Here you can find part one of the progressive checklist, and here you can find part two. And this time I decided to actually include the links - not just pretend I did.
So. You've learned at least the basics of story structure. You've written a first draft (and maybe a handful of false starts as well.) You've even edited your draft, and now you're sitting there wondering what to do now.
Step Four: Get Social
If you haven't already found a critique group or writing organization to belong to, now would be a good time to invest the $50 membership fee or whatever it is for your organization of choice. You can join one earlier, if you like, and there are certainly some benefits to doing so. Like getting feedback from professionals before writing 5 completely unsellable manuscripts. Or understanding POV rules before you've become so used to head-hopping.
There are also, in my opinion, some disadvantages to doing it too early. Like:
- You get too educated for your own good, to borrow something Erica Vetsch once told me back in our pre-published days. She was having issues with a historical manuscript, and said to me, "I'm starting to think I've gotten too educated for my own good, that I just need to spend some time writing." As valuable as all those classes are that you take at conferences, you can certainly learn more than your skill level merits.
- Too many voices are let in. I met my friend Susie a couple years ago when she had never written much more than a chapter or two. (This almost sounds like one of those fake stories you read in self-help books, but this is true.) Susie had a passion for her partial manuscript, which she took to conference. She had interest from an editor - yay! But someone else wasn't sure that publishing house was a good fit. And someone else thought she was locking herself in by tailoring the manuscript to them. And another person thought her book sounded better fit for a historical. And so forth. These were all well-meaning people who saw Susie's sweetness, saw she was a promising writer, and wanted to help her. But all the advice was confusing, and it was tough for her to discern the right path for her. (I almost typed "the write path for her" but thought that might be too cutesy. You're welcome on sparing you my corniness.)
When to join a group or seek out writing friends depends on the writer. But if you've written a full manuscript and you're interested in querying agents and such, a writers conference or organization is a great investment of resources.
It's important - no matter where you are in your writing journey - to remember where critique groups, writing organizations, agents, marketing, publishing houses go. Let's go back to the blocks. Here's a very unscientific, incomplete look at what builds you up as a writer:
Sometimes I've made the mistake of trying to add my critique group or marketing abilities to that stack. But where they really belong is as support beams.
|Let's all use our great imaginations and pretend those support beams are actually doing something. Thank you!|
As valuable as the right writing friends and organizations (and all the other "support beams" I could have taken the time to draw) are, make sure you keep in mind that they don't make you a writer - writing makes you a writer.
Step Five: Do it Again
So you've finished your book? Great! Time to write another one.
In this case, practice doesn't make perfect, but it does make you a much better writer. Especially if every time you finish a manuscript, you take the time to evaluate its strengths and weaknesses, you will rapidly improve your skills.
After reading through the progressive checklists, what do you think your next steps as a writer might be?