by Byddi Lee
So you’ve started writing – what do you do with it now?
Some folk might just want to write for themselves, squirreling their thoughts away in a daily journal that may never reach the retina of another human being. That is totally fine. However, in my case writing is all about sharing those thoughts, communicating my ideas and reflections to the rest of humanity. If I’m honest, for me there is a huge element of showmanship with the desire to entertain. I’ll bet that’s the case for most writers, even the introverts, perhaps especially the introverts. Writing is a controlled medium from which to proclaim, “Look at what’s in my head, my heart, my imagination!”
Some write because of the creative urge that crafts emotions into words that may be raw, gritty and hard-hitting, or soothing, beautiful and inspirational, and a tapestry of anything in between.
Perhaps you just want to write to let your light shine, or even try your hand at writing to make some money (extremely difficult I might add, but not impossible.) There a huge variety of writing forms and ways to present them.
You can write poetry - I’m not well versed in this (pun intended!) so that’s all I’ll say about that.
You can write fiction, the length of which varies. Flash fiction is typically a self-contained story told in a few hundred words. Short stories range in length from about 1000 words up to 30,000 words, at this stage your story becomes a novella. At 55,000 words a novella becomes a novel. Typically a first novel should be in the 100,000 word region, though longer is fine for fantasy and Sci-fi where world-building is required. The longer your novel, the more it costs to publish it so you should always bear that in mind.
You may choose to only write in only one length category or flirt with them all. Use as many words as it takes to tell your story. If you use the analogy of running, where Flash Fiction is the 100 meters sprint, then the novel is the marathon and a trilogy is Ironman!
I started with writing short stories and dabbling in the beginnings of a novel. When I got my first short story published and received payment for it, I threw everything into the novel. Now I’m on a trilogy, God help me!
Flash fiction has become very popular. Short doesn’t mean easy, requiring a skill all of its own. In San Jose, California there is a regular Flash Fiction Forum where you can submit work that if selected, you will read out to an audience. It’s a fun gathering, with about twelve readers and typically draws a big audience each time. It’s a great feeling to read your work aloud and get the “readers” immediate reaction - instant gratification that is often aloof for us writers. Besides the fun aspect, it helps build a writing community to ward off the aloneness writers can feel.
Bookshops and coffee shops often will have open-mic sessions where writers can read their work. Search online to find out if there are any near you. Why not consider starting your own?
If writing screenplays is your thing, consider joining an amateur theatre group.
Another way to wedge yourself into a writing scene is to join a class. In one of the first classes I joined, we took turns reading our work aloud and the class could comment on it. It’s nice to have feedback, especially in a group that is supportive. It’s not a good idea to write in a vacuum.
Flash fiction and short stories can also be sent into literary magazines. Many popular commercial magazines will also publish short stories too.
The novella and novel is the next steps up. Each requires some commitment. You need to pace yourself and be prepared to be patient. Remember this is the marathon! It helps to join a writing group that will edit and critique your work a chunk at a time.
Of course, you don’t have to write fiction. There’s non-fiction too, magazine articles, features, column, blogs, and books. A lot of what I’ve already discussed applies to both fiction and non-fiction.
There are websites that will publish your short stories and articles online, but be aware that even if they don’t pay you, once your work is published online, it may not be eligible for submission to other publications or as a competition entry.
A great resource for writers is the annually published Writers Market, by Writers Digest. This “bible for writers” contains information about how you can sell your work to publications and publishers. There are sample query letters and a myriad of other resources. The deluxe edition includes a one year subscription to their online site.
A blog is a great way to showcase your writing too. I began my blog six years ago as a place to park the prose rattling around in my head that didn’t fit into my work in progress. Having the blog and a novel on the go at the same time provides a nice juxtaposition – whereas the novel requires discipline, the blog can be pleasure writing.
Sites that will host your blog include Blogger, Tumblr and WordPress. If you have your own website on a site like Wix, often the site host will have a blogging capability. There is a smorgasbord of ways for your blog to make money through ad links, promotions and sponsorship - once you get enough followers. A large following is a result of good content and regular posting. Having a theme for the blog allows you to join theme based blog-communities and build a platform there. It doesn’t have to be a writing blog - it can be about anything else you are passionate about. Because, of course, you’re passionate about writing - who isn’t?
Whether you are a sprinter or a long distance runner in the world of writing, there is a road you can follow, to get your words from your head, to the eyes (and ears) of eager readers.
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