Bill's Blog Shorts: Check 'em out. You never know what's in 'em.
I received a query from a nice lady the other day seeking general advice and thought that others who are just starting down the publishing road might find my answer useful. As follows...modified a little for blog purposes.
"Mr. Furney, I was referred to your blog by a friend. I read your 'Shameless Solicitation' section and laughed and laughed. I am not yet a published author, but rather a newbie who is baby-stepping into this field, with high hopes of becoming one. I wondered if you'd take pity ON ME and be moved to email me with any advice. I have 26 years experience as a first grade teacher and have several children's book manuscripts that I hope to have published. I am attending my first writing conference in August. Any guidance would be most appreciated. Shelly Lanier"
No pity necessary, Shelly. My first bit of advice is; don't be like me...be successful! There are literally hundreds of points I could make and some of them would even be useful. And that's the problem I have with your request; where to start? If you have a specific question I'd be more than happy to try and tackle it. In terms of any general guidance, let me offer a few points:
* Believe in yourself.
* There are a number of support sites for new authors. Join in and take advantage of their combined successes and failures. It's good to be in a group where everyone is in the same boat, trying to get started. I like a couple on GoodReads.com.
* If you are sending queries to literary agents be sure to check them out first. There are some real predators out there. http://absolutewrite.com has both writer support forums and forums regarding agent/agency legitimacy. I consider this an essential resource.
* Believe in yourself. The publishing world is a crazy, schizophrenic, gaggle of insecure writers and all-powerful Wizards who would consider Oz a vacation destination. One thing that has kept me going in the darkest times is the knowledge that my writing is better than some of the crap that does get published. Sometimes it makes no sense what makes it and what doesn't. It will drive you crazy if you let it. Don't. Flip it to the other side of the coin and be inspired by the fact that, if that junk got published then surely I can get published. Example: I had one agent compare my writing with Nicholas Sparks' (I disagree but not important to this anecdote.) and another agent compare my writing to John Grisham's. (OK, that's a little closer.) My reply to both, of course, was "THANK YOU!" To which they replied in each instance, "Oh, but I don't like the way he writes." What?! As a writer, what the hell do you do with that? It's like the Yankees saying, "Sorry Mr. Furney, but we already have a left-handed pitcher who can throw a 110 mph fastball." I mean, as an agent, why would you care whether you like a specific SUCCESSFUL writer's style? Isn't the point to sell books? Haven't those two authors sold a bazillion books? But I digress...
* Keep self-publishing as an option...but keep in mind you have to learn a lot of skills to do it right. Trying to get published takes passion. Trying to self-publish is an obsession.
* Read Stephen Kings' On Writing. Then read it again.
* King talks about having a Trusted Reader. Find out what that means and find one. That advice applies to your drafted manuscripts.
* If you want to check your writing in general, join a writers group...but take criticism with a grain of salt. If one or two people don't like X and one or two don't like Y, then consider it for what it's worth. If 95% of the group doesn't like something, then there's probably a problem with it.
* Believe in yourself.
* Surround yourself with as many good writers as you can. Anyone who says "you're not good enough" or "it's too hard" is DEAD! You don't need them.
* Call me Bill.
* Jack Daniels is good for knocking off the rough edges on your writing and your bad mood caused by negative people (see above).
I hope this helps or at least is mildly entertaining. I salute your 26 years of being a First-Grade Teacher and someday will be more than happy to buy you an adult beverage in honor of your hazardous duty. You earned it. Most Sincerely,
For more reviews, profiles, and interesting tidbits on writing, check out www.billfurney.com.