We get all sorts of advice about query letters, pitches, writing styles, words per day, and on and on. But there are two things that help you in the world of writing that have nothing to do with your own work. They have to do with someone else's.

Read other writers' work. Read the writers you aspire to be like and try to decide what it is in their work that you admire. Read writers you don't like and figure out what they're doing wrong, at least in your opinion (remembering, of course, that they got published. An aside here, and one that won't make me popular with certain people. I don't think it helps to read subsidy-published authors who haven't gone through a rigorous system of being chosen and edited. Their work doesn't represent publishing, although they obviously believe strongly in it. To learn about the business of writing, we have to read what the industry is choosing to invest in, and we need to be aware of where in the publishing world it fits. Check the publisher when you find a book you like and ask yourself: if I write this sort of thing would I go POD, small press, or shoot for the big guys?)

After you read, tell others about what was good (and forget what was bad unless you're a paid reviewer). When you find a writer you really, really like, tell him/her so. I usually try to send a note via email through their website, although I hate it when that signs me up automatically for their newsletter. Then say it on DL, Crimespace, or some such site. Maybe write a review on Amazon, telling exactly what you liked. This does several things. It helps other readers decide if they'd like to try that author. It gets that person's attention: who doesn't respond to a flattering comment? And it puts your name out there for others, so that when they see it they think, "I've heard of her somewhere."

Like I said before. It has nothing to do with your work as such, but besides being the right thing to do, think what it can do for your network.

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Comment by Peg Herring on July 1, 2008 at 9:44pm
I've heard about BABY SHARK, and I HAVE to get to it. It's just that there are so many good books out there. I try to read what my friends/acquaintances are writing, and then of course what my favorite authors are writing, and then what has gotten awards. It's a lot of reading, but it's all fun.
As you say, I edit as I go...too many years as an English teacher, and then of course I try to put my own work into comparison. "I might be better than this guy," but then, "Oh, this one is good. I have to work harder!"
Comment by Clair Dickson on July 1, 2008 at 9:22am
I constantly evaluate what I read... and I can't seem to stop. It can certainly make it hard to read when I'm editing the novel as I go. =)

As for pimping other people's stuff-- I'm all for it. In fact, I've been pimping "Baby Shark" everywhere I go. Loved the book so much I snuck it to class and read while my students were working on their projects. Everyone needs to know what a great book Baby Shark is. =)

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