Advice to Newbies

blog-hop-buttonAs an author, copy and content editor, former publisher, and a former board member of the Baltimore Writers’ Alliance, I have given this advice to a number of aspiring AND established writers.

Suggestion One:

Keep writing, save everything, even if you think it’s crap. Get the word count under your belt because it is the foundation upon which your published work will rest and it will help develop your writer’s voice. It’s the doing that makes you good and the good stuff gets rewritten and edited until it is publishable. Keep these four words of wisdom in mind: FIRST DRAFTS SUCK. ALWAYS.

Suggestion Two:

Know your market—your target audience. Read what they read and make sure you enjoy it. If you don’t, you’re in the wrong market. There are so many genres and subgenres out there, you shouldn’t have a problem finding your niche.

Suggestion Three:

Research the tools of writing such as structure, point of view, and tension. Follow the blogs of writers whose work you enjoy. Sign up for newsletters on writing. There are many books out there on writing and no matter your level of professional acclaim, it is always, ALWAYS good to go back to the basics and review them with a matured sensibility.

moon portal

Suggestion Four:

Start writing a blog. Write about the things that vex you, the things that make you deliriously happy, and the hobbies you have. Show people the many facets of you. Even though your followers may not be thick on the ground now, the followers that fall onto your path later are going to look at previous posts to get a better sense of you. Use this tool to build a sense of connection with your readership. I personally enjoy but I also have my posts published on Blogger because of the connectivity with all my other Google apps.

Suggestion Five:

Think about how appropriate it would be for you to adopt a pen name now before you become a public personality. I work in law enforcement and use my legal name to perform my duties. I was creeped out by how often the people I came into contact in my official capacity would Google my name and find my public profiles such as LinkedIn and Facebook. I had to change my public name to protect my livelihood and my privacy. If you do adopt a pen name, choose something unique and yet eponymous to your intended genre. Google it and if the name doesn’t have hits, run with it.

Suggestion Six:

It is never too late to start building a social media presence. Start with goodreads to participate with other authors and readers. Once you’ve established your brand and gotten an idea of which direction you’re going, set up a separate Facebook and Twitter account under that brand. Pinterest and LinkedIn are other good mediums. Learn how to use them now and you’ll be ready to promote your work and commune with your readership.


Copyright © 2014 “Advice to Newbies” by I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved.

Published by I.O. Kirkwood

Vibrational Alchemist ~ Medium ~ Writer

25 thoughts on “Advice to Newbies

  1. I appreciate all this very clear and practical advice. I particularly like “First drafts suck. Always.” I wrote something similar as I remember how good I thought the first draft of my first novel was at the time, and how mortified I am now at how very rough it was, although thankfully only a couple of people ever saw it (in that form – after countless revisions, rewrites and overhauls it did win a publishing contest and came out in 2011). Thanks for the great tips!

  2. “First drafts suck. Always.” Haha. I have to remind myself of this many times when I’m writing the first draft. Most of the time when I read it after I’ve finished, I find that it’s not all that bad, either.


  3. You did well to remind newbies to think of genre as they write. I overlooked this in my piece this time.
    I see you advise to begin social media at Goodreads. I am there with a page for me and one for She Does Not Fear the Snow which has attracted some reviews but I don’t know what else to do with Goodreads. Can you enlighten?

    1. Goodreads is a social media site, so you know the drill about “interacting.” This site offers discussion groups. You could start a book club, join a discussion about a book that has set your mind on fire, or exchange information with other authors about topics such as social media and self-publishing. Also, check out the authors in the genre(s) you do enjoy and start emulating the ones that have lots of activity on their pages. I haven’t fully developed my Goodreads yet because I’m focusing on another avenue at this time, but eventually, I’ll be doing the same thing I just advised.

  4. I really like your advice to make sure you write in a genre that you like to read. I also think you were wise to think through implications of the use of your real name and then write under a pseudonym from early in your career. Great post!

    1. The advice about genres popped into my head because every bit of conventional wisdom given to writers points to “knowing your market.” But if you detest your market, how are you going to joyfully immerse yourself in all of its intricacies? We’re wired to pursue what brings us pleasure and many of us here are wise enough to pursue those pleasures that bring others joy. Your joy shines through what you do, which means so does your boredom and irritation. It’s never too late to change genres or author names or anything, really. You just have to decide if it brings enough joy to apply the effort.

  5. 4,5 and 6 hit home with me. i’m trying to develop my digital presence, but there’s a learning curve so i definitely think someone should get involved online before they’re ready to be published and use the anonymity to learn the medium. 🙂

  6. Excellent advice, IO — I’ve heard people say we need to put in 100,000 words or some huge number just to find and get comfortable with our voice. We can’t improve if we don’t practice, and we can’t revise if we don’t produce those first drafts.

    I love that photo you added with point 3 — where is this? It’s beautiful.

    1. It has a link on it that takes you to the face book post where I found it. I think it has the location there. I’ve heard that 100,000 word thing before too. After 32 years of writing I’ve probably logged an Encyclopedia Brittanica Unabrigded’s worth of words!

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