Say hello to today’s guest blogger Jeanne Oates Estridge who has some tips about living the writing life….
1) Open yourself to every experience that comes along.
Play soccer. Work in a commercial kitchen. Go fly fishing. Hunt for diamonds. Try exotic foods.
Your characters are going to need lots and lots of interesting experiences to bring them alive on the page. Something about them must be more interesting than your reader’s own life, and the best way to write convincingly about unique experiences is to have experienced them first-hand.
You don’t have to be good at the things you try. You don’t have to enjoy them or even walk away with any desire to ever try them again. You just have to experience them.
2) Build a community.
At the end of my first novel-writing class at my local community college, I asked several other people from the class that seemed particularly engaged if they’d like to form a writing group. The first two declined, but the next two agreed. That was in 2002 and we still beta read for each other. We’re also friends who get together a couple of times a year just to catch up.
I’ve met other writing friends in various classes and workshops and conferences. I sometimes beta read for them, and they for me. We make ourselves available to solve plot problems and debate fiction (Plot or character? First-person or deep third? Literary or genre?).
There isn’t one of these folks whose books I won’t buy, read, review and promote. We’re a community and communities take care of each other.
3) Love your genre.
I write romance because I’m a sucker for happy endings. I love stories where people figure out what’s holding them back in life and grow and change to overcome those obstacles so they can go on to live a better life.
Maybe you don’t love romance though. Maybe you love the adrenaline rush of suspense thrillers, or the brain candy of mysteries, or uplifting power of women’s stories. Maybe you prefer visiting the past through historical fiction or the future through sci-fi. Maybe your catnip is the poetry and insight of beautifully-written literary fiction.
Whatever your passion, write that. It’s the worst kind of cynicism to write books in a genre you don’t care for just because you think it will earn you the most money. (And none of them will earn all that much money for the vast majority of us. If you’re going to sell your soul, don’t do it for a pittance.)
4) Learn all you possibly can about writing.
This is probably the easiest one, because there are tons of resources for learning more about the craft of writing.
- Local community colleges generally offer courses on writing short stories and poetry and novels.
- Many libraries offer workshops and classes and opportunities for writers to get together and talk craft.
- A lot of bookstores—remember bookstores? If you don’t frequent them, soon no one will remember them—offer free meeting space to local writers’ groups.
- Romance Writers of America has chapters all over the country. They’re eager to add new members and they offer lots of learning opportunities—in-person classes and online workshops—to master the craft and business of writing.
Search out some of these opportunities. Writing fiction is a complex skill that takes years to master.
5) Call yourself a writer.
When someone asks you, “What do you do?” do you say, “I’m a writer?”
If you haven’t published anything, it can be difficult to think of yourself as a writer, but the only thing you have to do to be a writer is write. As long as you sit your butt down in a chair at regular intervals and trying to create story worlds, you pass the test.
This may not sound like a big deal, but I think it is. I think that coming out of the closet and admitting, not just to yourself, but to anyone who asks, that you think of yourself as a writer may be the second greatest step you can toward realizing your dream.
What’s the first greatest step?
So get to it!
In 2012, after decades of dreaming of being a published author, Jeanne Oates Estridge returned to college to earn a Master’s Certificate in Creative Writing at the Nora Roberts’ School of Romance Writing at McDaniel College. As part of her coursework, Jeanne wrote a paranormal romance that went on to win the 2015 RWA® Golden Heart® under the title Demons Don’t.
Later retitled The Demon Always Wins, it is the first book of her Touched by a Demon series and is available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.
RWA® 2015 Golden Heart® Paranormal Romance Winner The Demon Always Wins , available on Amazon
RWA® 2018 Golden Heart® Paranormal Romance Finalist The Demon’s in the Details, available on Amazon