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I’ve been working on three novels for the past several years, and one of them is nearing completion. I can’t be more specific because I’m submitting it to several writing contests, so I’ll just tell you some of my experiences in trying to get fiction published.

WRITING A NOVEL. First, you need a good story idea, You might want to discuss it with a family member or friend, but realize that they will probably be very encouraging even if they don’t understand or like it. You can trust your intuition to a large degree. Then you have to decide if you’re a “plotter” or a “panster.” A plotter outlines (plots) the novel before starting. A pantser (seat of the pants) has a basic idea and perhaps a few milestones for the trip,  and s/he just starts writing .

For example, let’s assume you want to write a romance (like I did). A pantser might think as follows. Mary meets Harry on an ocean cruise. Harry is handsome and a great conversationalist. They spend a lot of time together on the trip and she falls for him. But after they get home, he doesn’t show up often until something (which you haven’t figured out yet) happens and they pick up their budding romance again. Then Harry asks for something important and valuable (which you haven’t figured out yet) and Mary agrees. This leads to a series of (as yet undefined) problems. Finally, Mary discovers something bad about Harry and/or his request. Let’s assume you’re not sure where the story is going after this point. So what do you do? You just start writing! Ideas will come as the writing progresses—forget about writer’s block. I never had it (yet!!).

A plotter would list some details about what they did on the cruise, and perhaps outline Mary’s and Harry’s character traits. S/he would list one or more possibilities for Harry’s request, for the ensuing problems, and for Mary’s discovery. S/he probably would outline the rest of the story. Ideally, after re-thinking her/his outline, the number of choices might be reduced (or perhaps it could even be increased.)

In summary, the pantser plants a seed and watches it grow, whereas a plotter knows almost exactly what the plant and its flowers will look like before it starts growing. Of course, you might start your novel as a pantser and decide to change to a plotter during the course of writing—or vice versa. Another thing: you don’t have to write an epic tome.  A nice, little, short story (ten, twenty pages—whatever you want) will be just fine.

There is much more to learn about writing, and many books and videos are available on this subject. You’ll learn about “hooking” the reader early, character development, point of view, getting into the reader’s head, “SHOW don’t tell,” backstory, unnecessary verbiage, and a host of other topics.

WRITING CONFERENCES. I’ve been to three or four conferences. You learn a lot about how to write at them, but even more important is the people—including fellow authors, text and developmental editors, literary agents, publishers (often, via their acquisition editors), and others—whom you’ll meet there. If you go to one of these with a manuscript that hasn’t been professionally edited, you’ll probably come home shaking in your boots (I did, the first time) when you find out how much you need to do to get it ready for submission to an agent or publisher. That’s normal, and how you react will determine how serious you are about writing. If you love to write, my advice is to press on with it. GOOD LUCK!