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So you’re interested in writing books?

Great! Then this page is for you.

If you’ve been writing for a while, you may already know a lot of these pointers. You may even have already written a book or two. or perhaps you started writing that exciting novel in your head, but got stuck. If you're interested in having me take a look at it to see how I can help, click HERE to find out about my manuscript critiques, CLICK HERE.

If you’re just starting out on your writing journey, then this page will give you a pretty good list of do’s and don’ts. Ready? Good. Here’s a combo of advice from workshops, teachers, and writer friends, plus some stuff I’ve figured out on my own:

Deb's Top Ten Writing Tips
10. Surround yourself with friends and acquaintances that are different from you. Spend time with someone outside of your comfort zone. I realize this can scary if you’re in a small town, or still in high school, which is basically the same thing as a small town, but if you want to be a writer, it takes courage. So get out there and connect with people from every walk of life. In the end, you may discover they actually are in your comfort zone; you just didn’t know it. To really understand human behavior, you have to get to know all kinds of humans.  
9. Butt in the chair time. Sit down and write. Duh. This may seem like an obvious one, but it was my biggest problem  for a long time and I know I’m not alone. I spent years reading about writing, talking about writing, dreaming about writing, but didn’t actually do it. Forget about not having enough time. Nobody has enough time. Stop thinking and talking about it, sit your butt down, and write already. It’s the only way to find your voice.
8. Join a writing organization. Whether you write mysteries, romance, fantasy, science fiction, thrillers, memoir, or non-fiction, there is an organization that will provide valuable information on writing in your genre. I belong to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and to Romance Writers of America. Many organizations like these hold conferences and workshops to learn your craft, plus give you a way to meet people who feel the way you do about writing. These are people who won’t think it’s weird that you’re scribbling in a little notebook all the time or daydreaming in the middle of a conversation. They are your peeps and you need to meet them.
7. Join a critique group. It’s easy to find critique groups once you’ve joined a writing organization. What isn’t easy is having other people read your work. Especially when those other people are actual writers who might rip it to shreds, instead of your mom and dad who think everything you write is Pulitzer-worthy. But here’s the thing: a critique group will tell you the good points and the bad points, and you might actually learn something. You also might not agree with everything they say. Just be willing to listen. For more individual attention and advice, I am happy to help. See above to contact me for manuscript critiques.

Think about it. And watch out for critique groups that are toxic. Make sure yours is a supportive, constructive group, and if it isn’t, find another one. 
6. Get the notebook. Be Harriet the Spy. Carry a mini notebook around with you and keep it in your purse or pocket. I also use stacks of post-its. You never know when a good idea will hit you or when you’ll hear a dialogue exchange you want to use in your writing. Don’t tell anyone this, but I often get my best ideas while someone is talking to me and I’m not really listening. As soon as they look away, I’m scribbling. I also carry a mini tape recorder and talk into it when I’m in public. If anyone asks, I tell them I’m an investigative reporter for the Miami Herald. When you write, you’re allowed to lie a lot too, by the way.
5. Read it out loud. When you finish a chapter, read it out loud. You will be amazed at what is and isn’t working. There is a certain rhythm to dialogue, and if you’re “off”, you’ll hopefully be able to hear it. If you can’t hear it, that’s what critique groups are for. And if you write humor, it’s best to read your work aloud to your critique group, because their laughter, or lack thereof, will give you an idea of which lines are funny and which fall flat.
4. Find a mentor. All of the goals I’ve achieved have come with the help of a mentor. Find a writer or teacher you admire and trust, and ask for advice. It could be someone in your critique group or a contact you make through a writing workshop, but reaching out for guidance makes a tremendous difference in your journey.  
3. Show up. Attend workshops, book signings, conferences, critique groups, writers’ retreats, and seminars. Every successful author I know still attends workshops regularly. You’ll learn something new every time, you’ll bond with your fellow writers, make new contacts, and you’ll be inspired. Don’t blow it off. Show up.
2. On your writing process: do it your way. Some writers use very complicated charts which look like roadmaps or geometry proofs. Others use spartan, crisp outlines. Then there are those, like me, who use a chaotic system of notebooks and post-its containing plot points, snippets of dialogue, or key words. (One teacher at a workshop actually yelled at me for not outlining, which, at the time, brought back very unpleasant memories of fifth grade). The fact is, everybody’s brain works differently, and so there are many ways to plan and write your story. There are authors who write in sequence and authors who quilt scenes out of order. I know an author who doesn’t plan anything. She just sits down with an idea and writes. Bottom line: you might come across people who have very strong opinions about what your writing process should be. I say find a system that works for you.

...and the Number One Tip is . . .

Drumroll please. . .

1. Be Fearless. Afraid of those rejection letters? It doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It means you’re experiencing failure, which is how anyone gets to be successful. Don’t be afraid to get your work out there.

Afraid of writing that scene that will shock your sister, embarrass your mother, and horrify your friends? Or embarrass you? Honesty is paramount. For me, it’s often the difference between a good book and a great book. Get over your embarrassment, forget about what other people are going to think, and go for the truth. If people are uncomfortable with honesty, too bad. Don’t be a fraidy cat. Be a writer.
Click here to check out my Links and Fun Stuff page for writing organizations.
Click here for some fun writing activities