Author Ruth Smith Meyer

Ruth Smith Meyer Inspirational writer, speaker

Thinking out Loud on my Blog

Advice I'd give a Newbie Writer

Posted by ruthsmithmeyer-com on February 24, 2014 at 4:10 PM

Here is the next subject of Ruth Snyder's blog hop. Go to her site to read the recommendations of other authors. 

 

You want to write? You have the inner urge to record the thoughts that burst into your brain like the sun popping from behind a cloud? You dream of seeing those thoughts in print where others can read and be inspired? What do you have to do to make your dream come true?

Much as I wish, I don’t have all the answers. But I can give you a few hints.

• Start! Yes, just start. Grab a pen or pencil and paper—or if you’ve been propelled into the technical world, your lap-top, ipad or any of those easy-breezy new implements.

 

• Write what comes to mind in whatever form it may want to take. Although I enjoyed my writing assignments in elementary/public school, I got my first writing experience in composing letters to pen-pals—thirty-six of them as a teenager—and I wrote to every one of them at least once a month. They weren’t just one-page notes, either. Those persevering pen pals had seven or eight pages of observations and details of my life and to peruse each month. Composing a letter that people actually want to read and look forward to, takes practice and forethought. I enjoyed thinking What words can I use so that the reader will feel included in the scene I’m describing? Letters to the editor are another place you to express opinions and voice your values.

 

 

• When you’re ready to spread your wings in a larger scene, give your writing a little more scrutiny. Again, write what comes to you. Get it on paper. Use the “Hot Pen” method I’ve mentioned before. Don’t worry about grammar or if you’re saying everything you need to say. You can go back and add or change later, but for now get it out, let it flow. Your words may flow so freely it feels as though they were hardly from you, that God must have given you the words to write. That may be so, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you can’t edit your work because he gave them to you. He may have inspired you, but you want to make sure that your writing conveys those thoughts in the very best way. He will be pleased rather than annoyed at the thought you put into it and the changes you make to improve the organization and flow. Go over it, editing as you go, changing words that don’t quite fit to something that says it better. (Use your thesaurus) Do the same for words that are repetitive. Most of us have a few favourite words that we use far too often. If they’re necessary find another to substitute, but often they’re not even needed. (One of mine is “some” You can’t imagine how often I used it in places I didn’t need it at all!)

 

• Get a trusted friend who is good at grammar and English to read it over and give suggestions. As the writer, you know what you were thinking. Another reader can tell you if you are clear or whether you need to explain more. They may be able to point out your favorite, over-used words. If you have them, do a word search and uncover all of them, deciding as you go whether to delete, change or leave as is.

 

 

• Good first opportunities may be newspaper reports or columns. If you belong to an organization looking for more members or community awareness, and live in an area that has a small-town weekly, they will often welcome an account of your activities. That may be good public relations for your home and school, your 4-H club, gardening club, womens group, weight-loss group or any number of such organizations. Again, don’t let it be a dry account of activities, but make it so interesting and descriptive that people will wish they could be part of it. My Keen-agers Korner about the activities at our Seniors Day Centre was read for miles around. Once when shopping in the city, a sales clerk, when she saw my address, said, “Oh that’s where the Keenagers are from!” I asked how she knew about them. “My parents live in your area, and I always read the local paper when I visit, because it sounds as though those seniors have a lot of fun. It almost makes me wish I was old enough to go.”

 

• There are avenues for small projects such as memoirs meant only for family members. That too, can be very satisfying for a writer and most certainly a gift to your offspring! Mixbook or something similar can include pictures and stories that will become an heirloom.

 

 

• A larger vista where you can spread your wings is magazine articles. Don’t aim for the biggest ones right away. Try smaller ones until you get the feel of it. Rejections shouldn’t discourage your desire to write. Even the best of authors experience or have experienced rejection Read the guidelines to make sure your writing fits the magazine. You’re not going to sell an article on the art of raising good horses in a magazine on family life—unless you artfully compare the horses to children or mates!

