Becoming a writer

Becoming a writer

I’m no expert. I’m sharing what I learned about the craft of writing while I was writing HW. I offer it in hopes you’ll find it useful in your writing journey.

Peter Serko
Me at the Kaypro 2 computer circa 1984

Hattie’s War is my first novel. I’m almost 70 years old.  I always wanted to be a writer but never could quite find a path to pursue that dream. Growing up, I wasn’t interested in books. I hardly read anything for pleasure. The thinking goes: readers make good writers. It makes sense, but that wasn’t me. I wasn’t a good writer. In fact, I was a terrible writer well into my college years. Pay attention in high school English? Never! Master the rules of grammar, syntax, and composition. Nope. I did just enough to get by. I don’t get that stuff. It baffles me even now. I couldn’t tell you the difference between a participle and a dangling participle.

I hadn’t planned to write this book. Honestly, I didn’t. It just happened. Maybe a better way of describing it is the book “unfolded.” That’s the way it seemed. Make no mistake, though. It was a lot of work. This was all new to me. I was learning to write middle-grade historical fiction as I went. My knowledge of story structure and the nuts and bolts of writing is limited, to say the least. But I knew what I wanted to say, but not always how best to say it. Fortunately, I had the good sense to ask for help and seek input from professional editors.


In the next series of posts, I’ll take you through the process of writing/revising the manuscript.  I’ll show what I learned and how the story developed at each step.

Disclaimer: I am no expert. I’m sharing this so you can see how my learning process played out in creating the story. I’ll give specific examples from the manuscript before and after.

So, let’s get started. First…

Tools I Use

  • Evernote– For research, Evernote is a very handy way of keeping track of materials you run across online, particularly if you add tags to what you save.  The free version is all you need. It does a lot. Install the browser plugin, and you can save materials as you browse. If you are a Gmail user, Google Keep works in much the same way.
  • Dropbox – I move around a lot and work from multiple computers. Dropbox is the only easy way to do that and not lose stuff. It also acts as a backup. Onedrive is a good alternative if you are using Word 365. The free version of Dropbox will work for most people. I pay for mine because I have too much stuff!
  • Google Docs – I’ve been using GDocs since it was called Writely (before Google bought it). It comes in handy for sharing with your editors. I had to convert to Word for a couple of my pro editors.
  • Adobe Photoshop-Lightroom-Fireworks to edit graphics and do the cover layout. I also used InDesign for one version of the cover for Ingramspark. I am moving away from Adobe products since everything is subscription-based, and my Version 6.0 apps are 32-bit (not supported by current operating systems). I’m now using Affinity Photo (Photoshop alternative) and Affinity Publisher (InDesign alternative). Both are reasonably priced and powerful, and NO subscription is required!
  • Grammarly – I need all the help I can get with grammar and spelling. This tool is fantastic and very useful in spotting omitted words (the, a, as, etc.). Works as a browser plugin. There is a free version, so you can give it a try. I use the premium version.
  • Hemingway Editor – a great way to get immediate feedback on readability, adverbs used, passive voice, and more. Free!
  • Atticus – book layout app. It is a fairly new web-based program. Once I got the hang of it, it was very easy to use. Exports print-ready PDF and Epub format for digital books. You pay for it once, with all future updates included.
  • – my go-to resource for hiring freelance publishing professionals. 
  • Amazon KDP – book printer and distributor.
  • IngramSpark – book printer and distributor.

Next ⇒ Draft #1: Show, don’t tell

error: Content is protected !!