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Agent Irene Goodman Explains: If You Want to Be a Writer, Be a Writer

The first thing you need to do is write. That sounds easy, but it's not. Writing is hard. It's isolating. Here are some time-honored tips that will always stand you in good stead: 1. Ass in Chair. I believe Nora Roberts said that, and it's the best advice to writers that I have ever heard. If you want to be a writer, you have to sit down on a regular basis and face that blank screen. There is no other way. No excuses. Sit down and do it. Write something. Anything. Even if you throw it all out the next day, the point is that you exercised your craft. Writing is indeed a craft, one that gets better the more you do it.

The first thing you need to do is write. That sounds easy, but it's not. Writing is hard. It's isolating. Here are some time-honored tips that will always stand you in good stead:

1. Ass in Chair. I believe Nora Roberts said that, and it's the best advice to writers that I have ever heard. If you want to be a writer, you have to sit down on a regular basis and face that blank screen. There is no other way. No excuses. Sit down and do it. Write something. Anything. Even if you throw it all out the next day, the point is that you exercised your craft. Writing is indeed a craft, one that gets better the more you do it.

(Do agents Google writers after reading a query?)

irene


Irene Goodman is the founder of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency.
Sheoffers manuscript critiques every month, starting on the first day of each month, with all proceeds going to charity. Click on the link for more details on these critiques and charity auctions.

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2. Honor your own time and space. Set aside a place in your home that is yours and yours alone. Even if it's the dining room table that rarely gets used, once it becomes your writing space, don't let anyone else mess with it. Announce to everyone that you have certain writing hours during which you cannot be disturbed. Don't answer the phone or the doorbell while you are writing. Turn off your cell and don't check your e-mail. If you can't stand not answering a landline, get caller ID. That way, you'll know who you missed, and you can always call them back. The point here is not just to avoid interruption. It's to avoid the schmoozing that answering a phone requires. When your sister calls to chat, and you know she's settling in for a nice, long gossipfest, it's easier to call her later than it is to answer, get through the pleasantries, and then have to gracefully extricate yourself.

3. Set your own hours and give yourself a deadline. That's what professional authors do. Why not start acting like one now? Actually, professional authors have a deadline in their contract. You may not have a contract with a publisher, but you can have one with yourself. Instead of thinking you'll finish that novel when you get around to it, decide you'll finish it next November. That seriously changes your attitude and the way you work.

(What does it mean when an agent says "This isn't right for me"?)

4. Don't believe what your friends and family say about your work. Not only are they not in a position to give you professional feedback, but they may not have the heart to tell you the brutal truth. The reason everyone liked Simon Cowell on "American Idol" is that he was always honest. He didn't hold back. True, he could have been nicer at times, but his honesty was a gift that might have saved some of the contestants a lot of valuable time and heartache.

5. It gets better.
I've seen authors who weren't very good when they started out, but they kept working at it, and today some of them are bestsellers. So don't lose heart. People rarely become overnight stars. Writing is a process, and if you keep at it on a regular basis, chances are it will pay off.

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