5 Steps to Become a Published WriterSep 21
First, to answer the question, yes I think a lot of the story structure tips can also apply to non-fiction articles. I’ve seen something akin to setup – conflict – resolution used for articles. Obviously, the tips regarding character development won’t apply, but I’m sure you can find some useful ideas there.
One thing Terry said made me start thinking, about not having the talent for writing fiction. So, let’s say you’d like to write novels or short stories, but you don’t know if you can or how to get started. I’m no expert, but I’ve had some articles and short stories published, so I can tell you how to get that far at least.
Step one: Read and Write. A lot.
You wouldn’t expect to become a great basketball player if you shot hoops once or twice a month, so why would you expect writing (or anything really) to be any different? Read the types of things you’re interested in writing, and write a lot.
Step two: Accept that you’ll write a lot of garbage
Even the BEST writers, and I mean the absolute best, write some crappy stuff. You’re going to write crappy stuff. Accept it and get past it. Some of your stuff will be unpublishable, ever, and that’s o.k. Think of it like a quota; you have to generate so much garbage to finally generate something good.
Step three: Get feedback
Sometimes it’s hard to tell if you’re writing good stuff or garbage. Get feedback from someone else to help you figure out which you’re doing. This feedback should come from someone who’ll be honest with you, even if it hurts your feelings. Otherwise, the feedback isn’t much use, is it?
In general, avoid depending on your family and friends to judge your writing. They care about you, and they’re likely to say your work is better than it is. This will make you feel good, but it won’t do anything for your writing.
So, where can you get feedback? You can try posting your work online, in a blog or in a writer’s forum. You can also try online or in-person writer’s critique groups.
How to choose a critique group
Ideally, you want a critique group that has someone a little more advanced than you are. If everyone is a beginner, then it will be tough for anyone to advance.
You also want a group that will be honest about your work and tell you when something isn’t working. Hopefully they’re also telling you what is working well so you can build on that.
It can be difficult to ask for, and take, a critique of your work, but it’s also a crucial step in getting better at writing.
Don’t be afraid to ditch your critique group
When should you dump your critique group and look for another? It’s hard to say, but I can tell you some things that have triggered me to do that.
- When the group becomes more social than writing-related. Socializing is nice, but it won’t help you improve as a writer
- When the group loves everything I write. No one is that good, and it’s bad for me to think, even for a second, that I might be.
- When the group hates everything I write. I’m not that bad either. Typically, this is a mismatch of writing style, genres, etc. Find a group that likes to read the kind of stuff you write.
- When I stop getting useful critiques. This is a tough one to judge, but if you feel that you’re not getting feedback you can use, or that you couldn’t have figured out for yourself, it’s time to find another group.
Step four: Publish
What? Already? Yep, already.
You like what you’ve written. Your mom likes it. Your spouse likes it. Your critique group likes it. It’s time to send it off and see if someone else likes it.
I’d suggest starting off with short stories or articles. Find a magazine that fits your genre and style, read their submission guidelines, and FOLLOW them. Start off with a magazine that’s relatively easy to publish in. Online and paper publications that generally pay little or nothing are what you’re shooting for here. You’ll want a few publishing credits to your name before you submit to a more competitive market.
Submit, and wait. You might get a form rejection. If so, re-read your story, tweak it if you think necessary, and send it out to another market.
If you’re lucky, you’ll get an offer, or a note from an editor asking for some changes. You can learn a lot about what’s “wrong” with your story from this advice. Yes, it’s just one person’s opinion, but for now, it’s the person who matters.
Step five: Do it again.
The best way to learn to write is to write. Each time you put your work in front of someone, you’ll learn something about how readers react to your work. And with each time, you’ll get a little better at it.