As I was writing my post on dialogue, I thought, Wow, I've been rambling for a while now. And so I have. I've been talking about reading and writing on this blog since last summer, and as much as I enjoy corrupting you all with my ways, I realize there are other idea-filled writers out there who are farther along in their personal journeys than I am.
So I presented them with a question: What advice would you give to a new writer?
And now, drumroll please, I present you with their answers.
The biggest thing I think about when I reflect back on my journey is what I was insecure about, what I feared, and how easy it would've been for me to have given up. I'm a firm believer that you make your own opportunities by thinking positively. You can't win if you don't try—and I know the fear of failure is what keeps people rooted in their insecurities, but sometimes even achieving a baby step...writing one chapter, carving out ten minutes a day to write, reading a blog on the craft of writing...is progress. Don't be so hard on yourself, because ultimately, this is supposed to be fun.
I'm published today because a publisher came to one of our local RWA chapter meetings. When she asked me if I was pitching to her, I told her I was in the middle of edits with an editor I'd hired, and that I didn't think I was ready. She looked at me like I was speaking Swahili. Her argument was that this was a business...treat it as such. "Pitch," she said. "What do you have to lose?"
I did, and got an offer on my manuscript two months later.
You can't win if you don't try.
I slipped my beloved baby (i.e. manuscript) into the hands of strangers. Just like that. I hoped oh-so-naively that little would be changed. Over the ensuing months I played tug-o-war with my editors. Determining what was best for the story (tug!) and what was an editor’s opinion of what was best for the story (tug, tug!) was a tricky affair. A certain Dude Editor taught me the value of the following sentiment:
Listen to your heart and ignore your ego.
In my opinion I had a stellar story. That didn’t prevent the Dude Editor from spotting some issues. Like the fact that my hero lapsed into Girl Speak and engaged in some oh-so-attractive mopey preteen behavior. Eeeeek! So embarrassing! However, when the same editor questioned my fashion sense, I double-checked my facts and stood my ground. (I know sparkly beaded slippers, Bucko!)
I learned to trust my heart. I polished the gems til they shone like stars. I swallowed my ego and acted on the advice of those with more experience to strengthen the rest. What emerged from the editing process was a tale I couldn’t have created on my own.
It boils down to this: the Publishing World is a big scary place. Trusting in yourself and your abilities and relying on those with more knowhow will help you emerge victorious.
I'd always encourage new writers to have a structured plan before they start writing, as it helps with getting you through the inevitable bit where you lose faith in the idea. I'd say believe in what you're writing, and remember that editing and rewriting is the fun bit. So push to get past the blank page, and don't be afraid of getting your work out there. Youre not a writer until you've had feedback from an audience.
Write What You Love
The common wisdom is to “write what you know.” That’s a great place to start. But there’s more to life and writing than sticking to the tried and true.
Branch out and be bold
Life is a happy adventure. Consider the endless possibilities: Travel. Try out a restaurant or recipe. Read a novel (consider the dual meaning of this word). If you don’t talk to strangers, you’ll never meet anyone new.
Take your writing someplace unexpected to or let it take you. Don’t be afraid to lead your characters up the steep mountain paths or follow them down dark alleys.
Write what you don’t know—with a passion
A writer can write about a place he or she has never been, a time he or she has never lived in, or something else the writer has never experienced. Of course, it helps to have some familiarity with the subject—and/or a willingness to dig into it.
Use your imagination
How would we have any sci-fi/fantasy if we all only wrote what we knew? World-building can be so much fun—for the reader and the writer. At some level, all fiction is speculative.
Follow your passion and do your research
You’re going to have spend a lot of time and devote a lot of headspace to whatever you write about. So make it something you know--something you know sparks your interest. You can always do research—and enjoy delving into a topic that interests you—to make up for what you don’t know.
Write with your heart as well as your head, and you will be a better storyteller for it. Write what you love.
My advice to young writers would be to never give up and don't let the rejections get you down. Before I got published, I had hundreds of rejections. Hundreds. But I didn't let that stop me. I knew that I wanted to be a writer and no one was going to tell me I couldn't. Also, don't ever think you're not good enough. Don't think that people won't want to hear your story or that it's been said before. If there is a story in you, it needs to be out into the world...it needs to be heard. It is your story and you are unique. No one can write or tell it like you can, so get it told. And again...never give up!!
