The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.
― Albert Einstein
If you’re a writer, you’ve probably felt that way before. I sure have! Frequently, friends ask me about publishing or refer me to someone who wants to write a book. “I just don’t know where to start” is what they tell me.
Does that sound like you? If so, I invite you to help yourself to a cup of coffee and read on. I hope my story will encourage you in your journey—and point you to resources that will equip you for the road ahead.
When I started writing in middle school, I knew nothing about the publishing world. I just loved to write. I didn’t know writing groups existed or that I should attend a writers’ conference. Honestly, I didn’t know the first thing about getting published. Not surprisingly, when I tried to query publishers, many a door slammed in my face.
So, I tackled the world of self-publishing. In the middle of my YA trilogy, I started developing an online presence and then attended my first writers’ conference.
Many rejection letters later, I received a yes from Write Integrity Press and contracted with them for a new young adult fiction trilogy. The first book, The Revisionary, released June 2017, and the sequel is releasing March 2018.
Looking through the 20/20 lens of hindsight, I realize how backward my approach was. Regardless, I hold to what no-quitter Thomas Edison said:
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
Okay, maybe I’m not to 10,000 yet, but I’ve learned—and continue to learn—what does and doesn’t work. For starters, in today’s publishing world, any publishing path requires authors to actively engage readers online. Ever a troubleshooter, I began designing blogs and websites and experimenting with social media.
But I didn’t want to keep what I learned to myself. If I could help other writers skip a couple of my mistakes, then they could communicate their stories more effectively. A teacher at heart, I began to share my experiences through technology and blogging workshops at the Florida Christian Writers’ Conference.
That’s where I met author and entrepreneur Bethany Jett. Bethany saw my heart for helping writers share their stories and proposed I create training videos on her website to teach some basics.
Helping Your Writer’s Journey
Like me, maybe your writing journey hasn’t taken a traditional path. That’s okay. The path I’d recommend would look something like the flowchart below, but regardless of the order, the components still work together. Let’s look at each one, and then I’ll come back to Bethany’s proposal.
Join a Writers’ Group
Perhaps you’ve never heard of writers’ groups. I hadn’t either until a writers’ conference where a wonderful man and mentor named Bruce Brady invited me to join an online group with Word Weavers. Since there were no openings in current groups, he challenged me to start leading my own “page” online.
So I agreed, and now, I’m president of the Word Weavers Page 5 group—an amazing team of writing friends. We meet online, but there are also groups that meet in physical locations. To learn more, visit Word Weavers. (This is by no means the only writing group community available. I encourage you to do your research to find one that works best for you.)
The bottom line is that writing groups help you polish your craft, keep you accountable, and provide the cheerleaders to carry you through slumps.
Connect with Your Audience Online
You’re writing. That’s good, but don’t wait until you finish your book to start connecting with your audience. The internet and social media offer endless possibilities for doing this, but finding your way can feel overwhelming.
Back to Bethany. After spending several months identifying a common need and honing the concept, we launched a program to help writers find their voice and their audience online. Fast forward a year later, and she joined forces with author and agent Cyle Young to create Serious Writer Academy, a place where writers can receive training that meets their needs. I’m honored to serve on faculty and teach how to create an online presence with WordPress.com and reach readers through MailChimp newsletters. However, my courses are only two of dozens by other gifted authors and teachers that are designed to equip you in your craft.
To learn more about Serious Writer Academy, click here.
Attend a Writers’ Conference
Okay, you’ve polished your work and started to build your personal brand. Now is the time to consider attending a writers’ conference.
There might even be one in your own backyard. For me, that’s the Florida Christian Writers Conference, but there are plenty of others. Google Christian Writers Conferences, and you’ll find them.
Conferences give you a chance for face time with key decision makers in the industry: agents who can represent your book and editors who can publish them. There, you can pitch your concept directly instead of sending an unsolicited submission that will likely get lost in a slush pile. If an editor or agent is interested, he or she will request your submission, which automatically gives it higher priority. With rare exception, the editors and agents who request a proposal or manuscript at a conference will respond back to you with feedback and either a yes or a no. (Trust me. Even a “no” is better than endless suspense.)
Going on an adventure
Have you read or seen Tolkien’s The Hobbit? My favorite scene is when Bilbo Baggins finds his courage and runs off to join Thorin and his dwarves on their quest. He has no idea what lies before him, but he’s ready for the adventure.
The writing life is like that. Once you have the writing bug, you can’t go back, but the road ahead won’t be easy. Some days, you’ll want to quit (another reason to have accountability through a writing group).
Like you, I haven’t arrived. I might be a few steps ahead of you on the journey, but I’m growing right along with you. I hope my story challenges you to keep going, and I invite you to join others and myself on the writing adventure.
Finish your coffee. It’s time to get busy.