If your writing goal is publication, these are the first two questions you’ll need to answer when the time comes for you to submit your manuscript. My name is Janice Alonso and I am the author of close to 200 published pieces, reprints included in that number. In the nonfiction field, I’ve published essays, devotionals, and instructional pieces. In the fictional field, I’ve published children’s, inspirational, sci-fi, mystery, and literary short stories and short-shorts. If you’d like to read examples of what I’ve written and where I’ve been published, please go to www.janicealonso.com. As we progress through this column, you’ll be able to compose a similar paragraph for your cover and query letters.
As a child, I devoured everything I could read. Later, I earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in English, and taught expository and creative writing and literature in grades three through Junior College. Reading and teaching language arts helped me immensely and placed me farther down the road than other would-be writers; however, the skills I developed made me a reader and a teacher, not a writer. I had to study and learn other skills to become a published author.
I am going to share with you step-by-step what I did that made it possible for me to see my name in print. Your journey will be different and you will arrive at a different location. I can’t guarantee you’ll be published, but I hope you will have a clearer idea of what it will take for you to draw nearer to your destination and what you’ll need to take with you as you plan your trip.
In 2000, I decided to take steps toward my lifelong dream of being a published writer. The first thing I needed was a name. I did not want to use Jan Alonso, the name family and friends had called me for the majority of my life. I decided my writing name would be Janice Alonso. In reality either name would have been fine, I simply liked one better than the other.
Selecting a name may seem like a minor point, but I believe it is a vital one. Name recognition will be important as you build your reputation with the assortment of people you’ll encounter on your way to publication. Stay with the name you choose, sign it to everything you write, and make the reputation linked with your name a good and dependable one.
When I began my writing career, I used what is known as “first readers.” They were family, friends, and fellow writers I met in writing classes and critique groups. If you present your first readers with sloppy manuscripts, and stories that you haven’t taken the time to edit and re-edit, you’re starting out on the wrong foot. Make this group eager to read your work and leave them wanting more . . . one of these first readers may have a contact for you later on. Begin your writing career with a good, dependable name and reputation by creating readable first drafts.
Editors will notice when you have looked at their guidelines, studied their publications, and followed any other information provided. I’ve had editors return manuscripts for whatever reasons, but ask for another submission. Because these editors have never met me except through the submission, the request for another story came from the presentation of the returned one. Develop your writing career with a good, dependable name and reputation by submitting clean copy and following guidelines.
When you go to writers’ conferences, make a good personal impression. Respect editors and agents: they attend conferences because they want to meet writers. Dress appropriately, have a well-prepared pitch for your story, show up on time for appointments and/or scheduled critiques, thank them for their input, and leave promptly when your session is over. Wherever you go, be prepared to present a professional looking business card with your name, what your write, and contact information. (Do not worry about business cards at this point.) Strengthen your writing career with a good, dependable name and reputation by presenting a favorable and professional personal impression.
Last and most important, build your reading audience with the kinds of stories that have them scouring the Internet to find more pieces you’ve published. Make each story the best it can possibly be. Do your research, get your facts right, and pay attention to details. From day one make your work sterling. Solidify your writing career with a good, dependable name and reputation by producing quality writing.
Step One: Pick your writing name and begin linking it to a good, dependable reputation.