Writing a novel other people will pay to read is a challenge. Heck, writing a novel I’m willing to reread without cringing is hard. No matter where you are in the process, the path is paved with good advice. Here are some things I wished I’d known or listened to more when I was first starting out.
Learning Doesn’t Mean You’re a Loser
My son’s school preaches the importance of having a “growth mindset,” but back when I was a kid, it felt like abilities were fixed, and that’s what I believed when I started writing. You either had “it” or you didn’t. As a result, I thought that if my first book didn’t sell, that would mean I was a loser. Writing was a zero-sum game: either I got published right away (a win) or I didn’t (a loss).
I’ve since realized it takes time to develop the skills of writing. If you don’t get your MFA or are able to devote years and money to be formally trained in how to write a novel, you’ve got to figure it out for yourself. Websites like Inkitt and others provide great training on craft, etc, but in the end, you’re in an apprenticeship program of one. I wasted time starting and stopping because I was worried about being a loser. All it did was postpone the learning experience, which has set me back more than anything.
Read to Improve Writing
I’ve always enjoyed reading. In fact, it’s why I wanted to become a writer—to create stories. This is why the advice to “read more to write better” went in one ear and out the other. Check, I thought. I already do that. Unfortunately, I was missing the point.
When other writers said newbies should read more, they didn’t mean to do it merely for entertainment. Instead, they were encouraging people to be a different kind of reader: one who critically deconstructed a novel, asking how the author used characters, plotting, and pacing to apt effect. I needed samples of how the experts did it, so I could emulate the craft of novel construction.
Reading deeper and wider, especially in your preferred genre, is crucial to understanding where the market is. This is important if you want to sell your book and not just write it for yourself. It’s not about chasing trends as much as it is being knowledgeable about the canon and able to explain how your title compares to the competition (i.e., how it’s the same/different not better/worse).
Have an Open Mind About Publishing
I, like many of you, no doubt, started my reading journey at the library. I touched the spines and perused the covers before making my selection. This process later moved to the bookstore, where I’d make my choices in similar ways. Downloading a book or having an algorithm select one for me was not how it was done, and thus, I dreamed exclusively of having a traditional publishing contract where physical copies of my books would ultimately reside in libraries and stores. This has left me hamstrung because publishing in that way has only gotten more competitive. The powers that be are conservative. It takes a lot of manpower and money to bring a book to market, and traditional publishing houses are understandably hesitant to color outside the lines.
I wish I’d seen the power of self-publishing or using publishing forums like Inkitt sooner. If you want to learn more about publishing here on Inkitt, check out this article: Ask Inkitt – How Does Inkitt Work? These sites give power to the writer and the reader to find each other without a traditional gate keeper in the middle. My lack of imagination caused me to miss a moment.
Wherever your publishing journey takes you, you’ll never regret being patient, kind to yourself, or working to improve your craft. Happy writing!