1. Read: a lot, and as widely as you can.
2. Join: a critique group that takes writing seriously and approaches the critiquing professionally.
3. Network. It’s not natural, but it’s important. Join online groups, meet other writers where and when you can, overcome your shyness. Exercise politeness and respect while doing this. Make friends, share the journey. Give back where you can.
- Australian Horror Writers Association
- The Australian Science Fiction Bullsheet
- Voyager Online
- Queensland Writers Centre
- Continuum, Melbourne
- Swancon, Perth
- Aussiecon4, Melbourne, 2010
- Conflux, Canberra
- Brisbane Writers Festival
4. Polish your skills. The more you write, the better you get. Do workshops, expose your writing to productive, constructive criticism. Read books on the craft. Stephen King’s On Writing is a brilliant starting point. USE a dictionary. Learn grammar. Don’t be afraid to edit. Get to the end!
- Vision writers group
- Qld Writers Centre: workshops, year of the novel and year of the edit
- Clarion South, Brisbane
5. Put your work out there. Enter competitions. Submit to magazines. Work up a CV of articles and short fiction to show you’re interested and part of the wider community.
- Varuna manuscript development awards
- Qld Writers Centre/Hachette manuscript assessment program
- Australian short-fiction markets at Inkspillers
6. Enjoy it. This might be all there is.
Approaching an agent or publisher
Usually, these days, the agent will come first, but you might get lucky thanks to all that networking you’ve been doing and snare a contract without having gone through an agent.
- Use a resource such as the Australian Writers Marketplace to find agents and publishers most suited to your genre.
- Check who publishes and represents similar authors.
- Be wary of anyone wanting money up front.
- Consider self-publishing carefully – it’s particularly useful for niche genres, and can work if you’ve got the nous.
- Read Ian Irvine’s superb analysis of the book game, The Truth About Publishing.
- Subscribe to Google Alerts to keep a track of where your books and stories are being talked about, and perhaps try to join in the discussion.
- Social networks like MySpace, a blog and a website are very handy ways of fostering a community around your writing, and interacting with readers and other writers.
- Try to attend conventions as a panellist; seek out opportunities for readings and appearances, media interviews, anything that will help spread the word to both targeted and wide readerships, as befits your story/ies.