I’m no expert, but I do get questions of this sort enough to warrant a post. I hope this will be helpful!
How do I become a better writer?
If you want to write well, the very best thing that you can do is read great books. A lot of them. In lots of genres, but especially in your own. I highly, highly recommend also incorporating a strong dose of poetry into your life.
What books should I read about the writing life?
I suggest these.
How can I learn about professional writing?
I love thewritelife.com.
Check out these posts:
25 Editing Tips for Tightening Your Copy
How to Create Your First Invoice as a Freelancer
9 Online Gold Mines for Finding Paid Freelance Writing Jobs
Do I need a degree in English?
Depends on the person. It sure does help!! I learned so much about writing from my undergraduate experience.
How do I find a literary agent?
I recommend tracking down a copy of Writer’s Digest’s Guide to Literary Agents. I scoured this book to find agencies that represented young adult authors. After that, I went to each agency’s website to find which agent seemed like the best fit with me and my book. I made a list of 100 agents to query– thankfully, Steven Chudney was one of my top choices!
I also check the author acknowledgements in the backs of my favorite books. Usually the author will give a shout-out to his or her agent, and then I’d go dig deeper online for more information.
Querytracker.net may also help you, especially the “backward” search that allows to look up an author and find out who reps him or her.
How do I write a query letter?
First, carve out a couple hours to spend on Rachelle Gardner’s blog. Start with her post “How to Write a Query Letter” and then spend the rest of the time in her “Queries, Proposals, and Pitches” category.
Next, read some good query letters in Writer’s Digest’s Guide to Query Letters. There are some great examples in there of successful queries!
Then, head over to Query Shark to read a literary agent’s take on various queries. (It’s quite fascinating, and you might end up spending a lot of time here.)
A few hours of perusing and you’re going to have a good launching pad.
How important is a writing group?
It’s critical to have some form of constructive feedback in your writing life, whether that’s one critique partner or an entire writing group. Be choosy: not all feedback is created equal, and you don’t want to be bombarded with advice from someone who has no talent in writing or criticism.
I wrote about the value of my writing group here and here.
There’s much more to be said– about platforms and proposals and revisions and more. As I said, I’m definitely not an expert, but I often have good resources I can point you to. What else are you wondering about?