Writing a story is one thing.
Writing it for other people to read- well, that’s a whole different ballgame, isn’t it?
Writing, editing, editing some more, rewriting, editing, choosing a publishing venue, editing, formatting and cover design, and a few more rounds of editing- getting a book to a point where it can be called “finished” is no small feat.
As I’ve worked over the last couple of years to prepare my first novel for publication, I’ve celebrated some wins and tried to learn from the fails (often while wallowing in chocolate.)
Today, with my book’s release looming next month, I decided to share some things I’ve learned along the way in hopes that you can benefit from my mistakes!
DO Get Organized
In the process of writing my first book, I used upwards of thirty research sources. Some are books I purchased, some were from the library, some were online.
Naturally, I saved the names and titles and links to these sources. Somewhere….
While this isn’t non-fiction, so citation isn’t an issue, there’ve been things that I’ve wanted to double check during the later stages of editing. Sifting through my old journal notes and the dozen or so files on my computer has been a pain.
Writing friends, I’d advise you to do better than I did- keep all of your references in one place, and if you have notes, make sure that you list just WHERE said notes came from. It’ll save you some headaches!
Do NOT Use the Tab Key
If you use a typing program that like MS Word which can use the “tab” for indentations, DO NOT USE IT.
If you do, and you wish to publish your book as an e-book, you will have to sift through the entire file later to remove them ALL. (If you want to know how to do paragraphs without using a tab, I am now an expert. Or, this site goes through the steps.)
DO Only Put One Space After Each Sentence in a Paragraph
DO Get Other Eyes on Your Work
I’m a teacher. I focused on English in college. I’ve beta read for other writers, and felt like I was pretty good at it.
Going through my final edits these last weeks, I STILL found typos.
As intimidating as it may be to have someone else reading your work before it’s “perfect,” getting fresh eyes on it can help you catch plot holes, grammatical errors, and silly mistakes.
A couple of my favorites from early drafts of my manuscript are:
- a man who had his leg amputated walking around in the next scene (Fast healer!)
- the phrase “he shook her head” (What was going on there?)
- and the discovery that I’ve been using the word “askance” completely wrong. For years.
DO Learn From Other People’s Experiences
It’s easy for the internet- social media in particular- to become a distraction from writing. However, it can also be a powerful tool to connect with other writers.
Many published authors are willing to share their experiences and advice on social media sites. Tapping into their expertise has helped me to figure out just what I need to be doing to get my book published and steered me away from some pitfalls.
I’ve found a couple of writers’ groups on facebook particularly helpful. If you’re looking to self publish, you might want to check out 20BooksTo50K. It’s a HUGE group, and I honestly have a hard time keeping up with it, but their archives have tons of helpful information for self publishing authors, all in one place.
I’ve also found the ladies in Katie Phillips’s Authentic Women Author Entrepreneurs group kind, helpful and informative. (Katie was also kind enough to do a blog post on author branding on this site recently.)
Do NOT Get Hung Up On “But they say I should…”
While getting advice and hints from other authors can be helpful, it’s important to remember that not every writer’s journey is the same.
The majority of the writers I’ve networked with are either
1. Younger without kids
2. Older with grown kids or no kids or
3. My age, but writing is their full-time occupation.
I’m a mom with young kids, a part-time teaching gig, and several volunteer positions that I can’t/won’t step away from.
When folks with vastly different lives give advice like “Quit binge-watching Netflix and write!” I laugh. The last time I can remember sitting long enough to do anything akin to “binge-watching” was… maybe 10 years ago?
It’s easy to get into the comparing game, especially with social media giving people an easy way to portray the “perfect” version of their lives.
Unless competition is a motivator for you, this isn’t healthy. Do what you can, writing friends- run your race faithfully.
DO Remember, It’s Your Story!
Of course, the trouble with having lots of access to other people’s advice and experiences is it become easy to second-guess my own work.
I never knew people could get so upset about adverbs. Or prologues. Or using different points of view.
I’ll admit, there are times when the influx of advice makes me want to chuck the whole project- it’s probably all wrong, anyway.
Thankfully, I have a great sounding board in the next room.
When those worries start to gnaw, I trot over to my husband (who’s been hearing about the minutia of all of this for years now.) I’ll tell him about the new advice I’ve come across and ask him, “Is my story awful?”
“Do you think I should change X Y and Z?”
If the advice is legitimate, he’ll let me know, but the usual answer is, “Anne, it’s your story.”
Writers, take the good advice, but in the end, you’re the one who has to put your name on your work. Write your story.
Which, I suppose, means I’m telling you to ignore all of the above if you want to…
Except the tabs thing. Trust me.
Do you have a “Do” or “Don’t” to share?
Many thanks for visiting!