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Get serious about sharing your creative work

Maybe you realized your flair for storytelling while working on the annual holiday newsletter. Perhaps you've been getting to know a character that, so far, lives only in your imagination. Or maybe you have tons of ideas for a novel, the one you haven't quite started writing yet.

No matter what path led you to creative writing, now is the time to get serious about it.

Getting started can be as simple as turning on the computer or taking out a pen and paper. "My advice would be to put your butt in a chair and write," said author Nancy Knight.

Knight, who is one of the founding members of Georgia Romance Writers, teaches creative writing at ART Station in Stone Mountain.

Reading comes first

"If you're interested in writing, the first thing you should be is a reader," said Marc Fitten. He is the editor of The Chattahoochee Review, the quarterly literary journal published by Georgia Perimeter College.

You should read as many books, magazines and newspapers as you can. Also, you should also think carefully about what you want to write.

"A person needs to identify where their main interest lies, if it's fiction, nonfiction, poetry or memoir," said Geri Taran of Lawrenceville. She is the founding director of Georgia Writers Association and teaches a memoir-writing class.

After choosing an area of interest, you should read as many books in that genre as possible, she said. "People need to know what's out there in the marketplace and what's popular," Taran said.

A career begins

Knight read constantly before she began writing her own stories in spiral notebooks while traveling for business. When she got home, she would transcribe her work on a typewriter.

In 1981, her husband bought her a computer. The next year, Knight sold her first story, which was published in 1983. She's been writing ever since.

"If you're interested in writing, it is a career like no other," Knight said. "It is a passion. If you can walk away from it, you're not a writer."

At ART Station, Knight is the director of education and the gift shop curator, in addition to teaching creative writing. Most of Knight's writing students are working on novels. Many of them have found writing success.

"So many of my students have gone on to get published," Knight said.

Revising your work

Knight helps her students with revision and rewriting. She recommends finishing your project before starting the editing process. "Write your story or write your book, then go back and revise it," Knight said.

When your story is finished, Fitten advises finding a reader who can offer honest advice. "There are plenty of people who can read it and tell you if you have done a good job," he said.

He recommends finding a critique group or networking with other writers who would be willing to read your work and help with editing. Polishing a story is very important, because editors and agents expect to see work that is ready to be published.

At the Chattahoochee Review

If you're writing short pieces, you may want to consider submitting your work to a magazine or journal. The Chattahoochee Review publishes fiction, poetry, essays and reviews. "Our focus is literary writing," Fitten said.

The literary journal, which is located in Dunwoody, receives 6,000 submissions a year from aspiring writers. "We publish less than 1 percent of that," Fitten said.

At the journal, work is read first by editorial assistants, then by the managing editor before it crosses Fitten's desk.

"I'll either accept it or reject it," Fitten said. "Frankly, we find about one piece we can use a month."

The staff of the Chattahoochee Review doesn't critique the work it receives, but does send out rejection slips to each person whose work isn't selected. "Everyone gets a letter," Fitten said.

Support from other writers

Only other writers can truly appreciate the delight of selling a story or the disappointment of a receiving a rejection letter, Knight said. "I think support from people who understand you is so very important," she said.

Knight, who helped form Georgia Romance Writers, and Taran, who founded Georgia Writers Association, believe that joining a writing group is very important. Both organizations host monthly meetings and offer advice from authors as well as networking opportunities.

"There is much, much, much to be gained from networking with other writers," Tarn said.

More info

•Georgia Writers Association

www.georgiawriters.org

Annual membership fee: $45

•Georgia Romance Writers

www.georgiaromancewriters.org

Annual membership fee: $30

•The Chattahoochee Review

www.chattahoochee-review.org

Subscription cost: $20