Publish date:

Why You Should Reach Out to Successful Authors For Advice

Need the advice of a master? Have you tried asking? You wouldn’t listen to a record by Bob Dylan and then drop him a note, tell him what a fine record it is, and that you, too, write songs and are wondering if he has any advice for a struggling musician. It’s preposterous, of course. But you can write to writers. There’s even a fair chance—and what more can you ask than a fair chance?—they’ll read your notes and write back. They’ll look over your scars and show you theirs, and in that way spur you on like no one else could.

Need the advice of a master? Have you tried asking?

You wouldn’t listen to a record by Bob Dylan and then drop him a note, tell him what a fine record it is, and that you, too, write songs and are wondering if he has any advice for a struggling musician.

It’s preposterous, of course. But you can write to writers. There’s even a fair chance—and what more can you ask than a fair chance?—they’ll read your notes and write back. They’ll look over your scars and show you theirs, and in that way spur you on like no one else could.

(Pay it Forward -- 11 Ways You Can Help a Friend Market Their New Book.)

long-gone-daddies-novel
david-wesley-williams-author-writer

Guest column by David Wesley Williams, author of the novel
LONG GONE DADDIES (John F. Blair, March 5, 2013), the story of
three generations of musicians and the guitar they hand down like
a curse. His fiction has been published by Harper Perennial's Fifty-Two
Stories, The Pinch, The Common, and Night Train. He blogs about
music and writing at The Soundcheck & the Fury and tweets fiction on
Twitter. He is, by day, sports editor of The Commercial Appeal in Memphis.

I live in Memphis and love Southern literature, and so a few years ago I wrote Larry Brown down in Oxford, Mississippi. I must have been reading one of his novels at the time—Fay, I think. I told him what a fine book it was and asked what advice he might have for an unpublished writer. I knew what he’d say, because there are only two things to say to an unpublished writer—keep writing or quit. And published writers never seem to prescribe the latter. Quitting is too easy. Quitting doesn’t scar.

He wrote back, of course. That’s what writers do. “I’m rushed for time so I’ll be brief,” his typewritten note began, and then ran for just shy of two single-spaced pages. “I do get a lot of letters like yours and can’t possibly answer all of them, but I read your paper [The Commercial Appeal] every Sunday, so there you go.”

(Read an interview with literary agent Kimberley Cameron, who is accepting new clients.)

He wrote about what he called “an apprenticeship period,” and how his lasted eight years. He wrote about things he’d written and deemed unworthy—something like five novels and eighty short stories. “I burned one of the novels because I thought it would be strengthening for me. And it probably was. I know it was because I couldn’t tell you one line out of that novel now. It wasn’t any good.”

Six paragraphs in, Larry Brown made note of how he had meant to be brief, “and here I’ve run on.” He had to catch a plane the next day to New York for a pre-premiere party for the movie made from his Big Bad Love. He wrote about Arliss Howard and Debra Winger, who made the movie: “They’ve been to my house and I’m fixing to go to theirs.” He seemed amazed at his good fortune but rooted as ever in his place in the world and his struggle and the struggles yet ahead. I guessed that by the time Larry Brown left New York for home, his head wouldn’t have been turned even a little bit, but the big city would have some mud crusting its fancy shoes.

He said he still got stuff rejected. He said his favorite parts of novels were sometimes cut “because my editor shows me where it’s not needed. And sometimes we argue. But it’s a process.”

Finally, he said had to run. “All you can do if you believe in your stuff is send it out until you exhaust every possibility. A friend of mine had his book rejected fifty times before it was taken. So think about that.” He wished me luck. “All best,” he wrote, and signed his name.

Then, having given me all that time he didn’t have to spare, he got an envelope and wrote my name and address on it in letters nearly an inch high. Couple of days later, it made it up to Memphis from down in Oxford. I read the letter several times that day and probably several more the next, and then I filed it away. I pull it out from time to time. I always pull it out around Thanksgiving, because that’s the time of year Larry Brown died, of a heart attack, less than three years after giving me—a total stranger—the hope and the nudge I needed.

(A WD editor's best piece of writing advice -- period.)

500x500_maychuck-1

If you're interested in a variety of my resources on your
journey to securing an agent, don't forget to check
out my personal Instructor of the Month Kit, created by
Writer's Digest Books. It's got books & webinars packaged
together at a 73% discount. Available while supplies last.

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

Image placeholder title

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
Order the book from WD at a discount.

From Script

Writing Empowered Superhero’s in CWs Supergirl and Understanding Animation From the Trenches (From Script)

In this week’s round-up In this week’s round up brought to us by Script Magazine, story editor Katiedid “Did” Langrock speaks with Reckless Creatives podcast. Plus, one-on-one interview with CWs Supergirl actress turned scribe Azie Tesfai about her groundbreaking episode and more!

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: The Characterless Character

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: The Characterless Character

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so this series helps identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is writing a characterless character.

When Is My Novel Ready to Read: 7 Self-Editing Processes for Writers

When Is My Novel Ready to Read: 7 Self-Editing Processes for Writers

Fiction editor and author Kris Spisak ties together her seven processes for self-editing novels, including editorial road-mapping, character differentiation analysis, reverse editing, and more.

Poetic Forms

Englyn Unold Crwca: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the englyn unold crwca, a Welsh quatrain form.

5 Things for Writers to Keep in Mind When Writing About Spies

5 Things for Writers to Keep in Mind When Writing About Spies

A spy thriller requires more than a compelling story and clever plot twists—the characters need to feel real. Author Stephanie Marie Thornton offers 5 tips for constructing believable spy characters.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unexpected Team Up

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unexpected Team Up

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, it's time for a little unexpected team work.

Taylor Anderson: On Creating Realism in the Weird

Taylor Anderson: On Creating Realism in the Weird

New York Times bestselling author Taylor Anderson discusses the process of writing his new science fiction novel, Purgatory's Shore.

6 Books Perfect for Fall Reading

6 Books Perfect for Fall Reading

Whether you're looking for something cozy or a little spooky, these books are perfect for the fall season.

NaNoWriMo: To Prep or Not to Prep?

NaNoWriMo: To Prep or Not to Prep?

When it comes to a 30 day writing challenge like NaNoWriMo, do you need to prep beforehand to achieve success? Well, that might depend on what kind of writer you are.