The Writing Shed: A Community Blog

Author Ann Elia Stewart blogs about writing

And then there were five.

Written by Ann Elia Stewart, Community Blogger | Nov 13, 2012 9:19 AM

Sounds like a great B-horror movie, no? 

For some of us, that is — authors — it could feel that way.  Penguin and Random House merged when the rest of us were hunkering down in our homes, awaiting the storm of the century, Hurricane Sandy. Wow. Think about that one. A storm has been brewing for a long time in the publishing industry, not unlike the one that took out the music industry as we formerly knew it. The digital age is here, like it or not, and as my publisher Lawrence Knorr of Sunbury Press likes to say: "It's easier than ever to publish a book. It's just hard to sell it." 

I could go into defensive mode, but no one forced me to become a writer. It is simply who I am: a lover of words, perfect story structure -- brain food. 

This past Saturday, a panel of my peers gathered at The Midtown Scholar in Harrisburg, PA, for its Fourth Annual Book Festival. I was honored to be part of two panels, one on the craft of writing and the other on post-publication efforts. The room for both presentations contained writers eager for any words of advice about writing or selling their work. So, allow me to recap some of the advice.

If you want to write, sit down and write. For a certain period of time a day, preferably at the same time (so it becomes a habit), write. Give yourself a word limit. When writing my novel, twice a child, I set a word limit of 1500 words a day, in long hand. That may be a bit much for someone starting out, so you may want to start with 500 words a day using the tool of your choosing.

Find yourself a writer's workshop*, or a group of peers with whom you share your work and learn from each other. 

Read everything you can about the craft of writing, be it narrative, nonfiction, playwrighting, screenwriting, etc. 

Find groups on social media -- Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook. They're out there. I learned about the Penguin/Random House merger this morning by checking Twitter, #publishing. I learn so much from a fifteen-minute check of Twitter about three or four times a week. You could spend your entire life on Twitter and social networking sites, of course, but I prefer to write, to teach and to enjoy its alternative: the here and now.

Before you decide to self publish, please see all of the above. Writers need to get their work before people they don't know, aka "future readers." They can be found in workshops and writing groups. It takes courage to do this, and even more courage to "kill your darlings" or edit long-winded passages, eliminate tangents, avoid academic writing (if you are trying to write fiction or creative nonfiction). 

Okay, so now the world is down to five major publishing houses. Did the demise of the LP/8-track/cassette tape/CD rid the world of musicians? Of course not. Nor will the shrinking of the traditional publishing industry.

You'll just have to shout a little louder through the din of publishing cyber space and get crafty at reaching your audience.

*In the meantime, take in some workshops around the area: Nate Gadsen's Writer's Wordshop now held at The Midtown Scholar in Harrisburg. The Natalie Craumer Writer's Workshop at the Fredricksen Library in Camp Hill, where, this coming spring, yours truly will dig out her "back to basics" workshop for newbies. Write On in New Cumberland, a writers' group, and Pennwriters, another writers' group that gathers at the New Cumberland Library.

We're out there, and the door's always open.

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Comments: 2

  • claudzilla5 img 2012-12-20 08:49

    Ann,
    I am just getting started, trying to write a short story right now. I did a bit of legwork in advance, reading many other shorts to get a feel for the craft of the mini-narrative. I have yet to set a daily word goal for myself, though, which is absolutely reasonable. Then, to lay my word before others to critique. (eek!) Thank you for laying out the necessary steps so clearly for a novice writer to follow.

    • Ann Elia Stewart img 2012-12-20 10:56

      You know, Central PA magazine is running its annual writer's contest. Good place to get your writing chops down regarding discipline, getting your work in front of people.
      You are welcome, and good luck!

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