1. threefivezero
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    threefivezero New Member

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    Newest of the Newbies asking the Most Basic of Basic Advice...

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by threefivezero, Feb 16, 2009.

    Just to clarify, I'm new.

    I have always enjoyed writing as a hobby. However, it has always been recreational and even though I have toyed with the idea of making a living at it many times over the years, I haven't really ever pursued it in any formal fashion.

    I enjoy writing fiction, but in general I started writing in depth about daily life and things I'd done, and some of those got published in small rags and newsletters for various organizations that I belonged to. Mostly I enjoy writing things down that my kids will hopefully enjoy reading one day when they're older, and have forgotten how much fun they were to their Dad...

    Over the years I have also found that I tend to be very good at technical writing, as an Engineer I was always able to relay technical ideas through writing very well. This was never much fun though.

    As you can see, I like to talk about myself so I'll skip to the point:

    I have no idea how to even begin planning a long term career as a writer. I have no end of writing samples I could submit to anyone that could give me more guidance on where I could begin my journey.

    And in the mean time I have to pay the bills with the day job, and am raising 2 kids.
     
  2. threefivezero
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    threefivezero New Member

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    Sorry, forgot the background on why I suddenly decided to look into this...

    My son loves to write, as did I when I was very young. He's 8, in 2nd grade. His report card indicated recently that he was very good at it. Not news to me, but I of course praised him and we talked about it. He writes short stories and we read them as bedtime stories.

    Our discussion went something like this:

    Me- "Well if you really like to write Buddy, I want to see you do it, but only if it's what you *want* to do. You don't have to be a writer when you grow up just because you're good at it. You're going to be good at lots of things."

    Son- "Why didn't you become a writer for a job then Dad?"

    Me- "Because they told me math would make more money. And for the most part they were right, but it didn't make me happy to do math for a living." *exchanging 'math' for 'engineering' here for simplicity's sake...*

    Son- "So why don't you just quit your job tomorrow and be a writer then if it's what you really want to do?"

    Me- "That's a good question Buddy. Mostly because I need the money and I can't just start making money tomorrow as a writer. But I've quit my job and changed my life many times over the years. Maybe not tomorrow. But don't think I'm scared to do it!!!"

    Son- "I dare you Dad."

    That's my kid for sure.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Hello 350, Welcome to the Writing Forums.

    Don't quit your day job. No deprecation intended, but writing is a very hit and miss profession, if you do the math.

    Posting your own work should not be among the very first things you do here. It is worth taking the time to see what other people have done to improve their writing, and see if some of it applies to your writing as well. That is part of why we require members to review other members' work before posting their own for review. On the other hand, there are no restrictions, other than content and copyright rules, on showcasing your work in your member blog.

    If you haven't explored the site yet, you should probably do so soon. Newcomers often gravitate to the Lounge, the Word Games, or the Review Room, but there is much more to be discovered if you poke in the corners. Remember to check out our FAQ as well, and be sure to read through the forum rules, too, to avoid any misunderstandings or hurt feelings. Respect for one another is our principal mandate.

    As for the Review Room, new joiners often wonder why we do things a bit differently on this site than on other writing sites. We emphasize reviewing as a critical writing skill. Training your eye by reviewing other people's work helps you improve your own writing even before you present it for others to see. Therefore, we ask members to review other people's writing before posting work of their own. The Review Room forums on this site, therefore, are true workshops, not just a bulletin board for displaying your work (and on that note, please only post each item for review in one Review Room forum). See this post, Why Write Reviews Before Posting My Work? for more information.

    And while you're looking around, don't forget to check out our Weekly Short Story Contest and Weekly Poetry Contest. They actually run more than one week apiece, but any member may enter, and all members are urged to vote for their favorites.

    Enjoy your stay here, and have fun!
     
  4. Gone Wishing
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    Gone Wishing Contributing Member

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    The first thing I would do is figure out what I wanted to write. Without having seen any of your samples, I can only surmise in general... In your post, you mention various things that make writing enjoyable to you. What I take from those things - if you don't mind me saying so - is that you like to write from personal experience/perspective, that you would like to be able to enjoy the subject matter, and ultimately convey those things through your writing so that other people will be able to share that enjoyment now and in the future (though, that is likely true for all writers :)). You also mention a talent for technical writing, so the first thing I wonder is whether all of the aforementioned elements could be combined?

    Perhaps combining straightforward technical writing with personal experience and channeling it into a unique project could work for you - this could be anything from children's books (making exploring those subjects interesting and fun), to works of fiction that incorporate the technical knowledge that you have acquired...

    If that doesn't appeal, I would suggest a broader approach by simply taking a look at the things you enjoy most about writing - the elements that are the most rewarding to you and anyone you have shared it with, and see what can be built on from there.

    That's the personal side of it, the business side of it is to look at whether or not there is a market for what you want to write. If this is to ultimately be a career change, you're going to need to make sure that you'll be able to sell your work and on a consistent basis. So you will need to think about who your primary target audience for the material will be and do a little market research. Some things to consider are where the market is, how well established or popular it is (look at sales figures and circulation numbers), and whether there is an adequate demand for new material in the field.

    I realise all that is somewhat generalised, but I hope there's one or two things there that may be able to serve as a springboard, so to speak. Good luck!
     
