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Aspiring Writer’s Checklist

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on July 3, 2010

So you’ve decided you want to be published.

1. Take your writing seriously (not too seriously).

Give yourself permission to buy that book on plotting, attend that workshop and go to festivals and conventions.

Invest in yourself and your future as a writer.

2. Research and learn.

Join your state writers center. Join a specialist writers group like VISION. Buy the books that are shortlisted for awards. Keep up with what is being published, who is publishing it and how the genres are developing.

3. Learn to love the Internet.

There is so much useful information out there. Find agent blogs and follow them. eg.

Call my Agent.

Agent Kristin

Writer Beware

4. Conversely, limit the amount of time you spend on the internet.

Social networking aside,  the web is too tempting to research. You can go from one fascinating site to another and lose the precious couple of hours you have put aside to write.

5. Set aside a writing place that is yours alone.

Preferably with a door that you can close. Make this spot a haven where you feel welcome.

6. Make time to write.

Set aside a particular time each day for your writing time.  Set realistic goals eg. a minimum of 4 pages a day.  If you have trouble getting into a story after time away from it, go back a few pages and re-read it. You’ll catch yourself editing and before you know it, you’ll be writing a new scene.

7. Get organised.

Set goals. Short term (this week), medium term (this month), long term (this year) and Dream Goals (Where I’d like to be in five years).

Find competitions and markets,  and set yourself the goal of entering that competition, or sending something off to that market.

8. Keep track of submissions.

There are high tech programs but it is just as easy to make up a grid and drop in the title, date, Mag name and results.

9. Learn to love rejection.

(Don’t laugh)  Unless you fluke onto a sale right away, you’ll get rejections. There are standard rejections that tell you nothing and there are the kind that tell you, you are getting close. eg. Not quite what I’m looking for, or, bought something about sparkling vampires only last week.

10. Learn from rejection.

Whenever a story or book gets rejected with a personal comment take the time to get over the disappointment then take a look at the rejection. What can you learn from it? Can your story/book be re-written?

11. Send your work out.

Keep submitting. Your stories won’t sell sitting on your hard drive.

12. Back up all your work.

Back up your work in more than two places. I’ve had two computers die on me and just the other day my USB died. Burn to CD and date it, or buy an external hard drive and back up to that every month.

What if your house burned down? Save to somewhere external as well. (Writers are notoriously paranoid for good reason).

13. Have a career plan.

But be prepared to adapt. Talk to  published writers. How did they get published? What have they learnt since? Listening to others can prevent you making mistakes. Attend panels at festivals on the publishing industry. Listen and learn.

14. Do you need a pseudonym?

If you are going to write across several genres you might choose to write under different names. At writers festivals, would you feel comfortable answering to a name that isn’t yours? Can you use your initials, or your mother’s maiden name?

15. Enter Competitions and attend Pitching Opportunities

With many publishers only accepting agented submissions, the best way to get past the gate keepers is to enter and win or place in competitions. Alternatively,  there are opportunities for you to pitch your book to agents and editors. (See here for pitching info and here for competition info this one contains useful industry links).

Be ready for these opportunities by …

16. Get your manuscript professionally appraised by a reputable assessor

Ask around, find someone who knows your genre. Tell them to be frank. You really need fresh eyes to go over you ms before you send it out. Your writing buddies will have seen it during the process of writing so they will be too close. A good manuscript appraiser can tell you if your middle is sagging, if you are doing info dumps or if your first chapter is all back-story.

17. Do you need a web presence before you sell?

This is debatable. How much time are you going to spend on a blog, when you could be writing? The easiest way is to join a shared blog with like minded writers. This eases the load on each individual and you bring a shared perspective to the blog.

18. Be ready to promote your book.

Before you sell you can be making lists of blog review sites. Make a list of promotional ideas. Do you need a book trailer? Do you need bookmarks? Can you run workshops or talk on panels? Public speaking can be a horrifying thought for the introverted writer type.

19. Don’t forget to WRITE!

If you do sell a book, be prepared with other books and ideas for series. The publishers aren’t buying a book in isolation. They are buying ‘an author’ who they can build.

20.  Believe in yourself.

Few writers are overnight successes. Few writers have a smooth path. Even after publication there are dry spells. If you give up before you are published you will never be published.

Remember what they said on Galaxy Quest – Never give up. Never surrender!

Now take a look at your writing life, where are you falling down?

I’m struggling to make enough time to edit the book I’m trying to finish for ROR.

7 Responses to “Aspiring Writer’s Checklist”

  1. Chris said

    Hi Rowena,

    I fall squarely into the category of aspiring writer and this checklist contains a lot of what I’ve been told and some handy new tips. It would be great if someone picked up my work and went, “Oh wow, this guy can write. Let’s sign him on!” but reality is a little more of a grind.

    To be honest, I’m in a position where my particular expertise is highly valued, but I only work part time and don’t have to do a lot (workwise, life is another matter). It’s a nice, and reasonably well-paid lifestyle.

    But I’d rather write.

    One thing I’m interested in is face to face pitching as you’ve described previously in “Pitch your Book”. I give presentations to groups and at conferences and I suspect I might be good at it. Would attending Worldcon in Melbourne be of any use to me? And how would I go about getting a chance to talk to someone there who could help? Do you simply sign up, or do you have to know someone who knows someone?

  2. There are so many websites now for publishing your work digitally and self-publishing is getting less expensive. I heard a writer interviewed on public radio recently who sold a self-published book as an App on Apple’s iTunes site.

  3. […] The Aspiring Writer’s Checklist […]

  4. […] Starting with the Aspiring Writer’s Check list. […]

  5. […] Back in the late nineties after I had my first children’s book published I wrote up a Beginning Writer’s Checklist (here’s the updated version). […]

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