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Getting Ready to
Write: Advice for Beginners
by Sandy Tritt
So you wanna be a writer when you grow up, huh? My first word of advice is
don’t. Don’t become a writer. Not for money. Not for glory. Not for any
reason unless you have a passion in your gut that is so strong that
nothing can prevent you from writing. Unless you have stories in you that
you must tell, and writing them is as important to you as eating and
sleeping and breathing. And sometimes more important.
With that out of the way, I assume you have passion. So, what do you do
with this life of yours to pave your way to the writing world? Read.
Observe. Write. Live. Those are the four main ingredients to preparing
yourself to write.
Read everything you can get your hands on. Read classic literature, read
literary fiction, read commercial fiction. Read books on the craft of
writing. Read books on writers. Read dictionaries. Read cereal boxes. Just
Observe. If there is one attribute a writer must have (other than his
passion to write), it is the ability to notice details. What is it about
the way she walks that captures your attention? Is it her clothes? Her
figure? Her wiggle? What words could you use to describe the preacher’s
snorts between shouts? What do his eyes look like when he says “Hell”?
What keeps his hair from falling into his eyes (or onto the floor)?
Look at your
surroundings as though you’re showing them to someone who’s never been to
your area. Notice the sounds you would hear if you listened. Notice the
smells, the colors, the textures, everything you normally take for
granted. Think of new ways to describe old things.
day. It doesn’t matter if it’s a dozen words or a dozen pages, write. And
don’t limit your writing to your passion—try writing poetry, fiction,
journal entries, essays. Keep a journal or notebook with you at all times
and jot your thoughts as you think them.
Live. Can you write about New York City if you’ve never been there?
Probably—if you’ve seen enough movies and read enough descriptions, you
could write with integrity about a city you’ve never seen. However, you
would not be able to add any new insight. For me, a small town girl, it
was the vastness of the big city that took my breath away. And that most
of the thousands of people all scurrying to some place would gladly pause
a moment to give directions or advice.
Visit as many
places as you possibly can, but also consider actually living in as many
different types of places as you can. Yes, you can get superficial
impressions of cultures during a seven-day vacation, but to truly
understand a culture, you need to experience it more deeply. I’ve lived in
small towns, large cities, suburbs, villages and deep in the country. I’ve
lived in apartments, houses, complexes, dormitories, alone, with friends,
with family. I’ve lived in Appalachia, the Midwest and the Deep South. And
each of these has left an imprint (as well as an accent!).
many aspects of life as you can. Can you really understand the pain of
heartbreak if you’ve never been loved and left? Can you understand the
intensity of a mother’s (or father’s) love if you’ve never experienced it?
Can you understand the thrill of surviving the bunny slope on down hill
skis if you’ve never put your life at stake?
This isn’t to
say you must become an alcoholic to understand alcoholism (although it
does help) or a bank robber to understand a thief. What it does mean is
that writers need to take more chances than the average Joe, need to
experience more of life in order to write more knowledgeably. It also
means that writers must have empathy to understand people and situations
beyond their personal experience.
What kind of job should you hold while waiting to publish? Well, many
successful writers have had successful careers in business, law, medicine,
education or any area you can think of before becoming published. So, it
doesn’t matter a lot what your “day” job is, just don’t go into debt. Live
humbly and within your means, because once you sign that car loan, you are
obligated to your 8-5 job. Of course, some jobs will give you more
“material” to incorporate into your writing than others. If you are just
passing time, here are some suggestions:
• Work with
people from diverse backgrounds, such as you can meet in airports,
resorts, hotels and restaurants. These give you plenty of characters to
• Work physically. Manual work doesn’t occupy your mind. I do some of my
best creative thinking while washing dishes by hand and mopping floors.
• Work where you have free time to write, such as night desk clerk, night
guard at a business, bowling alley clerk (on the slow shift), car lot
attendant, and so on.
I am fond of saying that there are two aspects to writing—the craft and
the art. The craft is that which can be learned—grammar, using active
voice, the basics of dialogue and so forth. The art is the God-given
talent that a writer is either blessed with or isn’t. It is the ability to
“see” the details in a setting and relay that in interesting, unique words
to make the reader feel the location. It is the ability to understand
human nature and empathize with even the most dastardly villain. If you
have that talent, and if you have that passion to write no matter what the
odds, you are a writer. And nobody can take that away from you.
