Lisa Ricard Claro – Author

Romance is good for your heart!

EIGHT Tips for New Writers

Posted on Sep 14, 2016 by Lisa Ricard Claro   18 Comments | Posted in The Naked Truth

One of my blog readers contacted me a few weeks ago with the question, “Can you teach me to do what you do?” I wasn’t sure what that meant, exactly, so I pressed, “Which thing?”

In a nutshell, this individual would like to write and be paid to do it.

If I had the magic potion for that one, I’d be a millionaire. The vast majority of writers—count me in that sweep—earn only modest incomes from their writing. H.N. Swanson, literary agent to the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Pearl Buck, and Raymond Chandler put it this way:


The real question being asked was, “How do I get from point A to point B and on up to C? How did you do it? How does anybody do it? Can I do it too?”

I remember asking that question of other writers, Googling, searching for the answer somewhere. Someone in this wide world must know how to make it happen. What’s the path? What are the steps? Show me the blueprint, and I’ll follow it. Does anyone know the way?

The answer is yes. And no.

Successful writers can tell you only one thing: how they became successful. They cannot tell you how you should become successful. There are many things a writer can do to help herself, of course, but success is a subjective thing. Success to one writer may not look like success to another. Also, if you ask ten different writers about their paths to success, you’re likely to hear ten different answers.

There are a few things, though, that with few exceptions, most successful writers do.

Success in writing is a mixture of blood, sweat, tears, sore muscles, red eyes, the occasional brain freeze, and a lot of dirty laundry piled high and waiting to be washed. Don’t hurt yourself on that last one. It isn’t a metaphor. I literally mean piles of dirty laundry. You can’t write and do chores at the same time, buttercup. Also, as near as I can tell, finding any sort of real financial success as a writer also involves the witchy and fickle aligning of planets, moons, and stars. It is hard work coupled with luck and timing.

I’ve got the hard work part down pat. I’m still waiting for the luck and timing to arrive, and if it ever shows up on my doorstep, I hope it’s carrying a big, fat check, just like Publisher’s Clearing House in those TV ads.

So, yeah—I’m unable to move the heavens to create an avalanche of luck and timing for myself or anyone else. Believe me, if I could, I would have done it already. But as to the hard work, well, that I can help with. Hard work I know something about, so this is what I told my reader:

  1. Write, write, write, and then write some more. Did I mention you should write? Write. Write. Write. WRITE!
  2. Read, read, read, and then read some more. Be voracious. Read fiction and nonfiction. Read books about the craft of writing. Read cereal boxes and the ads on the sides of buses as you sit in traffic. Read it all. Never stop reading.
  3. Learn, learn, learn, and then learn some more. Attend writers’ conferences and workshops, take classes. And check your hubris at the door. Think you know everything being taught in that workshop, that you’ve already heard it all? Think again. It is worth an hour or two of your time to learn even one thing you didn’t know before, and you may make some great contacts and friends along the way. One golden nugget of information might change your life.
  4. Join a local writers’ group or a national organization such as Romance Writers of America (RWA), Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), International Thriller Writers (ITW), Mystery Writers of America (MWA), or Sisters in Crime. These are only a few of the organizations available to help authors learn and grow. A more comprehensive list can be found at Decide which will best suit your needs and jump in.
  5. Reach out to other writers locally and via social media. Talk, share experiences, and learn from each other. You’ll develop a solid network, a supportive tribe. The importance of this cannot be overstated. Think writing is a lonely endeavor? It is, but only when you’re sitting at your keyboard. Outside of that, you will be buoyed by other people who know and understand what you’re going through.
  6. Blog. Blogging builds friendships, yes, but it does something else. It forces you to be accountable. If you say you’ll post every Wednesday, then do it. Treat it like an important deadline, because it is. Blogging helps you write faster, leaner, cleaner. And it gives you a home base on the Internet, something that comes in handy down the road. If your goal is to write for money—magazines, e-zines, journals, etc.—consider your blog a living resume. I’ve picked up writing gigs because an editor visited my blog and did some reading. It happens.
  7. DO NOT compare yourself, your writing, your place in the journey, or anything else to that of another author. Misery lies there, and if you’re serious about this writing stuff, then ditch the envy. You don’t have time for it. Make room instead for honest enthusiasm, support, and genuine happiness for other people. Remember, always, that you don’t know what that other person did or didn’t do, gave up or endured, to be in that place.

Hard work, luck, and timing. If there’s a silver bullet, that’s it.

So what does writing success really look like? I don’t know. I’m not there yet. Maybe I will never achieve my own definition of writing success. See, the problem is, the definition changes. As we grow, success changes its face, slips on a different mask. The things we once thought of as important become secondary to other challenges.

The title of this blog post is EIGHT Tips for New Writers. If you were paying attention, then you’re wondering what happened to number eight. Well, I saved the most important one for last. Here it is:

  1. Do it for love. That’s right. If you want to be successful, write for the sheer love and joy of writing. If you had a crystal ball and saw that luck and timing would never find you, write anyway. If that crystal ball promised zero money for all your hard work, write anyway. Write not only for yourself, but for the readers who will love your stories. And at the end of the day, the only way success is sure to elude you is if you quit.


