Monday, December 12, 2011

Inexpensive Ways to Improve Your Writing or Get Published in 2012

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

IMG_1434I was speaking to a lady the other day who is an aspiring author. She has been researching ways of improving her writing, but told me that everything seemed so expensive—the classes, the conferences, etc.

It could be expensive to improve our writing, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some cheap ways to improve our writing in 2012:

Of course, there are books to buy and magazines to read. There are excellent ones out there, actually. See if your local library has any books on how to write. It doesn’t matter if the book is ten years old or not—good writing is good writing. Many libraries also carry Writer’s Digest or Poets and Writers. Cost of a library book (that’s not overdue)=free

Learn what areas you need to improve. Probably the best way to do this is by sharing your work. I know this is tough for some. I think it’s easier to share with strangers, personally. There are plenty of online critique groups that can match you with writers of similar genres. Check out writer Clarissa Draper’s excellent list of critique groups (or her own match-up program). Cost=varies, but there are many crit group programs that are free.

Once you know what you need to improve, you can easily find resources online to help you improve. I compile the best writing-related links that I can find each week and they are sent to the Writer’s Knowledge Base where they’re searchable for free. So, if you realize you have trouble with transitions, if your book has a saggy middle, if you have trouble with point of view (POV), then you can search the WKB for those terms and find hundreds of articles on those topics. Cost=free.

Buy some inexpensive notebooks and try writing different places and at different times if you can’t seem to fit writing into your day. Make it portable…index cards for those minutes waiting at the dentist’s office. Small notebooks for your briefcase or purse. Cost= a few dollars.

Try online writing classes. I know I don’t talk much about classes on the blog, but I took five or six of them when I was starting out with my first book. I found them very helpful. I could choose the topic I needed help with, the instructors gave homework which I submitted for critique, and I got real feedback. Now, obviously, you can end up with a crummy instructor, so I’d check and see how many classes the writer has taught---or go through an organization like the Romance Writers of America.

I’ve found their classes are excellent and frequently aren’t limited to romance (clearly, since I don’t write it!) You can pay via PayPal and email back and forth. It’s very simple. What’s more, their classes are dirt cheap, compared to other venues. At a glance on their upcoming calendar (click on the link and scroll down) I see classes for using backstory effectively, writing steampunk mysteries, creating a web presence, writing synopses, weapons, queries, and more. Cost= $25-$30.

Free help pursuing the traditional publishing route. Have you got a book that you’re ready to query? Here are a couple of sites to help you screen prospects: AgentQuery (which can help you find an agent who represents your genre) and Preditors and Editors which help you eliminate agents and editors and “publishers” who prey on writers. Cost= free.

The low cost of e-publishing. You can upload your books to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords for free. Your only costs should be for a cover design (which you come up with independently), a freelance editor (if your book hasn’t been proofread), and someone to help you with formatting for epub and mobi (if you can’t do it yourself.) For a list of epublishing professionals, check out my spreadsheet of cover designers, formatters, and freelance editors. Cost= varies for cover artists and freelancers. The publishing process itself is free.

Reading our genre. One of the best ways for us to improve our writing is by reading the genre that we want to write. Cost of a library book= free.

And, of course, the more we write, the better we get. I’m trying to fit in more writing….and reading…time for 2012. What are some ways you’re planning to invest in your writing next year?

I've also given a holiday interview to Diane Morasco at Blogcritics. Thanks to Diane for hosting me.