Dear Anne: An Introduction

Have you ever had friends for so long and did so much together that your children all call the other parents aunt and uncle even though they are not really? That’s who Anne is. She’s my niece that’s not really my niece. But we were there before she was born. Her father sang at my wedding.

Anne is now 15. She’s the oldest of all the children from both families, the next two being 12 going on 13. Anne has not only fallen in love with the wonderful world of books, but she’s beginning to understand that human creativity is not limited to those worlds created by other people. She’s beginning to have ideas of her own and is writing them down. It’s the beginning of becoming a writer…a moment every writer remembers.

I began to write much younger, actually. I was 11 when I first started…fan fiction based on a the old NES video game Dragon Warrior. I spent the next few years piddling around with ideas, writing short stories that never really went anywhere. In high school, I began to write more seriously. I wrote several short stories and a good deal on my first novel. Those writings have never been released to the public, but that novel is on the list of future projects I’d like to revisit.

I took a break from writing in college, but picked it up again afterward…writing my first real novel, Among Dragons. That too has not been publicly released, but is on deck as needing to be rewritten and released as soon as Winter is completed.

Winter came after I spent much time and effort trying to get Among Dragons published. After I wrote Winter, I again became frustrated trying to get Winter published. There was an underlying problem with both of those books that I didn’t understand.

The problem was simply that I didn’t know anything about real writing.

No one ever taught me. No one guided me. I never read a book on writing. I just liked it and I did it. I tried to copy some of the authors I enjoyed most, but I had no concept of modern style or personal voice. It wasn’t until the 11th hour trying to get Winter published that I finally convinced someone to point blank tell me what was wrong with my writing. And they did. I was able to fix the problems and Winter was finally published.

All that to say this…my niece Anne is in a similar situation at the beginning of her writing journey. She wants to write, but she knows very little about it. But unlike when I was getting started, I can be there to help guide her through it all.

Anne has asked me to mentor her. It is somewhat fortuitous that she did, because lately I’ve been thinking about my early experiences and that I’m now in a position where I can help and mentor young writers who desperately need it like I did. Hopefully, as I help Anne, I can help others.

I’m going to be posting blogs on my website, starting with the very basics all the way to publication, about the writing process.

My audience…Anne.

Each blog will be in the form of personal instruction directly to her. She’ll read each post and we’ll talk about it privately as she works through her own projects. But I want these blogs public so that other young writers might also take advantage. If there are any other teens that want to be mentored, I’ll do my best to help guide you too. Maybe there are some other authors out there like myself that want to help. Just let me know.

I have plenty to write about and a long way to go. I’ve compiled about 60 topics so far, and if I write on one of these each week, it’ll take me over a year to get them all! So, without any further introduction, let’s get started!

Dear Anne,

I pinged several of my author friends and asked them for some advice. I asked specifically for one piece of craft advice and one piece of practical advice that they might give to a 15 year old that knew nothing about writing. Most of these things I’ll cover later in full blogs, but the advice is important enough that these writers believed them to be the most important things for you to know now. In fact, you’ll notice that several of them repeat similar things. Take these pieces of advice and digest them, until we get to talk about each in more detail. Message me if you have questions.

Kat Heckenbach, author of Finding Angel and Seeking Unseen, and one of my editors says:

“Read the genre you want to write. A lot. Get to know what’s already out there, so you’re not writing a book that’s already written. At the same time, remember that EVERY book is different. You are going to be inspired by other authors’ ideas. You may find that someone has used almost the very same idea you have come up with as an element in your story, but don’t let that stop you from using your idea in your unique way. Practical advice: Every professional has their own opinion about how a novel should be written. Some say outline, some say don’t. Some push minimum words counts, writing early in the day, working in the same spot every time, whatever. You need to find what works for you. Maybe structuring your day and writing the same number of words each time works, or maybe you need to go days or weeks without writing and slam thousands of words out at once. No one way is “right.””

