Practical advice on writing and publishing  for aspiring authors

Dear Author Enablers,
I haven’t had much education. I’d like to be a riverboat captain or head west to make my fortune. But I also want to be a writer. Can a career in journalism lead to success as an author? Am I trying to do too many things? Should I go back to school?
S. C.
Hannibal, Missouri

Although writing workshops can add to your craft as a writer, life experience provides the vivid material that informs great literature. Make sure you keep a notebook with you on that riverboat. Many successful writers began their careers as journalists; it might help to come up with a memorable byline.

Keep your ears open—perhaps something will come to you on your adventures.

Good day, Ye Author Enablers of Her Majesty’s Court,
I have set mine eyes upon becoming a playwright. I am as yet just getting started, but am beset by difficulties. I have no proper dictionary, and betimes find myself inventing words. ’Tis almost as if I am creating my own language! Also, dar’st I claim the thoughts of another by borrowing the plot line from a classic work and setting the characters in this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England?
W. S.

Haven’t you heard of Kleenex? Or Freakonomics? English wouldn’t be the vibrant language it is today if not for inventive sorts like you. As for “borrowing” a plot line, people have been doing that since time began. (Think West Side Story.) Just make sure you credit the source and that you are creative enough to add something to the legacy.

Dear Author Enablers,
I’m an aspiring novelist but find that no one wants to publish my work because I’m a woman. I’m thinking of writing under a male name. I also enjoy dressing like a man. My family thinks this is odd, so please settle our contretemps.
Amandine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin
Nohant-Vic, France

If you think a new name could help expand your readership, we’re in favor of choosing a nom de plume, as you French folks like to call it. Certainly having a shorter name might help people remember you when they are in the bookstore. We’ve always liked “George.” Regarding clothing—lots of people cross-dress in San Francisco, where we live, so it’s no big deal to us.

Dear Author Enablers,
I am a Spanish writer with novel ideas, and I find the genres available—epic poems, romances, folk tales—to be rather limiting. I’d like to write a fictitious prose narrative of substantial length and complexity portraying characters and presenting a sequential organization of action and scenes. Do you think this idea will work? Is it commercial enough? I don’t even know what to call it.
M. de C.
Toledo, Spain

We are concerned that your attempt at introducing this novel form of writing may be risky. The public knows what it likes and prefers the familiar. However, if your writing is of the highest quality and you have the determination, we think you should give it a whirl. Who knows—you might be a groundbreaker.

Dear Author Enablers,
I am a serious poet. My sister Vinnie just pointed out that much of my work can be hummed to the tune of “The Yellow Rose of Texas.” Should I ever speak to her again? Should I go into the songwriting trade?
E. D.
Amherst, Massachusetts

Life is too short to worry about what other people think of you. Get a harmonica and sing along.

Letters to the Author Enablers take a strange turn around April 1. The columnists will be back to their practical endeavors next month, so send them your inquiries

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