Scott Coon’s Advice for Writers To-Be

Since it has taken me longer than I wanted to find success with my writing, I would like to offer some advice based on what I’ve learned along the way and wish I’d known all along.

First, writing is hard, but it gets easier the more you do it. Writing everyday will teach you how to write every day. Life is a never-ending series of issues and dramas. Don’t let them become your excuse to not pursue your goals. For years, I isolated myself at lunch so I could get some writing done. I dedicated my weekend mornings to making up for lost hours during the week. Other writers have used their train commute, got up early, or stayed up later after the rest of their family went to bed. Find what works for you and train yourself to expect to write at that time.

Dedicate yourself to the art and business of writing. You must learn both. Not learning the business side dooms your writing to being a hobby, not a career. You must learn the rules for your kind of fiction, including word count, POV, and structure. Learn how to approach an agent, publisher, and audience.

There are an endless number of ways to write a novel. You can only learn how YOU write a novel by writing a novel. Learn how others approach it and from them develop your own. You can expect to write and throw away your first three novels. Use them as a training ground. Fan fiction or mimicry is a good start for practicing. My first novel was an Ann Rice knockoff, and you will never ever read it. While mimicking others, your goal must be to find your own voice in the end. Another good way to build your skill and an audience is by writing and submitting short stories. As a Sci-Fi writer, I have a lot of places I can submit short stories. I’ve even built a relationship with a contest and a magazine. You can too.

While you are developing your skills and knowledge, I recommend you BUILD YOUR PLATFORM NOW. Have a website, blog, email list, and social media presence including sites like GoodReads and NaNoWriMo. Become a member of the writing and reading community, attend conventions, and join groups so you will have the connections you need to let the world know you wrote a book. The best way to be a part of a community is to contribute to it. I contribute through my On Writing and Little Creative Interview pages. I also have a YouTube channel for animated readings of my published short stories and for writing advice. My newsletter provides writing news, contest news, and links to the latest from me (including this post).

In addition to learning the art and business of writing, be a generalist, a curious intellectual who feeds on knowledge. The more you know the more you can write about. My head is full of random information that feeds into my stories. Learning has never been easier than now. Writer’s Digest, YouTube, book forwards, and reference material like the Emotions Thesaurus are waiting for you. And once you’ve learned it, RELEARN IT ALL, especially the business side of writing. Tastes and standards change so stay pugged into what tropes are overdone or how query letter writing has changed, amongst other things.

And above all else, you can’t win if you don’t play. So, once you write something and polish it to the best you can make it, SUBMIT!

Alpha, Beta… Your Test Readers

Are you a writer? And do you let others read your work? The word beta reader has probably touched your ears. In short, it is someone who tells you what they like about your story and what they don’t. But the writing world is, as everything else, evolving and the whole beta reader thing is more complicated now. People are no longer satisfied with the simple beta label and you can find various other expressions in the writing discussions. Each type of reader is expected to do something different and there are separate groups to find them.

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