general writing tips

Writing Fiction

1 – Write only what you love to read.
If you are trying to write in a genre that you don’t enjoy, you’re doomed. Seriously. If you’re not a reader, don’t try to be a writer. Read widely, read voraciously, and only attempt to write the kind of story you absolutely love.

2 – Read great examples of the genre you want to write.
Each genre has it’s own conventions and if you don’t read widely in the genre you want to write, you won’t be aware of the nuances and cliches. You may be writing a story that you think is fabulously original only to find out there are a dozen versions on the bookshelves.

Fiction Genres:

  • Contemporary

  • Historical

  • Historical romance

  • Literary

  • Mystery

  • Humor

  • Category Romance (Steeple Hill)

  • Romance

  • Romantic Suspense

  • Suspense

  • Thriller

  • Science Fiction

  • Fantasy (urban fantasy, paranormal fantasy)

  • Young Adult (includes all genres)

  • Middle Grade (also called juvenile, tween, independent reader)

Check out Fiction Finder for more examples of each genre.

3 – Don’t worry about trends – write a fabulous story.
It’s good to know what’s going on, and keeping up with publishing in general, but don’t get bogged down by “What’s Hot and What’s Not”. Write the story that you have to write. Write the one you were born to write.

4 – Attend a conference.
And pay extra for a critique from a professional. If you really want to be a writer, investing in conferences is an absolute essential. They are held all over the country so find one you can attend and register. You will learn SO much.

5 – You must have a complete novel.
No exceptions. It’s not enough to have an idea or to have started a novel. You must finish it. So stay away from researching agents or submitting anything until that novel is finished and completely fabulous.

6 – That novel you submit? It should not be your first draft.
Writing is re-writing. You have to be willing to go through it again and again. You have to be willing to submit it to critique partners and get feedback, then go re-write again. Do not submit until you’ve taken the story as far as you can.

Don’t have critique partners? I can help you with an affordable way to get comprehensive feedback on your work. See Story Ninja for more details!

writing for kids & teens

Every children’s writer should belong to the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI).

Every children’s writer should attend an SCBWI conference. They are all great. In fact, make this one of your top priorities!

Every children’s writer should read voraciously.

Every children’s writer should practice writing constantly. Kids & teens are the pickiest and most discerning readers of them all.

You should pick up a copy of the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market. It not only has all the essential market advice that you’ll need but it also contains great articles, insightful interviews and a fun section that shares about “first sales” – something every aspiring writer should read!

You should know – up front – that you don’t need to BE an illustrator, nor do you need to FIND an illustrator for your picture book manuscript. In fact – doing either of those things will work against you!!

More Information:

Helpful Websites

The Purple Crayon
Verla Kay

For Christian Writers, writing for children and teens:
Writing for kids and teens in CBA is a pretty niche group. Other than writing curriculum (which can provide work), there are only a handful of publishers who do much of anything with kid’s stuff – and even they have very limited slots, usually filled with authors they already work with. That being said – your best bet is to attend a Christian Writing Conference that has specific tracks on writing for children.

Writing Non-Fiction

1 – Become an Expert
If you are interested in writing non-fiction, then you should be building up your credentials as an expert by speaking, blogging and writing articles about that topic. Platform matters when it comes to non-fiction. That’s just the way it is. If you cannot show publishers that you are willing and able to build an audience, then it’s going to be a tough sell.

2 – Unlike fiction, you do not need to have the whole book finished.
To submit a non-fiction book project, you will need an amazing and stand-out proposal.

Resources for Writing Proposals:
Book Proposals That Sell (W. Terry Whalin)
Nonfiction Book proposal Anybody Can Write (Elizabeth Lyon)
Nonfiction Book Proposals (Mary DeMuth)

3 – Don’t submit your first draft.
Here again, get feedback and advice. Make sure you know what you’re talking about. Make sure the writing is as good as you can make it.

4 – Attend a conference.
Seriously. Attending a conference cannot be underestimated. If you want to be a writer, then go to a writing conference. Talking about being a writer just doesn’t count. It takes time and money to attend one, but you have to make the investment.


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