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  • Q&A 1 for New or Aspiring Writers

    2007 - 02.22

    Cross-posted from MySpace:

    Do you have to get a copyright on your stories before you send the manuscripts to publishing companies to review?

    A writer’s work is considered copyrighted as soon as it is written. You don’t have to file for added protection before sending a story or novel out into the world to be sold (and putting a copyright statement on your manuscript brands you as a NON-professional, so beware).

    How did you got started on your writing career?

    Since I was a teenager, I dabbled in fiction, but never finished anything unless it was for a school assignment. My first published writing was nonfiction. I wrote math and management workbooks for the army while working for Big Bend Community College. After that, I became a technical writer for a national lab. It wasn’t until after I met author Kevin J Anderson — five years my junior — that I finally realized that no one just “gives” you the time to write. I had to “take” the time. Both Kevin and author Janet Kagan pointed out a key to writing success that had not occurred to me: unfinished stories don’t get published. I went home and finished a story, and the rest is history. Since then, I’ve written or co-written more than 30 books and a handful of short stories.

    What college courses would you suggest for someone who wants to write for a living?

    First, let me give you a warning, for what it’s worth. Just taking college English/Writing courses will not make you a writer.

    Personal Anecdote: I took creative writing in college from a professor who savaged everything I wrote. I had wanted to be a writer since I was a teenager, and I thought, “I’m a pretty decent writer. My father’s an English teacher, so I’ve always known how to string together coherent sentences, and isn’t that what writing’s all about?” (FYI there’s a lot more to writing than that, but it’s the subject of another blog.) Unfortunately, everything I did was wrong from this writing prof’s point of view. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I was crushed. Every time a student in the class wrote something that I thought just kicked butt — so good everybody in the class was saying “Wow!” — the teacher ripped it to shreds.

    After about ten years of no writing whatsoever, I realized something about the professor: his publishing experience consisted of a single chapbook of poetry — a couple hundred copies. Other than taking writing classes in college (which I also did), that was the sum total of his literary “authority.” Yet he had essentially mired me in doubt by convincing me that I was a terrible writer. Kevin has a completely different caveat about college writing professors. Ask him about it. Some profs are wonderful, while others can actually be stumbling blocks to you in your pursuit of a writing career. (Note: If you are a professor and are reading this, you’re probably not the latter type.)

    So what should you take? Since writers are frequently advised, “Write what you know,” I suggest taking a wide variety of subjects that you can use as fodder for stories. History can be particularly helpful, since it is full of potential story plots. Kevin took Astronomy and Russian History. I took lots of literature, languages, and music. I also have an M.S. in Business Administration, which I’ve always found useful in running our writing business.

    Until next time.



    *This multipurpose Italian salutation is used in an advised, tongue-in-cheek manner and in no way implies a corresponding chicness, shallowness, or worldliness on the part of the author. (Additional pejoratives may apply. Void where prohibited by law. Ask your physician if Ciao is right for you.)

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