Professional Development for Fiction Writers
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Professional Development for Fiction Writers

Becoming a successful fiction writer involves more than just writing. Each person who aspires to become a published fiction author must divide their time between writing and professional development. This article explains why professional development is vital to a fiction writer’s quest for publication. It also advises writers about things they can do to enhance their existing knowledge of fiction writing and how successful writers have used these strategies to further their writing careers.

Becoming a successful fiction writer is not all about writing

It is important for every fiction writer to not only write but also to acquire expert knowledge about their craft. This knowledge should be about writing techniques and about the industry you wish to be part of – the Publishing Industry.

It isn’t enough to just be able to write. If you are serious about getting published, you need to know some very important things These are just a few:

  • how to correctly present your manuscript
  • acceptable book structure for a fiction book in your target genre
  • use of correct writing techniques applicable to your project
  • how to edit your own work
  • proof reading techniques
  • how to write a marketing-style synopsis of your story
  • how to approach a publisher with a query letter
  • how to put together a book proposal to send to a publisher
  • how to handle rejection if your project doesn’t make it to publication

If a writer has any doubt about any of these issues, it is wise not to consider submission to a publisher until they have ticked all these boxes.

I have met a lot of writers during my long career and one thing stands out. Those who achieve success are patient, prepared to work through many submissions until they become published. They put time aside for professional development and to gain a good understanding of the publishing industry. Without this mindset, writers might not be able to progress to publication, at least not in the short term.

How to apportion your time as a writer

Writing is a time intensive pursuit. Most writers who hold down a full or part-time job and have a family to support struggle to find sufficient time to get anywhere fast with a part-time writing career. To this end, each writer needs to:

  • assess how much time per day/week can be devoted to actual writing
  • decide how much time per day/week is available for study of writing techniques

Working on a major fiction writing project has challenges that conflict with day-to-day commitments, family responsibilities and other distractions. Therefore, effective time management is a must if a writer is to progress towards publication success. Gain the support of family members so there is enough time in your busy lifestyle to devote to your writing pursuits.

Studying writing techniques

Becoming a technically adept fiction writer doesn’t happen quickly. There are so many techniques to master, not to mention how to properly punctuate your work. Don’t be in too much of a hurry. It takes time to learn all you need to know to be able to interact with a publishing editor and know what they are talking about. This is why professional development is such an important part of a writer’s career path.

There are many excellent books available to teach writers all they need to know. My own collection is extensive and I spend time re-studying them because there is always something to revise and something new to learn about fiction writing. You can also find many excellent books about writing at your local library.

Attend writing events

I gained a huge amount of industry knowledge by attending writers’ Conferences, Seminars, writing events and book launches. Through this involvement, I met many highly successful published authors. I soon realised that a lot of big-name authors were only too willing to share their knowledge and discuss various topics of interest to aspiring writers.

Not every writer lives near a major city, nor do they have the means to travel to the important events. But, wherever you live, you can always acquire books to study or look on the Internet for information that pertains to what you are writing and who else is writing what.

I recommend that all writers try to get to one event every year. In Australia, most of the national writers’ organisations now do road shows to some states, and each capital city has a Writers’ Centre that promotes writing events. There are also Writers’ Festivals in major cities. If you can’t do this because of distance or cost, consider joining a local or on-line writing group.

Book launches are another way to rub shoulders with the writing fraternity. I have met and chatted with many international authors at these events. My favourite to meet was Nicholas Evans (The Horse Whisperer). He was charming and humble despite his huge success.

Most published authors have a website and you can become a subscriber to their regular newsletters. This is an excellent way to stay in touch with what is being published and by which publishers.

Local or on-line writing group

Being part of a writing group can be beneficial to a beginning or intermediate level writer. These can be a local or on-line group. Having like minded people critique your early writing efforts and offer constructive criticism is indeed useful. There are pros and cons to being in a writers’ group and this is a whole topic in itself.

Ultimately, each writer needs to take ownership of their writing career. As technical writing ability grows, each writer should know whether their own writing is up to par and ready to be submitted to a publisher.

Submitting to a publisher

Many aspiring writers dash off a novel, do a quick edit and think it is ready to be shown to the editor of a publishing company. Wrong! A book that will make it into editorial development with a publisher must be professionally presented which includes a huge amount of editing to bring it up to publishable standard. If a writer can’t do this for themselves, it is wise to have a professional editor do the work for you. This, of course, comes at considerable cost. Each writer must gauge whether it is viable in terms of their desire to become a published author. Another way to judge whether your book is ready to be presented to the market is to have a manuscript assessment performed on your work. This also attracts a fee, but it is better to know before submission whether your book is worthy of being viewed by an editor. Of course, any manuscript is only as good as the person doing the job. Be sure you obtain



Never top writing … never stop acquiring knowledge …

Start planning your Professional Development now!


Personal knowledge and experience

An excerpt from my book Being a Successful Fiction Writer – from the chapter “Professional Development”

© 2012 – Susan Jane

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Comments (3)

Thanks for the valuable advice dear.

Excellent tips for all writers.

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