WISDOM GAINED THROUGH 40 YEARS AS A PUBLISHED WRITER
BY HOPE IRVIN MARSTON
Writing for publication takes practice. Lots of practice. You don’t study for six weeks and then play first violin with a symphony orchestra, become a brain surgeon, or compete in the Olympics. Too many wannabe writers jot down some ideas from the top of their heads and then call me asking how to find a publisher. What they’ve written might be good. If they have some innate talent, it may be very good for a beginner. But it will get better with refinement. To submit a first draft manuscript is about as rational as entering a newborn baby in a marathon.
Writing for publication takes both short and long-range goals that are specific and measurable. To complete a short story in thirty days is a short-range goal. To find a publisher for the story by the end of the year is a long-range one. Interim goals will include refining your story and studying market guides to find a half dozen or so potential publishers.
Writing for publication happens sooner when writers narrow the focus of their works according to what they want to accomplish through each piece. They do this by asking themselves three questions:
A. Why am I writing this piece? To share a family story I want passed down? To paint the world in which I grew up? To entertain my readers with a funny incident I’ve experienced? To give my readers a story to help them escape their daily grind? Whatever the purpose, the story must excite the writer so it can be written with passion.
B. For whom am I writing this piece? The next generation? My family? Any contemporary reader? A reader who wants a laugh? It helps to have a specific reader in mind, such as my best friend, or someone who opposes abortion. It’s your decision.
C. What do I want to say? That I had fun growing up with eight siblings? That we live in a unique era with many blessings? That some days we need to learn to laugh at ourselves? That we can visit other worlds, real or imaginary, by reading a good book? Again, it’s your call.
Writing for publication goes faster and avoids dead ends once the writer summarizes the piece in one sentence of twenty-five words or less. Fewer words are better. If you can’t do that, chances are you don’t have a clear idea of what you are writing or why. Neglect this step and you are setting yourself up for a roadblock in the future. You can find examples of these summary sentences by looking at the cataloging in the books you are reading, or in the summary sentences in book reviews.
Writing for publication works best when you brainstorm everything you know about the story before you attempt to write the first paragraph. You can do this by making a list, or by free writing a paragraph about the things you want to include. When you can’t think of any more, read what you have written and organize it into an outline. Study the outline to see if it’s inclusive or if it has things you don’t want to include. Make necessary changes. Now you are ready to begin writing. It’s acceptable to make changes as you go along. You have to know where you are going if you expect to arrive at your destination. An outline helps you figure that out.
No matter what genre you want to learn to write, I recommend three things to help you on your way. Be as regular with practicing them as you are in taking your daily vitamins.
A. Read! Read! Read! It’s important to read all kinds of books, but concentrate on the kind you aspire to create.
B. Read How-to-books in the genre you want to write. Find them in the library, in the bookstore, on line at sites like Barnes and Noble or Amazon Books. Or Google the topic you are looking for, such as plotting, characterization, or viewpoint.
C. Write! Write! Commit to writing every day, 24/7. It doesn’t have to be the next chapter of your manuscript, but it should be something that you have to think about.
About the Author: Hope Irvin Marston is a member of the New York State Retired Teachers, the Greater Thousand Islands Literacy Council, the Jeff-Lewis Librarians Association, and the Adirondack Center for Writing, the St. Lawrence County Arts Council, the North Country Arts Council and SCBWI. She organized the Black River Valley Writers Club and served as its leader for several years.
In addition to writing thirty-two children’s books and several adult titles, Hope has been on staff for Christian Writers Conferences at Hephzibah Heights (MA), Montrose Bible Conference (PA) and at St. Davids Christian Writers Conference at Beaver Falls, PA. She has taught creative writing workshops at Jefferson Community College, the Jefferson-Lewis Teacher Center and the North Country Arts Council.
Her picture book series, MY LITTLE BOOK COLLECTION (Windward), has grown to eight titles thus far and has 125,000 books in print.
Hope does school visits from kindergarten through post-graduate college and presents writing workshops for kids and adults. When she is not researching, reading or writing, you may find her cooking or baking in the kitchen, or out walking Heidi.
The World of Ink Network will be touring three of award-winning author Hope Irvin Marston books. Her most recent release Eye on the Iditarod: Aisling’s Quest (ISBN: 978-0-89317-071-4) is a biography, but was written as an autobiography. Windward Publishing (An imprint of Finney Company) released the book December 1, 2011. The other two books on tour are My Little Book of Bald Eagles also from Windward Publishing (An imprint of Finney Company) and Against the Tide: The Valor of Margaret Wilson from P & R Publishing.
You can find out more about Hope Irvin Marston’s World of Ink Author/Book Tour schedule at http://storiesforchildrenpublishing.com/HopeIrvinMarston.aspx. There will be giveaways, reviews, interviews, guest posts and more. Make sure to stop by and interact with Marston and the hosts at the different stops by leaving comments and/or questions. For each comment, you will be entered into the big Giveaway at the end of the tour.
In addition, come listen the February 6, 2012 to Blog Talk Radio’s World of Ink Network show: Stories for Children at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/worldofinknetwork. The hosts VS Grenier and Irene Roth will be chatted with Hope Irvin Marston about her books, writing, the publishing industry and experiences. The show aired live February 6, 2012 at 2pm EST.