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Tools of the trade (and a list of resources)
By Rachel Ann Nunes
If you are really serious about writing, you need to get a stack of writing
books from your library and bookstore and STUDY them (see
Resources below). Don't skimp on this process! There
is no shortcut to writing well. Please don't e-mail me asking about manuscript
format or proper grammar. This only shows me that you have NOT done your
research at all. I cannot teach you writing in an e-mail, even if I had the
time to do so. You need to take it upon yourself to learn not only how to
write, but how to format and submit what you write. Other writers can give
you tips, but the very best way to find out the information is to delve into
it yourself. Don't expect someone else to tutor you in the most basic points
like line spacing and the difference between its and it's. Becoming educated
is your responsibility, and every writer has to go through it or they will
not make it far.
The Writer's Market is a good place to start, but there are shelves
full of other books. Learn about setting, point of view, dialogue, descriptive
imagery, etc. Learn everything you can about grammar, then practice until
you're sick of it. Pass your manuscripts to friends and family and ask for
their sincere reactions. And meanwhile keep writing every day! Don't ever
give up. You will learn more by actually writing than anything else. Frequently
consult dictionaries (Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed. is
a good one) a thesaurus, and grammar books as you write. You will learn faster
and more accurately than calling up a friend or guessing.
Read and read and read and read. And then read some more. See what's out
there and what publisher is publishing which novels. See where your interests
lie. And then begin writing. Carry a notebook with you to jot down ideas
or phrases that come as you are out and about. Don't tell yourself you'll
remember, because more than likely you won't. Try new foods and visit different
places. Make your mind a veritable library.
Surround yourself with writers and critic groups until you're more sure of
yourself. Ask at the local library to find a group near you. In Utah, the
League of Utah Writers (LUW) often sponsors wonderful workshops and speakers.
There are also various groups that specialize in different genres. Colleges
offer classes on writing. All of these will get you started in the right
direction. After that, it's up to you and you alone to write that novel or
short story. Writing is basically a solitary profession.
Buy an up-to-date computer, and make your workplace comfortable and inviting.
If it's cold, drafty, and dark, you aren't going to want to spend time there.
Yes, you need a printer, and a modem for Internet connection. The Internet
provides a vital link to the world. Use this tool; it will save you time.
Then submit your work. You can't become published if you let your fear of
rejection stop you from moving forward. Consider rejections part of your
education. You should see my file! Of course, never send in anything without
a self addressed stamped envelope, or you will not even get a reply. Don't
give up. Set a goal and keep writing.
After acceptance, the real work begins. Then not only do you have to write,
but you have to worry about editing concerns, deadlines, appearances, and
the business of writing.
Is it worth it? YES! Is it fun? YES!
Resources (list compiled by several different
author who have contributed to these pages):
Simon & Schuster Handbook for Writers by Lynn Quitman Troyka
Word Menu by Random House
The Oxford Reverse Dictionary
Merriam Webster's Collegiate Thesaurus
Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed.
Ultimate Visual Dictionary
Plant books with pictures
The Chicago Manual of Style
Building Believable Characters by Marc McCutcheon
Stein on Writing by Sol Stein
Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
Writer's Market (preferably the current year's issue - can see at
The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron
with Mark Bryan
Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight W. Swain
Setting by Jack M. Bickham (from The Element of Fiction Writing series
published by the Writer's Digest Book Club. This series also contains books
on characters, plot, dialogue, etc.)
How to Read a Person Like a Book by Gerald Nierenberg and Henry Calero
Body Language by Julius Fast
My suggestion is that until you have read at least ten writing books on different
subjects, you should not submit a manuscript. You should, however, continue
to write. And also to read a variety of books in the genre you want to pursue.
You will learn more from writing and from reading than from anything else.
But that doesn't mean you can skip the research. Every writing book you read
will make your work better.