Monday, June 27, 2011

Five Tips for Gaining Confidence in Your Writing - A blogshop with author Wendy Nelson Tokunaga

We're wrapping up our month on Confidence in a writer's life this week and I've been thinking about the source of confidence all month - we all would like a little more of it at those critical times when it's most needed, yes? Confidence is our gut's way of telling us, "you got it in the bag, my friend!" But so often, when our gut isn't telling us that, we look for positive reinforcement from others - and this is natural. However, there is a difference between a superficial confidence that comes from a few pats on the back than Confidence (with a capital C!) that springs from a solid and continuing education about the process and craft to which you have dedicated yourself.

Author Wendy Nelson Tokunaga is here to share with you 5 rock-solid Confidence gaining tips to instill confidence in your writing career. No. You know, tips is too light a word - consider this list your 5 MUST-DOs to building a strong writing foundation. Read and heed.

WNT: It wasn’t until my fifth manuscript that I finally got an agent and a two-book deal with St. Martin’s Press. For years my hobbies seemed to be honing my craft and getting rejected. Here are some things I learned along the way that kept my confidence up in the face of rejection and allowed me to eventually reach my goals as a novelist.

1 ~ Have Your Manuscript Critiqued – One of my first steps was to join a critique group—a tremendous help. But eventually I needed the fresh eyes of a professional who could read my entire manuscript and tell me not only its strengths, but its weaknesses and what I could do to fix them. I sought advice from published novelists who offered manuscript consulting, but you can also look to professional developmental editors.

2 ~ Network With, but Don’t Compare Yourself to Other Writers – I put together a group of women writers I met online who lived nearby. We gathered together not to read each other’s work, but to discuss the business of writing and our latest struggles in trying to get published and beyond. At first it was difficult because most everyone had an agent except me. But instead of comparing myself to them and feeling sorry for myself I tried to learn everything I could from them. Realize that every writer’s path is different and you’ll feel better about your own journey.

3 ~ Attend Juried Writer’s Conferences – There are tons of writer’s conferences out there and they all have their purposes. But to gain more confidence try applying to one where you must be accepted on the basis of your writing. I applied to the Squaw Valley Writers Conference, but didn’t get in on the first try. But it gave my confidence a real boost when I was finally accepted. It was such a great experience that I returned the following year.

4 ~ Further Your Education – My first stab at creative writing was a short story writing class at a community college. The assignment was to write three stories in a semester. It sounded daunting but I felt accomplished to actually pull that off. I continued taking classes from university extension programs and private author workshops and then finally made the leap to an MFA in writing program. By then I’d been through hundreds of rejections for my novels. I knew that getting an MFA wouldn’t guarantee that I’d get published, but it was a thrill to be able to concentrate on my writing for two years. And, coincidentally, it was right after I started the program that I got my agent and my publishing contract.

5 ~ Write Another Book – You’ve written one book so now you know that you can do it. So why not write another? Putting a book on the back burner after rejection doesn’t mean you’re giving up on it or that you’ve failed. Move forward, build your confidence and write that next book!

About the Contributor:

Wendy Nelson Tokunaga is the author of the novels, “Love in Translation” and “Midori by Moonlight,” both published by St. Martin’s Press, and the non-fiction e-book, “Marriage in Translation: Foreign Wife, Japanese Husband.” Her novel, “No Kidding,” won the Literary/Mainstream Fiction category in Writer’s Digest’s Best Self-Published Book Awards in 2002. She is also the author of two children's non-fiction books, and has had short stories published in various literary journals. Wendy holds an MFA in Creative Writing from University of San Francisco and teaches writing classes for Stanford University’s Online Writer’s Studio and University of San Francisco. She also offers private manuscript consultation services. Visit her at:


  1. Great advice and God knows I need it!

  2. I love all this advice! #1 has been a life-saver for me. I also think it's important to take internet critique sites with a grain of salt. It can feel very daunting receiving a dozen suggestions from people who haven't been published. So a professional editor, preferably a published author, is a very wise investment! I got a nice chuckle out of #2! #3-#5 are sound advice, too!! Thanks, Wendy, for continuing to give back!


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