Friday, August 23, 2013

So, You're A New Writer

Okay, you have made up your mind, you're going to write a book. Something you've wanted to do for as long as you can remember. 

You set out what it will be about and begin typing away at your keypad and your manuscript is on it's way. Your friends and family tell you, just write the book, then work on revisions, (which is good advice) and you do just that.

Now, you have finished, and you find yourself asking "What now?" Well, my answer to that is "Congratulations, you wrote a book! But, it's only the beginning."

There are all kinds of people that will give you different advice, but unless you have a degree in English, or creative writing, you have a lot of work to do to get that manuscript to the point of publishing. 

Believe me, this is where I was over 4 years ago. I knew that my writing needed a lot of help. I struggled with the right paths to take because for me I didn't want it to take me 10 years before my first book would be ready.

I worked with my mom through the manuscript since she had been an editor, but it was for non-fiction, a big difference, and even though it did help some, I was still left feeling frustrated. I even tried working with my sister, but she had so much going on in her life then, she didn't have the time.

So I was back at square one.

I couldn't afford to take college classes and didn't know where to turn. I knew that my family and friends were not going to tell me the truth, (my writing sucked, not my story, my writing) and I didn't know of anyone who could help me. 

That's when I began to seek out other avenues. 

I want to stress that I believe in paying it forward. This is why I want to give those of you that are going through this very same thing some advice and ideas to help you get to where I am now. I am going to give some points and information and I hope you take it and become a published author.

1. First thing you need to do is find a group/meetup that's sole purpose is learning the craft of creative writing. If you go on line in to and search in your area, you can usually find a writing group. If you can't find one, then there are groups on line.

2. Bring in your writing, ask questions, and work with the person leading the group. Most of the time they know what they're talking about. Being involved makes all the difference and don't forget to write as much as you can.

3. Get to know other writers either in your group or search out more organized groups, such as, RWA, or any fiction writing groups in your area. You can find them on line.

4. If you can, go to some of their meetings. Check them out. They usually have mini-conferences you can go to also for a minimum amount of money. My group, HODRW has them and if you can't afford to be a member, the mini-conferences are 40.00.

5. Once you have gotten to know some writers, find a critique partner and get together with him/her on a regular basis. Working on your craft will help you to become a better writer.

6. Study the creative writing skills. There are tons of blogs from writers out there that go over the skills you need.

7. Work on those revisions faithfully. Even if you are so sick of chapter one because you've rewritten most of it 10 times! 

8. Listen to advice from professional writers and get to know some editors. Most people are willing to help. 

9. Save money up and hire a writing coach. They are sooo worth the money! Working privately with a coach will get you much further ahead. 

10. Be patient with yourself. A good story is one thing, a well written novel is another. It takes time to turn your first one into a novel. 4-6 years is about average.

Once you feel like your book is ready, make sure you hire a professional editor. You can shop around and find one's that are at a reasonable cost. And before you do that find some beta-readers, people you don't really know, or there are sites that will review your work for a nominal fee. You want to know the truth about your book before you send it out to the public.

If you find it's not ready, then work on it some more. Don't ignore the red marks because you don't want to go through the book again. 

And finally, I am more than willing to help anyone out there if they need me. If I don't have answers then I know someone who will. Don't be afraid to ask. And, I'm sure there are plenty of people out there, like me, who would be willing to help you become the successful author you know is hiding in there and need to show themselves to the world.

It's all worth it if it's your dream!

Until next week, have a great weekend!

Love, Lisa


  1. Fairly sound advice, though I disagree with a few points (which shouldn't be too surprising at this point, opinionated bugger that I am).

    I don't think English courses make a person better at this. Better at writing perhaps, but there's more to it than that. Writing courses will teach you the writing rules (some will teach you story rules, but the only one I'm aware of as an absolute is that the world must be consistent with itself). More importantly, they don't teach you the soul. That you have to find on your own by doing it. The only thing that will improve a person's skill at writing a good story is the act itself. You must write. And when you finish something, you must write some more.

    I'm very happy that you mentioned story vs. writing. I've known a lot of wonderful people in my life. One of them was a great storyteller. Mediocre writer. And that's being polite. Some people, particularly those new to getting published, can let their desire to do things their own way get in the way of their story. People might think "this is a nifty way of doing this and it will make my book special" but it's a gimmick. It gets in the way of the story.

    Which is all that is important. The story.

    There are four types of books. Three of them sell well. The books with great story and great writing sell the best. Second best: the books with mediocre writing and great story. Third best: great writing, mediocre story. The books that don't sell? Crappy writing, crappy story.

    I generally argue against rewriting, as many here will recall. Rewriting is a great way to bury the story. As critical beings, we analyze well beyond an appropriate level when it comes to our own work, especially what is considered "art." We will often apply critical thought to how we word a sentence. So long as it is grammatical and can be understood, there is no reason to rewrite so much as a sentence.

    Did you learn something new about your writing through critiques? That's great. Apply it to the next book. We get to be better writers by writing. Rewriting is not writing. Writing is a creative process. Rewriting is a critical one.

    1. I agree they don't teach you the soul, but if you want to write a book, chances are you have that will, that soul as you put it. I did, but I needed help with writing because I hadn't been in any type of writing class in 30 yrs. There are quite a lot of new writers that need that refresher, and even some that never really paid attention at the time for what ever reason.

