How to Have a Writing Career

When I first started writing I had an electric typewriter from Sears and a desk in the kitchen. At
the end of a day I’d be ankle deep in ripped out pages which I’d rewritten tenaciously. Four novels
later I remained at that typewriter, though it was beginning to rattle and whine a lot and I wrote.
No researching, no promoting, no searching for a publisher or an agent. I was a writer and that
was all.
Eventually I discovered networking when I met another writer, then yet another. We began to
attend local writer’s events together, sometimes sleeping five to six in one motel room to save
money. We were learning about other things besides the writing. Still, I had no thought I would one day be published. It never entered my mind.
Above I’m earnestly reacting to a question after speaking at Ozark Writers League recently.
The more I learned the more rewrites I did to my first book, my book of the heart. I spent another year on it, still with only one idea. To write the best book I could with all the things I needed to say. Words poured out of me, but I had no direction. I didn’t know that there were genres out there where books had to fit because I hadn’t investigated publishing at all. I still was a writer and that was all.
Several of us formed a writer’s group and began to gather around us other writers. The only group in our area was a Poets and Writer’s Group, and we decided we needed to separate from that and form a fiction writer’s group. And so we did. Most of the writers who joined were not writing, they were “wanting to write.” So we devised ways to get them to write using pictures or random items, sending them home (and we participated too) to write something and return the next week to read it.
If one of us attended a conference, he returned with copious notes and handouts and information
of all kinds to share. From that we grew into an active group and I began to investigate the big
mysterious world of publishing. We all entered contests and some of us won. Then I won first
place with three chapters of a western novel and was told by the judge that it should be
published. Meanwhile, I read the first chapter of another novel to our group and one of the new
members asked if she could take it home to her husband to read. When she said her husband was Douglas C. Jones, I almost fainted.
I’d read some of his books. I’d attended a lecture he’d given at the community center of the
University of Arkansas. He was brought up in the town I lived in. And he had many excellent
historical novels published. Long story short, he called me a few days later and asked if he could
send the chapter to his agent in New York. Again, I had to hang on to something to keep from
falling flat on my face. Another two weeks and I get a call from the agent. He wanted to read the
book. In the end we signed a contract.
Meanwhile, I attended a Western Writers of America Conference held nearby. We’d been asked
to help host the conference, so were allowed to take part without paying the high fee which I
never could have afforded at the time. A good friend and one of the founding members of our
group literally shoved me into an appointment with an editor with Penguin Books. The rest, as
they say, is history. The book that had won the first place award became my first western
romance with Topaz. I remained with them for three more before the mid-list crisis, which is a
story for another time.
I tell this story because it illustrates the steps that can bring any writer to publication. My
publishing in nonfiction came about in the same way, and my first nonfiction book was published
the year my first fiction novel came out, as a result of meeting the publisher of a small company
at a writer’s event.
The lesson is, if you think you can sit on your duff and write and do nothing else, you will never
have a career in writing. It’s all about networking, studying your craft, learning from others,
milling about with writers of all kinds. Today, with the Internet, it’s easier to do a lot of this from
home, but don’t make the mistake of never going to events where there are other writers. I don’t
care how long you’ve been in the business, you’ll never know everything. You need to get out and
learn new stuff. And you need to spend time studying people, places and occurrences for new
ideas so you never go stale.
I might say Good Luck, but I don’t believe it’s luck so much as being in the right place at the right time, and you can’t do that from your desk. Get busy and have a great career.

About veldabrotherton

For thirty years I've been a writer. Publication of my work began in 1994 . I'm pleased to have recently settled with Oghma Creative Media as my publisher. My brand is SexyDarkGritty and that applies to my western historical romances, mysteries, women's fiction and horror novels. I recently signed a contract to write westerns again, and what fun it's been working on the first one. If I weren't writing my life wouldn't be so exciting.
This entry was posted in agents, fiction writer, networking, nonfiction, Penguin, publishing, Topaz, Uncategorized, Velda Brotherton, writing career. Bookmark the permalink.

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