So your friend has landed an agent and/or book deal and you have a million questions for them but really, the big questions are for yourself. Can I write that book that’s in my head? Can I actually get it published? They’re doing it! They’re an author now.
Well, friend, this post is for you so that your buddy can focus on their writing and you can ask yourself the tough questions about sitting down to write. Let’s begin.
So you want to write a novel?
Ask yourself at what age you knew you were destined to write for the masses. Then add 3 decades to that and thank your lucky stars if you publish something traditionally before that. How bad do you want it?
If you can die happy without having published, then I’m not talking to you. If I am talking to you…write. Get to the end. Write, revise, rewrite, research, learn about the craft of writing, read and watch and study your genres, stay up to date on publishing industry news (Publishers Weekly). Know the market but don’t chase trends, you’re already behind. Understand that publishing is a business and the only thing that you can control is the writing. Write what you love. Know what you’re up against. Be ready for your moment.
Submit your work. Understand that rejection is part of the process and it never ends even when you’re well into your publishing career. Some writers query MULTIPLE books for YEARS before they get an agent/book deal. So you got 20 rejections. Boohoo. How bad do you really want this?
Try and try again. Try more times than you think you can. And then again. And again. And again. It just might break you and you may get to a point where you have to decide, really decide if you have it in you to keep going. It’s okay if you don’t. You tried. But if you can’t function without getting to that goal, take a break to live, to reflect, to refill the creative well. Then keep going.
Find other writers at different levels who will be your support. Find your people, they will hold you up and push you to be greater than you ever imagined. I found mine and I am so grateful. Find yours.
Use Word, use Scrivener, use paper, use whatever gets the job done. Use index cards or don’t. Find what works for your book. For each book you write because each book is different and therefore the process just might be different every time.
Write in bed, on the couch, at a desk, at a cafe, wherever you feel most comfortable. But also learn how to write anywhere, no matter the distractions around you. Write with music, with lyrics or not, or don’t. Turn off social media notifications, turn the internet off and just write. Wake up an hour earlier to write. Stay up an hour later to write. Train your brain to focus on and excel in 30 minute writing sprints. You don’t have to write everyday. You do have to develop discipline. Recognize your privilege or limitations and do what you need to do to carve out time to get words on the page.
Learn how to revise. I’m not talking about taking out extra commas and correcting typos. Show, don’t tell. Ask yourself if you really need that prologue. Change a POV. Cut a POV. Change the tense of the entire manuscript. Ask yourself if there’s a more natural way to get rid of that info dump that slows down the pacing of the book and takes the reader out of the story. Completely rewrite those chapters that don’t work. Don’t work your butt off on your manuscript only to rush the ending. Figure that ending out. Take your world, your characters, their relationships, your plot, your voice, your stakes to task.
Writer’s Block = Fear.
Writer’s Block = Puzzle Piece in Wrong Spot, Please Try Again Later
Decide how you will invest in becoming a better writer. Hire a freelance editor or don’t. Take a writing class or attend a writing workshop. Online or in person. Buy books about writing and mark those books up to your heart’s content. Or check books out at the library (in person or through the Libby app) and take notes. Attend a writers retreat (Madcap, for example). Follow select authors via their patreon or for free, subscribe to podcasts (Write or Die, 88 Cups of Tea, First Draft with Sarah Enni, Writing Excuses to name a few). Spend your money and time wisely and don’t quit your day job until you know that you know that you know that you can (if you ever can). If the book deal does come, look at your income and plan wisely.
Read widely. Adult. Young Adult. Middle Grade. Children’s. Fiction. Nonfiction. Various genres. Book length. Novellas. Short stories. First Person. Third Person. Second Person. Multiple POV. Past Tense. Present Tense. Nonlinear. In verse. Epistolary. Standalone. Duology. Trilogy. Series. Books from the Big Five Publishers. Books from smaller publishers. Self-published books. Books written by people who don’t look like you. Books written by people who do look like you. Books. Audiobooks. Graphic novels. Poetry. Monologues. Plays. Scripts.
Immerse yourself in the book community around you. Support other authors. Go to author signings and events near you and say hi to the person sitting next to you. Don’t compare your first draft to the book you’re staring at on the shelf while you wait for the event to begin. That finished copy is likely draft #12 or #33. And even though it says in their bio that this is their debut novel, it’s probably their 5th or 10th manuscript they’ve written, this is just the first one that’s been published.
How bad do you want it?