Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Mia Catherine advice to Aspiring Writers.

Mia Catherine advice to Aspiring Writers.

As I stand at the threshold of a new career, I look back at the strange and unplanned path I've taken to be here. Publication wasn't my goal when I began writing stories. I wrote for fun, for friendship, and to escape the daily grind. Somewhere along the way, my writing changed, and my goals grew.

Now that I've signed that first professional contract, I realize I have a similar history to other writers on the path, each step with its important lessons. Although I may have taken them out of order, each helped me to get to this point in my new career. Had I known the value of these steps a few years ago, perhaps I could have gotten here sooner. It was just the first thing I didn't know in a long list of things I didn't know.

That said, there are a few key experiences that propelled me into this crazy world of publishing.

1. Writers groups. I began writing amateur stories with a group of women with similar interests. Posting one chapter at a time helped because it gave me immediate feedback - what worked, what didn't work. The speculation of where the story would go helped me form the suspense. I've heard others call them writer's groups or critique groups. I guess this was my version of that.

2. A Beta Reader (editor) I made contact with an author whose work I truly admired. She is now one of my dearest friends and has helped my writing immensely. She is my perfect compliment, her strengths are my weaknesses, and vice versa. She is brutally honest with her reviews of my work, but at the same time is unwaveringly supportive. She's the reason I'm here.

3. Literary Contests. Contests can be a wonderful way to get feedback on your manuscripts. Professionals, many who have the power to get your story published, judge these contests, and the entry fees are very reasonable. For $20-$30, you can have a number of pages critiqued for valuable feedback. Initially, my reason for entering that first contest was to support the above mentioned friend, but I was confident with my submission. I thought it was pretty good. Well, I didn't know what I didn't know. My entry was eviscerated-and rightly so. I've since learned the errors I was making are common; head hopping, over use of adverbs, too many words. Of course, I disagreed, until I entered the second contest-and received the same results.

4. Have confidence. Although I received some negative input, I also received a number of compliments-the biggest of which was that I had a nice voice. To hear praise from professionals gave me a wonderful boost of confidence, and motivated me to improve. I didn't get discouraged by the criticism, but chose to focus on the positive and use the critique to work on the things I needed to.

5. Classes. I took an online class. It was the best $16 I've ever spent in my life. I remember learning about point of view in English class during my primary school days (I won't mention how long ago that was), but it's not something I applied in my story. I went from one character's POV to the other in every paragraph, and I saw nothing wrong with that. I even argued, politely of course, with the teacher how I couldn't possibly change things. Wow, how wrong I was.

6. Became a book reviewer. Upon the recommendation of a teacher, I signed up to review books of other authors. Not only did it allow me to read to my heart's content for free, it's a fabulous way to learn more about the industry. I learned what I liked, what I didn't, and exposed me to genres I may not have otherwise read. It also helped me understand why my weaknesses, such as point of view, are so important. (and, yes, I even sent a note of apology to that teacher, thanking her for all I learned)

7. Practice, practice, practice. I revised and revised, and then entered two more contests. This time, the reaction was far different. Finishing at the top is much preferred to the bottom, but without those initial harsh critiques, I never would have done the work to improve. One judge was an associate editor and requested my full manuscript, and that eventually led to my breakthrough.

Everyone's experience is certainly different, but the steps I took to this point are similar to many, many others. Now, I look forward to the editing and release process. I'm still learning about the business side of publishing, and there is a lot to learn. I guess it's just more I don't know, but this time I know I don't know...

Born and raised in Wisconsin, Mia Catherine is a proud Cheesehead living with her husband and their three young sons. An avid fan of television dramas, Mia looked away from the small screen when she became disillusioned with the lack of substance on current shows. Enjoying the fantasy involved in a good love story, she turned to reading, and quickly discovered a little voice in her head. That voice led to writing her first chapter, and the second, and the third…
Now, translating that voice in her head to words on the computer is Mia’s escape when times are hard. As words begin to form a story, she’s allowed to escape the trials of everyday life and live in her own little world, if for only a short time.

Knowing others find some pleasure reading what she’s written is just an added bonus.

Originally posted at ARW  April 18, 2013

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