By Christina Rich
I’ve often heard writers say they could never write historical novels. My response…phooey.
Same goes for contemporaries, science fiction etc. Many years ago, when I had a baby on the hip and toddlers clawing at my ankles, I had this desire to write. I wrote everything I could, from awful lyrics to bad poetry. And I also wrote, what I now understand to be *fan fiction (see term below).
It didn’t take much to inspire me; supporting characters in a story, a tearjerker of a movie, a moonlit night, fog. Oh, yes, fog. One of my favorite inspirations.
Voices popped in my head at random moments and I’d have to write their story. Problem was I never finished their stories, probably because I really didn’t know where to begin. But that didn’t stop me. I wrote a few things here and a few there, never really knowing what I was doing.
During this time of motherly demands I decided to share my desire with one person. She’d been that person I grew up with, the one I could tell anything. The secret Ho-Ho I ate, the urge to runaway from screaming children and dirty diapers. I could tell her anything and everything and not once would she have judged me. In fact, she would have been the first person to grab up the pom-poms and cheer me on.
Her response crushed me. I know she didn’t mean to, and to this day, she probably doesn’t realize that she did. Can you guess what she said to me? “Well–you know–they say ‘write what you know.'”
What did I know? Dirty dishes, dirty laundry, dirty bathrooms, dirty diapers. Where was the happily-ever-after in that?
It took me awhile, close to ten years to realize I knew more than I thought. It took me that long to realize I didn’t have to have a degree to write a book.
Every writer has their own story, mine doesn’t end there. That comment made me strive to do what I thought was the impossible, it pushed me to write even though I didn’t really know anything. 😉
So how did I get started? I read. I wrote. I read some more. I jumped out of my box and emailed one of my favorite authors at the time. She was very encouraging, even though she probably received hundreds of such emails from fans every year. I networked with other starving writers, joined forums, organizations like Romance Writers of America and American Christian Fiction Writers, and I joined critique groups.
I also studied the craft–not just books on writing. I followed agent and editor blogs. I paid attention to what they were looking for in writing, in queries, etc. I entered contests, mainly for feedback from judges, sometimes with the hope of getting in front of an editor or an agent.
Thanks to the Internet, getting started is so much easier today than it was ten, or fifteen years ago. I can’t say it is any easier to get published today, but the support system is greater.
1. If you’re interested in writing and want to know how to get started, my first suggestion is to research writing organizations. An organization might meet your cousin Fred’s needs, who writes political thrillers, but it may not meet yours if you write futuristic mysteries. Since I write historical romance, Romance Writers of America is a good fit, as is American Christian Fiction Writers.
All the members of the Writing Prompts Crew have their own preferences, from science fiction to contemporary women’s fiction, and they each belonged to different organizations.
2. Whether you join an organization or not, find a way to get involved. Follow agent blogs. Join writers’ forums. Don’t lurk. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask.
3. Study the craft. You can start by looking at our list of recommendations (here).
4. Find a good critique group.
5. Write. Get that **University Novel finished. You’ll learn more about yourself as a writer and your writing by completing that first manuscript.
*Fan Fiction-fiction about stories and/or characters written by fans of an original piece of fiction.
**University Novel– your first completed manuscript