You’re an aspiring author. Your ultimate goal is to find a great agent and get published. Who doesn’t want to be the author of that blockbuster book/movie of the year with a million-dollar payout?
Newbies have a tendency to set unrealistic expectations, and I can attest to this from personal experience. I’m not saying you won’t achieve your goal, but odds are, you’re going to have to start at the bottom and work your way up like the rest of us.
I’m not trying to discourage you. You can do this. I’m just trying to help you set realistic goals. I want you to be prepared not only for successes but the failures that you will most likely incur along the way.
There are some things you can and should be doing as you build your platform and prepare that first novel for publishing.
Get your life out of the way. You don’t have control over everything that goes on around you. We all have situations that arise. Don’t allow them to impede your daily writing time.
Find a trusted friend or spouse who will listen and respond intelligently. You need a cheerleader/an accountability partner.
Until you become successful, write in one genre. Once you’ve achieved success, you can spread your wings and venture into different areas.
Don’t be picky about where you get published initially. Use your experience and publications to build on new ones. You will get there.
Learn what’s selling. You want to cater to your customers.
Develop tough skin. You will probably hear a lot of things you don’t want to hear. Everybody has an opinion. Let it roll off your back!
If a bad review holds merit, adjust your writing and admit your mistakes. This is a learning process. You won’t get everything right the first time.
Don’t give up! The number one characteristic of successful authors is as you probably guessed, they’re persistent. Don’t allow a bad review or hateful word to get in your way.
Why do you choose one book over another? What’s the attraction? They’re both romances, and historical novels at that, but you can only afford one. Which novel will you purchase?
Most likely the first thing that catches your attention is the cover. At least that’s the first thing I notice. I do look at the title and the author, but they’re not the only determining factors. They catch my attention and cause me to take a second look. The front cover photo and back-cover blurb are what seal the deal.
I remember standing in a discount store looking at books when I first started this journey. An employee put the price tag over the face of the heroine on the book that I was interested in purchasing. I couldn’t believe it. I wanted so bad to yank that tag off.
The cover matters, and yes, that tag could have been a deal breaker. I saw enough of the cover to know that it was an inspirational romance set in the civil war era. That was a plus and enough to encourage me to read the back cover to determine the premise of the story.
I know some people read the first couple of pages, but I have to admit that is not something I do when determining my selection. Maybe I’m shallow. I have no doubt I have missed out on a lot of great books because the cover failed to get my attention.
I can tell you this, the process of determination I use to choose a book appears to be the norm based on my observations of others in bookstores. The author’s name may catch a customer’s attention, but when they pull that book off the shelf, they look at the cover photo and then read the summary on the back before deciding to purchase.
What’s important to you? What compels you to choose one book over another?
Just something else to think about as you prepare to publish your work.
Pacing sets the tempo of your novel. How fast or slow it moves depends on the function of the scene and the intent of the author. As discussed in a previous blog, you can speed your story up or slow it down depending on how you use exposition and action.
Intensely dramatic or violent scenes can be either fast or slow depending on your intent. If you slow down the scene, you can ring out the last bit of suspense and mystery, as well as heighten the drama by stretching out something that occurs in seconds.
Sudden shifts in pacing from slow to fast can shock your reader and make your book memorable. Nicholas Spark’s books are a great example of sudden shifts in pacing. In his books, Message In a Bottle and The Best Of Me, he uses the entire book to build a relationship between the main characters only to kill one of them off on the last page. I was totally shocked and a little mad after reading those books. I like happy endings. But he achieved what he set out to do. They evoked strong emotions and I’ve never forgotten them.
Tolkein’s, The Lord Of The Rings vacillates between exposition and action. The varied pace and information provided, allows us to visit middle earth and participate in its history.
Remember, fast pacing is action-packed leaving your reader breathless, and slow pacing is meditative and dramatic.
While I love action-packed, fast-paced books, I realize we need exposition to give the reader a breather and prepare them for what comes next. Balance is the key.
Pacing is an important part of your novel, and if you are a novice, it’s something you probably haven’t given much thought too. I know I didn’t. I love to read and knew that some of the books I read were more fast-paced than others, but didn’t stop to think that the author intentionally wrote them that way.
When you begin the editing process, pacing is another fundamental to add to your list of things to review.
Leading with the setup. If you’re like me, you thought you needed to give your reader some information up front so they could better understand your characters and what was going on. I guess it was a little boring, but my reader was well prepared for the good stuff they never got to 🙂 Setup, regardless of how well written, is boring. Try to weave in small amounts at a time.
Telling too much. Yes, I’m guilty of this one too. Remember backstory and passive voice distance the reader from the action. If your reader’s sense of immediacy is lost, meaning she can’t visualize the events as they occur, you may lose her.
Scenes that lack conflict. You probably guessed I was guilty of this one too 🙂 I had scenes that were nothing but backstory and setup. I really feel bad for the family members and friends I asked to read my finished manuscript.
Writing unsympathetic characters. Yes, I got this one right 🙂 Readers want to connect emotionally with the heroine and hero. They want to root for them, laugh with them, and cry with them. Clearly establish the character’s motivation for behaving in any manner that might make them appear unsympathetic.
Giving the reader a reason to stop reading. Don’t allow a chapter or scene to end in an anti-climactic moment. Always end scenes/chapters with a hook. And yes, I’m guilty of this one too 🙂
Everybody wants to get published. Once my first manuscript was completed, I didn’t hesitate to send it out. I knew it had a few grammatical and structural errors. There’s no way you can catch them all. That’s what an editor is for, right? My story was so good, or so I thought, an agent would jump on it and have their editors correct my mistakes.
Well, that wasn’t exactly what happened. I’ve written numerous posts outlining the errors I made in that first very, very rough draft. When you begin your writing career, odds are you don’t know what you don’t know. Writing a publishable piece of work isn’t easy.
I received a rejection letter from every agent I submitted to with the exception of one, who I like to think saw a promising new author in that mess somewhere. She did reject my work as well, but instead of sending a form letter, she praised what was right and pointed out what was wrong.
Her list was long, and I was more than a little shocked once I realized how rough that first draft really was. She used words like head-hopping, writtenese, and dragging dialogue. That didn’t even include the grammatical and structural errors. You know, the ones the editor was going to correct :-), although she pointed those out too.
Do your homework and remember, that first draft is the first draft. Get it done, then get it good.