My personal advice to budding writers is not simply . . . WRITE! but dang near it.
Like all writers and novelists, I followed a myriad of roads to be where I am today. I can see that many of my roads were constructed of circumstances. Yet, the gritty asphalt of the highway leading to the inkwells of corporate writer, humor columnist, scribe, and author was built from pure tenacity.
Writing in the library, the car, in bed, on the toilet . . .
I’ve always written. In school, I loved nothing more than getting essay questions. I’d fill up the page and write on the back or in the margins of the test questions. Off and on, I kept diaries and journals. I wrote Christmas letters, poems, free verse. My letters to friends and family were dubbed “epistles.”
I volunteer-wrote for charities and ministries and rewrote safety manuals for an insurance company. I simply wrote . . . before I had children, while I was raising children, and after my children were adults.
A little book happened.
Wherever I volunteered, I was always given some kind of writing task. Researching how to write press releases for my children’s school one fateful day, a little book practically fell off the library bookshelf and into my trembling hands. It was Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write, an archaic book written in 1938, of which Carl Sandburg said was “the best book ever written on how to write.”
Ueland essentially said that if a person wants to write, she or he will. By hook or crook, they will plow ahead. I can’t explain it, but that book inspired me to return to college and get my Business Management degree. Naturally, I had to sign up for something related to writing, and I decided on a journalism class.
It was the best decision I ever made.
Before long, I was a campus editor, and soon I was making professors laugh with my crazy brand of humor columns. I learned how to interview and take my own human-interest photographs. I took a summer job at a small, local newspaper where we set up our own columns on an old Apple computer.
It turned into a circus-worthy balancing act with two children, a husband, and my penchant for keeping a dirt-free habitation, but I never stopped smiling!
What a ride!
If you ask, I will answer
It’s awesome to be honored with a question about your journey to an accomplishment. Recently I received a personal message on my author Facebook page from Skylar. She had just completed her sophomore year in high school, and she aspires to write books. She asked for my advice.
Skylar agreed that I could use her name, so here, in microchip fashion, is my advice for her and all budding authors:
Hi Skylar! Thank you for writing me. I’m happy to offer you a bit of writing advice. My journey to becoming a corporate writer and author came through journalism.
My college journalism courses taught me to “hook” my audience with my very first sentence, my first paragraph, and my first page. I highly recommend studying journalism because it also teaches you to write succinctly and to the point.
Let me also say that a highly developed sense of grammar and proper sentence structure/syntax undergirds all types of writing.
Creative writing course do not get my stamp of approval since they seem to focus on writing wildly descriptive sentences that, though fun to read, are not popular in our sound-bite culture. Learn to say a lot using powerful adjectives and few words.
Whenever you can, attend writing seminars and take online writing classes for fiction and/or non-fiction.
I was always a non-fiction writer, but I decided to challenge myself to take a fiction magazine-writing course with the Institute of Children’s Literature — a great institute, by the way. At the end of the course, my mentor, Chris Eboch, encouraged me to write a novel. I didn’t think it was possible, but she believed in me.
She was right! My third novel comes out this summer, and I’m already working on another one.
It hasn’t been easy, but nothing worthwhile falls into our laps without sweat equity and a burning desire to improve. If you really want to write, you will, and you’ll take every opportunity to get better at your craft. We writers never stop learning!
Good luck, Skylar, and keep me posted on your progress. Never hesitate to ask me anything, and if I can answer it, I will.
And I’ll do the same for you.
Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.
If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindle, the Nook and most other eBook readers.
Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches summer 2016. Here's a quick synopsis:
Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?
Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.
Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.