Starting Out

A new writer has started to come to Scribes, our writing group. She’s read a few chapters from her book to us, and she’s a solid writer. I like her story. But so many talented people have come and gone that it’s a little discouraging. So much about writing is NOT about being “good.” It’s about writing what editors are looking for now. And I don’t know her market at all. Middle Grade isn’t my thing. It was once, when I taught, when the girls were younger, and then when my grandsons were that age. But I’m past all of that. And I don’t know what’s selling now.

There are talented writers in our group, but they’re so innocent. All they care about is writing the best book they can write. Which is awesome. It means I get to hear one wonderful chapter after another. But will readers ever get to see their work? I don’t know. Marketing is as much a part of success as producing a quality product. You get knocked around a lot until you’re lucky enough to find some success. And then success is hard to hold onto. I’ve been trying to crack marketing for a long time, and I’m still not especially brilliant at it.

The last three people who’ve joined Scribes are all excited about writing but don’t have a clue about marketing…or even formatting. I finally wrote out instructions for how I format my drafts for Amazon . And I wrote out sheets about how to promote yourself as a writer., since they don’t have a webpage, blog, or an account on twitter. Nothing. And they’re trying. They really are, but they’re really BAD at it. And they have to get better. I sent them links to how Mae Clair is trying to find an agent. But they’re so new to publishing, I’m not sure how well they’ll use all the information.

Still, they have a head’s up on me. When I started writing, I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t know anything. I drove to Chicago with a friend to attend a writers’ conference, DARK AND STORMY, and the writers there were SO generous. They read my first chapter and loved it. They offered support. And I was too new to writing to understand what a special treat that was. It took me YEARS to finally start selling my work. And they could have helped me. But I didn’t get it. I still think of Barbara D’Amato, Joe Hensley, and the Chicago group with fond memories. Mary Francis Shura Craig invited me back to her house for a spaghetti supper after my first conference. I was astounded but couldn’t go. I’d told my husband I’d be home that night, and it was a three hour drive from Chicago. They were lightyears ahead of me. Maybe not on writing, (probably that, too), but on knowledge. And that matters! I didn’t understand back then that writing is almost as much about marketing yourself as the words you put on paper.

Our new members don’t think about the business side of writing at all. And I’m trying my best to fill in the gaps, but I know the Chicago writers were doing their best for me, and I just didn’t understand. I hope the new guys in Scribes are faster learners than I was. Because they’re good. And I hope they get published. But good writing, alone, isn’t enough to have a successful career.