A friend working on her first fiction manuscript emailed me this week to ask if I had “any words of wisdom” to share. I answered her privately, but her questions made me think about the things I wish I’d known when I started writing in pursuit of publication.
Find your voice
I’ve dabbled in genres like nibbles at a tapas bar. Young adult, children’s, historical, time slip, literary fiction and more. But none of that writing ever felt right, and it was only when I turned to romance, the books I already read to feel good, and for an escape when I needed it, that I found my voice.
What I learned writing for those other audiences, though, wasn’t lost. Instead, I now use it in a different way.
Don’t be afraid of emotion
There’s not much emotion in the writing I do for my day job. However, when I began writing fiction I had to learn to embrace emotion. Only by connecting with my own heart, and writing from it, could I hope to touch readers.
Make time to write
My friend and writing mentor, Julie Cohen, addressed this topic beautifully in a Novelicious writing advice column. To be a writer, you have to give things up–sleep, watching television and, in my case, certain domestic standards.
Find a community
Writing is solitary, and only other writers understand why you spend much of your time with people who don’t exist.
Whether online, or friends you meet once a month, your writing community inspires you, critiques you, and is a shoulder to cry on. They also make you laugh.
What’s your groove?
Maybe you plot, write by the seat of your pants, or mix it up. Part of writing toward publication is figuring out what process works for you.
Read and learn
Read from the perspective of a writer. How do the best authors in your genre do what they do?
Which publishers acquire what you write? How should you approach agents and editors? Is self-publishing for you?
Write, revise and repeat
This one should have been easy for me. After all, I revised the literature review for an academic thesis thirty-five times. Fiction, however, is a different animal.
If a reviewer you respect thinks your hero is a “bit of a wimp,” you have to dig deep into character motivation and emotion to fix the problem. Enter contests, and use feedback to strengthen your craft.
Better someone points out an issue privately, than in a future Amazon review.
What do you do when you’re done?
When a book is as good as you can make it, and you send your writing into the world of agents and editors, celebrate. You’ve achieved something most people never do.
Then start your next book, and the one after that.
When writing toward publication, you’re not only a writer. You’re running a small business where you’re CEO, CFO, Marketing Director, and everyone in between.
What’s your writing brand? How will you promote yourself, as well as your writing? What can you learn from how other authors use social media?
Promotion is hard work, especially if you’re an introvert like me, but it’s necessary.
Cultivate a thick skin
You’ll be rejected, over and over again. Some rejections you learn from. Others are funny. Still others devastate. But if you believe in yourself, and your writing, you keep going.
As hard as rejection is, not writing is harder, and if you gave up, wouldn’t you always wonder, what if?
If you’re a writer, do you have other tips?
If you’re a reader, why are certain authors on your ‘must read’ list?