Wednesday, November 28, 2007


The Usefulness of Writers' Guides

By Del Sandeen

I was recently at a Writers forum and someone asked, "How useful are writers' guides?"

I think this is a common concern for writers, especially those new to the business end of the craft. And it can be confusing because there are so many guides out there, all trying to help you get published.

The thing is, there's conflicting information in them because they're written by people who advise you on what worked best for them. Method A may be perfect for Susie Author, but it might be terrible for Bill Writer. Just as each of us is an individual with different tastes and routines, each of us writes a different way.

I often read that a writer should write every single day, whether she feels like it or not. Then, I read a snippet that a bestselling author only writes when the muse strikes him. So who do you listen to?

When I responded to that forum question, I said that all guides have useful information in them, but it's up to the reader to go carefully through that information and then take what's useful and leave the rest. Otherwise, you'll always wonder if you're doing the right thing. The right thing is what works for you.

Still, writers' guides are extremely helpful sources about what it takes not only to get published, but also what it takes to not give up even after you've received your one hundredth rejection. Writing isn't just about sitting down and writing. It's also about sticking with it, waiting (lots of waiting!), and believing that you'll reach your ultimate goal.

Because there are so many different guides, getting a recommendation for one from someone whose opinion you trust is always a good idea. Many guides are geared toward a certain type of writing, so choose the ones which best suit your niche. For instance, books about writing for children will differ from books about writing romance novels. However, the part about getting published will probably be remarkably similar in both.

I've gotten some great advice from writers' guides, but I've also known what wouldn't work for me. Recognizing what's disposable information for you may take some practice, but trust your instincts and use what makes sense to you and your particular style. Guides can be wonderful sources of knowledge and advice for writers--it's all in how you use them.

Del Sandeen

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