Writer’s Tool Box: Advice for Success
As I start preparing for my first book’s release (set for January 2014), I’ve been looking back on what led to this momentous moment. I’ve met with several people interested in writing and wanting to know what the secret was to getting published.
I wish I could say there was a magic wand, that there was something mystical in how achieving dreams happened. Unfortunately, the best I can do is offer three words: Research, Dedication and Follow-through.
If you want to write…and I mean seriously write and get published, there are some basic tricks of the trade you need to know. First, never try to make your first book complicated. I’ve met tons of other authors who describe their book’s plots in painstaking detail and I get lost in the countless different things they tell me. Keep the book’s concept clean and clear cut, which leads to the first tool in a good writer’s tool box.
- Find out what type of book you want to write. Literary fiction, non-fiction, genre fiction, children’s books, YA. Once you’ve figured out what you want to write, don’t just sit down and start writing straight away.
- You need to read at least thirty (that’s a decent starting point) books that have been either recently published in that area you are interested in, or are considered the examples (even if they are classics and may be older). For example: I write romance. When I started down this road, I began to read any and everything romance wise I could get my hands on. I read the classics like Nora Roberts, Johanna Lindsey and the newer writers too. I didn’t just read one subgenre either. I read contemporary, western, paranormal, erotic, historical etc. I got a flavor for everything.
- Most importantly, figure out key things like: how long should my book be? When I wrote my first romance, I didn’t know the standard length was under 115,000 words. My first draft was 145,000 words long!! I’ve since then cut it down. But I could have saved myself a lot of trouble, had I done the research in advance. So pick up some “how-to” books on amazon (there’s some available if you’re writing genre fiction like thrillers, paranormal, romance etc).
- Most people love to say they're writers, but a lot of people out there have one manuscript they’ve been tinkering with for ten years and they’ve never shown it to anyone.
- If you plan to write you have to believe in what you’re doing and prove to the world you mean to make it come true.
- You have to view it as a skill that requires mastery, like fencing or playing a musical instrument. There are basic things you need to learn and then there are finite details you’ll always be adding. Accept this one truth now, as a writer, you never “stop” learning the craft.
- Take a workshop every few months. Attend a conference. Keep yourself engaged in the writing process.
- Treat it like a job. Make time, keep a schedule, keep motivated. Whether it’s word count diaries or just having a page goal at the end of the month, you’ve got to keep at it.
- If you need to start off small, find short story contests. They set deadlines and parameters for what you need to write and sometimes you get feedback!
- Join a writer’s group, or make your own. I started out with a once a week Sunday afternoon 3 person group. We brought ten pages to critique and the three of us would get a lot of great work done!
- This is the hardest part. Many people want to give up and go home after a couple of literary agent rejections or bad feedback.
- We have all been there, even the greatest, most successful writers have been there.
- Here’s something to consider. People respect you more when you earn your success, if it isn’t hard and isn’t easy, you don’t technically earn the success. People love to hear about underdogs who triumph. Be the underdog!
- Be ready to accept the fact that even when you have great news, there will always be bad news.
- Not everyone will love your work, heck they might not even understand your work. But if you just keep at it, you’ll find the right editor who wants your stuff.
- Know when to abandon a book and move on, but also know when to stick with a book and revise it to where it can sell.
- Let your works breathe. When you finish something, let it rest a few months. Work on a new project for a while and then go back with fresh eyes on your finished book.
- If you really want to get published, keep at it. Follow-through on your dreams. People who want to run marathons don’t just put on a pair of sneakers and start running the entire race. They train, start small and build up to the length of the race.
- It will take time. Nothing in the publishing industry is ever fast. Enjoy the journey while you’re on it.
I firmly believe that if you can master the three above tools and keep them at your disposal, you’ll have success. Dreams of being a writer become a reality and you’ll be proud you stuck with it.
Feel free to comment below. What are the tools or advice you have as a writer or aspiring author?