by Tina Ann Forkner
I see hundreds of aspiring writers at conferences. Sometimes they’ve written books waiting to get published and other times they’re just dreaming. They attend workshops about how to get published in preparation for their big moment and in many cases, they are more prepared for their potential writing career than your average published author.
I love writer’s conferences. I really do. Aspiring writers are so fortunate to be in a world that makes it so easy to learn how to get published. Between conferences, books, and the Internet, aspiring writers no longer need to be disconnected hermits as they plod away plotting their big novel, but some still are.
Are you a closet writer?
I have a big heart for the writers who work in obscurity, who never tell anyone they write, who know nothing about writing conferences, writer’s blogs, or agents. Meeting that kind of writer is like ducking into a coffee shop on a rainy day and discovering a live jazz musician that nobody’s ever heard of. He’s probably not going to get a record deal, but he still plays. It’s the same way with some writers who have a natural desire to write, and so they just do it. They’ve barely even thought about getting published, if ever. In fact, maybe they haven’t even written a word yet, but they spin stories in their head and wish they could write them down.
Are you one of those people? Do you dream of being a writer? And if so, then how do you start? Well, you can go to writer’s conferences, you can find books on how to write at your library, you can sign up for a writing course, or you can take advantage of the plethora of blogs and websites for aspiring writers. There are a ton of good ones out there. Education is a great place to start. Or, you can wait on all of that and just start writing. If you are just beginning to put words on paper, then I would suggest that the first thing to do is start writing. Simply write.
How do you know if you are a writer?
Well, you love books. You love them so much that you read one or two a week, you live at the library, hang out at the bookstore, and yes, maybe even decorate your house with books. Just having books nearby makes you feel a connection to the story world. Some of your friends do not get your obsession with naming your dog after your favorite novel character or giving books to everyone for Christmas.
Not only do you annoy your friends by constantly explaining the big questions of life by pointing out a section of a novel or poem you’ve recently read, but you say things like, “Someone should write a story about that,” or “Now he would make one dandy hero,” and “In a novel, it would never end that way.”
Your friends are supportive up to a point. Can’t you just be a movie buff? Read magazines? Or… just not talk about it so much? Let’s face it. You can’t. In fact, you aren’t just a reader. You are a closet writer. You know you are. Just say it. This is a safe place. “I am a writer.” Now say it again. “I am a writer.”
You are a writer.
Now, since you are a writer, you are probably writing a book or you would love to write one and don’t know how to get started. The good thing is that you do not need anything to be a writer, except for your imagination. My grandmother used to tell me stories from her life that she never wrote down. She could tell me about the latest novel she had read from beginning to end in an hour as I sat mesmerized. She was a born storyteller and she didn’t have a fancy laptop.
How lucky you are that almost everybody owns a computer these days or has access to one at their library. You’ll need something to save your work on if you write at the library, so you’ll need to buy one of those things the kids call a jump drive. They cost about 10 or 20 dollars. And if you don’t feel comfortable with that yet, then it’s not difficult to come by a spiral notebook and pen. If you are a writer, not having the right tools will not keep you from writing.
So now what?
No time to write? No place to write? Why not try getting up early in the morning or staying up late at night? Again, if time is an obstacle you cannot imagine overcoming, then you might want to ask yourself, “Am I really a writer?” How much do you really want to be a writer?
So start writing.
Write a lot. Write about your life. Write about your dog. Write letters to deceased loved ones. Write about anything that comes to mind.
Eventually you’re going to find the thread of a story and want to start all over. Maybe, if you keep at it, it will become a book. I realize that I’m starting to sound like the narrator in If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, but once you write a book, you’ll probably want to get it published and so you’ll need an agent to go with your book.
Let’s just back up a little. You don’t need an agent yet. Don’t rush off to publish your book because it’s probably not ready. Rewrite, revise, and enjoy the fact that you wrote a book. You climbed a mountain and no matter what anyone says to you, publishing is not the be all end all of writing a book. I repeat. You don’t need to run out and try to get published.
Still, I know you’ll want to and that’s a whole different blog post.