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For Aspiring Writers

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 your library)

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.

Happy writing!