W … is for Write

W[1] is for write. When we feel confident about being a ‘writer’, it’s nice to admit. It’s like going to one of those meetings in a quiet room in a community centre.

“Hello everybody,”

“Hello Tom,” all the others cry in chorus.

“My name is Tom … and I’m a writer.”

Everybody nods and smiles as they burst into spontaneous and sincere applause. Why? They too are writers of course. Okay, that’s a bit extreme, but I’m sure you get my drift.

We all have our own time for ‘coming out’ as writers. There are those that say they won’t admit it until they are ‘published’, or win a competition, or some other obscure excuse. No not reason, I mean excuse.

How did I come out?

I joined a poetry site and a writing site, published a few stories and poems online, and as soon as I had a handful of comments; I was a writer. I treated it with the same nonchalance as when I stopped smoking in 1977 (after smoking only six years).

The day after I gave up smoking I wasn’t apologetic and passive. I didn’t say, ‘I’m trying to give up …’ or any of those other lame lines that draw pity and let people see you could really do with a cigarette. I simply said, ‘I don’t smoke.’

Sometimes I got the response, ‘You did smoke though, didn’t you?’ and I would reply confidently, ‘Yes, but I’ve given it up.’

Let’s get back to writing.

Nobody, including you, is going to believe in you as a writer, if you don’t believe in yourself. If you have any doubts, shake them off. Don’t be afraid to let people see you jotting ideas down with your pen, or tapping away at your keyboard – these are things writers do – so do them, right out there in the open.

Do I believe I’ve improved as a writer?

Yes, in many ways and some may be surprising. I think that a positive attitude is the first step, but I only embraced other disciplines through a desire to widen my horizons and succeed. A personal foundation is a good way to go.

What do I mean by a foundation?

If you enrol on a ‘foundation’ course in art, you’d be introduced to drawing, textiles, painting, design, desktop publishing, history of art, etc. When you’ve tried out a variety of disciplines you have a better idea what appeals to you, but you still have a grasp of the others in the same environment, or topic.

How did I create my foundation?

1.  I subscribed to an established writing magazine.

2. I joined two writing sites and a poetry site.

3.  I attempted writing competitions.

4.  I tried writing to the  ‘Reader Letters’ pages in newspapers and magazines.

5. I listened when I was given constructive criticism.

Like my other lists, that one is a sample.

What did I achieve?

 1.  Got a ‘Reader Letter’ published in a newspaper. My fourth letter achieved ‘Star Letter’ in a newspaper.

 2.  Letters published in writing magazines were then followed by ‘Star Letter’ status on more than one occasion. This year I’ve already won a year’s free subscription to a top writing magazine.

3. I won a national short story competition and had my tale, ‘Decision at the Abbey’, added to an anthology, ‘Whitby Abbey: Pure Inspiration’.

4. I came joint-first in an International short story competition. Yay!

 5. I now have a solid platform to work from, and apart from continuing to do all those things mentioned above; I still read widely.

Have I got advice for novice writers?

First of all, let me clarify that I’m not an expert. I’m still working hard to improve my craft, but in light of experience I have a desire to help my peers. With that in mind, I will now give one of my short lists.

 1.  Don’t just write what you feel comfortable with. Attempt: reader letters, poetry, short stories, a user’s guide, a formal letter, a screenplay, or the opening chapter of a novel.

2.  Subscribe to a good writing magazine, or online writing magazine.

3.  Enter some writing competitions.

4.  Build a platform online, a little bit at a time.

5. As writers we are in a ‘solitary’ world when working. If you ever feel ‘lonely’, which is very different to ‘solitary’, please get in touch with one of us out here.

Bonus point today. Read as widely as possible. Don’t just go for your regular thriller or romance, read as many genre as possible, old and new, and try writing reviews too.

Okay, I think that’s enough for today’s session. Just as I once tried as a chat-up line, I’m not going to apologise for this being a long one. lol

Thank you once again for putting up with me, and I hope to see you again for the final posts next week.

Did I mention that my first anthology of short stories went live on Amazon this morning?

No, I know I didn’t, but if you’re interested;

‘Smoke & Mirrors and other stories’

Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

I’ll see you on Monday with the ‘X’ factor.

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22 comments on “W … is for Write

  1. Good post, Tom, and very valuable. On the smoking front, I stopped in 1980 (after 16 years). At that point, I became a non-smoker. The comment “you used to” was met with “but I don’t now”. In my writing, I am just entering your foundation stage. Following the success in 1980, perhaps I should “come out”, as it were. Now, or in seven weeks, as my 65th birthday present to myself? .

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    • Many thanks for the visit and kind comments Keith. That will be a great birthday present to yourself mate. I’ve only been writing about seven years so I started at 55 or thereabouts.
      Personally I think we’ve got it made because of the extra life experiences. lol
      ‘Come out’ as a writer on your birthday, to whoever is celebrating with you. If it’s a quiet day, then when anybody asks you later what you did for your birthday, you say, ‘I came out,’ pause, then add, ‘as a writer.’

