Dear Miss Snark:
I've prepared my 500 word synopsis and perfected my query letter. But in the query letter, the paragraph about me, the author, has me stumped. What is the best way to say that "this is my first novel for which I am seeking your representation"? The agent I will be querying requests that in the author paragraph I discuss how I started writing and what my accomplishments/credentials are.
Well, I've learned to write on my own - without college classes, writing groups or critique partners. I did take one on-line writing course. And I have had one article on humor published in a nursing journal. Do I mention that? It was 18 months ago and while it wasn't a bad article, my writing has improved leaps and bounds in that time. I'm hoping you can shed your usual bright light on the subject.
This is a trick question. It's designed to weed out people who haven't written enough. I'm sorry to say, you're probably in this group. That's ok though, it's not a permanent designation. You can write your way out of it.
As you write, you learn to write. By way of example, I had to learn how to write a blog. Yes, I knew how to write. Yes, I knew how to rant. But, how do you write a blog that will get people's attention, keep them coming back, provide useful information, and not kill you with work? That I had to learn, and I learned it by writing. I didn't know I was learning it till I had learned it and had some perspective.
I learned how to generate interest by inviting people to ask questions. I stole that directly from Agent 007. I learned that people will write back in the comments section more readily if you pose a question at the end of the post--I learned that by stumbling upon it. And I learned that posting a lot late at night allowed people to comment first thing in the morning, and thus build comment momentum during the day, and I learned that from Ron at Beatrice.com
So, when someone asks you how you learned to write, the answer is I learned by doing, and by reading these authors, and here's what I learned from whom.
The reason I know you haven't written enough is cause you think you learned it only by doing. That's only done half the job. Every good published writer I know can tell me what they learned for their own writing from reading other people. Jeff Parker's riff on reading Tom McGuane motivated me to go read all of McGuane again..and I'm glad I did.
If you think you learn to write on your own, you haven't learned to write yet.
Write more. Read more. You'll know how you've learned when you've learned it and used it.