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Four Rules for Beginning Writers by Diana Flegal

Once a year, I like to reiterate a few simple rules I expect potential clients to follow.

It is important to read what you write.

When an aspiring writer sits before me in a 15 min appointment at a conference, one of the first questions I ask is, “Are you a reader of the genre you are writing in?” I am no longer surprised when they tell me, no. The excuses are plentiful. “I don’t have time to read.” “I read mostly nonfiction but I want to reach middle readers with the truth of the gospel, so fiction is the way I am doing that.” Honorable, but…if you have no idea what middle readers are reading, how do you hope to write for them? They are a finicky audience and can spot a poser in a sec.


You should know the way to build suspense and hold a reader captive if you want to be a suspense writer. You need to be a reader of suspense to write it. If you read well written fantasy, you will recognize the need to learn how to world build.


DO NOT take the Cliff Note path to writing.


Too often beginning writers have a romanticized vision of a writer’s journey. Writing a formula romance should not be hard, they reason I know what it is to be in love, or have my heart broken. (I understand—I once romanticized making biscuits for McDonalds. A painful lesson I might share another time). The wanna be writer purchases a book titled; Write a romance in 30 days by Eat Your Heart out Adam. After completing a hastily written first draft, now in love with his/her words, they place their baby on the desks of agents and editors believing they have written a bestseller. The manuscript leads the reader through multiple POV’s—contains future, past, and present tenses all within the first chapter, and lacks a story arc leading to a satisfactory conclusion. Boasting 20,000 words above the recommended word count, they await a huge contract deal, followed quickly by a ‘made for television’ series offer. While they might have a great story idea, they have not spent any time learning the craft of writing, and are surprised when they receive multiple rejection letters from publishers and agents. They are newborns attempting brain surgery.


The journey to a submission worthy manuscript can take a new writer three years or more, from conception to completion. And many first manuscripts act solely as a tool to learn the craft of writing story and must be set aside. It is often the second book—taking less time to write now that you know how—that secures an agent, and eventually a publisher.


A writing journey will cost you $ and time.


As with any career, a writer needs proper tools and resources. Basic tools are a computer with an updated WORD program, writing craft books, and a good desk chair. Use your library card to gain access to books on your wish list until you can buy them. Once you decide this writing journey is one you want to stick with, (give yourself a few months of active writing) invest in attending a Writers Conference offering workshops in the subjects you are weakest in.


Stop resisting active involvement on Social Media.


No matter how much I like your writing, if you have no social media presence, I will pass on representation of your writing. If you want to be a published author, you must be active on several forms of social media. Social media is social, so interaction with your friends and followers is key to its success and will be noted by the agents and editors that Google you.

Be willing to dive in, spend time researching the how-to’s, or even hire a professional to assist you in growing this vital platform.








1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the post, Diana. I appreciate your taking the time to share your wisdom with newbies like me!

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