Advice to Beginning Writers

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These instructions apply no matter which genre of fiction you wish to write. I'm basically a novelist, with a sprinkling of published short stories. I'm afraid I can't help you much with scriptwriting yet--I'm studying it now, so please don't be disappointed that that is not covered here. For day by day up-to-date tips on fiction writing, please go here. That's one of my Twitter accounts--if you are not familiar with Twitter, remember to read from the bottom up. If you want to read the tips from the beginning, start here.

If you write poetry, please click here for advice from poet Robert Allen.

However, here is a step-by-step method that will work for becoming a published author of fiction:

, write. It makes no difference whether writing is pleasure or pain for you, as long as you are not capable of resisting writing. If you love talking about writing, but never actually get more than a few words down on paper, you are not a writer. Be a reader. Every writer needs a minimum of 10,000 readers to survive.

, locate the fandom for the thing you want to write. Don't expect to get published until you have learned both the explicit and the tacit rules for your genre. If there are the equivalent of fanzines (chapbooks, "little" magazines, etc.) in your discipline, start submitting to them while you polish your craft. And keep writing.

, find other writers on your wavelength. Attend writing workshops. There is a free on-line writing workshop, the WorldCrafters Guild, at The April issue of Writer's Digest each year lists all the workshops in the U.S. and Canada for the next several months. Keep in touch by e-mail and snailmail with the friends you make at the workshops. And keep writing.

, join the writers' organizations for your genre (SFWA, Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, the Electronically Published Internet Connection (EPIC), etc.) as an associate. Be certain to join any listserv such an organization offers--it is your lifeline to the most up-to-date information, and a place you can ask your most crucial questions of people with first-hand experience. Learn how to handle the first contract you get. You don't need an agent until you start selling; the professionals in these organizations will clue you in as to how not to appear to be unpublished. And keep writing.

, use your library. It carries Writer's Market, Publisher's Weekly, maybe Writer's Digest. Look all of this up online as well. Learn the boring details of preparing manuscripts, writing outlines, all the things that make your work look professional when an editor takes it from the envelope or clicks on the attachment in your email. And keep writing.

, when you have made half a dozen story sales or a novel sale, get an agent. By that time your writer friends will introduce you to theirs, and you can choose someone whose personality goes well with yours. Unfortunately, if your first novel is Star Trek or other media-related fiction, you won't get this help. You'll have to shop Writer's Market for agents who handle sf, and try to get one to represent you. If all refuse, go back to step two. And keep writing! Good luck!

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As a beginner, you will have better luck getting published in fanzines and semi-pro zines--and you will receive valuable comments from editors which you won't receive from the larger professional magazines. Don't just stick your fanfic up on one of the many fannish websites. Don't have only a single beta reader, either--most beta readers provide the wonderful service of copyediting, but are not content editors. Search for a zine, whether print or online, with a genuine editor who guides you through rewrites.

Finally, electronic publishing is where the action is these days. Take a look at Kindle sales on Amazon if you don't believe me.

Here are some links to help you:
Awe-Struck E-books
Boson Books
New Concepts Publishing
Dreams Unlimited
DiskUs Publishing
The Fiction Works
Zeus Publications

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