(from Section 1, Workbook)
Want more great tips and techniques? Our
Inspiration for Writers
Tips and Techniques Workbook is now available. Expanded tips, more
topics, reproducible worksheets, exercises to practice what you learn and
much more--check it out! Free shipping anywhere in the United States.
(c) copyright 2002 by Sandy Tritt. All rights reserved,
except for those listed here. September be reproduced for educational purposes
(such as for writer's workshops), as long as this copyright notice and the url: http://tritt.wirefire.com are distributed with the pages. For use in
conferences or other uses not mentioned here, please contact Sandy Tritt
for permission and additional resources at no or limited charge.
Seven Great Things
by Lynette Rees
You hear the letterbox flap going
early in the morning, there on the
doormat is the envelope you have
been waiting for. An article or
short story you submitted two months
ago has now been read by an editor.
You pray for an acceptance. On
opening the envelope, the words:
'was not suitable for this magazine'
jump out at you.
Your piece was rejected. You feel a
lump in your throat, and think,
what's the point? But hang on a
moment, aren't you jumping to
conclusions? Who says that rejection
is a bad thing? Now don't get angry
with me, I've been there, done that
and bought the T-shirt. Read on if
you want to find out why rejection
can be a good thing...
1. It enables you to improve on your
work. When I look back at some of
the short stories I submitted to
magazines five years ago, I can see
why they were rejected. I made silly
errors, my sentences were way too
long, plus my stories were a trifle
clichéd. Since then I've taken
several creative writing classes,
locally and online.
* Tip - Join a creative writing
class or critique group.
2. Rejection doesn't necessarily
mean your article/story is no good.
It may be simply that the editor has
just published a similar piece to
yours, so it could be just a matter
Try submitting to other markets and
if you get rejected more than a few
times then try revising your piece.
Another reason for rejection could
be that you haven't studied the
magazine/website's guidelines or
style. This is an absolute MUST.
If the editor asks for articles of
between 600-800 words then DO NOT
submit a piece which is 1200 words
in length, no matter how good it is.
Check that the article is the right
style for the magazine. If it's a
dog magazine then write about dogs!
* Tip - Always study the guidelines
before submitting anything.
3. Rejection makes your writing
stronger. If my earlier pieces of
work had been accepted I would have
thought they were quite good, as it
is now, I revise and edit my work
more than ever. Pruning
out unnecessary words, to make a
stronger piece, without losing my
* Tip - Read your work out loud, any
words that jar or stop the flow of
the piece, change, until the piece
4. Rejection is all part and parcel
of being a writer. To have received
a rejection letter/e-mail is proof
that you have worked to submit a
piece of writing. How many writers
are so afraid of rejection that they
don't submit anything for fear of
* Tip - It is better to have been
rejected 100 times than not to have
submitted even once. Keep trying,
your persistence will pay off.
5. Rejection of an article/story is
not a rejection of you personally.
Unfortunately, anytime we have a
rejection in our lives, it can
remind us of other times when we
were rejected in the past. It can
knock our self-esteem and our
wavers, making us feel like giving
* Tip - If you find yourself feeling
like that, then keep a journal of
your thoughts, so you can have some
insight into what is causing you to
feel that way.
6. Rejection helps us perform our
'groundwork' as a writer. How many
times have you heard someone say,
"I've always wanted to be a writer,
can you give me some advice?" They
seem to expect you to tell them all
that they need to know in about five
It may have taken you months or even
years of 'sweat of the brow' to get
where you are now as a writer. Yet
they try to persuade you to
tell them your secret. There is no
secret. Writing is hard work.
It may have taken you many
rejections before you have one
article or story published.
*Tip - Tell yourself that every
rejection you receive is a step
closer to your goal of getting
published. You are doing your
7. Being rejected can help you pick
up tips from editors and/or find new
markets for your work. Not all
editors send out standard rejection
letters. If you are lucky, you may
be told what was
wrong with your article/story and
how you can improve on it. Some
editors will even suggest other
possible markets for your work.
