Westminster Communities of Florida is home to a diverse community of over 7,000 residents hailing from various parts of the United States and around the world. Among them are retired teachers, ministers, doctors, nurses, businesspeople, soldiers and published authors. Some residents have published works in retirement, engage in writing poetry during their free time, or have even published as a result of writer’s group challenges. In an effort to tap into the wisdom and experience of our talented authors, we approached them with a simple question: “What advice do you have for aspiring authors?” Whether you’re contemplating taking on the National Novel Writing Month challenge or embarking on the journey of writing your first book, the seasoned authors at Westminster have shared their invaluable insights and guidance.
“1. Read widely from a variety of authors.
2. Know and limit the audience for whom you are writing. Don’t try to write for everyone. And know what response you want from your readers.
3. If your story in not unfolding well, start over.
4. Unity, coherence and proportion in every paragraph and transitions from paragraph to paragraph.
5. Brevity is still the soul of wit. Don’t lose your readers in details, keep your message moving.
6. Beware of signing with a vanity press. Get an agent—-if you can. At least try to get an agent to look at your work. Vanity presses will take any manuscript and charge plenty to put a cover on it. When in doubt about a contract, pay a lawyer to explain it to you before you sign.”
Richard J. Smith, Ph.D, Resident at Westminster Point Pleasant
Author of “Life After Eighty”, “Musings of an Old Man,” “Once Upon a Christmas,” “Tales from a Twilight House,” “Brain Exercises for Older Adults,” and 26 other titles available.
“Aspiring authors should join a writer’s group. My 335-page novel is the result of a class project where I was given a picture and instructed to write a 500-word essay based upon the picture. I have written many short stories, poems and a few plays since moving to Westminster Manor in 2015. In my first class, an experienced writer volunteered to assist me with grammar. I believe I would not have been successful without his help.”
J. Gary Shaw, Resident at Westminster Manor
Author of “OUTSIDER COPS – The Caribbean Case” and currently working on “Outsider Cops – The Canadian Case.”
“My advice to aspiring writers: Write the story you want to read. Read, listen, observe, write, rewrite. Keep going.”
Nancy Pate, Resident at Westminster Towers
Author of “Fiddle Dee Death,” “Marsh Madness” and “Way Down Dead in Dixie”, written under the pseudonym Caroline Cousins.
“In retirement I began to think about writing my story. Once I completed my story as an autobiography, I began to think about my wife’s life story. So, in a nutshell, that is how I ended up writing the two books. Publishing a book during my publishing timeframe had become remarkably easy. Amazon offered an opportunity for anyone to self-publish a book with very little or no cost. However, you needed to learn what their requirements were for designing a cover, editing and publishing a manuscript. I followed their direction and they did the work to create two books that are offered for sale in the U.S. and countries all over the world. What a great incentive to self-publish a story!”
Jerrel B Powell, Ph.D., Resident at Westminster Woods on Julington Creek
Author of “ALDENA Farmers Daughter, Wife, Mother: A Memoir of Our Life Together” and “THE MIDDLE SON: My Journey from the Dust Bowl Days of the 30s to the Present”
“Read, read, and read some more, especially in the genre you plan to write. Write often. Join a writer’s group and ask for criticism, especially from those who have published.”
Don (“Doc”) Sanborn, Resident at Westminster Manor
Author of “Sanborns Camp: A Memoir,” “Escape From Xanadu: A Memoir of Survival, Adventure, and Coming of Age,” and “Plebe: My Year at the Citadel.”
“My advice to new authors is to know your subject better than anybody else. Be sure your references are iron clad and be careful how much ‘fluff’ you insert. Fast readers will just skip it and become annoyed because you are wasting their time.”
William Talley, Resident at Westminster Woods on Julington Creek
Author of “The Talley Principles: Contemporary Methods to Effective Management.”
“My advice for anyone wanting to publish a book: First, enlist the help of others. Join a critique group who can help revise your work, and hire a professional editor to make your finished product the best possible. Will your book be self-published, or will you send your manuscript to a traditional publisher? The world of traditional publishing is very competitive. No matter which route you choose, realize that the success of your book depends upon you to promote it. Be prepared to put forth effort.
Debbie Burton, Resident at Westminster Winter Park
Author of the “Tales of Blueberry Street” series
“I am proof that dreams deferred are not dreams denied. Believe in yourself and keep writing.”
John A. Vanek, Resident at Westminster Shores
Author of the “Father Jake Austin Mystery” series including “DEROS,” “Miracles,” “Absolution,” “Bedeviled,” and “Epiphany.”