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  2. You’ve inspired me, Tom. When someone asks me now what I do, I will say ‘writer’. Thank you for being one of the first people to help me begin believing that …

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    • Julia it is my pleasure and it gives me greater pleasure to know you are now officially ‘one of us’. lol.
      Have you organised any ‘author’s pages’ on Amazon yet? If not, and you’re stuck, just get on here or drop me a line, either email or to my website Guestbook.

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  3. Amazing post as always. Can I ask what writing magazine your subscribe to or if anyone else has any recommendations for writing magazines? It’s hard to know what goos and what’s not just by looking sometimes.

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    • Hello my friend and thank you for the visit and compliment. You may of course ask which writing magazine I subscribe to. For a while I got ‘Writing Magazine’, and bought ‘Writers’ Forum’ over the counter.
      They are both excellent for many reasons, both are monthly, and both are about £3.60 or thereabouts. I say that because I have them both sent by post, and I pay annually, so it saves a lot.
      If you want to get one to try it out, I’d go for ‘Writing Magazine’, because it has encompassed within the ‘Writers’ News’, which was a magazine in it’s own right until a couple of years ago.
      Any questions – drop me a line. I’ll give you the link to the magazine I’ve recommended. I think you might be best to just go straight for the annual subscription.
      http://www.writers-online.co.uk

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  4. “My name is Paul… and I’m (nearly) a writer.”

    I take your point about excuses. I’ve never subscribed to the whole ‘you need to have been paid or have a huge backlog of writing accolades’ to consider yourself a writer (neither of which I have anyway unless you count a non-fiction 3rd prize some twenty years ago), but I guess until I’ve done ‘all’ the things you’ve done, i.e. actually entering competitions and writing to magazines (as opposed to just subscribing to them), and submitting your work for the scrutiny of your peers and professionals, then for me, writing a blog still remains very much a training exercise, or a ‘writing apprenticeship’ if you like; for now I would simply say that: “I write.”

    For me, one of the tests for calling myself a writer will be if I manage to sell a few copies and get a few decent reviews from people other than friends and fellow bloggers; but reading your advice here and on some of your other posts, and that of one or two others elsewhere, does provide a lot of help in eventually making that transition from saying ‘I write’ to actually saying, ‘I’m a writer.’

    ************************************************

    On a totally different note now, congratulations on the new book, which is on my kindle as I write (review to follow in a few days no doubt). The revised covers of your other books look so much better and professional looking now, especially the ’10 days in Panama’ one; apart from the ‘Beyond the Law’ cover which I think works well, and I really like, I did think the previous ones looked a bit ‘lets see what we can knock up in photoshop.’ (probably a bit blunt that, feel free to return the compliment when appropriate).

    Now that I’ve made the decision to actually publish something, most of my writing will be non-blog stuff, and I doubt I’ll be posting many more stories (perhaps the occasional one), so instead I’ll be largely concentrating on more book and poetry reviews. But what I’d also like to do, and it’s something I’ve wanted to for awhile but decided not to till I’d built up a bit more of a readership, are some author interview/profile posts – not unlike the ‘smashwords’ interviews, but a bit more in-depth, a preliminary intro similar to me reviews, and then links to the author’s published works etc (well, now that I’ve figured how to do that, I might as well make use of it), so if that’s something you’d be interested in doing at some point or when time allows, please let me know…

    End of ramble…

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    • Hi Paul. Where do I start with you? Thank you as always for your visit and genuine approach. I like the ‘I write’ idea, and if it works for you, then that’s great. You’ll be changing that to ‘writer’ pretty damn soon.
      On the book covers, yes, I totally agree with all you’ve said. I’m quite pleased with ‘Smoke & Mirrors …’ which I made myself inside about an hour, just a few days ago.
      I would suggest getting on your blog about once a week, and get right into your writing. Give me a shout when you have anything to be looked over for your anthology.
      I would consider it an honour to be involved in an interview for your blog, so you just keep on rambling, and writing!

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  5. Good advice…especially about reading widely in various genre. I stumbled across Zombie novels and found them to be hilarious, and I found a few grammar points to write about in the process.

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    • Thank you Janice. Coming from you, ‘good advice’ is praise indeed. I’m about to start reading an anthology of Sci-Fi, so that will be interesting. It’s not my usual thing, but I do practise what I preach.

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  6. I still feel weird saying it, but when someone asks, I make myself say it. If I don’t believe it, no one else will. I emphasize that my current job is a part-time job and my real job is being a writer. haha.
    Tom, thanks so much for all your comments. I look forward to seeing them every day.

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  7. Hi Sydney and thank you for the visit. I do the same with the job thing. At first it felt strange going from many, many hours management down to three-days-a-week Sales Assistant but hey, no pressure, and I tell anyone that asks that I’m a writer.
    The great thing is that I work in a stationery (office supplies) store, so I’m like a kid in a sweet shop.