*Tip - If you find yourself
receiving standard rejection letters
and don't know why your work is
being rejected, write back to the
appropriate editors and ask. If they
have time to reply they may be able
to explain that you hadn't followed
the guidelines or your story was
full of grammatical errors, etc.
So, as you can see rejection isn't
necessarily bad, it can be a good
thing. It's about learning from your
mistakes and going on to be an even
better writer. Now send off that
article or story and don't fear
rejection; you may even learn
something from it.
-- Lynette Rees
Critiques by Sandy
Unlike most editors, I consider my role
to be a mentor or a coach. Instead of just telling you what is wrong, I
explain how to correct the problem, and I work with you to teach you how
to write effective prose. More than 50% of my business is repeat
business, and I relish establishing long-term relationships with other
Treat you with respect and compassion.
All criticism will be of the "constructive" sort. My purpose is to
improve your writing, not to destroy your confidence.
Mark your manuscript, correcting
grammatical and spelling errors and suggesting alternative wording where
Highlight areas that are especially
well-written, so you will know where your strengths are.
Where appropriate, offer suggestions for
plot development, character development or other areas that could be
Return a two-to-four page written
analysis of your work. This will include evaluation of: plot, setting,
characterization, dialogue, special effects (flash forwards, flashbacks,
etc.), voice, point of view and any other areas particular to your work.
If appropriate, recommend reading or
resources to strengthen your areas of weakness.
Answer any questions you have via
Provide my telephone number for a
personal follow-up, if you desire.
For Sandy's success stories, see
Write Sandy at
(See Sandy's article above.)
Visit our sister websites...
Publishing New Writers,
September, 2004 (no. 509)
Publisher: Bruce L. Cook, P.O. Box 451, Dundee, IL 60118.
Fax (847) 428-8974.
Submissions /comments email@example.com.
To subscribe and/or review our archive of past newsletters, go to
Copyright I: Traditional Print
Publishing versus Internet Posting
by Jim Colombo
When an author
submits a manuscript to an agent or
publisher he protects his work by
stating copyright, the date, and his
name, and that he is offering to the
prospective buyer of his work the
"First North American Serial Rights"
only, not all rights. If an author
surrenders his work to the public
domain, he has no rights. If he has
posted on the Internet, has he lost
his rights because the Internet is
part of the public domain?
Intellectual Property is defined in Stim's book:
"Patents, Copyright, and Trademark" as "... a work is published if copies
... are distributed to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership,
or by rental, lease, or lending."
Posting on the Internet is submitting for critique or
to showcase an author's work, not for sale nor soliciting for sale, with a
writer's workshop or an on line class affiliated with a university or a professional instructor. The intent is similar to a public display to
show a work.
What are "Electronic Publishing" rights? They are
rights that are becoming one of the most hotly contested issues in the
writing industry. How are these rights defined, and how are they used?
Most of all, how are writers affected by the controversy?
One of the bundle of rights with copyright is
exclusivity. A publisher buys the exclusive rights from the author and
owns the work. Most publishers will buy the book and the author will have
the option to sell the movie rights or the international rights. How can a
publisher have exclusivity of a work that is posted on the Internet?
Electronic rights pertain to authors and the Internet
"E-Zines" because there is an exchange rather than a purchase of rights
for publication. There are no contracts between authors and E-Zine
publisher, only trust or a handshake, compared to print publishing that
offer contracts. Though there is no exchange of money, there is use, which
is publication, and constitutes that any future buyer is in a secondary
position procuring a reprint. Authors and E-Zines have difficulty
protecting their work from infringement and are ignored by print
Woman Monthly Online Writing Classes ~
Take an affordable online class this summer. All
courses are for 4 weeks:
... So You Want To Be A Writer?
... Crafting the Short Story 101
... Paving the Way to a Successful Career
... Stretch Yourself! - Part One
... Scrapbooking Your Photos & Memories
... Writing Your Family Stories
See our course catalogue:
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Created You: A Guide to Temperament Therapy
AuthorMe Paperback... (Released September, 2004)
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III. You'll become a true believer. Visit...
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