Meet Natalia Sylvester

I’m a fiction writer represented by Foundry Literary + Media. My articles have appeared in publications such as Writer’s Digest, The Writer, and Latina magazine. A proud English major, I studied creative writing at University of Miami. After graduating in 2006, I worked briefly as the managing editor of a start-up magazine before deciding to freelance full-time. I have since worked with several editing clients on their novels, non-fiction book proposals, short stories and feature articles to help them improve their craft and move closer to publication.

Natalia’s Advice on Being a Newbie

Every story will feel like a first story, because even though you may have written several before, and you have proof— in black and white, in pixels and prose—that you’ve done this before, one finished story does not guarantee the completion of a next.

Because we don’t know where our ideas or inspiration come from, we don’t know if they’ll ever grace us again with their presence. Sometimes it’ll feel like all you really have to go off of is this stubborn, crazy idea that you want to be a writer.

I don’t say this to scare you off—on the contrary, I say it because writing often feels so solitary. You’ll read the blog posts and Twitter feeds of all those who’ve done this before you and it’ll feel like they’re up on this pedestal that you’re dying to climb onto…except no one is showing you the way.

You start to feel left behind, and somehow it feels like the only way to catch up is to research—read the thousands of writing blogs and agent Twitter feeds and how-to-write-a-query resources like it’s your job.

But it’s not. If you want to want to be a writer, write.

It seems simple and obvious, but it’s worth repeating because it’s so easy to get caught up on the wrong side of the process: there’s writing, and then there’s publishing. Publishing is a business, writing is an art.

When you’re an aspiring author and you dream about getting an agent and eventually a book deal, it’s very possible you’ll become obsessed with both sides of this process. I definitely did, and I can tell you that only one of these obsessions is the healthy kind.

Drown yourself in writing if you have to. Write even when you fear it, even when it’s crap, because if you can find your way back to the surface from those depths you’ll emerge a stronger writer.

Educate yourself on the publishing industry but realize it’s not your job to swim in it. For every story that brings you hope (the “overnight” successes, the six-figure book deals for debut novels, the writer who had 15 agents wanting to represent her) you’ll find several that show a somber reality. You’ll read about bookstores closing and authors whose first, second, or even third books didn’t sell, and those who (even when they did sell) struggled to market themselves and get those sales numbers up.

You’ll feel empowered by your knowledge of the industry on one day and be completely overwhelmed the next. On those days, what else can you really do but keep writing?

Think of the craft as your life preserver, the thing that keeps you afloat when you’re not sure you can keep going. Publishing is the shore—it could be miles away, or it could be just over the horizon. The only way to find out is to keep swimming.

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