So you fancy writing the great British novel. What next? Literary editor, novelist and IdeasTap alumnus Kirsty Logan gives us her ten steps to getting published…
As well as showing you how narrative works, novels and short stories teach you about language: the rhythm of sentences, which phrases and images are fresh and which are cliché, and how to find the right balance between dialogue, description and action. Unusual non-fiction is great for potential story ideas too.
It’s amazing how many people forget this step! It’s all very well reading books about writing, or listening to podcasts about writing, or discussing writing with other writers. But none of these things put words on the page, and the act of writing – of making mistakes and figuring out how to fix them – is the only way to learn.
Finish what you start
Starting is easy, but it’s hard to carry on when the initial excitement has faded. Unfinished work can’t be published, so ignore all other distractions until your story is complete.
Polish that story until it’s as good as you can possibly make it. Make sure the plot and characters are strong and the language fresh and interesting.
Join a critique group
Meetup.com lists local writing groups, or you could start a group with friends. It might take a while to construct the right critique group – it can be tricky to find people who genuinely want to improve your work rather than grind their own axes. Steer clear of people who say "I don’t like this because it’s not what I usually read" – that doesn’t help you.
Enter writing contests
There are lots of free-to-enter contests (IdeasTap run a competition – the Editor’s Brief – every month), and it’s a great way to get your writing noticed. If you don’t mind an entry fee, try bigger contests like the Bridport Prize. If you’re working on a novel, go for contests with literary agents on the judging panel – if they like your work, they might want to see more. Check the small print, and avoid contests that claim copyright over your work.
Submit work to magazines and anthologies
There are thousands of markets at Duotrope, or check out online literary magazines. This is a great way to get your stories out into the world as well as getting publishing credits (which literary agents like) – and maybe even some cash.
Develop thick skin
Rejection is part of the process, no matter how successful you get. The first “Thanks, but no thanks” will sting, but don’t take it personally – the editor is rejecting this particular story, not you as a writer. Dust yourself off and send that story out again.
It’s possible to build a career without talking to anyone, but it’s tricky. There are lots of ways to meet people in the literary world online – Twitter is a great place to start. If you live in a city, there’s probably a regular networking event – Glasgow has Weegie Wednesday and Edinburgh has Literary Salon Evenings. Do a Google search to see what’s happening near you. There’s no need to be cynical or self-serving about networking; be friendly and ensure that you give back as much as you take.
Never give up
The difference between published and unpublished writers is that the published writers never quit.
Read more How to articles.
Image Penguin Books by Eifion available under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.
If you have an Edinburgh memory you want to turn in to award-winning fiction, then why not enter this month's Editor's Brief?