“We pick bygone time up by the handfuls and, like clay, see if it feels right and then form it into stories about the past.”
James Alexander Thom, The Art & Craft of Writing Historical Fiction
When Lori began her writing journey in 1991, she’d never heard of email or the internet. She’d never met a published writer or read a book on the writing craft. She didn’t have a computer—or even a typewriter. She had paper, a pen, and her public library.
So much has changed. Information she spent hours, days, even weeks hunting for is now at your fingertips—but one question hasn’t changed: Where do you begin? If Lori could sit down with every person who’s asked her that question, share a cup of coffee and an hour of conversation, here’s what she’d say:
1. Read as much as you can. Read books in the genre you want to write, new releases and older books. Read books in other genres. Read as much as you can. Besides learning what’s out there in the market, reading is how you fill your creative well.
2. Write every day if you can, except on the Sabbath if you take one. Make it a habit before writing deadlines force you to do so. There’s no better way to learn to write than by writing. No other way to develop your style, voice, and confidence. So write (you can always edit it later).
3. Study the craft of writing. Pay attention to what appeals to you in the books you read; analyze what the writer did to create that appeal. Read blogs such as Writer Unboxed, where talented writers share their take on the writing life, including craft. Read writing craft books.
Lori’s favorites are for fiction writing:
Wired For Story by Lisa Cron
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass
Writing 21st Century Fiction by Donald Maass
The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass
The Art and Craft of Writing Historical Fiction by James Alexander Thom
The Scene Book, A Primer for the Fiction Writer by Sandra Scofield
Hooked by Les Edgerton
Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell
Revision & Self-editing by James Scott Bell
Modern Library Writer’s Workshop by Stephen Koch
The Plot Thickens by Noah Lukeman
Attend writers’ conferences if you can afford to. As well as learning more about writing and the publishing industry (something you’ll need to know), you’ll be inspired by the fellowship of other writers. You’ll meet editors and agents. Speaking of agents…
4. Seek an agent. The best way to learn how to do this (aside from attending writing conferences where agents attend) is to study literary agency websites. Agents will tell you what they’re looking for and how to submit it. Some agencies have blogs, from which you can gain a sense of whether your writing might be a good fit for what they represent. Lori recommends Between The Lines, the blog by the agents of Books & Such Literary Management. There are others out there. Go find them!
Sound like a lot of work? Writing is a creative passion; it’s also a skill that must be honed. Be patient. Take the time you need to learn the craft and the business side of writing before you take the next step, finding an agent to represent you to publishers. You only get one chance at a first impression.
Lori’s journey to publication began in 1991, but her first novel wasn’t published until 2013. In that time she took only one break from working toward her goal of publication—when she was diagnosed with cancer in 1999 and spent a few years afterward struggling with chemo fog. She began writing again 2004.
Read about that journey at the links below:
Lori is represented by Wendy Lawton, of Books & Such Literary Agency. Here’s a blog post from Wendy that she treasures.