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Thursday, July 18

8 Things Every Writer Needs to Remember

By Sherry Howard, @SherLHoward

Part of The Writer's Life Series


JH: They say hindsight is 20/20, but with today's resources, we can all benefit from what others have learned. Sherry Howard returns to the lecture hall this month to share things she wished she'd known earlier about writing. 

Sherry Howard lives in Middletown, Kentucky, in a household busy with kids and pets. She worked as an educator, and now has the luxury of writing full time. Her debut picture book, Rock and Roll Woods, released in October, 2018. And her middle grade NF, Deep Sea Divers, just released. She has more books in the pipeline for publication soon.

Sherry loves to meet other readers and writers, so be in touch on social media here:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Take it away Sherry…

If only I’d known!

Most writers have had that feeling somewhere in their journey. So, I’m ready to bare my writing soul, and share some things I wish I’d known sooner. A few of my friends shared as well.

I slid sideways into writing, like a player stealing a homer. I didn’t sit down one day and say, “I’m going to write full time now.” Instead, I pitched out a story here and there—an anthology, an online magazine, a poem, a picture book, a little work-for-hire. Until I found that my love of writing had taken over my life.

Things I’d Have Done Differently


1. I’d have been more organized. 


Early on, I wrote on any surface—a napkin, a paper, a tablet. Whatever was handy. I didn’t name things, or at least I didn’t name them logically. Once, when I was locked in a room in my work building overnight (quite a story), I wrote a whole story on brown paper towels. What else was there to do!? But I think those paper towels got thrown away somewhere along the way, and I’ll never be able to share the wonderful tale of how that story developed. 

Use logical names for your files and notes. Store them in reasonable places.


2. I’d have labeled Word files better. 


In the beginning, I was random. The same story might be filed by title, my name, a critiquer’s name, or even a date. Of course, a search on the computer will eventually find them all. But, if I’m careful with naming, I can find them so much more easily, and feel confident I haven’t “misplaced” one. I use the name of the story/task, and differentiate versions with a date, rather than a version number.

Use a file naming convention that clearly identifies every file.

3. I’d have used searchable storage. 


Put all of your short notes in a searchable location, such as Notes on Apple products. This will save you spending eons searching through the 110 physical notebooks you’ve filled with notes you didn’t label. I have over 2000 Notes pages . . . but I can quickly find anything I need with a search! Unlike the notes I have in stacks and stacks of notebooks.

Notes are useless if you can't find what you need when you need it.

(Here's more on Organizing Your Hard Drive, or, How to Save What's Left of Your Hair)

4. I’d have invented my own organizational system. 


Every writer has different needs. I spend a lot of time on picture books. Picture books tend to go through a different kind of critique cycle than novel length, and seem to be harder for me to keep track of. I’m in a group, 12X12, that challenges us to write and revise one manuscript each month. I’ve played by the rules, and after four years have over fifty completed and revised manuscripts. I developed a cover sheet that I’m now using for all of my work. 

Here’s a picture of what that sheet looks like filled in. 
I’m happy to share the blank form with anybody who thinks it might help them. This resulted when my first picture book was published. I spent hours researching the “origins” stories. Now, I record that information as I go along.

Make it easy to keep track of the important details.

(Here's more on Why OneNote is One-Derful for Writers)

5. I’d have established a budget. 


Even if this is your luxury budget, like other people use for eating out or Renaissance Fairs, you’ll need a few bucks to spend. When I finally added up how much I spent one year for classes, organizations, and conferences, I was shocked. So, acknowledge this drain on your budget, and embrace it. If you seriously pursue writing for publication, you WILL spend money.

Treat writing like a business and know where every penny goes.

6. I’d have considered marketability. 


Thanks to my friend Megan Hoyt for this reminder. If you want to share your beautiful, fab writing with the world, it will have to meet a market need. 

Understand the market you want to write for.

(Here's more on Analyzing Your Novel for Market Value)

7. I’d have accepted the fact that it’s a business, and not apologized. 


(Reminding you of that sliding-sideways comment earlier.) I felt awkward at first for wanting to write for publication, so minimized it, even to myself. After several years, I hired a lawyer and an accountant. I barely need them yet, but I don’t want to make mistakes relative to writing as a business. People have paid me money for my words, and that’s real according to checks I’ve deposited. 

If you want to make writing your career, treat it like one.

Which leads right into the next item on this list.

8. I’d have valued every step for what it was in the moment. 


Thanks to my friend, Sherry Fellores, I remembered this one. Do away with EOOS! Envy of Other’s Successes will only cause you pain. Settle into your path, and enjoy your own successes. 

Writing is tough enough. Be your own best cheerleader.

No matter where you are right now as a writer, enjoy the journey! Maybe these tips will help save you a few steps along the way! Please add your own tips in the comments.

What do you wish you'd known earlier?

About Deep Sea Divers

Daring and Dangerous: Deep Sea Divers for grades 4–8 introduces young readers to the exciting world of deep sea diving. From the amazing areas that divers explore to the common dangers they face underwater, this 32-page fact- and photo-filled book offers young readers an opportunity to learn how divers stay save and what they discover about our complex, beautiful world.

The Daring and Dangerous Stunt Performers series is an action-packed escape into some of the most daring and dangerous activities on – and beyond – the planet. With topics ranging from stunt performers to space explorers, each spread in these books stands alone so reluctant readers can flip through until something catches their attention. Each book also features glossary words (defined on the pages in which they appear) and a memory game that encourages readers' recall as they are asked to match images to what they've read

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound | Kobo |

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