Monday, February 20, 2017

New Writers: 5 Tips for Answering Their Questions

Every so often I get the "Questions". You've probably gotten them too. You know, when someone asks,

"How do I get started in writing?" 


"How can I get my writing published?"

So us writers, we're thinking, this isn't a question that can be answered in 5 minutes. Or even 5 hours. These are "tip of the iceberg" questions. There is no brief answer, and the response is multi-faceted. There's always something to learn, and just about the time we think we've got a grasp on things, the market changes.

And since we're busy with writing and life, we don't always have the time necessary to share all of this with the wide eyed newbie asking the question. Since I've been asked these questions many times, I decided to compile a list of 5 basic tips.

1) Take writing courses.

From webinars, workshops, and seminars, to correspondence and online classes, free and paid options abound. Just because we like to write doesn't mean we have all the necessary knowledge and skills. Good courses teach things like how and where to submit our work, how to approach an editor, and so on.

I experienced this firsthand, learning valuable skills and information from the Institute of Children's Literature courses I took years ago. They were comprehensive, lending direction and cutting the learning curve down in regard to how to write what publications want.

Here are a few recommended sites that offer great courses.

Coffeehouse for Writers
Faith Writers
Poynter's News University
Institute for Writers
Institute of Children's Writers
Writer's Digest

2) Join a writer's group.

Groups offer fellowship, support, resources, courses, workshops, conferences, and more. Find local ones through friends and colleagues, regional papers, or an online search. Organizations such as the ones above also offer online support and/or critique groups.

Other groups include The Insecure Writer's Support Group, which addresses writers of all genres, the American Christian Fiction Writers, and the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

3) Attend a writer's conference.

Conventions, conferences, and workshops are offered year round. National, state, and local groups sponsor ones of all sizes. Don't discount smaller offerings; just because the keynote speaker's name isn't a household word doesn't mean they don't have much to share.

4) Take advantage of great resources. 

Books, magazines, newsletters, websites, blogs - there are great resources everywhere. A few favorites include Funds for Writers, Pen and Prosper, Writer's Digest, and Writers Weekly. These types of resources  offer links, articles, forums, contests, and other great features.

5) Keep learning.

Educate yourself. It's hard work, but keep at it, learning the craft and sharpening skills. There's always something to learn. Always.

While these tips are helpful for newbies, they're also a reminder of the wonderful tools available to all writers, no matter where we are on the journey.

What do you think? Did I miss anything? What advice would you offer? What was the most helpful advice you had when starting out?

Happy writing,

Photo image: Free Images


  1. Great tips, Karen, and so necessary if a writer really wants to learn how to write and grow as a writer. Because we can all learn and become better writers no matter what stage we're at.

  2. All those things plus reading is a great way to start.

  3. Natalie,
    Thank you! Yes, there's always something to learn, isn't there? :)

    Yes, reading is a great addition! Appreciate you mentioning that. :)

    Happy writing,

  4. Great advice here. Too often I meet novice writers who seem to get ahead of themselves, wanting to know how to publish a first draft. I always feel like such a killjoy suggesting that the next step is joining a critique circle to get feedback. The lifelong learner concept is an excellent way to frame it. Thanks!

  5. If I had a dime for every time someone asks me that...and they don't want the truth, usually. How do you get published? You work and write and learn and network and work some more and research... It takes years. They want the "quick fix" answer.

  6. Newbies want the fast track. When I tell people I search for markets early in the morning, many say they don't want to do that. Ahem, neither do I, but it's part of the process. Great advice, Karen.

  7. Newbies want the fast track. When I tell people I search for markets early in the morning, many say they don't want to do that. Ahem, neither do I, but it's part of the process. Great advice, Karen.

  8. Karen: A great set of pointers. When people ask me to do something else, I have to weigh the options and, maybe, see if it's something I would benefit from or not.

  9. Laurel,
    I know, I hate to burst their bubble of excitement! But the reality is that it doesn't happen overnight - not even close. :)

    You're right, no quick fixes here. :) There's no such thing as microwave writing, is there? :)

    Good writers rarely take the fast track, right? :) It all takes time and commitment, that's for sure!

    Thank you. You're right, we could be busy with that kind of thing nonstop. Best to weigh things with what you feel you're called to do. :)

    Happy writing,

  10. Hi Karen - I'd never thought I was a writer ... but using the blog as a starter - it seems that I am. I've joined in a memoir course - just for others to write their memoirs ... I think I know which direction I'm going in ... and have lots of family information. Thankfully I'm 'ahead' because of all the blogging I've done ... and now I've written one tiny story! I feel comfortable with my voice - and that is an essential - get in your comfort zone ... and bloggers will encourage you along that route.

    I have to say I think I'd find a course intimidating and not useful ... but then I probably need one sometime! It's people find their way and utilising whatever is out there that helps ... Cheers Hilary

  11. Great tips, all helpful. The only thing I'd add is start writing.

  12. Hilary,
    Ah, and then you found out you actually were a writer! And I'm glad you did take it up, for it's been so much fun to read your work. Wherever you go along that writing avenue or otherwise, I'm sure you will do well! :)

    Thanks so much. Yes, writing! How could I forget that part? lol Well, hopefully they will do that if I haven't scared them away. :)

    Happy writing,

  13. I've done each of these, Karen. Still learning after almost 17 years of writing. Thanks for the links! And Lynda is right. Do start writing. LOL

  14. Hi Karen! I would add: Read. Read other authors and writers. If you want to write for a publication, read that publication so you know what they publish and are looking for. I have been in several Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and I have done my homework for each one.
    Writing courses are great, but I have also used a writing tutor. It was one-on-one with a writing teacher from a college not too far from me That was invaluable to challenging me to think more about my goals, and what I wanted to say.
    I have flirted with going to a writing conference, but haven't gone to one yet. I think someday I will!

  15. Great tips. I've been at it so long, I forget how much I had to learn early on.

    I agree with Ceil--read!

  16. I guess I would add that they should start writing a blog to get followers. I think publishers like to see that someone already has an audience.

  17. Susan,
    Seventeen years - that's great! Still learning here too! Always something to gain or learn, isn't there? :) Just write - yup, that's the way to get going!

    Yes, reading is a great addition to the list! A tutor is another great suggestion. Some courses lean toward that - the ones I took from ICL offered great personal input in that regard. Thanks for adding to the mix here! :)

    Good to see you! :) Yes, starting out, there's so much to learn, isn't there?

    This is true. Good point. I guess it depends on what their goals are too, but even if they don't want to write a book, a blog is a good way to practice writing and gain friends and connections.

    Happy weekend,

  18. Hi Karen - Thanks for this post. Now, when someone asks one of those questions, I'll send them here. Susan :)

  19. What a great post! I know I get this question a lot and I am sure others do too! This post (and comments) will be an awesome resource to refer people to in the future. Thanks!

  20. Susan,
    You are welcome! Glad you found it useful. I know it helps me to have something to reference them to as well. :)

    I'm glad you liked it! :) There are no quick answers, so I thought it might be good to compile a list. Makes it easier for me rather than to go through the whole thing! lol

    Happy writing,


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