I came across this topic Friday while reading some of the writing blogs I follow. What started as a single blog post seems to have become sort of a mini-MEME. It started over at the Creative Penn. Joanna Penn blogged about what she wishes she’d known before writing her first book. Then Alexis Grant, at Aspiring Author, picked up the theme and blogged about what she wished she’d known. Her post has a slightly different spin than Ms. Penn’s because Ms. Grant is writing her memoirs instead of a novel. The next to take up the issue was J. Timothy King at be the story.
As I followed the links, I started me thinking — Kate, quit snickering. I KNOW it’s dangerous when I think. But what can I say? It happens sometimes. — Anyway, I started thinking about what I wished I’d known before writing my first novel.
As a point of clarification, I don’t mean any of those so-called books I’ve written that have been forever banished under my bed or in the far corner of my closet. Nor does it mean any of those that became the fodder for bonfires before Sarah started threatening to hurt me if I didn’t quit playing with fire. I’m still not sure if she meant burning those pages I most certainly would not want someone finding and reading if anything ever happened to me or just telling her I’d done so. Hmmm. Maybe it’s the latter and I can finish burning the rest of those pages….
Oh, sorry, back to the point. What I wished I’d known before writing my first novel, in this case, Nocturnal Origins:
- How important it is to have a core group of readers who will tell you the truth about your baby and be supportive at the same time. Critique groups are wonderful, as are first readers. But so often they tend to simply say the book is good or bad without specifics. I’ve been fortunate enough to have several people, writers all, who have taken the time to mentor me and help me through the process, pointing out where I needed to change or fix something, without ever making me feel like I was an idiot for wanting to be a writer.
- It can be as hard, sometimes even harder, to find an agent than it is a publisher. The corallary to this is that you don’t have to have an agent to find a pubisher. It just takes more research and hard work.
- Research is not limited to what you need to make your novel believable. It also extends to where you are going to try to sell the book, marketing trends, etc. In other words, a writer has to be much more than a writer.
- Don’t expect to hear from everyone you send a query/pages to. This is especially true with agents. More and more of them now say in their guidelines that they only respond if they are interested. I should probably understand that but, well, I don’t. In this day and age of email, it doesn’t take much to send a form rejection if you don’t like something or if you feel it isn’t right for your agency.
- How hard it is to turn loose of your baby and send it off. It’s like sending your child off to that first day of school. You’ve lived with the novel for weeks or months — or more — and now you’re sending it off into the world without you.
- You have to have a thick skin. No matter how much you prepare yourself for that first rejection — or the tenth or the one hundredth — it’s never easy to hear that someone doesn’t love your novel as much as you do. If you take the rejection too close to heart, it becomes harder and harder to write. Me, well, I think all those rejections make a nice conversation peice, especially when applied to the walls like wall paper ;-p
- Patience truly is a virtue in this business. It takes time to research for a book. Time to write it. Time to edit it and, most of all, time to hear back after you’ve sent it off.
So, to steal from Ms. Penn, as a writer, what do you wish you’d known before starting your first writing project?