Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Top 5 Things You Should Know About Writing Before You Start--Part 1

I had the opportunity to teach a writing class while at camp last week. Fourteen girls between the ages of twelve and eighteen signed up for the class. When I was asked to teach I wasn't given a lot of guidelines, and I really didn't know what the girl's had in mind when they signed up for the class. So, I stalled in planning.

And I stalled.

Then I thought about the age of the girls. If they wanted to be writers, they were just starting out. There are so many things they don't know about. What would be the MOST important thing I could share with them in the short 50 minutes I had with them?

Then it came to me. I couldn't share everything that I've learned over the last three years in 50 minutes, but I could share the basics of the top 5 things I wish I had understood at the beginning of my journey.

Today I'm going to share the first two with you, and the other three on Friday. Basically, these are my notes for the discussion we had over the course of the hour.

A. You have to make the time to write. If you don’t, the writing won’t happen.
  • No one is going to come to you and say, "Let me clean your house today and do your grocery shopping so you can write." 
  • If you don't say, "This is my writing time" and turn off the phone and internet, and lock yourself away from your family, you will continue to be interrupted and the writing will suffer. 
  • Fifteen to twenty minutes here and there is better than nothing, but if you're like me, you need at least that long to remember where you left off and where you're heading. For this reason, I prefer to get at least an hour block, but two is my goal.

B. Getting published isn’t going to (at least it shouldn’t) happen overnight. Even in today’s faster paced world, good publishing takes time. 

Ex. I got my first 'yes' in 2011 and I turned it down because I didn’t feel I was ready. The next 'yes' came March 2012 and it just felt right. However, it took another month before the contract was signed and everything was official. Two more weeks before I met my editor, another 2 weeks to get the first notes back from the editor and then a month for me to work on those edits. A month after I turned them in I got a note from my editor saying she was starting on my WIP because guess what?? She has other authors she's working with! SO, even after you get a YES, there is a lot of waiting. Be ready to accept that. Embrace it and work hard when the ball is in your court.

Along those lines, even if you self publish you need to put in the same amount of time and effort into polishing that manuscript as those with Big 6 contracts. The better the final product, the more success you will see. (And yes, we have seen exceptions to this rule, but don't you want to be proud of the quality of your finished novel?)

2. The Publishing Industry (Many ways to publish—Always changing)

Once again, I simplified things because I wasn't sure of the girl's ages or what they might already know.

Traditional—Get an Agent; they shop your MS to the Big 6 publishers. What you get: help with contract, an advance, help with marketing, editor, royalties

Mid-size/Small—Query acquisitions editors, often faster to print. You get: editor, help with marketing but not as much as traditional (a lot is up to you), more control and participation in the process, royalties.

Self/Indie—It’s all you! Formatting, printing costs, getting ISBN, marketing, book cover, complete control is in your hands as is the financial risk of printing.

Let me ask you, what do you do to make sure you have writing time? 
What is your current dream pathway to getting published?

Oh, I almost forgot! My punctuation post is up at Jen McConnel's today. It should be live sometime on the 8th. Jen McConnel.wordpress.com 


  1. I just make time in the evening. I spent the last two months cranking out over 81,000 words for my next book, and I knew the only way that would happen is if I set aside a couple hours each night. Looking back, I'm not sure how I did it, but even more, I have no idea what I gave up to get it done.

    1. Exactly! And look at what you accomplished by setting that time aside every day. I can't wait to read your next book!

  2. This is a wonderful post for beginners!

    The first lesson is the one I had the most trouble with (and still sometimes do) it's hard to carve time out of a busy schedule, but if you don't, when will the writing happen? I'm sure very few of us have a ton of free time.

    The second lesson is great for someone just starting out. Untangling the complexities of how the publishing industry works can be confusing when you're first learning about it. When I started out, I thought you submitted directly to the big publishing houses, not to a book agent first! *facepalm*

    I anticipate the next few lessons being just as good :D

    1. Thanks Avery! Time is always an issue for writers. For instance, I have time right now, but it's filled with loud noises. Not quite as helpful as I could wish.

  3. I think I would have started with the most basic lesson. If you want to write, you need to learn to type. If you can't type, then this is not for you.

  4. Good point about time. I know I have to make the time if I want to get anything done.

    1. *sigh* I'm trying to make time right now, but the boys are driving their trucks all over the room. Funny how little noises that I used to be able to ignore now bug me. Does this mean I'm getting old?

  5. Excellent advice for those considering trying their hand at writing. If anyone asks me, I'll direct them to this post. :-)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...