Friday, March 2, 2012

Paying It Forward

When I began my first novel, I was as clueless as they come about the world of writing and publishing. I had a relatively good grasp of grammar and punctuation, all the rules I’d learned in freshman English 101. But what I know about writing—the truly useful information—I learned along the way. My education came in many forms—critique partners, editors, readers and, occasionally, self-appointed critics.
As I prepare for the publication of my eleventh novel (WAKE-UP CALL), I am amazed at how my writing has changed, as well as by how much knowledge I’ve gained about the world of publishing. I owe much to many for that knowledge. Several more experienced authors have graciously (and patiently) helped me to hone my writing and taught me some of the finer points of the trade. Skilled editors have guided me in ways that strengthen my own skills.

It’s always nice to name names in the acknowledgements of your book. The best thanks we can give to those who have helped us along the way is to offer a hand to those coming after us. To pay it forward, if you will. I think this is true whether you are an author, a lawyer, or an office assistant. The greatest compliment we can give to those who have mentored or helped us along the way is to do the same for others. I recently offered a series of informal workshops on getting published for writers preparing their first submissions. I don’t pretend to be an expert on publishing, but I am pretty much the expert on my own experience, and that is what I shared. And I tell, I got as much out of those discussions as I believe the attendees did.

I know I’m not the only one who pays it forward. Here at Champagne Books we have a multitude of authors who are always willing and engaged in mentoring and in helping one another with marketing. Our own Carol McPhee was one of the first authors to mentor me and guide me through an online critique group I started without having a clue what should happen there. She also greatly influenced my cross-over from writing women’s fiction to also writing romance by sharing her expertise on the finer points of romance writing.

Who are the people in your writing career who have given you a hand up and a gentle nudge forward? For whom have you done the same? If you’re still a newbie, think about how you—with possibly limited experience—can lend a hand to someone even greener than yourself. And if you’re not a writer, consider doing this from within your career choice. Thank the person who gave you the help, but compliment them by paying it forward.

Linda Rettstatt
Author of WAKE-UP CALL - coming March 5 from Champange Books


Anonymous said...

That's one of the great things about writers; 98% believe in sharing everything, holding back nothing, in the hold of easing the course followed by the next layer of newbies.

Michael Davis (
Author of the year (2008 & 2009)

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Writers are remarkabley generous with their time and advice. I still belong to a friendly but focused critique group.

Robert Walker gave me a lot of advice and a baptism by fire. Painful but reinforcing. Dean Koontz helped him, and so it goes.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Lovely post, Linda. I've belonged to a wonderful writing group for many years. I started as a complete newbie, but now I'm one of the judges of short story competitions and I adore trying to help other writers get published.

Helen Henderson said...

I agree with Julie about the generosity of authors. Like Linda, I can blame Carol McPhee for where my writing is. Thanks to her, the romance that lurked in my fantasies now holds its own with adventure and fast-paced action.

Although relatively new to the fiction world (Windmaster's release in summer 2011 is being followed by Dragon Destiny and Windmaster Legacy in summer 2012,) I've used my years of non-fiction experience to 'pass it along.'

One of my more memorable experiences pertaining to 'paying it forward' was when a young author submitted something to a critique group who ripped it to shreds. I went over it, shifting a few things around, pointing where a tad more description was needed and returned it. The boy's mother wrote to thank me. She said her son was now excited about writing and she couldn't be happier. The main comment was that her son recognized his own words. And after he went with the suggestions, the piece was later published in an ezine.

Join the path and 'pass it along.'

Helen Henderson

Windmaster--Revenge set Ellspeth and the archmage, Dal, on the path to her destiny, but prophecy controlled the journey.

January Bain said...

Linda, I have truly been blessed with the wonderful community of writers I have found here on The Writers Vineyard and at Champagne Books. Thank you one and all!

Carol McPhee said...

Thanks Linda and Helen for your kind words. It always inspires me to help writers develop their skills and I appreciate what they love to do.

Deborah Hale, a multi-published author with Harlequin helped me along the way.

Jude Johnson said...

I, too, was blessed with a number of mentors as I have moved along. Four other local authors --including Champagne's Carol Costa--and I banded together a few years ago to have group signings. We also hold writing seminars for beginners, and with five authors sharing their experiences our attendees get a wealth of information. Plus it's true: you always learn more when you teach.