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  8. I usually tell people I’m an editor by day, writer by night, and a reviewer during the twilight hours. Wonderful, encouraging post and great advice. 🙂

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    • Hello April. Thank you for the visit and compliments, which mean a lot to me. You are a busy and talented lady. Writing is my life at the moment … could you tell? I will still slip in reviews as often as possible, and especially for the benefit of fellow ‘Indie’ writer / publishers, but the creative urge is strong.

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  9. Well put! A writer writes. I don’t believe you have to be paid to be a professional writer, but I left my day job to run my freelance writing business full-time last fall… Nobody cares that I’m a “writer,” what they really care about is that I’m a novelist. That’s the dream. Never mind that I make far more freelance writing than on my novels (so far!).

    One thing that gets me–and I’ll blog about this soon–is that once you’re published, you’re constantly approached by people who say, “I’ve written a book. How do I get it published?” They don’t like my answer of, “Spend years attending workshops, querying publishers and agents, and honing your craft.” They want the magic bullet. Sorry…there IS no magic bullet. Even if you publish it yourself, you need to go through years of attending workshops and learning to write well. They want to be J.K. Rowling and they want it within the next two months.

    Stephanie
    http://stephie5741.blogspot.com

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    • Thank you for the visit Stephanie. Many thanks also for the insightful and forthright comments. Recently, I was doing one of my three days in the stationery store where I work, and we had a local café owner pay us a visit.
      I gave her all the assistance I could, and it was one of the other staff who told her I was a self-published author.
      This particular lady wanted to know where she could sell her recently written short stories … no, not an anthology, just some short stories.
      I was as tactful as possible, but suggested she might want to visit a few choice reference sites before putting her name out there.
      Talk about ‘making a quick buck’ (as you or our other American cousins might say, lol). I was stunned.
      Keep up that freelance work and they’ll soon be paying you more, because it’s your name on it.

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  10. I used to write as part of my day job and even got a by-line for pieces I sent to the local paper. Now, with 5 draft novels I’m happy to say I write.. Author.. or artist, now that’s a different story.. I’m still creating my foundation and this AtoZ’s helping me on my way. Great piece and good tips as always.

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    • Like anything you want to be around for a long time Lynne … the stronger the foundations, the better the chances of the main structure surviving. I’m going to start writing a philosophy section on here. lol
      Don’t tell anybody, but you’re name is staying on my Blogroll after the challenge, so I can keep an eye on you. Thank you for the visit.

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  11. This is a great post, Tom. It really cuts to the chase. You’re right – we shouldn’t be apologetic because we write. I certainly don’t – I’m proud of it, though I do think that the general public don’t see it as ‘real’ writing unless you’re published on paper. I’ve always admired how prolific and dedicated you are. Personally, I have to fit writing somewhere between the family and work and other aspects of my chaotic life, so I just don’t get as much down on paper as I’d like to (in fact, if I’m honest, I don’t get much of anything done full stop!!!), but whenever I’ve got a spare moment, I’m there at the keyboard. I love it 🙂 As you say, if you want to write well, the key is perseverance, practise, and not limiting yourself. (I need to have more of a go at the third aspect!)

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    • Hi Sal and thank you for dropping by – and I do appreciate how busy you are. I thought things might slow down for me after the ‘A to Z Challenge’, but no. I’ve been contacted by two different guys I knew in a unit in Germany in the mid-70’s. One has written something already which I read and critiqued for him this morning, so I doubt if he’ll be in touch again. 🙂 I’ve just helped him set up a blog this week.
      The other guy has asked me to help him get into writing. I told him by email that he would have to be prepared for hard work and I mentioned the perseverance thing. His reply to that was, that since he has been ‘disabled’ he has a ‘can do’ attitude and he’ll take whatever I throw at him. I sent him two pages of homework yesterday.
      You are good my friend, so do whatever it takes. I think with all your responsibilities it might be an idea to schedule two or three slots a week, just for you. Keep that ink flowing.

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  12. Great that you are helping others too, Tom. It’s a fabulous thing to give people confidence to start (and continue) writing. As for me writing, it’s been a whole lot easier to focus on fiction, and my blog, since I finished my course a few weeks back. It was taking over my life. Now, it’s nice to concentrate on the writing I want to do, rather than completing the exercises and assessments required for the various modules, though the course was absolutely fantastic for helping me to improve. Before I started it, I’d hardly written a thing. I’d recommend it to anyone who needs a little push in the early days of writing.

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    • Hi Sal. I’m pleased for you having completed your course. You’ll no doubt have a head full of structures and guidelines, but they’ll have to compete with that imagination of yours. I’m looking forward to seeing the results. All you’ve got to do now is invent a couple of extra hours a day in your schedule.

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