If all you want to do is write, go for it. You don’t have to get permission or a license. All you need is a pencil and paper or maybe a computer depending on how serious you take your endeavor. If writing a novel is a future goal then this is one way to hone your skills. Many professionals recommend that you start out small. You could write an article for the local paper or a magazine, and even consider a blog. This not only improves your writing skills, but it also builds up the resume that you will need later when approaching an agent/publisher.
If you do want to write a novel, you should know it’s hard work. Those people who say, “Anybody can write a book, how hard can it be?” They’ve never written a novel and most definitely never had one published. You have to research, outline, draft and redraft, not to mention the countless revisions. I have probably done a complete revision of my book 4-5 times. I’ve lost count to be honest and these revisions don’t include the numerous times I have reworked scenes or randon sentences that didn’t read well. Did I mention combing it for grammatical and structural errors. That’s a lot of fun, especially if you aren’t an English major. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to stop writing to google simple questions on grammar.
Another thing to keep in mind, your first novel probably won’t be a masterpiece. This is true of every writer of every first novel. That does include Nicholas Spark and J.K. Rowling. Keep in mind you are learning the craft as your write. You will need to understand how to work dialogue, pace your book, construct a plot that is plausible and cohesive, build tension and create characters that your reader likes and can relate to. Experts say it takes about 10,000 hours of writing to prepare you to write a publishable novel.
I don’t meant to discourage anyone. I just want to make sure you know what you are getting in to. Most books take 5-10 years to get published. I’m on year 5 so maybe I’m approaching the finish line. I sure hope I was a fast learner. If this is what you want to do, improve your skills by reading and writing. Yes you need to read. I would also recomment that you take classes, attend seminars, research, and join writing groups (WritersWrite.com). You will get there. The biggy is DON’T GIVE UP!
Being a first time Author, I had no idea how complex the editing process was. My idea of editing included spell check, making sure punctuation was used appropriately, and everything was in the right tense(past, present…).
As I stated in an earlier blog, my novel was rejected the first time for having grammatical and structural errors as well as the dreaded dragging dialogue. Keep in mind this wasn’t the complete manuscript. The agent would have probably found far worse if she had read more of it.
When you begin editing and you will, you’ll want to take a closer look at everything. You may need to do some research, take classes, or do tutorial type seminars online. Below is a sample of the types of questions you should be asking as you read through your work.
- How’s the flow of your dialogue? Is it necessary? Does it move your story forward or just sit like a rock taking up space and killing the moment?
- How is the pacing? I like novels that move at a faster pace, however I know you have to slow them down occasionaly so the reader can catch their breath.
- Does your plot make sense, does it flow throughout the story with smooth transitions from chapter to chapter?
- What about your character development? Have you created real, likable Characters? Can your reader identify with them?
- Word choice-is there a better way to say something?
- Are you showing and not telling?
- Have you mastered emotions you are trying to convey? Can you feel the tension rising?
Ask others to read your work as well or if you would prefer not to do that then join a group online (WritersWrite.com) and have fellow writers read and critique what you have written. There is a large communty of aspiring authors out there that would love the opportunity to interface and exchange information.
Yes!!!!!! Especially if this is your first book. If you have already written a best seller, your agent and editor may cut you some slack, if not, that book better be pretty close to perfect or nobody is going to look at it. I know you’ve heard this before if you’ve done any type of research, but agents receive hundreds of queries a week. They don’t have time to read everyone. If your manuscript is full of grammatical and structural errors, that’s all the excuse they need to toss it to the side and move on to the next one.
I sent my first manuscript out to five different agents. I was very excited and a little anxious to hear what they had to say. I expected some rejections but not all. I had put over a year into that novel. It was my baby. Well, two didn’t respond at all, one said no thanks, and another said it wasn’t what they were looking for. The fifth one bless her heart responded with a rejection but also included a why. There were numerous grammatical and structural errors and the dialogue dragged.
While I was disappointed, I did take her advice to heart and began the process of editing and correcting structural and grammatical errors. I also watched a Webinar online offered through Writers Digest. It was on writing dialogue that moved your story forward. I had never really thought about dialogue moving a story before but I see it now and have a pretty good understanding of what the presenter was trying to get across.
Truth be known, I was ashamed of myself for sending such poor work to an agent. I never realized how bad it was until I began the arduous process of making corrections. I definitely didn’t make a good first impression.
So you’ve spent the last year or so writing your first novel. It may be a great story but it want even make it to first base if it’s poorly written. Great stories with a significant number of structural and grammatical errors get tossed to the side everyday. How’s your dialogue? Does it move your story forward or just sit like a rock slowing things down and encouraging the reader to skip it completely. What about your platform? Do you have one? Great manuscripts of first time authors get pushed to the side everyday because the aspiring author doesn’t have a solid platform.
I was recently rejected by a literary agent because of my lack of a solid platform. I spent the last few years editing and rewriting major portions of my manuscript to address issues mentioned above. I was confident with my work and looked forward to a request for the complete story. Well, what I got wasn’t a request but a rejection. The reason had nothing to do with my novel. I had focused so much on preparing it for publication that I failed to do one of the most important things, build an audience of potential customers. Is it necessary? Unfortunately yes, especially for first time authors. The agent who rejected me actually apologized for not giving me better news but said it was really hard to place new authors and especially those who did not have a solid platform. While she recommended that I send it to other agents, she also emphasized the importance of building a platform.
The good news is with technology it is a lot easier than you would think. Google ‘Building a platform’ and you’ll find all kinds of information. I would personally recommend looking into Michael Hyatt. He is an author, blogger, speaker, and a former chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers so he knows a little bit about what we are trying to accomplish here. I would also recommend his book ‘PLATFORM GET NOTICED IN A NOISY WORLD’. He provides all the information you need to get started, including websites that assist with the creation of your online presence.
I hope this helps someone out there on their quest to being published. I chose to discuss platforms in my first entry because of the frustration I felt after receiving the news from the literary agent. I just didn’t know. This is something I could have been doing while preparing my novel for publishing.
Please join me on this journey as I navigate through the publication process. I will be updating this blog at least twice a week and working out the kinks. Bear with me and I promise to provide information that will assist you in your journey and hopefully keep you from making the same mistakes that I have.
-Jan R Continue reading “Getting Started”