Morgan Busse, author of Daughter of Light (Follower of the Word series) and Tainted, says:

“I would advise that if you are serious about writing to get into the habit of writing. That doesn’t necessarily mean writing every day, but writing consistently and pushing on until you write the “end”, that way you know you can write a book and finish it and know somewhat how long that takes you so if and when you sign a contract or need to meet a deadline, you know if you can do it and how long it will take.

Have a website. It can be as simple as a wordpress blog or more extravagant. But as people discover you as a writer/author, they are going to look for you on the internet. Have a place where people can find out about you and your writing. There is nothing more frustrating to me than to find a writer I like and discover they don’t have a website where I can find out more about them. Facebook, Instagram, and twitter don’t count. Those medias are changing all the time, so you need a website, a permanent place for you and your books.”

Mike Duran, author of The Ghost Box, The Resurrection, and The Telling, says:

“It’s cliched, but I’ve always loved the old proverb: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” No matter where a person is in the writing journey, they can only ever start from where they’re at. This will mean taking “first steps,” using the knowledge they have, developing the tools at their disposal, seeking out those they respect, and networking with like-minded people. It’s a huge process, one that takes time. Simply from a technical perspective, there’s much to learn about style, grammar, plotting, character development, etc. When you compound that with needing to understand the industry, the market, advertising, and platform development, it’s like an immense mountain looming before you. But the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. The aspiring writer needs to give themselves permission to take time. Becoming a good writer is a long haul. In some ways, it never ends. What ever “first step” is right in front of you, take it.”

Wayne Thomas Batson, author of Dreamtreaders, The Door Within, and Isle of Swords, says:

“1) Work long and hard on your hook, ie: first sentence, first paragraph, first page, first chapter. Crush that with suspense! Publishers often don’t read any more than this before deciding whether or not to publish your book.

2) Outline. Always. But don’t be afraid to break your outline if a good idea pops up.”

Robynn Tolbert, author of Star of Justice and Daughter of Anasca says:

“Advice: Finish what you start, no matter how awful. Writers need practice finishing things. Method: keep all your notes forever. You never know what you’ll write next or how long it will be, and you will not remember any of the details.”

Kristen Stieffel, free-lance editor, editor at Splickity Publishing Group, and writing mentor, says:

“When you’re creating stories, remember that stories about happy people in Happyland are booooring. What grips readers are stories about struggle, whether it’s an internal struggle over temperament or faith, or an external struggle against a villain or natural forces. Preferably some combination of those things.

Writing is often called a “craft,” but it’s also an art form. Like any other art from—dance, music, painting—writing requires practice. A piano student makes time to practice every day. That’s the only way to become proficient. In the same way, a writer must make time to practice every day, whether that’s writing stories, blog posts, or journal entries. Writing every day demonstrates your commitment to your art and helps you improve.”

Greg Mitchell, author of The Strange Man and Rift Jump, and screenwriter of Amazing Love and the SyFy Channel original Zombie Shark, says:

“1. Write for yourself. At the end of the day, you’ll never be able to chase the trends or predict what will be popular. If nobody buys and read your books, you still have to feel like the writing was time well-spent. Write for yourself. Others will follow along. 2. Be professional. This is a business of relationships. You’ll go further on your personality than you will on your writing. Be friendly, be kind, be willing to sacrifice, work hard, meet your deadlines.”

Finally, I say:

1) Write all the time. Practice it, read writers you want to be like, and finish what you write. That’s what makes you a writer. No one gives you that title…you claim it by BEING a writer.

2) Back up everything you write…and do it with a the deepest sense of urgency and paranoia. Programs like Google Drive and MS Onedrive can be set up to do this automatically on your computer. Even then, find a way to back up to multiple places. There’s nothing worse than working hard on something for a long time, only to have a computer glitch erase it.

Now…go write something!

-k

RETURN TO THE “DEAR ANNE” TABLE OF CONTENTS

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