October 20, 2009

10 Questions for Aspiring Writers

As an aspiring writer, you probably have lots of questions about the business of writing. You might wonder if you need an agent, or how to write a great query letter, or what your odds are of getting published. The business of writing can leave you feeling tired and lacking in enthusiasm. That's why it's important to work on your soul.

The American poet Edgar Lee Masters said it best when he wrote:

“Only after many trials for strength,
Only when all stimulants fail,

Does the aspiring soul
By its own sheer power
Find the divine
By resting upon itself.”

How about it? Is your writer's soul powerful enough to rest upon itself? Last week, I challenged you with an exercise to write very specifically. This week, I challenge you to think very specifically about the following ten questions.

1. Why do you want to be a writer?
I know. You've been asked this question a million times, but don't skip to #2. This time, think about what drives your writer's soul, then write down your best answer.

2. What are your writing strengths and weaknesses?
Be honest with yourself. Your soul becomes stronger when you acknowledge imperfection.

3. What are you doing to become an even better writer?
Did you notice that I said "even better?"

4. Are you able to write just to please yourself?
If you write only to please a specific audience, you might want to change that. It can take the soul right out of your writing.

5. How much time are you willing to spend writing every day?
Your blood pressure just shot up, didn't it? It's okay if you don't have time to write every single day. What's important is that you make time to write.

6. If your work is rejected multiple times, will you continue to write?
Again, be very honest. Think of your soul as needing a coat of armor. With what will you build it?

7. What are you doing to learn about the publishing industry?
Writing is fun and creative, but publishing is big business. Learning about the business side of writing is the key that unlocks doors.

8. How do you network with other writers?
Writing requires a solitary soul, but the business of writing needs company.

9. When you read, do you think about the writer's style? Do you read outside of your favorite genres?
(Okay, I added an extra question here.) Read, read, and read. Books are like vitamins that fire your soul. If you read between the lines, you'll learn the business of writing.

10. As a writer, you'll leave a legacy. What do you want your legacy to be?
This is a tough one. With a lot of hard work and some luck, someday you'll have a book on the bestseller list. But if that doesn't happen, will your legacy be one of failure or of success. That's entirely up to you.

Now, go back and answer the first question again:

Why do you want to be a writer?


Judy said...

1 - Because that's part of who I am. I've been writing imaginative pieces ever since I've learned my ABC's.
2 - Strengths - anything wildly imaginative and getting inside my characters' heads. Weaknesses - sometimes getting too wordy. Not hugely good at descriptive writing.
3 - Sending my work to various people from potential readers to professional editors.
4 - I write primarily to please myself. I enjoy writing.
5 - If I could make a living writing, I'd probably do it full time, meaning 40+ hours a week. I try to set aside time to write even while job searching and working on a couple of part time jobs.
6 - Yes. The question is not whether I'll continue to write; it's whether I'll continue to submit my works to potential publishers.
7 - I belong to a couple of LinkedIn writers' groups which contain several published authors, editors and publishers who have given me excellent information. I look for publisher information online, and my daughter just gifted me with THE book on publishing and publishers.
8 - See above.
9 - Yes to the first question and only occasionally to the second.
10 - I would like my legacy to be that I told a good story, that it was entertaining and, if possible, uplifting and in some way educational. Our gifts are just that - given to us by our Creator, with the implied challenge, "So what will you do with it?" I want to do something positive with it.

Jean Fischer said...


Thanks for stopping by at the Walrus and the Carpenter and for sharing your answers.

I wish you much luck with your writing.


Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jean -

Thanks for your questions. They're making me dig deep, especially the last one about legacy.

Susan :)

Jean Fischer said...

Thanks for stopping by, Susan. I always appreciate your comments.


Anonymous said...

1. I can’t imagine not being a writer. I love stories and telling them. Writing is also a way of not only telling stories but of expression for me; it allows me to tame the often disorganized trains of thought I have.

2. I have been told I write strong dialogue. I think this is because I pay attention to people talking around me, even if what they’re talking about is none of my business. I’m just naturally curious that way. My biggest weakness is not showing enough. It’s a difficult weakness I am unsure how to fix.

3. I am trying to write as much as I can to improve my craft. Not as much as I ought to, perhaps. I haven’t managed to write every day yet for my work-in-progress. I hope I can improve my discipline.

4. Up until recently, I think I wrote for my own pleasure more than publication. My current work-in-progress is the first work I went into with a clear goal of publication in mind. It makes me glad I have opportunities to workshop it so I can get other people’s take on it.

5. I heard from one course that you should gradually work up to 5 hours of writing a week. But for me right now, I’m lucky if I even write for more than a day or two in a row. I do most of my writing on the bus to and from places. With school, work, and the fatigue that usually follows both, I find myself too tired to write most of the time.

6. I am aware that rejection is possible. I think I will continue to write, but it will be very hard, because I have an intense fear of rejection in general. I am trying to become more thick-skinned about my writing, but I find I am still a little sensitive about it sometimes.

7. I have purchased both the 2009 Christian Writer’s Market Guide and the 2010 Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market and marked places to check out. I also try to read stuff online about what publishers expect.

8. I don’t have a lot of non-online networking going right now in terms of writing. My main ones are membership in the SDCWG (San Diego Christian Writer’s Guild), a group in my area; the CWCW (Creative Writing Community Workshop), a club at my school; and now my school’s chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, an international honor society for English, which provides publishing opportunities to its members.

Online, I am part of a forum for Christian speculative fiction readers and writers, where I get a lot of support. I was also part of another writing forum before it closed down. I’m also working on social media connections.

9. Sometimes I think about the style. Mostly it’s the story that grips me, or doesn’t as the case may be. I usually end up having to read a few of the writer’s works before I get a feel for his or her style. My favorite genre is fantasy, followed by historical fiction, mystery, and Christian fiction in general. I also like sci-fi, but I haven’t read much of it yet (I’m more a sci-fi movie and TV person). I haven’t read too much outside of that, other than books I’ve read for school. I think I’m rather picky.

10. Ooh…well I’m only 25 so it’s hard to think about that question. I am hoping that people will still read and enjoy my books 20, 40, 50, 100 years after I’m gone. I read a quote in the manga Read or Die from a character who was an author and she said she wanted “to make everyone say, 'What a good book.'" I agree with that.

Back to One:
I want to be a writer because I love to do it and also because I believe God has given me the talent for a reason.

Thank you for posting these questions. They give all us writers something to think about.

~ReneƩ Le Vine