Mary Vine’s Writing Tips

01 Mar

First of all, believe you can write. Don’t let anyone’s opinion convince you otherwise. Poor contest scores or bad critiques can make you think about ending your writing career before it even gets started. My worst critique was done by a woman who said I had so many errors that she didn’t have the time or energy to critique more than a chapter, let alone a complete manuscript. Thankfully, I thought this was a rather outlandish thing to say to someone, sloughed it off and kept trying. It is a well-known fact that if you continue to write you get better. My writing improved and my manuscript went on to sell. Not everyone is going to like your writing, it is really all subjective; people don’t all like the same type of story.

What should I write about? Don’t worry about writing the type of story that is selling right now as something else may be in vogue when you finish. Instead, write the kind of book you love to read and add what you know or are interested in learning. Further, stretch your horizons. I thought I could only write fiction, but then found I could also write an article on something I knew about, and sold to a magazine, twice, before I sold a book.

Don’t wait for the perfect time to write; it will never come. I used to write on summer breaks from work, believing I could only write when I felt relaxed and stress free. Forget it. No one is ever stress free, so start writing. For example, I work with high school students and though I have many good days, today was not one of them, yet here I am at home this evening working on a blog.

Plan a time to write. Should I write on the weekend, after a busy week at work? Not necessarily. I discovered that if I wrote at least an hour after work each day, I had five hours of typing in and still had the weekend to spend with my family. If I had additional writing time on the weekend all the better, but if not I still felt like I’d gotten something written for the week and it was relatively easy to do.

Get your website started now-before you are published. I knew almost nothing about websites before my first book was published. With working full time, I focused on writing and thought I could worry about a website later. If you get your website started and learn how to get traffic coming through, this can be helpful information to include in your query and you’ll be able to focus on promoting your book when it is released.

Where do I send my work? Use a book like Jeff Herman’s Guide to Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents, to find out who is looking for manuscripts similar to yours, plus find out what their  hobbies or interests are. I happened to find a publisher that enjoyed stories about ranches, cowboys, and the gold mining history that I’d written about. Her interest helped me land the deal.

Don’t limit submissions. Shop your manuscript around, and don’t just submit to the big publishing companies. In this day and age of economic difficulties, the midlist is vanishing. Publishers have been sticking with big name authors who have proven to be money makers. If you can’t make a large house notice you, go for a smaller one. You’ll have an eBook or paperback you can hold in your hand, as well as writing credits an agent or larger company will take notice of.

Don’t be thinking you can quit your day job to write. Nora Roberts and Dean Koontz may have quit their day jobs, but Mary Vine can’t-yet. I know a writer who received $60,000 for a two book deal. That money may get one through a year, or two if you’re lucky, but you can’t count on a third sale coming when you need it. I’ve learned to write while I work and you can, too.

My best writing help didn’t come from a how-to book. Although I did learn about time management for the writer from a how-to book, my biggest help in making a sale came from joining a writers group. The value of a critique partner is considerable in getting your manuscript ready to submit. Believe it or not, you are too close to your work to see all the flaws, but a fellow writer can help spot them for you.

Keep reading. Reading is the way I learned how others put the words on the page, and gave me the desire to write. By continuing to read, my brain learned the process of weaving information, or details, into a book. One of the most important things to do is to keep reading; the more you read, the more you will learn how to write.


Posted by on March 1, 2012 in Idaho


20 responses to “Mary Vine’s Writing Tips

  1. johannaharness

    March 1, 2012 at 5:54 AM

    Great advice, Mary. Thank you!

  2. Janis McCurry

    March 1, 2012 at 7:16 AM

    Mary, you’ve put a lot of writers’ fears to rest with these tips. I knew a beginning writer who received a devastating (to her) critique and quit the writing group, probably quit writing. It didn’t matter that I tried to convince her otherwise.

    • Mary Vine

      March 1, 2012 at 1:02 PM

      Good for you, Janis, for trying to convince the gal to keep on writing. I’m certainly glad I had some encouragement when I first started.

  3. Peggy Staggs

    March 1, 2012 at 8:02 AM

    These are things we should all remember and take note of. Keep reading is so important.

    • Mary Vine

      March 1, 2012 at 12:56 PM

      I thought I could never not read, but I’ve found this past year or so that I get so busy I don’t have time. So, I need this reminder myself.

  4. Meredith Conner

    March 1, 2012 at 10:24 AM

    Love this list Mary!!! Each and every one is so true and valuable to a writer!! Thanks for sharing this.

    • Mary Vine

      March 1, 2012 at 12:53 PM

      Thanks for the praise, Meredith. I hope it helps someone.

  5. florence fois

    March 1, 2012 at 2:39 PM

    Mary, it is for posts like this that I come to GSW every day. It is one of my first stops. Today, as you mentioned, stress and other responsibilities took me out until late. But here I am. Thanks so much. Learning to believe in ourselves is very difficult. With the support of other writers, and doing the work every day … PLUS the most important … reading as much as we can … these are what teaches us and gives us the confidence to keep at it. I’m glad you mentioned Nora Roberts. It’s easy to look at her career 27 years after her first book and say … Wow if only … but she put in her time, has a powerful work ethic and when her boys were young wrote while they were in school or sleeping. Each successful writer has a story and none of them began at the top. What they all have in common is determination. Coming home in no mood, I feel like I can face the blank screen and get some real work done 🙂

    • Mary Vine

      March 1, 2012 at 6:00 PM

      Yep, Florence, determination. It reminds me of a quote I like:
      “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” Thomas Alva Edison
      Thanks for the compliment!

  6. Marsha R. West

    March 1, 2012 at 3:53 PM

    Great encouragement, Mary. Boy, do we all need to hear what you had to say. The first point: to believe in ourselves is so important. If we don’t bleive in our writing, why should anyone else? That doesn’t mean we don’t recognize our need to grow, but bottom line we have to like what we’re doing and see we’re getting better and better with each book. Thanks for the post.

    • Mary Vine

      March 1, 2012 at 6:10 PM

      Hello, Marsha. I think you have a point there. I believe that in my early writing years, my desire for telling my story overcame my fears of failure and kept me going. It’s like young love, but unfortunetely the excitement wanes and it requires more effort than joy.

  7. Lynn Mapp

    March 1, 2012 at 4:02 PM

    Mary, no one is harder on us than us. The battering we give ourselves is horrible. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

  8. Mary Vine

    March 1, 2012 at 6:11 PM

    Thanks for commenting Lynn, and you’re welcome!

  9. Liz Fredericks

    March 2, 2012 at 11:04 AM

    Mary, you’ve really given all of us some inspiration today! Thank you –

    • Mary Vine

      March 3, 2012 at 4:09 PM

      I’m glad I can pass on a little inspiration. Thanks for commenting, Liz.

  10. Clarissa Southwick

    March 2, 2012 at 4:36 PM

    Great advice, Mary! I wish I’d had this list when I started out 🙂

    • Mary Vine

      March 3, 2012 at 4:11 PM

      I wish I had this advice earlier on, too! Instead of learning the hard way 🙂

  11. Betsy Love

    March 3, 2012 at 2:23 PM

    Great writing advice. Just what I needed to hear today. Was feeling full of self-doubt this week. I shared on my FB wall!

  12. Mary Vine

    March 3, 2012 at 4:12 PM

    So glad I wrote something you needed to hear! Keep writing, Betsy!Thanks so much for sharing on FB.


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