Q14 – What advice would you give to beginning writers?

In my twenties I was told by the poet and novelist Daphne Marlatt to write from the heart. It was good advice and hard to follow. The ring of truth is what we’re after.

You have to be willing to do the work. Laziness and self-pity are the greatest drags on a writer’s spirit.

Today it’s harder than ever to get published. Small literary magazines still exist, thank God. Send your work to them. Build up a body of stories or poems. Once you have enough for a manuscript, you can submit the work to publishers that allow unsolicited submissions. If you’re a novelist, revise your novel until it is the best work you can do, then you might try to find an agent. Agents, naturally, are only interested in books that might make money. Information about agents and publishers can be found in Writer’s Handbook or Writer’s Market. There are courses in writing, too, and many follow this route, not least in order to get feedback and to make useful connections.

But the writing life is a good life. It has countless humiliations, but the pleasure continues of making something, working on it, working out the snags, reaching somewhere deep and surprising that makes you feel more alive. As Robert Creeley said, Writing gives me a way to live my life.

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