I’ve been writing novels for over 20 years and as this is the anniversary of my first year of self-publishing, I thought it would be great to go back and revise the advice I had for new writers at the start of my own journey back in November 2015.
1. Online courses
I’ve completed both novel writing and short stories courses. You learn as you write and having your assignments critiqued by experienced tutors helps you improve as you go along. Online course can fit around your work and family.
2. Go to writing workshops and creative writing classes.
I’ve attended several adult education classes over the years, and a couple of one day workshops. Meeting like-minded people was a real turning point for me. Critiquing and editing others work helps you look at your own work more objectively. Also having others critique your work helps you develop that famous thick skin all writers need.
I’ve made writing friends from classes too. It’s so important to have people in your life who understand the struggles of a writer. Now with online forums, and blogs etc. it’s easier to connect with other writers, but I still think the workshops can play an important part in the learning process.
3. Enter competitions, especially those offering critiques
There’s nothing worse than sending your story into a competition and never hearing anything again. Not knowing where you’re going wrong. The critiques can help you grow as a writer. And if you follow the suggestions made, next time your story may just get placed.
4. Don’t rush. Don’t pitch too soon.
I’ve made this mistake many times. Thinking the book is ready and contacting the agents I would love to work with, or the publishers that accept unsolicited submissions. Once they’ve turned your book down, there’s no going back. It’s the same with some novel competitions; once they’ve seen your entry you can’t resubmit when you’ve made a better version. If you do it looks unprofessional.
5. Start building your online profile now.
I’ve been blogging since July/Aug 2015. A lot has happened in a year and a bit. I’ve gained followers and made many online connections with writers and bloggers. I’m close to reaching 4K followers through the various platforms – Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads. I’d say that’s not too bad for a year, though the time involved has taken me away from my writing. Challenges like the April A-Z blog challenge and running my own my blog tour in Jun/July were very time-consuming, but lots of fun and well worth the effort.
6. Beta readers can make a huge difference.
Especially beta readers who are writers themselves, who understand the structure and techniques of writing. I’ve been lucky enough to have made some really good friends from writing classes. We’ve kept in touch and still occasionally meet up to critique each others’ work. They’ve offered honest criticism about where I’m going wrong, but also shown me my strengths as a writer and their encouragement has been a big boost to my confidence.
7. Join a book group
I’ve been a member of several book groups. It’s really interesting listening to readers critiquing books you’ve read, and to imagine how your own book might be seen from the readers’ perspective. They also force you to read outside your comfort zone, which can help you grow as a reader and a writer.
8. Get all the professional help you can afford
This is in the form of critique companies, professional editors, paid for beta reads if you don’t have writing friends you trust to be honest with you, cover artists, proof readers. The list of help available is endless and you need to work out what is most important to you and where you need to invest the money most. My first choice would be a good editor every time.
9. Know when it’s time to let go and move on
This is probably the hardest part; to tell yourself it’s finished, and let go of your book as you hit publish.
This is also true once you’ve been published for a while. You need to stop obsessing over your sales, book ranking and the amount of reviews you have or haven’t got. There is only so much marketing you can do, and as I have been told by many professionals, the best thing to do is get another book published.
10. Enjoy the journey, and celebrate being a writer
It’s an amazing feeling creating worlds and characters, and not everyone can do it. It takes hard work, dedication and an absolute determination to succeed.
Now that Visions of Zarua has been published a year, I look back and think wow. All that hard work has paid off. I’ve gained over a dozen wonderful reviews in that year and that is proof enough that it was worth taking a chance on self-publishing.
What is your advice for new writers?