My first story was a true story about a little boy who died of child abuse here in our local town. I wanted to get his story told so people could see how the justice system let him down. I never got this story published, but I will go back to it someday. It's called Chasing Butterflies.
My second story, the one I just got published, is called Everlasting, and it came to life because of my brother-in-law passing away. He passed away about six months before I wrote Everlasting. He came to me in a dream one night and I was able to ask him questions about what life after death was like. His answers were so real, it was like he was right there with me. I know this sounds freaky but it wasn't at the time, in my dream. Anyway, I knew I had to incorporate his answers into a book somehow so this is how Everlasting was born. It is a Young Adult Paranormal Romance novel and is a deep love story between Sophia and Tate. I will give you the links here to have a peek at it. You can also check its progress and its sequel out on my website. Here are the buy links for Everlasting if you think it sounds intriguing: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, SmashWords.
Thanks so much for listening and thank you to Victoria Griffin for letting me tell you my story! Never Give Up!
Writing comes from the love for it and it is thorough discipline. You become a writer when you write every single day. Everyone has a story to tell. Believe in yourself and let the words flow from within. Don't write a commercially viable story to please the readers in the market but write to please yourself. Write from your heart and there will be millions out there who will love your story.
For Aspiring Authors: If you have faith in your story go ahead and self publish. That is the best thing one can do. Don't waste your time chasing publishers. I did. Just get a professional editor and proof reader and upload your e-book on Amazon. Promote the book extensively on social media to grab eyeballs. If the book is good, you will be on the Best Sellers List and then the Publishers will be scouting for you.
First, don't psych yourself out. Second, and most important, take your time. If it takes you a year to complete a first draft or even an outline, then it takes you a year. The first time I published, I was so excited that I went through a self-publishing company without doing any research on them, paid a lot of money, and rushed to get my book out and missed a lot of errors. My first book was published sub-par and, locked into a two year contract, was forced to sit back for way too long before I could pull it and fix it. Third, revise, revise, revise. Don't think of it as fixing mistakes. You are polishing a gem and a thousand passes with the right cloth will make it shine the brilliance it is meant to have. Fourth, READ. Reading books helps you learn techniques that will help with your writing. Read books in your same genre, not to copy, but to investigate. What did you like and why? What didn't work and why and keep those answers in mind when you write your own story. The more you understand your characters, your context, your technique, your voice, the better writer you'll make.
Authors are entrepreneurs. Our business is ourselves. Remember that line . . .
My debut book, The Kiss of Death, was released through a small press this past summer—the best moment of my life! Yet, it’s hard to get into mega booksellers like Barnes & Noble if you’re not supplied by the Big Five. But if you have the passion and talent, you can do anything you set your mind to. This is the reason my local Barnes & Noble decided to take a chance on me, a new author, and acquire copies of my debut book. They placed them on display at the customer service desk as recommended reading from the manager. Then, they decided to host not one, but two author events for me—complete with my own presentations (and forays into public speaking) followed by book signings.
Yes, the Barnes & Noble manager who saw potential in me made my dreams a reality. But first, I needed to possess the ability to make them attainable. It wasn’t about repeat calls to the store. It was about making a good first impression. The store wasn’t actively seeking someone like me. It was I who approached them initially and happened upon a manager who took an immediate interest in me. Regardless of what we are taught in avoiding social judgement, first impressions matter in the professional world, and they are especially important in the publishing industry. That is how you make connections, build contacts, and keep contacts.
When the manager expressed interest in following up, I was ready with my business card in hand. Authors are entrepreneurs. Our business is ourselves. Remember, with motivation and persistence you will be prepared when opportunity hits, and success will be the inevitable result. Then, perhaps you, too can view your book on the shelves of Barnes & Noble.
(If you found this message inspiring and would like more tips about getting your book into Barnes & Noble, feel free to check out my full blog post: An Author Walks into a Bookstore: How I Got My Book into Barnes & Noble.)
Thank you so much to all the fantastic writers who took the time to share their knowledge and experiences! If I have learned anything in the last year, it's that the writing community is vast, diverse, and very kind. Veterans are willing to go to great lengths to help young writers along their paths—something they have no obligation to do. But they have immense respect for their peers and respect for the craft, and that is why literature will continue to grow and develop, as we learn from each other.
Please check out their websites and links, buy their books, send them gift baskets! Also each writer's image is linked to his or her Twitter page.
Thank you again to all the outstanding writers featured here. I loved reading your responses, and I know they will guide and inspire others!
Author & Editor