  5. Leo
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    Leo Senior Member

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    I agree with Cog- one of the best things you can do to build your own writing style is to review the work of others, because it makes you realise how something looks to the reader as well as the writer.
     
  6. Arrow
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    I'd like to do some reviewing here, but haven't quite figured out how the process works. I think I found my way to the Lounge by accident. Maybe someone or some place here can advise me on how to get started on participating in reviews? I read a few "reviews" of some of the short stories, but it didn't seem all that different from the other threads, except that stories/excerpts/etc. were included. Help! (thanx)
     
  7. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    You can find lots of discussion about review process in the Review Forum...although, take it with a grain of salt when anyone tries to impose a rigid review format on anyone else. We all have different levels of expertise in writing and we should seek to "review" within our own comfort level.

    Here are two important Review threads:

    Reviewing as a Creative Art
    http://www.writingforums.org/showthread.php?t=5513

    Reviewing FAQ
    http://www.writingforums.org/showthread.php?t=18466
     
  8. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    ThreeFiveZero,

    I guess the best answer for your son would be that one just can't quit their job and become a major league baseball player.

    While in wiring there are occasional immediate, first time out of the box success stories (and even those take a year or two before money actually begins flowing in) that is very VERY rare.

    Writing fiction is very competitive and there are no guarantees of success, even marginal success--scraping by a living, even if one puts his heart and soul into the effort.

    Agents get hundreds of queries a month (and they already have a roster of authors they represent). Major Publishers that accept unsolicited submissions (and those are fewer and fewer) get a thousand or more submissions a month (in addition to what agents send and the publisher's stable of regular strong selling authors). Short fiction, the markets are shrinking, and pro rates are considered 5 or 6 cents per word--translates to $250 per short story. And those markets get hundreds of submissions a month (or more), and thus are very difficult to break into.

    There are smaller publishers (novel-length and short fiction) that don't offer advances or pay less per word, and have less ability to market and distribute work--less money for the author, so they're not an option to make a living off of, but maybe someplace to start. Doing great with a small publishing house with limited distribution and marketing assistance, selling even 2000 copies of a novel in a year translates to about $4000 (before taxes). And selling a short story for a penny a word is worth about fifty dollars. Sure, it's income, but not enough to live off of.

    I am not indicating that it is impossible to make a career out of writing fiction. Of the thousands of submission mentioned above, a large percentage are utter crap that isn't anywhere near what could be published, and never will be. Still, in addition to effort and determination, it takes skill/talent, time to develop that talent (and time for the writing and submission and publication process) in addition to maybe a little luck.

    So has was indicated in a post above...don't give up your day job just yet. But don't give up on the goal either.

    Good luck.

    Terry
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    good all-around advice from terry... take it seriously!

    here's what i'd advise you do:

    1. decide what it is you can write best [ask someone who'd know]
    2. do the requisite research to find out who pays what for that kind of writing
    3. study the best examples of it
    4. practice till you're as perfect at it as you can be
    5. write a few sample pieces
    6. start submitting

    and, finally, as has been counseled above, DON'T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB!

    love and hugs, maia
     
  10. threefivezero
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    threefivezero New Member

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    So sorry, I want to apologize for not getting back to everyone!

    I forgot to subscribe to my own thread, so I just logged back in today to find lots of helpful advice here!

    Am at 'the dayjob' right now so will reply in detail later. :redface:
     
  11. threefivezero
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    threefivezero New Member

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    OK, lots of great info here!

    First, I have to say that right off the bat I can see that most of you can type with most of your fingers!!! Doing automotive hobbies, I often visit forums where there is lots of great, free, tech info available, but most of those folks aren't good at expressing themselves... or typing!!!

    Next, I laughed really hard at, "...a large percentage are utter crap that isn't anywhere near what could be published."

    Such is the case with most things, written or otherwise!!!

    I did read everyone's advice above and carefully considered it, Thank You! I think there are 3 distinct things I love about the things I currently write that people seem to enjoy...

    1) I love my kids, and I love to write about my kids. I'm not only very good at expressing my feelings for them in person, but in writing as well. Most of the stories I've written over the years have been about Grand Adventures with my kids.

    2) A friend recently coined the term, "Mentally Exotic" as a way of politely describing the spin I tend to see in most things in life, and then manage to relay in my writing about Grand Adventures with my kids.

    3) I've been writing these stories since my first child was in the womb (9 years ago), and they are just now getting old enough to realize, and enjoy, the fact that their lives have been showcased and journaled by their Dad. In the past year they have also co-authored a few 'bedtime stories' that are based on true stories of our adventures, then embellished significantly with childrens' imaginations. (We did this long before Adam Sandler BTW!!!)

    So those are the reasons I love what I write, and the reasons I think the passion shows through in the stories.

    Now all of that said, over the years I have also enjoyed writing articles about events I attended, and for similar reasons my 'mentally exotic' take on things seems to make for entertaining reading in that context as well.

    The technical writing that I currently do for a living is so completely and intentionally required to be devoid of creativity that it often makes me check my own pulse.

    So I'm not sure how any/all of that would apply to writing anything that I could actually *sell*!!!
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i suggest you follow the advice terry gave and the steps i posted, then start submitting relevant articles/stories to parenting magazines, for openers... if you sell some, that will give you a leg up on submitting to children's book publishers...

    hugs, m
     

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