Albert, a classical music major in college, asks for advice about breaking into the music writing business.
I am just finishing a degree that requires me to write a thesis and I’ve become interested in pursuing writing as a possible fun and fulfilling part-time mini career. My skill set is mostly in music as a classical violinist. I’d like to write reviews on concerts and other musically oriented journalistic writing, maybe even music criticism, but since I’m new to the writing world, I’m curious to how to go about my new found interest. I would like to write an autobiographical novel about my experience growing up as a Latino boy in Los Angeles in pursuit of classical music, but then I also would like to expand on my thesis topic, which deals with the socio-political construction of music in society and is therefore more along the lines of cultural musicology and philosophy of music. What is the best way to go about beginning my mini career? I’m contemplating an agent now after reading one of your responses to a young 19 year old looking for publication. What is the cost and is it worth the investment?
Writing as a “part-time mini career”…I love it! But whether you pursue writing full-time or as an avocation, you need to streamline your goals. Are you interested in writing music journalism, academic papers about music, or a roman a clef (novel based on your own life) about growing up in Los Angeles? Only you can answer this question, but don’t answer “all three” – you need to streamline.
If you choose to write music journalism, go for it – you can start off now by submitting reviews to newspapers and blogs. I have advice for how to do so on my website: http://nedvizzini.com/faq/#professional
If you choose to write academic papers about music, you can continue to do that in the framework you already have – the school where you are getting your degree. Your professors should be able to help you with this type of writing.
If you choose to write the novel, which is probably the hardest of the three, you can write it on your own in your spare time, but you should pursue a literary agent only when you finish a novel that you want to sell to a major publishing house. There is no set cost to find an agent (and please avoid any agent who wants money up front!) but it will take lots of your time and effort to find one, so don’t think about that now. Try and streamline your goals by deciding what kind of writing you most enjoy and go from there. Good luck!
Have questions about writing, or the business of publishing? Ask a real writer! Ned Vizzini Vizzini is the author of three acclaimed young adult books: It’s Kind of a Funny Story (now a major motion picture), Be More Chill, and Teen Angst? Naaah…. Ned has spoken at over 200 schools, universities, and libraries around the world about writing and mental health. E-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.