If only the writing life came with a decoder ring…

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Which POV do you prefer? Do you use more than one POV character? You don’t head-hop, do you? If you’re writing a series, does your character arc span each book or the entire timeline? What about prologues? Do you like chapter cliffhangers? Do you use crit partners? How about beta readers? And when you find your dream agent on #MSWL, do you make sure your query is tailored to them, and match your MS formatting to meet their guidelines? Do you use comps?

Ovaltine decoder ring
Ovaltine decoder ring

The writing world should come with a translator for newbies, shouldn’t it? Same with most industries, I suppose, but since our work is generally solo, it’s a slog to figure out the cryptic terms.

During my 2018 campaign adventure, I ran into the same issue. So many ideas/terms/procedures are taken for granted by those who have been on the inside for any length of time. As a newcomer to that level of political activity, I floundered mightily for far too long, and probably to the detriment of my campaign. Fortunately, two other candidates who had at least marginally more experience than I did – and who had floundered in their own right for several months, thanks to the lack of party assistance – took me on as a part of their team(s). We made our way through the remaining months together, learning as we went.

As for the writing life, I’ve seen some folks on social media get downright snarky when a new writer gets confused, or asks “silly” questions, but how else are they going to learn? Even most books on writing assume a certain knowledge base. It’s tough to get the truly basic stuff we all need to succeed without a trail guide or mentor.

Classes and workshops are great, if you can afford them (and don’t get me started on the “need to invest in your career and spend the money!” set – I don’t know about the rest of you, but I can’t spend what I don’t have). Books, of course, but which one? Have you looked at the shelf after shelf of how-to writing books at Barnes & Noble, or Google the term? Good luck with that!

Fortunately, there are good social media sites – if you can find them (see caveat re: books!) where newbies can ask questions and support each other. I highly recommend Katherine Grubb’s 10 Minute Novelists website (twice recognized by Writer’s Digest in their 101 Top Websites list) and on Facebook (especially active and helpful) and on Twitter.

How long did it take you to decipher the mysteries of the writing world? What resources made the trip easier for you?

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