From reader to writer

Posted on October 4, 2016 at 6:00 am

By Kelly Burgess

If you love reading, you’ve probably wondered if you could try your hand at writing. That’s not an unusual impulse. Many writers got the incentive to start writing either by reading a book that was so amazing they wanted to create that magic too, or by reading a book that was so bad they thought, “Hmph! I could do better than that!” In my case, it was the former and the book was Charlotte’s Web. I was in the first grade.

Since then, I’ve published thousands of articles in newspapers, magazines, and for online media. I’ve also led writing workshops on both fiction and non-fiction as well as memoir writing. Whether you’re interested in writing for publication, for fun, or just to work out your feelings, writing can be as fulfilling a hobby as reading, maybe even more so. Freelance writing can generate an extra income. Fiction writing might make you famous. Writing about your life makes a wonderful keepsake for your family—or may even appeal to a wider audience.

In upcoming blog posts, I will offer some tips specific to each of these writing niches. Also, in the fall, I will be leading writing workshops on each of these topics at various District libraries.

In the meantime, I’d like to recommend these wonderful resources to motivate you to try your hand at writing, or to help you finish a project that you may be struggling with.

Freelance Writing

Every publication has its own rules and guidelines for accepting articles or stories, and there’s no better resource to find out what those are than Writer’s Market. The editors of this book are deeply embedded in the publishing world, and they offer detailed guidance for tailoring your work to the specific market you’re interested in, as well as getting it in front of the right person. In addition, there are plenty of general writing and submission tips and anecdotes from writers who have succeeded in the business.

Another terrific resource for aspiring freelancers is Writer’s Digest. There is a wealth of free information on their site, or you can subscribe for premium content (including educational opportunities). They also still publish a print magazine, if you like the feel of paper in your hands. Writer’s Digest is published by Writer’s Market, and you can often find a deal on subscribing to both.

Fiction & Nonfiction Long-form Writing

Both of the resources mentioned above cater to fiction and non-fiction writers, but if you really want to immerse yourself in a project, take a look at Book in a Month by Victoria Lynn Schmidt. It offers a ton of inspiration and motivation to help you produce a finished manuscript in 30 days. You can even use it to guide you during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November. Best of all, the Spokane Valley Library District is holding a NaNoWriMo Readiness Conference during the last weekend of October that offers a lot of resources for those who want to tackle this challenge.

Memoir Writing

This may be one of the most satisfying forms of writing there is. Your memoir can be as simple as a straightforward recitation of your genealogy with a few details about your family and your ancestry, or as complex as a multi-layered novel.

There’s a plethora of terrific memoirs dealing with as many topics as you can imagine and you should read them all. Rather than recommending specific memoirs, however, I’d like to instead recommend some great books that are a combination of memoir and writing primer. These will inspire anyone who wants to write anything—or who just loves a good read—but they are particularly appropriate for memoir writers.

Start with Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. It’s one of the best guides to writing with honesty that a memoir writer could ask for. On Writing by Stephen King is another great resource that is part memoir and part simple, straightforward writing instruction. “Plums deify!” (You’ll get it when you read it). One of the most inspirational writing books I’ve read recently is Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. It will make you feel as if you can do anything, but more importantly, it helps you realize that, yes, you are good enough to write that, and it’s worth writing down.


Kelly Burgess decided she wanted to be a writer after she read Charlotte’s Web in the first grade. She has since had thousands of articles published in magazines, newspapers, and online and mentored dozens of aspiring writers. She currently works as a senior editor for IAC Publishing Labs.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,