Before You Publish

The most important thing for a new writer is education and experience. Both are essential to develop your craft. Write every day but also challenge yourself to learn new skills. Writing is a profession and like any other profession, basic skills must be mastered before you start advertising and selling your product. It is mind numbing how many people start writing without having taken a single class or course. Isolation is no excuse as there are numerous short-term and long-term classes available online. As well, there are numerous excellent books and websites on writing. If you are not doing something every day to improve your writing skills, you are likely to be repeating the same mistakes over and over. You should spend at least an hour every day learning to improve your craft.


Check out your local university for writing programs.

Check out your community college for special-interest classes.

Check out community interest classes offered through special-interest groups.

There may also be free opportunities. Ask at your local library. In Thunder Bay, the Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop offers several evening classes per year, some for a fee and several for free at the library.

Attend readings. Support your local writers. Listen to their work, buy and read their books. Talk to them.

Read, read, read. Then think about what worked or didn’t work in the book you read.


Many universities and colleges offer online courses. Check out their catalogs.

Writing organizations offer periodic classes that may run from one day to several weeks.

There are numerous excellent articles available online.

There are wonderful blogs written by writers, editors, publishers, and agents.

There are helpful podcasts.

There are inspiring and informative videos.

I’ve only given a single example of each. Do an online search and hundreds will come up. Of course, there are also wonderful books available at your library or bookstore. Don’t spend a lot of time learning how to market until you have learned how to write.

Don’t rush into publishing. Sharing your work early with a writer’s group is fine but inundating publishing houses with amateur work, or worse, self-publishing a second or third draft that is far from ready, will sabotage your progress. Your name will become associated with mediocre or poor writing. Read Scott Egan’s post on this.

You may also become very discouraged at the number of rejections. Would you edition for the lead role in a ballet after reading a few books and practicing in your basement? Would you try to qualify for the national ski team after a single season of practice? Give yourself a couple of years of learning before sending out your writing. Take your time.

Lastly, don’t think that writing picture books is any easier.  In fact, in some ways, it’s actually harder.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages