Writing Advice for Beginners: Coffee and Conversation Flashback Friday Round One

In the many years I’ve been blogging here at As The Eraser Burns, we’ve posted lots of Coffee & Conversation Interviews with editors, agents, art directors, authors, and illustrators. Within each are brilliant nuggets of advice that deserve a revisiting. So today, I’m starting a Flashback Friday series of posts with answers for various questions from those who have taken a turn in the C&C cyber chair.

Writing Advice for Beginners: Coffee & Conversation Flashback Friday 01

First up?

What advice for beginners do you wish you would have followed?

From author Carol Larese Millward:

Wow, good question—and there are so many things I wish I had done. First, the SCBWI is a wonderful organization, so I’d advise any serious writer to take advantage of all they have to offer. I signed up for a manuscript critique at a SCBWI conference, and the author I met that day passed along information about the publisher who published my book! Too often over the years I didn’t make enough time to attend conferences.

Second, I wish I had taken more writing courses. I find that just being in a learning environment with other writers is not only inspirational but motivational as well. There’s so much to learn, and I feel like I’m always playing “catch up”!

Third, believe in yourself and work hard to make it happen.

Carol’s Coffee & Conversation Interview

From author/illustrator Pam Smallcomb:

I would tell that beginner to ignore the market and any and all trends. Write the story you would have loved to have discovered on a bookshelf. Write the book that you would have picked up to read, not what an editor says she is looking for. Don’t be afraid to write outside of what you see in the market. Be brave and please yourself.

Pam’s Coffee & Conversation Interview

From author Sarah Sullivan

Actually, I wish I had NOT followed one piece of advice because I wasted a lot of time respecting the rule of not contacting a publishing company when they keep your manuscript for a long time.  A company which shall remain unnamed kept my first novel for 14 months.  After 7 months, they sent me a postcard saying my manuscript “was being passed around for a second/third read.”  I waited another 7 months before I contacted them and finally received a very complimentary rejection.  In hindsight, I wish I had gone ahead and sent the manuscript to other publishers.

Sarah’s Coffee & Conversation Interview

From author Mary Quattlebaum

Do some creative writing every day, even if it is but a small poem or a paragraph.  That way you keep the ideas flowing and the momentum going even if you have other professional and/or family that take precedence that day (or week).

Mary’s Interview

From illustrator Lauren Stringer

Believe in yourself. If you want to write, start writing and set aside all of the contingencies you set up for yourself. The dishes can wait, recycle the mailers, grab a cup of coffee or tea and begin filling the page.

Lauren’s Interview

From author/illustrator David LaRochelle

After my first book was published I thought I was beyond taking writing classes. I had a book published; what more did I need to learn? That misguided superior attitude greatly slowed my career. Once I wised up years later and started taking writing classes, attending workshops and conferences, and joining a critique group, the quality and quantity of my writing made dramatic leaps forward.

I would also advise anyone to have a literary lawyer review your first book contract, something I did not do but wished I had.

David’s Interview

From author John Coy

Writers write.

John’s Coffee & Conversation Interview

From Catherine Reef

I don’t have such a regret, but my advice is: never stop believing in yourself, learn as much as you can about using the English language, and keep on trying.

Catherine’s Coffee & Conversation Interview

From author Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen

Don’t wait for a response longer than six months. And really, this advice is moot in this time of email. But back when it was all done by snail mail, nothing happened very quickly.

Stephanie’s Coffee & Conversation Interview

From non-fiction author Ed Sullivan

Never throw away anything you write no matter how trivial or awful it seems to be at the time.

Ed’s Coffee & Conversation Interview

From author  Ann McCallum

I wish I had taken more courses on craft. I wish I had gotten involved in the writer’s community earlier.

Ann’s Coffee & Conversation Interview

From author Cindy Callaghan

I see the recipe for success in these areas.  Each one has countless books written about it.

  •  A well-written story:  By well-written I mean all of the basics: spelling, grammar, punctuation, lay-out.  You can have the most genius idea in the world, but if you aren’t adhering to the traditional grammar rules and you’re buried in typos, no one will take you seriously.  This took me a very long time to learn.  I am a terrible typist and an awful proof-reader, and even though I was an English major, I make LOTS of spelling and grammatical errors.  I really try not to, but it takes a tremendous amount of effort.
  •  A well-told story:  By well-told story I mean a unique story idea with rich, colorful characters involved in an interesting or intriguing plot.  These three things are huge so I want to say them again:
    • A unique story idea (“concept”)
      o    With rich, colorful characters
      o    Involved in an interesting and intriguing plot

I think a safe critique group or feedback from multiple places is crucial to creating a well-written and well-told story.

  • A well-pitched query:  A strong query letter and synopsis are needed.  These two documents can be short, but can take an eternity to write.  And it is important that they are very tight and polished.  I had my query and synopsis critiqued several times before it was ready to send out.  Many articles about writing query letters are available on the internet.
  • An advocate:  If you are unfamiliar with the publishing industry, you probably need someone who can represent you, an agent.  Once you have a solid project to shop around, consider attending conferences.  It’s a great way to get the lay of the land and to familiarize yourself with literary agents.  This is the route I went.  Of course, authors can query publishers directly.

Cindy’s Coffee & Conversation Interview

About Laura Bowers

Laura is a writer, runner, reader, runDisney addict, blogger/vlogger at Write, Run, Rejoice and Joyful Miles, mom of two awesome boys, wife of one fantastic husband, excellent chili maker, and obsessive list keeper. She loves run-on sentences and adverbs. She also still thinks Spice World was an awesome movie and feels no shame about that.
This entry was posted in Illustrating & Cover Art Tips, Writing Tips and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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