What advice you would give to an aspiring author?

My advice to aspiring authors varies depending on how cynical I am about the book business on a given day.

When I’m philosophical, I tell aspiring writers:

A book begins with a single word. Many novice writers get intimidated by the thought of writing an entire book, but all you ever need to write is one word. I know that’s not much of a goal, but in the end, it is the only goal. That’s how every book all through the ages got written — one word at a time. By stringing single words together, you get sentences, then paragraphs, pages, chapters, an entire book.

When I want to be encouraging, I tell aspiring writers:

Write your book. Rewrite it. Edit it Re edit it. Study the publishing business. Learn everything you can about good prose, story elements, promotion. With so many millions of people out there who have written a book or who want to write a book, the competition is fierce. A writer does not attain maturity as a writer until he or she has written 1,000,000 words. (I’m only halfway there.) So write. Your next book might be the one that captures people’s imaginations and catapults you into fame and fortune. Not writing another book guarantees you will never will reach that goal. It also keeps you from doing what you were meant to do.

When I’m cynical, I tell aspiring writers:

If you aspire to be a writer, write. That’s all it takes.

If you aspire to be a good writer, write — and read. Read how-to books about writing and read good books to absorb good writing.

If you aspire to be a bestselling writer, write, read — and gather luck. Less than 1% of 1% of writers ever attain that status.

Here are some responses from other authors about advice they give to aspiring writers. The comments are taken from interviews posted at Pat Bertram Introduces . . .

From an interview with Polly Iyer, Author of “Hooked”:

You’ve heard it before. Keep at it. Period.

From an interview with Sandy Nathan, Author of Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

You’ll make more money as a brain surgeon.

From an interview with S. M. Senden, author of “Clara’s Wish”

Write from a place of knowing. Bring your experiences to what you write; be willing to invest a piece of yourself in your writing so it will be real to the reader.

From an interview with Tom Rizzo, Author of “Last Stand At Bitter Creek”

Read—not only for enjoyment. Treat your reading as a study lab, taking note of how the writer lures you into the story, how characters are introduced, and what makes you like or despise them. Reading soaks the brain with ideas and possibilities. And write, of course. Don’t wait for inspiration. Just write.

What about you? What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

(If you’d like me to interview you, please check out my author questionnaire http://patbertram.wordpress.com/author-questionnaire/ and follow the instruction.)

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

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6 Responses to “What advice you would give to an aspiring author?”

  1. rami ungar the writer Says:

    Basically, what you give when you’re cynical.

  2. Carol Wuenschell Says:

    What have you written? Something? Nothing? If the answer is “something”, are you still writing? If the answer is “nothing”, sit down today and start writing. Writers write. Period. If you are not writing, or can’t get yourself to start, then you’re not a writer. There is no shame in this. Go find something you can do or are better at doing. Far too many people think they want to be writers. (Carol Louise Wilde, author of The Nagaro Chronicle, an unpublished fantasy series in seven volumes running to well over 1,000,000 words.)

  3. Carol Says:

    Like you, the kind of advice I give is often dependent on my mood! I hear, “If you want to be a writer, then write.” I want to add, “If you want to be a *successful* writer (i.e., published), you have to write well and finish what you start.” Since my novels aren’t published yet I then suggest my advice be viewed as unreliable. LOL!

    I like to suggest they write with abandon, finish something first and then take time out to study the craft. Go back and rewrite what they’ve written, based on what they’ve learned, or move on and write something else. There’s no end to good advice, but too much can discourage a new writer. Perhaps the best is to suggest they try to find a knowledgeable mentor.

  4. IsabellaStines Says:

    Thank you so much for this!


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