Wednesday, January 8, 2014

SEVEN STEPS TO HONING YOUR SKILLS


By Sharlene MacLaren


Recently, I received an email from someone asking for publishing advice. The email went something like this: I have written the most interesting book, and I know readers everywhere are going to love it. Please tell me how I can get it published! Oh, and I would like to hear back from you right away.

Ha! That may be a bit of an exaggeration—or not. I usually write back to eager individuals anxious to publish and tell them not to give up on their dreams but to keep pushing forward. If their story or article is “meant” to be published, it will find a home.

Lately, I’ve been wondering how best to encourage writers who really do love the craft and seriously want clear advice. Therefore, let me take you on my own journey—the very abbreviated version, that is.

I didn't write so much as my first word of fiction till the year 2000 when I was 51 years old. I have always had a love of storytelling (verbally), but I had never tried to write it until three years from retirement from teaching. At that time, God laid it on my heart by way of a dream to sit down and write a story. That story became a novel, BUT it wasn't my first published book. I wrote about four more full-length manuscripts before I finally published, and the one I published first was the fourth one I'd written. Actually, it took me six years to find a publisher. During those early stages of writing, I purchased books on the craft, attended local writing seminars/conferences, joined a local writers' group as well as a national organization. I was at the hungry stage of wanting to learn all I could about perfecting my skills, and boy did I have a LOT to learn. In those years, I learned about POV, the no-nos of head-hopping, active vs. passive writing, character development, avoiding clich├ęs, and the long list continues.

I say all that to say this: writing and finding the right publisher takes lots of time, energy, commitment, sacrifice, perseverance, passion, and, well, prayer never hurts. You have to be willing to stick with it if you want to reap the harvest of your labor. Don't allow discouragement to eat a hole in you big enough to kill your heart's passion. Keep feeding that passion by learning and striving to improve on your skills.

In summary, I would suggest you:

1. Join a local writer's and/or critique group.
2. Read everything you can get your hands on about the craft of writing.
3. Attend writers' conferences and seminars.
4. Read several authors and study their manner of writing. You can learn a LOT about the craft by just studying various writers’ techniques.
5. Edit your manuscript with a sharp eye then have someone read it who will give you an honest critique...an English prof or high school teacher perhaps?
6. Don't hang all your hopes on your first book. If it doesn't pass inspection the first few times you submit it to an agent, chances are it's time to let it rest in a file somewhere so you can begin writing a brand new story! The real fun is in the WRITING experience, not the WAITING.
7. Keep feeding your flame of passion. Love is what kindles the flame in the beginning, but it's PASSION that makes that fire roar to life.
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Born and raised in west Michigan, Sharlene attended Spring Arbor University. Upon graduating with an education degree in 1971, she taught second grade for two years then accepted an invitation to travel internationally for a year with a singing ensemble. In 1975, she married her childhood sweetheart. Together they raised two lovely, wonderful daughters, both of whom are now happily married and enjoying their own families. Retired in 2003 from 31-years of teaching, "Shar" loves to read, sing, travel, and spend time with her family, in particular, her wonderful, adorable grandchildren! In recent years, Shar felt God's call upon her heart to take her writing pleasures a step further and in 2006 signed a contract for her first faith-based novel; thereby, launching her writing career with Through Every Storm. With a dozen books now gracing store shelves nationwide, she daily gives God all the praise and glory for her accomplishments. Shar has done numerous countrywide book-signings, television and radio appearances, and countless interviews. She loves to speak for women's organizations, libraries, church groups, women's retreats, and banquets. She is involved in Apples of Gold, a mentoring program for young wives and/or mothers, and is active in her church as well as two weekly Bible studies. She and her husband, Cecil, live in Spring Lake, Michigan with their beautiful white collie, Peyton. Awards and Accolades: 2006 Through Every Storm - American Christian Fiction Writers" Book-of-the-Year (now Carol Awards) finalis, 2007Loving Liza Jane - Road to Romance Reviewer's Choice Award, 2008 Sarah, My Beloved - Inspirational Readers' Choice Award (3rd Place) 2009 Courting Emma - Inspirational Readers' Choice Award (3rd Place) 2010 Hannah Grace - Inspirational Reader's Choice Award (2nd Place)2011 Abbie Ann - Inspirational Reader's Choice Award (3rd Place) 2011 Tender Vow - Retailers' Choice Award Finalist  Her social media links are  www.sharlenemaclaren.com     www.facebook.com/sharmaclaren






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