What does writing success look like to you? Is it the thrill of seeing your name in print? Is it receiving money for your hard work? The joy of a good review? All of this, or perhaps something different? Are you a reader, not a writer? I’d still like to know what you feel is the definition of writing success. Give us a different spin.

Thanks for hanging out with me. See you next Wednesday for more of the Naked Truth.


Romance is good for your heart! To purchase your copy of Love Built to Last, Love to Believe, or Love to Win in eBook or print, go to AmazonBarnes & NobleBlack Opal BooksKobo, or AllRomance.

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18 Responses to "EIGHT Tips for New Writers"

  1. Comment by Sioux
    September 14, 2016 at 8:41 pm  

    Lisa–You DID save the best for last. # 8 is a doozy. If we keep the love-light in our eyes–the love of one reader in our sights–we will be much happier writers than if we compare ourselves to other writers and worry about big monetary pay-offs. (I hope YOU are keeping # 8 in mind as well. 😉

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      September 22, 2016 at 12:29 am  

      To be honest, Sioux, I had a bit of an artist’s meltdown not long ago, the resolution of which involved exactly that: writing for love.

  2. Comment by Pat
    September 14, 2016 at 8:46 pm  

    Lisa, I couldn’t agree more with your list. As a matter of fact, I tried to think of something to add, but you covered it well. For me, writing success is anything that encourages me; whether its a compliment, a contest win, or a story sold. It’s the fuel that keeps me going.

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      September 22, 2016 at 12:29 am  

      Agreed, Pat. Encouragement keeps the fires burning. 🙂

  3. Comment by ButtonsMom2003
    September 14, 2016 at 9:18 pm  

    Great post. I have no intention of writing anything more significant than book reviews – those are hard enough. I know all that’s really needed are just a few lines but that never seems like enough so I keep plodding along.

    Every now and then I get a compliment on a review or an author takes a quote from one of mine and uses it in advertising – that’s success to me. 🙂

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      September 22, 2016 at 12:30 am  

      You write terrific reviews, and I know your readers appreciate them!

  4. Comment by claudia mundell
    September 14, 2016 at 10:48 pm  

    You said it all well! And yes, you have to love doing it! It takes commitment and talent, but also some luck…that you find you that right reader who connects with what you are trying to do.

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      September 22, 2016 at 12:31 am  

      Exactly, Claudia. And those readers are out there. They aren’t always easy to find, however. lol

  5. Comment by Cathy C. Hall
    September 14, 2016 at 11:38 pm  

    So true, Lisa, that success changes along the way! So today…today, I think success might be just getting words on a page. They don’t have to be great words. They just have to be a beginning.

    For today, that’s enough.

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      September 22, 2016 at 12:32 am  

      A day at a time, a step at a time. As long as there is forward momentum, you know you’re making progress.

  6. Comment by Linda O'Connell
    September 14, 2016 at 11:45 pm  

    You are so right on every point. I write because I have something to say,and for personal satisfaction, although being paid makes it even more worthwhile. I used to write 10 page letters that recipients claimed they enjoyed. Writing for me is story telling, regardless of topic. I have to hook my readers and keep them engaged. Success is merely getting a story to where I can say, “finished.”

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      September 22, 2016 at 12:32 am  

      I think memoir is the hardest storytelling to write. You have to keep it honest and interesting at the same time, something at which you excel!

  7. Comment by Robert Robinson
    September 15, 2016 at 11:09 am  

    Success in writing (getting published) does seem to be a crap shoot. But the skills have to be there before anything. Write, rewrite, study the craft, then do some more. Take care of the things under your control, so all the pieces are in place should success come knocking. It’s much like musicians, for every one you hear on the radio, there’s a million others out there just as good, if not better. If you enjoy writing, look forward to rainy days spent writing, consider writing an essential part of yourself, then you are a successful writer. One last thing; have enough respect for writing to make the effort to do it to the best of your ability.

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      September 22, 2016 at 12:34 am  

      Agreed, Rob. I look back on the first thing I wrote that I thought was ready for submission. *sigh* What I didn’t know then was that I had a lot more to learn from a craft standpoint. I like your statement about having respect for writing. That’s a great way to put it.

  8. Comment by Stephanie Trietsch
    September 15, 2016 at 3:38 pm  

    I needed to read this today! (Even though it’s a day late…) Question: I know you told me where you designed your meme but I cannot find the tiny slip of paper I grabbed. ARG! Would you mind repeating yourself?? Thanks!

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      September 22, 2016 at 12:36 am  

      Sorry for the long delay in responding, Stephanie. I think you want Quick and easy to use. 🙂

  9. Comment by Karen Lange
    September 16, 2016 at 4:37 pm  

    Excellent tips, Lisa! It takes commitment and huge amounts of dedicated work to be a good writer. As far as writer success – all of the above. It’s gratifying to see your name in print – that never gets old. 🙂

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      September 22, 2016 at 12:37 am  

      You’re right about that, Karen. 🙂

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