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Advice for Wannabe Writers

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 6, 2012

Advice for Wannabe Writers by Lucy Burdette

Often when I tell someone I’m a writer, a haunted look washes over his or her face. “I’ve always wanted to write a book,” he or she says. “Do you have any advice for how to get published?” Well, yes, after nine published novels and a pile of published short stories and articles, I do have a few suggestions.   Roberta2

1. MAKE A PLAN THAT INCLUDES LOTS OF LITTLE, MANAGEABLE GOALS: As I begin a book, I look ahead to the due date and figure out how many pages I’ll need to write each week in order to hand it in on time. I build in time for trips and family and time for my writers group to read and critique, and then time for me to rewrite. Then I end up with a page goal for each week. I write until I’ve hit the goal, sometimes even getting a little ahead. If I have an unproductive day, I know I have to write a little faster later in the week to keep up.

2. HAMMER IT OUT: Get it all down, even if it’s awful. You can always go back and fix things later. Anne Lamott called this “the sh***y first draft”—she had it right!

3. SET YOUR SIGHTS HIGH: As a psychologist, I know the importance of having “big goals” for my subconscious to aim at. So I keep a copy of the NY Times bestseller list pasted up over my computer. Yep, that’s where I want to be! Then I forget about it and work on the books word by word.

4. TAKE YOUR TIME: Don’t rush off too soon to try to get your work published. This business is extremely competitive so it’s crucial to have your writing polished before sending it out. The Internet makes querying and even actually publishing a book very, very easy—don’t press “send” until you’re sure the piece is the best it can be. And meanwhile, there are lots of conferences that are attended by literary agents and editors. It’s not a bad idea to get some face time with a professional—this personal contact could be what helps your manuscript get a serious look. And now even more with a surge in the ebook business, it seems so easy to get work online. Again, don’t make a move until you’re sure these pages are the best they can be!

5. YOU’VE GOT TO HAVE FRIENDS: Writing can be such a lonely, discouraging business. I’ve gotten very involved with mystery writing organizations (Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America,) and joined Romance Writers and other groups and blogs such as Fiction That Sells and Girlfriends Book Club and Killer Characters. I also have a very supportive and loyal writers group and a group blog ( The friends I’ve met have saved my sanity and supported me endlessly along the way. I highly recommend it!


Lucy Burdette is the author of the Key West food critic mystery series, launching this month with AN APPETITE FOR MURDER from NAL/Obsidian. You can order the book here and follow Lucy Burdette on Twitter, or Facebook, or on her website  She also blogs with Jungle Red Writers and at the Mystery Lovers Kitchen,



21 Responses to “Advice for Wannabe Writers”

  1. This is all wonderful advice, thanks so much. I do exactly the same as you in setting daily and weekly writing goals. I love your book cover!

  2. All great advice! If you don’t get it down the first time, you won’t have a chance to fix it! And, it took me a month longer than I thought it would to get Forever Young: Blessing or Curse ready for publishing on Kindle and Smashwords, because I wanted it to be just right. I kept finding things that needed changing, but I told myself it was better for me to find those things, than someone else.

    Morgan Mandel

  3. You’re right, Morgan. I am revising my WIP now, and I find myself going over and over the same page to get it perfectly right. It’ll take as long as it takes.

  4. I call the writing of that first draft “the white hot passion.” And to me that’s when it’s fun. I’m battling the Doubt Demons right now as I rewrite a novel about the horsey set. I’m looking for more suspense and thrills! I know the horsey set since I bred Andalusians once upon a time.

    Enjoyed your post, and I’ll try to keep your good advice in mind. Good luck with your new book!

  5. Pj Schott said

    Excellent advice from one of my favorite writers.

  6. Yes, you nailed it! I especially like your idea of setting both small, manageable goals and big, long term goals. And the need for friends in this business is essential. I always say I’d never have been published if not for the FL Romance Writers and my friends there. They not only taught me everything I know, they’ve kept me sane! P.S., I love your cover, too! I’d like to be sitting at that table right now!

  7. So funny, about the white hot passion. I’d rather rewrite any day Linda! And the not rushing to send something off–I could make that mistake every day if I didn’t stop myself:)

  8. Perfect advice. I particularly like your idea of breaking everything into snack-sized portions. Smaller bites definitely make the task seem more manageable.

  9. Dru said

    Great advice which can be transferred to other job occupations.

  10. Good advice, and a wonderful reminder to those of us who know all the points but need reminding.

  11. My writing goal is 5 pages a day or 25 pages per week. If I’ve finished my quota by late Friday, then I get the weekend off! Revisions, however, are a nonstop proposition because I need to keep the book in its entirety in my head.

  12. Jeanne Meeks - said

    Great advice. I make the mistake of waiting for the muse to be with me (the white hot passion), but it visits too seldom. I need the goal-oriented approach. Alas!

  13. BrendaW said

    Thanks. I needed this particularly right now.

  14. Jeanne, if you wait for the muse, it might never show up. You have to treat writing like a job and your career as a small business.

  15. Totally agree, it’s a job! 5 pages a day is a lot, but it’s doable. And the funny thing is, once you get going and expect more from yourself, more gets done!

    Thanks so much for allowing me to visit today Nancy and gang!

  16. Jane Squires said

    I thought about writing but then turned my talents elsewhere. I decided to be a friend to writers and help them get their work noticed. So I started winning books and writing reviews. I also share every book I review so others know what good books are available.
    So God Bless and use you.

  17. Jane, your efforts to help support writers are very much appreciated!

  18. Donna Holmberg said

    Sound advice…thanks! I started trying to get published in high school and have had several short stories and poems published, then I got busy with work and family. Maybe it’s time to start up again.

  19. I think those are 5 VERY important points. Goal setting and having friends are the two I set the most store by, but writers need to keep all of them in mind. Thanks for the post!

  20. Donna, if you really love writing, you’ll make the time for it. Kaye, thanks for stopping by!

  21. peggy c. said

    great advise also the puppy in the key west picture looks like a australian shepherd so cute ,,,,,thanks so much and look forward to your future blogging as you are all over and always give the best advise….

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