Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Two Secrets to Getting Published

by Julie Coulter Bellon

I often get asked what is the secret to getting published. Today I am going to share two of them with you. (I’m sure there’s more, but these are my pet secrets today.)

The first thing every aspiring author should do is to read. Now, don’t turn away because it’s such a simple answer. It’s true. You need to read a lot of books so you can get a feel for words, for plots, and for how it’s done. When you read you see the balance between dialogue and setting. You see how characters are fleshed out and how plots are paced. You start to get an innate sense of how to make a story flow.

But, “I don’t have time to read,” is the standard response. To be frank, that is a choice you make. If you want to be a good writer, it is important to be a good reader. I recently had the privilege of listening to Julie B. Beck (the LDS General Relief Society Board president) and during her Q & A session after her remarks, I asked her if she found time for recreational reading, and if so, what books were on her nightstand. She smiled and said she loved recreational reading. She had described her incredibly busy schedule earlier in the evening, and how she’d been going through a stressful time, yet she took ten minutes before bed every night for recreational reading. She was currently reading an English humor book because she needed to laugh, but she also enjoyed classics like Jane Austen, as well as biographies. (She specifically mentioned Harry S. Truman’s biography). She continued with, “sometimes I read the same paragraph over and over, because I’m tired,” but, even so, she loves to read and makes time for it. Now, if one of the busiest women I’ve ever met can find time to read, I think you can, too. Put a book in your purse for when you’re at an appointment (of course, real men will carry a man-purse so that applies.) Put a book in your car for when you’re waiting for carpool. Listen to a book on CD. Put one in the bathroom. Make reading a priority.

The second secret is to attend a writer’s conference. This doesn’t have to be a huge expense, especially if you live in Utah. For example, there will be a free conference in Ephraim, Utah at the Ephraim City building on April 9th, featuring several well-known authors who will teach classes and do a Q & A afterward. Some of the classes include self-editing, the publication process, becoming an idea factory, find time to write and much more and include such authors as Julie Coulter Bellon (surprise!), Tristi Pinkston, Rebecca Talley, Cheri Chesley, Abel Keogh, and Michael Knudsen to name a few.

If you want more advanced classes and the chance to rub shoulders with national agents and editors you have the LDStorymaker conference, which will be held in May 6-7 this year at the Sheraton Hotel in Salt Lake City. The keynote speaker will be Larry Brooks and they have three national agents as well as several local editors. Classes are top-notch and include advanced writing classes as well as beginning tracks. It is a great conference for any writer.

Of course there are many more conferences across the country and state that are well worth your time and can really help you hone your writing skills. You just have to look. Or follow authors on Facebook or Twitter. Industry people talk and usually have great recommendations for new authors.

Everyone can give different advice as to what the best course of action for a budding author is, but, in addition to being a reader and attending classes at conferences, the most important thing of all is to write. Write a little something day after day until your novel is finished. There is no better education than that. Then, when you do attend classes, you will have an edge because you can say to yourself---I’ve done it. I'm a writer and I’m here to be a better writer. It will be a little easier after that to keep yourself motivated and, as long as you stay committed, you will do exactly what you set out to do. Become a published writer.


At 2/03/2011 4:40 PM, Blogger Sarah M Eden said...

Excellent advice, Julie. I agree 100%!!

At 2/03/2011 8:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So. What do you think about writer's groups or, better phrased, critique groups?

At 2/03/2011 10:01 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Anon, shhh, we can't give away all the secrets at once. ;)

At 2/03/2011 10:02 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Thanks, Sarah! :)

At 2/04/2011 10:18 AM, Blogger Melanie Goldmund said...

I think that's one of the weirdest things I've ever had to learn in this life: that there are people who do not live for books. There are people out there who don't read unless somebody tells them to -- and even then they squirm and try to get away as fast as they can. There are people out there who think that ten minutes of reading a day is a lot -- more than enough!

Blows my mind. Every time. I keep thinking they just haven't met the right book. I keep trying to introduce them, but my sons just squirm and run away as fast as they can. *sigh*

But we'll all be perfect once we're ressurrected, right?

*hopeful look*

At 2/04/2011 3:07 PM, Blogger Rebecca Talley said...

My husband recently asked if we should install bookcases in the bathroom. :)

I have piles of books in lots of places and carry one in my purse.

Great advice, Julie.

At 2/04/2011 4:09 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

I'm sort of iffy on the writer's conference tip. They're kind of nice in a social sort of way - seems like a lot of writers are hermits - so it's nice to be able to mingle. It might give you a little self-confidence, too. "Hey, if that guy can publish a book, so can I!" But, then you go the other direction and have authors who say they wrote 13 novels before getting one published. (sigh)

I absolutely recommend going to at least one conference. I'm just not sure how much impact it has on getting published. Maybe I would feel differently about them if I went while having a manuscript completed.

At 2/04/2011 4:27 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Jon, the thing about writer's conferences is that if there are national agents present, you can pitch to them, get face time with them, but more often than not, they will let you submit to them with the conference name in the subject line and it gets you out of their slush pile. You also take classes that can really help your writing, do a bootcamp or first chapter contest that will get you professional feedback on your writing, as well as the social aspect of it. There is so much that can be accomplished at a writer's conference, I couldn't not recommend it.

Melanie, I have a son who doesn't like to read much and would rather be outside. I'm like you, looking for a magazine article, sports biography, any sort of story that will get him reading as much as possible. It's almost like a game now. :)

At 2/04/2011 4:28 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Thanks, Rebecca! You'll have to tell me if you really do install shelves in the bathroom. LOL

At 2/07/2011 8:47 AM, Blogger Timothy said...

Congratulations, Julie, on your two secrets. I think they are helpful and have written two blog posts that credit and link back to your work and then add some of the ways in which your secrets are helpful.

Today's post:

Tomorrow's post:

At 2/07/2011 10:10 AM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Tim, thanks for the link back. I really enjoyed reading your article! You made some great points of your own.

At 2/07/2011 5:53 PM, Blogger Lisa said...

I don't comment frequently but I had to give you a Shout Out about the reading being essential. BUt it has to be tuned in reading where you are carefully watching for the shifts in POV so that I can master that seamlessly as well. I really appreciate the advice. I know reading is absolutely improving my writing. Thanks so much!


Post a Comment

<< Home