So, you feel a burning desire to become an author, but aren't
sure how to do it. Check this Frequently Asked Questions list
before sending the editors a letter about how to be a writer....
The first three questions sort of work together:
1. I am a high school/college/ student looking for scholarships/grants/money/fame.
Please help me.
2. I would like to become a writer, how do I get money to start,
/ how do I get published/ how do I know I can do it?
3. I am a writer. Just not a very good one, yet. How do I learn?
I really wish the Women Writers' magazine could offer money--
but right now, most of us on the site are still poor starving
students too. But there are places a student can get help on
this-- the first place you should go is your guidance counselor,
and your English teacher. That's what they are paid for and they
may know specific grants/scholarships that are exclusive to your
town, or situation. Even if they seem unavailable, be assertive.
As an old freind from Alabama used to say "It's a poor dog
that won't wag its own tail." Get out there, wag your tail,
tell people you need help or that you are worth listening to.
It's your life so take charge of it.
Personal attention should be best... but sometimes, as the
Editor remembers from her own high school days, the help that
gets offered isn't as helpful as one might desire. So try the
college you're applying to-- they have forms for finanical aid,
(the Free Federal
Financial Aid form is how you get grants, and each University
usually has special forms for scholarships-- check their Financial
Aid page, or call them).
Otherwise, to get money for college, you have to just search,
and search, and search, just like everything else. Some employers,
the big companies, offer scholarships for their employees. Check
with your manager if you suspect the company you work for might
be "big enough." If you don't work for somebody big,
and want to explore this as an option, go fill out an application!
It's worth a shot.
Now, if you're trying to decide if you have the guts/talent/drive
to be a writer, that's only something you can do. You send your
stuff out like everyone else and get rejected like everyone else.
(My first rejections came from big magazines cause I figured
I might as well try! It was disappointing, but I didn't REALLY
expect to be published from the get-go in Cosmopolitan).
For advice that is much more fluent and poetic than any I can
give you, read Ranier Maria Rilke's Letters
to a Young Poet. Rilke is an important 20th century poet,
and the letters are advice written to someone who wrote asking
"how do I do it?" One bit of Rilke's advice:
Go into yourself and test the deeps in which your life takes
rise; at its source you will find the answer to the question
whether you must create. Accept it, just as it sounds, without
inquiring into it. Perhaps it will turn out that you are called
to be an artist. Then take that destiny upon yourself and bear
it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking what recompense
might come from outside.
This is some of the best advice I can offer-- and not just
for being an author/painter/artist. It's pretty good advice for
The single most important things for a writer to do:
Work on your Grammar (no groans-- it
is important to write well, too)
If you haven't read the books that others have written, how
do you know that your idea, your work, is fresh, new, important?
If you don't just write, how are you a writer? It doesn't matter
what other people call you-- you're the one who gets to decide
if you're a writer. As the Nike commercial says "JUST DO
4. I would like to find out where else I can publish my work,
besides your wonderful site... I'd like to publish my work in
There is a great resource for writers that you should look
into. It is published every year, and if you can't afford the
newest one, you could try last year's version at your library,
(sometimes it's in the bargain books section of your big book
stores, for pretty cheap, as soon as the new "model year"
comes in). It's called The
Writer's Market, and in addition to giving advice from
published authors on how to be a writer, it offers lists and
addresses of places that will take unsolicited manuscripts (not
all editors do, and it's rare to get your foot in the door this
way). The photo over there is for the 2002 edition, but the link
is the most recent. You can buy an older one, but some markets
fail every year, so it's good to be updated. Look it over, and
start figuring out where to send your stuff. Of course, you can
always publish your own website, with all of your poetry on it.
It's not all that difficult to learn HTML, and there are a number
of good web page publishing programs out there to get you started.
Then, you find a server that will either publish your site for
free, like Geocities
, and post your site. There are other places out there for you
to get help learning these web techiniques (generally the free
publish sites have FAQ and help sheets, just search for them).
The domain name which I have (www.womenwriters.net) is a little
more expensive, but it's actually not out of reach. I use the
which, past the cost of registering your domain name varies in
cost depending on who you use.
You might also check out the new places online that are offering
to publish you more easily. IUniverse is one, sponsored by Barnes
& Nobles booksellers. Their
website will, at the least, answer some questions for you.
You can also usually find out how to get (and whether it's
advisable) a literary agent in this book. For a list of agents,
this search engine phrase listing here.
Realize that there are millions of aspiring writers out there--
don't let this discourage you, but be realistic and realize that
there are steps to take, and few people get "discovered"
overnight and make a million dollars. The Harry Potter author
is a rarity-- more often, it takes years of training and rejection
before you get published-- and many good writers never do at
all. I am not trying to bring you down and discourage you, but
you have to keep working. If it's worth it to you, you'll make
it. Stephen King, who we all agree is successful (I know some
of you might argue about great) wrote and was rejected for at
least 15 years before he ever "broke in" to real money.
He has a new book, which is really entertaining, with really
good advice about writing. Check
5. Do you know anything about Freelance Writing?
A little, but I know someone who knows more. Go to this
About.Com site, and look through it. There's lots of advice,
and job offers too.
6. How about copyrighting my work?
The easiest, cheapest way of copyrighting your work, which
is, according to the law, copyrighted as soon as you write it--
is to stick your work in an envelope and mail it to yourself.
Once the mail comes back, then DO NOT open it, and stick it somewhere
safe. The date on the envelope will be legal proof of when your
ideas were created by you. You can also get your work "officially"
copyrighted at the US
Copyright office. Generally, you're pretty safe submitting
your work to publishers-- but there are unscrupulous people in
the industry, just like any other place. Be careful. Save your
work and a lot of hassle.
Good Luck! This is my best try-- if I haven't
answered your question, do a search on Mamma.com
for writing advice.