 

• If you want to write a book, you’ll need a good editor. That involves some cost, but a good editor can make a real difference in the success of the book.

o Choose a publisher that prints material like your writing.

o Send a query letter before you send your book. Many books are being written these days and publishing companies print only a small number each year. So you need to be prepared to wait.

o Probably one of the best ways is attend a writers’ conference like WRITE! Canada. There you will have opportunity to meet publishers, editors and agents personally. Meeting you face-to-face drastically improves your chance of getting their attention. If you show a sample of your writing and are passionate in telling them about the topic, they may even request you to send it to them.

o Another avenue is self-publishing, but you need to do a lot of research to understand exactly what they offer—what they will do for you and what is your responsibility. Find someone who has gone that route and inquire about what questions you need to ask, and how satisfied they were with the process. Word Alive in Winnipeg also has a distributing arm which is helpful. I had good success with them, but if I had it to do all over again, I would ask even more questions. I would repeat back to them, my understanding so that they could tell me if I heard it right.

 

• Enter contests. This can be a little intimidating, but very good experience. Most contests also will give you feedback telling you the strengths of your writing and where you can improve. Don’t let your feelings be hurt by losing—take those suggestions and weigh them, talk them over with other writers and try to incorporate them in your writing.

 

• It’s good to try for awards, but aim higher—aim for rewards. The rewards come when you write something which inspires another to overcome, to live their best or when your writing brings such enjoyment that your readers ask for more.

 

• Probably the best advice for anyone who wants to get serious about their writing is to find a writer’s group. At my first WRITE! Canada, I was so inspired and enthused and wanted to go home and get at it. However I recognized right away that having a few like-minded people would be a real benefit. At an after-meal pause when we were invited to share, I rose and asked if there were other writers in my area who would like such a group. One dear lady came to me afterward and there were a few others who expressed interest to her, so we began to meet monthly. Each time, two people read a story, poem or part of a book they have or are writing. The readers bring enough copies for everyone in the group. We have critique guidelines. Some work alone and others pair up to critique those writings. The next meeting we present the critiques. At first it felt scary to hear all the suggestions for changing the face of our “babies,” but soon realized how helpful it was to improve our writing. Now we all look forward to hearing what the others have to offer. We know that we still are in charge. We need to take only those suggestions that seem right to us. I dare to say that our reader’s group and the critiques that we receive there is probably why many of our members have been published.

So get started, take every opportunity to practice and hone your art to the finest of which you are capable. Try new avenues, share however you can. Keep going and let the joy of writing fill your life. You can do it!

 


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4 Comments

Reply Patti J Smith
12:03 AM on February 25, 2014 
Excellent advice! Thank You!
Reply Ruth L. Snyder
10:41 AM on February 25, 2014 
Ruth,
Thanks for sharing this advice. I like the way you've laid it out in small steps.
I too learned a lot about writing by writing letters - my parents were missionaries back when there was no e-mail. Letters provided a venue for me to get to know my relatives in the U.S. and Canada and a way for me to share what life was like in Africa.
It's interesting that we all have different writing journeys, but there are similar steps in our paths.
Reply Sara Davison
8:01 PM on February 25, 2014 
Lots of great advice here Ruth, thank you! I especially liked "It?s good to try for awards, but aim higher?aim for rewards". It reminded me of something my dad always said whenever we did anything and were looking for compensation: You'll get your reward in heaven. At the time i admit that was a little frustrating when what we were looking for was a quarter to go to the store with (yes, I'm that old) but now I realize that's the only reward that matters. Thank you for that, and all your other, valuable reminders.
Reply Janet Sketchley
3:25 PM on March 1, 2014 
Just write! This is so freeing, Ruth. Most of us on the blog hop dove right into the "how/what to" ideas that we missed the very beginning point where you started this: just write, and let a bunch of words out, before starting to figure out what to do with them. That's a key part of finding our voices and discovering what we want to write about. Wise points on how to proceed from there, too.