People often ask me, “How do I become a writer?” My answer is fivefold:
- Write often, even if it’s just for yourself, because practice is the only way you get better. Journaling can be a great place to start.
- Read. You cannot be a good writer unless you are also a reader. No, I don’t have a scientific study to back that up, but unless you know what good writing looks like, you cannot hope to replicate it.
- Say, “Yes,” any time that anyone asks you to write something. It doesn’t matter if it’s a puff piece for the school paper or a blurb for the church newsletter. Do it and do it well. When it becomes known that you will write and that you are decent at it, people will suddenly start asking you to write more and better things. And that’s how it begins.
- Audition often. No, you’re not an actor, but blogs, even well-respected blogs, will sometimes ask writers to audition for a regular writing slot or to do a guest post. Take them up on the offer and try out. You might not get the gig but you won’t know unless you try. At the very least you’ve gotten in some quality writing practice.
- Enter contests. Entering contests teaches you how to meet deadlines and how to “finish” a work. (Most writers I know would keep messing with a piece forever if they could. Having a deadline forces you to finish something, polish it, submit it, and move on.) It also gets you used to the submission process (and, sadly, the rejection process) in a non-threatening way. Some contests even provide feedback on your work, which is invaluable.
Due to popular demand, I expanded this advice a bit in my post, “So, You Want to Be a Writer.” However, if you don’t want to read all of that, the above advice is still a good place to start.
Random Facts About Me
I tend to write first drafts longhand with colored pencils (thus the picture at the top of this page). I don’t know how much it helps or hurts and it may just be a quirk of mine, but it can’t hurt to try.
I, like most writers, am a chain reader. I’m never without a book and will read the cereal box over breakfast if that is all that’s available. If you want to know what I’m reading, I sometimes post my weekly library hauls on the blog, as well as on my Goodreads page. I also post some of my favorite books and authors on my Pinterest page.
I am a certified Disney nut. Theme parks, movies, animation, you name it and I love it.
In elementary school, my reading teacher called me “Frog” for reasons that still aren’t clear.
Where do you get your ideas?
I get this question a lot. So often, in fact, that I did an entire blog post about the subject. Enjoy!
How did you land a publisher?
I participated in #Pit2Pub on Twitter. My 140-character pitch earned me quite a few requests for partials/fulls and Clean Teen Publishing loved the book and made me an offer.
What’s one of my writing quirks?
Notebooks! Despite all of the software and apps available today, I still love to write my notes and initial thoughts out longhand in notebooks with a pencil (not pen… I need an eraser). There’s something about using a pencil and paper that slows my brain down and lets me think deeply about a project. When I work on a computer it all goes way too fast. Every September I hit the back to school clearance sales and fill my closet with blank notebooks. I’m such a nerd that this is one of my favorite times of the year.
How would I describe my writing process?
Controlled chaos. It usually starts with a notebook that I fill with ideas, snippets of dialogue, descriptions, pictures, plot points, and conversations between the characters and myself. I don’t outline. In fact, I have intense hatred for the outlining process. We had to do the whole Roman-numeral-outline-thing in school and it always seemed to me as though I was writing the paper twice. I was of the opinion that if I was going to go through that much trouble, I might as well just write the paper. So what I did was write the paper first, then go back and create the outline from the paper, turn in the outline, and hang on to the completed paper until the due date, giving me weeks of freedom while everybody else was writing the paper. I should probably apologize to my teachers for this, but I won’t because it really was far more efficient.
After I’ve got everything in the notebook that I can think of, I write the first draft, which is usually awful but, as they say, you have to get something down because you can’t edit a blank page. When it comes to editing, I make notes on the manuscript, but I don’t try to move text around on the computer. Something always gets irrevocably messed up when I do and “track changes” just makes me crazy. Instead, I retype the manuscript from scratch, making the changes as I go. It takes longer, but I also make fewer editing passes overall because not only am I making the changes I marked, I’m finding and incorporating new changes as I go. I’ve usually got a final draft after about three passes. Then it’s off to submissions!