When I asked my Creative Writing professor how to become a successful author, I was told: “Apply seat of pants to seat of chair”. While I now agree that he was right to say it, it didn’t seem very helpful at the time. So today I will share advice that I hope will be more helpful to readers of this post. At the very least, I can honestly say all of it has worked for me.
- Write what you love. It doesn’t matter what’s popular today, or what’s think week’s #1 Best Seller. If you don’t like paranormal romance or YA dystopia, then don’t write it! And people will tell you to write it because that’s what sells. As crazy as it sounds, you’ll have better luck writing something you’re passionate about, even if it’s in a genre that currently has no market, than attempting a paint-by-number version of the next Hunger Games. In today’s world, you can carve out a new niche on the internet—even create an interest in something no one’s ever heard of—more easily than you can compete with 50,000 other authors trying to write the next Harry Potter.
- Join a writers group. Writing can be a solitary art from. And while many of us choose it for just that reason, support and feedback from other authors are good things to have. Regular meetings with your very own group of writers—even just once a month—is a way to hone your skills both in writing and editing. These groups are free, and unlike many of the services that ask for money, are fueled by dedication to the craft. As for where to find them: Google is your friend.
- Attend Conventions. Unless you’re working at them, these cost money, so be very selective. Given the location of this guest post, I’m guessing most readers are sf/fantasy/horror fans. Science Fiction conventions are great places to network with other writers, get information from people in all aspects of the field (authors, agents, editors, publishers and publicists) and even meet your favorite authors. Most conventions have a writing track, which will consist of panels and presentations on a wide range of topics. Many will have a writer’s workshop, where professional authors will read your short story or novel excerpt, and give you feedback in a closed session at the convention. These workshops are usually free with the cost of admission.
- Go to Writers’ Conferences. These can be really expensive, and are therefore the biggest gamble. But they have the potential for the biggest pay-off. Conferences attract big name authors, agents and publishers, and are targeted at many more genres than just sf/fantasy/horror. You will usually have the opportunity to pitch your novel to several agents and editors. Conferences are also good places to learn how to write a pitch, cover letter or synopsis (plus, you can find out what all of those terms mean if you don’t already know.)
- Apply Seat of Pants to Seat of Chair. My old teacher was right. The best way to make it as a writer is to write. Even when you’re tired, frustrated, sick of the rejections, wondering if there’s any point to any of it—just keep on writing anyway. And don’t stop.
Sandra Saidak graduated San Francisco State University in 1985 with a B.A. in English. She is a high school English teacher by day, author by night. Her hobbies include reading, dancing, attending science fiction conventions, researching prehistory, and maintaining an active fantasy life (but she warns that this last one could lead to dangerous habits such as writing). Sandra lives in San Jose with her husband Tom, daughters Heather and Melissa, and two cats. Her first novel, “Daughter of the Goddess Lands”, an epic set in the late Neolithic Age, was published in November, 2011 by Uffington Horse Press. Learn more at http://sandrasaidak.com/