find out "what if" now`.

I love reading to my children and some of the books they bring home are so poorly written I don't know how they were published. Am I being unrealistic thinking that I could write anything better?

No, you're not being unrealistic. I sometimes read books and wonder how they got published. I know I could do better!

The answer can be simple - the writer is well known and the book will sell well simply by having the writer's name on the front cover. In many publishing houses, the sales and marketing people have the final say on what books are published. It can be frustrating for editors, who champion a particular book, only to have it rejected by the money people, and another book the editor doesn't like so much could be accepted for publication. This is a fact of life. Publishing is a business.

If you want to get published you have to think that you can write better. If you think that you can write worse, then go away and chop wood - writing is not for you. You have to believe in yourself to do your best work. You have to have the right attitude. Our thoughts are the most important influences in our lives. Our thoughts inspire our actions. Our thoughts create our destinies. Go forward with the right thoughts - yes, you can write something better.

As you can probably guess, I believe writing success has a lot to do with your attitude and thoughts. I know this from experience. My e-book, "How to Write a Great Children's Book, deals with all the technical skills of writing, such as characters, dialogue, setting, show don't tell and much more. My e-book also delves into attitude and thoughts. These are the real secrets to success, in my opinion. To learn more about "How to Write a Great Children's Book" please visit my website http://www.robynopie.com/howtowriteagreatchildrensbook.html

I hope this information helps you.

Thanks again for visiting.

Happy writing and publishing,

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