      When I say rewriting, I mean revisions. you should always clean up your book. If people just publish their rough draft, it really takes away from the story, for a lot of reasons. Another reason is you want to be successful, and you want the reader to come back to read your next book. If it's full of info dump and bad writing, they probably won't. Sure I can find mistakes in any book, but if the majority is cleaned up and it's tight, it doesn't matter. I don't believe writers will see the why they aren't selling until they take some type of classes. Until you understand what's wrong, you won't see it, unless your a big reader like I was. The next book won't be much different unless you decide to work on your craft and even then it might be to late to bring readers back.

    2. The thing about writing courses is that they might teach people proper grammar, maybe, and usually critical writing as one would typically do for academia, but I find even the creative writing courses are lacking in a very vital component: Individuality. they teach writing how textbooks teach writing or how a particular instructor knows writing. But there's a problem with that. All writers a different. I keep forgetting to mention that when I spout my opinion (and I am highly opinionated) of course.

      Much as we all learn in different ways, we are also all different types of writers. Somethings work better for us (like plotting) than they do for others. Some of us do things exactly opposite from how others do them, to comparable result.

      We're all different.

      And so's our terminology. Because to me, rewriting involves the act of writing something again. And that's not to say the whole thing from scratch (which, and I borrow a term from Dean Wesley Smith here, I call redrafting). To me it just means writing parts of a book again. An entire paragraph or (heaven forbid) scene. I don't mean revising things to clean up language and improve legibility. I'll call that revision or copy editing. If it's about clearing things up and making sure the reader understands it, then I am all for it.

      On the other hand, changing story, even little things here and there, is a good way to break things. That's what I advise people don't do. For sure, you can change the language here and there, and given how I've written some things the first time around, cleaning things up here and there are a necessity.

      What isn't vital is changing story elements that you are unsure of if no beta reader complained about them. You're the worst judge of your own work. If one beta reader has a problem with something, it's probably safe to ignore. Two? Start to considering that there may be an issue. If you have more than two bringing something up, then that's cause for consideration.

      But (and here's the caveat) it's your story. While we are terrible judges of our own work, we are also the only person qualified to tell our. Thus, you need to balance what the beta readers say with what you know the soul of the story to be. Which means you need to find out how bad it was for that reader to hit whatever speed bump. What was it and why was it so bad? Do the other betas who didn't mention it agree with the observation?

      If you can understand the reasoning and agree wit hit, then you can start to question that part of the story to see if maybe it really does need to change. Maybe your understanding of the story isn't what you thought it was.

      And that's enough babblingly psuedophilosophical rambling from me tonight. It's time for a long and much-needed rest from which I will probably wake and realize how snarky I've been to people all day and go bury my head in shame.

    3. I never implied anything about changing the voice of the author. It is, however, not only about the writer if they want to publish, it is also about the reader. All I was talking about is writers, who I have found at least over 50 of them, that have found themselves in the same boat as I did, and want to work on their craft and better it. I was giving advice to search out other writers, groups, and even classes to work on their craft and get help when they need it, that's all. I'm not debating whether or not a person should choose to not publish if they want to, just that those who wish to better their writing for whatever reason and want their story to be tighter and clearer for the reader.

      Maybe they know they have a great story but want to make it better. Maybe they lack the confidence to publish it as is because they feel it needs work and would like to know what steps are offered out there for help.

      That's all, just some pointers for those who are finding themselves like I did. My original rough draft was mostly telling, and very little showing. It lacked the umph I felt it needed and I wanted it to be the best I could make it. I knew it would not do well if I published it in that manner and if I would have sought out traditional publishing no one would have picked it up. I knew the basic story was great, but it needed more, and a lot of writers out there feel the same about their work.

      There's really no argument here, just suggestions from me who find themselves where I was.

  2. Otherwise, yes absolutely. Get together with some people you know and trust (as good writers and storytellers) to pick apart any problems with your story. Talk to professional writers, talk to people in writing groups and associations to see how they can help you (and ignore the ones who cannot). Get your beta readers to tell you what brought them out of the story. What made them want to put the book down. What parts did they find it too easy to put the book down.

    Make sure you have someone (preferably someone with copy editing experience, but someone well educated and meticulous will do) review your book for errors. The more eyes you have looking things over, the fewer typing and logic errors will be in your manuscript.

    And make sure whoever sets your book to type, whether print or digital, doesn't introduce any new ones. :)

    Even more important than any of that, keep writing. It's OK to take a break every once in a while—we all need vacations. But if you find you're spending more time working on a story you've already finished than writing new material, you need to address your workflow.

    One of the functions I appreciate most in a critique partner is the accountability. We are accountable to each other in that we report our daily words to each other. That way, if one of us falls well below our average, the other can start cheerleading (if that's what the problem is) or brainstorming (in the case that there's a story problem holding things up.)

    That, I feel, is the most critical function of a partner. Not that they can pick the story apart and tell you a thousand ways it sucks. Anyone can do that to anything because we, as humans, are awesome at being critical and terrible at creating something that is perfect and has no holes (I can tear holes in Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and any other story if you really want me to). The trick is to create a rich enough tapestry, that people don't notice the moth-eaten segments.

    1. I agree with all of the above. A good critique partner is invaluable!