By Sarah Arthur
Maybe you’ve always wanted to be a published writer. Or maybe you enjoyed writing at some point in your life and would like to pick it up again, just for fun, because it delights you. The act of writing is a worthy activity, even if it’s just a hobby for now. Here are some ways to honor your passion:
- Set aside time daily, weekly, or monthly just for writing. I get together monthly with a friend for dinner and a “writing date.” When we’re done eating we open our laptops and work on our fiction projects, pausing occasionally to chat or get another chai. The accountability to another person means that I will show up and write fiction at least once a month.
- If you share a family computer, consider getting a designated computer/laptop just for you.
- Ask for writing resources (software, setting up a writing desk/office, magazine subscriptions, attending a conference,) for Christmas, birthdays, etc.; or save up money. Yes, words are cheap, and writing can be as simple as a paper and pencil. But other people spend piles of cash on their hobbies–golfing, anyone?–so don’t feel guilty about it. This is important to you.
- BACK UP YOUR WORK!!! You never realize how vital your writing projects are to your soul until you lose one or more of them. I use a combination of Google Drive, Dropbox, and an external hard-drive.
- Join a writing group, locally or online. You can hunt around websites such as Writer’s Digest, which has discussion forums and online communities.
If/when you’re ready to take the next step to freelance or publish your work:
- Get a professional-sounding email address. You want publishers to take you seriously.
- Create a simple but tasteful and professional blog/website. You want the world to be able to find you easily by a simple internet search. Keep the information on your site current, and post periodically to show that the writing life is important to you.
- Research the publishers/publications that interest you. When you read a book you like, notice who publishes it and then go to that publisher’s website and see what kinds of resources they produce. Check out the annual Writer’s Market Guide for your genre–your local library will likely have a copy.
- Join LinkedIn or some other professional network. This is not the same as Facebook, in which you connect with just anyone. Limit yourself to writing and publishing networks, plus whatever area is your specialty (for me it’s youth ministry; for you it might be quilting or radiology). I’m a member of LinkedIn as well as the Redbud Writers Guild.
- Make business cards. You can find some really good deals on VistaPrint, or check with a local graphic designer.
- Learn how to craft excellent pitches and proposals. Author and publishing coach Margot Starbuck includes some great resources on her blog, or you can check with a guild in your genre. NOTE: Someone asked me if you have to have a completed manuscript in order to pitch to agents and/or editors, and the answer is “It depends.” If you’re pitching a novel, it should be finished: they need to see that you can deliver. But if it’s nonfiction, you can pitch a title, description, synopsis, and 1-2 sample chapters. Always include a bio with your credentials as a writer or as someone who knows the topic well.
- Attend a writer’s conference where you can meet agents and publishers. I’ve suggested a few below. Be sure to have all of the above things in place before you walk through the doors of the conference center: this shows that you are serious.
- Getting published doesn’t just happen—you won’t be “discovered.” You have to put yourself out there but without being totally obnoxious.
Writing & Publishing Resources:
- My webpage about becoming published.
- Scrivener – the writing software that I ADORE
- National Novel Writing Month – every November; draft a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. NaNoWriMo also has a Young Writer’s Program
- “Between the Lines” – Books & Such Literary Agency’s daily blog
- Writer’s Digest – online webinars, author/agent/publisher interviews, how-to articles, discussion groups, conferences
- The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is another great resource, with conferences and local chapters
- On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King
- The Writing Life, by Annie Dillard
- The Art of Fiction, by John Gardner
- The Writing For Your Life conferences.
- Various MFA in Creative Writing programs around the country, including the low-residency program at Seattle Pacific University (founded by Gregory Wolfe of IMAGE Journal, which also hosts The Glen Workshop):
Sarah Arthur is a fun-loving speaker and the author of a dozen books on the intersection of faith and great literature, including the celebrated A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L’Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time (Zondervan/ HarperCollins, Aug 7, 2018). With insights into Madeleine’s spiritual journey as well as interviews with her friends, family, colleagues, and influential fans, what better way to celebrate what would’ve been Madeleine’s 100th birthday in 2018?
Also, don’t miss the latest on Sarah’s book The Year of Small Things: Radical Faith for the Rest of Us (co-authored with Erin Wasinger; Brazos Press, 2017), which traces two families’ year-long experiment of translating downwardly-mobile spiritual practices (such as hospitality to the struggling, simplicity, social justice) into their suburban context. Listen to the Small Things podcast, read our fantabulous blog, & more here.
Check out Sarah’s latest musings, find updates about her writing and speaking, read excerpts and reviews of her books, and purchase signed copies of her resources for both individual and group reading.