Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for October 1st, 2015

Advice for the New Writer

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Folks, the other day I met a new writer in an unexpected place. He told me he feels overwhelmed; he doesn’t know where to go for any support, and he doesn’t know how to get any help for his writing. He’s in the very early stages; he’s trying to organize his thoughts, and needs to have confidence that these thoughts will be able to be organized eventually.

While I cannot give anyone confidence — sometimes I can’t even give myself that! — I was at least able to point him in the right direction, as far as a few helpful writing groups are concerned.

But this got me thinking. What about the other new writers out there, who don’t know very much, and are overwhelmed? Do they even know which sites to start with? And are they aware that free advice is there for the taking, if they can just find out where they need to go?

Because I’m not sure of that, I figured I’d give some advice myself.

First, before you go anywhere, you need to trust in yourself and your story. If something is telling you to write it down, you should do that.

Second, try not to censor yourself. Accept whatever comes out in a first draft as best you can. (You can always fix it later.)

Third, try to write at least five times a week, for at least a half an hour to an hour a day. If you can get 750 to 1000 words each time, you’ll have a solid short story within a week or two. And you could have a short novel (something in the neighborhood of 60K words) in twelve weeks.

Fourth, try not to let this all feel overwhelming. I know it’s new to you. But every writer has been there; we all didn’t know what we were hearing, at first, and we didn’t necessarily trust ourselves all that much, either.

And fifth and last? Check out some of the sites I’m about to talk about, to see if any of them appeal to you. Because every single last one of them has helpful advice, for the novice writer all the way up to the professional.

Now, let’s get to these sites!

  • I’ve talked before of Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s site, which used to be called The Business Rusch. There’s all sorts of helpful advice over there, especially for the practical-minded writer. If you have a business-related question about writing, Ms. Rusch has probably already answered it — or if she hasn’t, will know how to point you in the right direction so you can find your answer.
  • In addition, the Forward Motion Writers Group (otherwise known as is extremely beneficial. I’ve been a member for years, though I’ve been more inactive than not. Still, whenever I drop in over there, I’ve found support, friendship, advice, and more. The folks at FMWriters are knowledgeable and helpful, and all they want to do is help “pay it forward” a little with other writers.
  • If you are looking to see if a publisher or agent is reliable, check out Preditors and Editors. They have the most up-to-date information anywhere.
  • Another good place to go is Writer Beware. There’s all sorts of helpful information there about contracts, what’s good, what’s bad, and what should never be accepted under any circumstances. Also, pay close attention to the publishers Writer Beware does not recommend (along with the agents). Those are places that have significant complaints/complainants, and you want to avoid like the plague. (Note you can cross-reference with Preditors and Editors if you need more information, or the publisher in question is not listed.)
  • As far as marketing your work goes — which is essential for small press and indie writers in particular — please check out Marketing for Romance Writers, whether you write romance or not. I am a member of this fine group (our hashtag on Twitter is #MFRWAuthor), and have obtained all sorts of good advice from the people there.
  • Finally, check out author blogs. (Start with some of the fine authors I’ve listed on the side of this blog. These are reputable people who often talk about writing, publishing, and other interesting things.)

So, in conclusion, remember that you do not need to feel intimidated by NaNoWriMo (National November Write a Novel Month) or anything else. All you have to do is keep faith with yourself, keep writing, and do not give up.

That’s the only way to go.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 1, 2015 at 5:29 pm