Mark Woods is an aspiring author and a full-time Chef just starting on his writing career. He has several short stories published or forthcoming and is working on his first full length novel. You can connect with him on his Facebook Author Page, follow his Blog and check out all his collected fiction on his Amazon page.
My name is Mark Woods.
You probably won’t recognise that name but that’s fine because I, like many of you probably reading this today, am a fledgling author still trying to make my name. So far, I have had three short stories published in various anthologies with three more shorts due out by the end of the year.
But I am not here to just shamelessly plug my own work! No, I wanted to share with you my story of my first year of writing and hopefully pass on a few useful hints and words of advice that I have learnt along my way.
I always wanted to be a writer and it was always a dream of mine but until a fellow author, who has since gone on to become a trusted friend, gave me the kick up the butt I needed, I never did anything with my writing. It is only because of her that I have now seen my name in print and continue to work on my first full novel to be hopefully released next year.
And so, my first bit of advice that I give to any aspiring author out there is to be dedicated to what you do. If you want to be a successful writer, the first thing you need to do is write!
People generally say that you should try and write each and every day. That is not always possible especially if you live a busy life-style. What you should do though is establish a routine whereby you write every other day or make space on one day in particular every week that you dedicate solely to writing. And even if you don’t feel in the mood, one thing that is important is that you STILL write. Even if what you get down is no good, it at least gives you something to work on – a base on which to lay the foundations for building a much better story.
Another useful piece of advice I have been given is to always carry a pen and paper/notepad around with you. That way you will always be able to jot down any little thing that helps provide inspiration before you have a chance to forget it. And also, you will be able to work on your story wherever you go whenever you get five minutes to yourself. If you are standing there waiting for a bus, get out your notepad and start jotting things down while you wait. If you have a notepad and pen with you, you could even write sitting on the toilet if you like!
My writing career really started this year almost by happy accident; though there is also a small part of me that wonders if it was by design. The fickle hand of Fate or something, or maybe that’s just the writer in me! I was on the forums of a site called Goodreads when I spotted a post by an author looking for reviews for her Zombie series in exchange for free copies of her E-books. This is a popular practice on Goodreads for new authors and there is even a thread dedicated solely to connecting authors and readers together.
I had written a few reviews before and so decided to contact the author. Over the course of a few months, I wrote her several reviews – not all of them entirely favourable but she respected that because she appreciated my honesty. In point of fact, she even rewrote portions of two of her books because of reviews I had written. This in turn helped her get a publishing deal with Severed Press. This authors name was Catt Dahman.
Catt and her Editor REALLY liked my reviews. So much so that they wanted to quote them on the back covers of her books. And it was Catt who persuaded me to start writing because, as she said, “I had a way with words.” What she didn’t know was that I had been toying with writing for several years and had a multitude of unfinished manuscripts and half-hearted attempts at short stories sitting on my computer. With her words of encouragement, I decided to properly give my writing a serious go and contributed a short story to the charity anthology, The Tall Book of Zombie Shorts that helped raise money for the Walking Wounded charity in America for veteran soldiers. I almost cried when I saw my first ever short story had been accepted and this persuaded me to carry on writing. If I had been published once, I could be published again!
When Catt Dahman formed her own Press, J.Ellington Ashton, earlier this year along with fellow author, T.L.Decay, they asked me to come along and work on Editing because I “had an eye” for good writing. I was only too happy to oblige and have since helped several authors bring their works to print. But they also helped me publish my own short fiction in two of their anthologies with three more due to come out in future releases in upcoming months. In many ways I appreciate I was lucky, just in the right place at the right time, but this kind of shows that if you work hard enough at something it can pay results. Writing reviews showed people what I could do and demonstrated my flair for words.
And that would be my next piece of advice to any aspiring authors out there. Don’t be afraid to connect with people! Goodreads, despite some faults, is a good way of connecting not just with fellow authors but also with fans. One of the first steps to becoming a successful author is to develop a fan-base and the best way to do that is to market yourself NOT your work. Put yourself out there, get people reading your work and listen to any advice that you are given. If you make yourself accessible, people will respect that and it is a good way of getting yourself noticed. And there are lots of other authors on the site who are all in the same boat as you in trying to make their name, so it is also a good way to discover that you are not alone!
And again, I cannot emphasis this enough, WRITE!! Start a Blog and write about your life, write about things that interest you or current affairs you have an opinion on then link it to your Facebook or Social Media pages. Go to a site such as Textbroker or Dooyoo and write articles or reviews so you that can practice your writing and maybe make a few pennies into the bargain. It doesn’t matter what you do, so long as you write. Because the more you write, the better your writing will become and people WILL notice you! It all helps, trust me.
Finally, believe in yourself!
If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else is going to! When you have a finished story or a novel and you send it to a potential Publisher, don’t be surprised if it gets rejected. Several times. But don’t give up. Ask them for any advice how you could improve or hone your story and take their advice and re-submit either to them or to someone else but DON’T GIVE UP! It may sound as though I have had fortune fall into my lap this year but I have had my fair share of rejections when I have tried submitting stories to other Presses.
But all it takes is one. One Press to go ‘yes, we like that. We like that a lot,’ and then you will have started on the first step towards a real writing career! And the only way that is ever going to happen is if you keep trying, trying, trying until you succeed!