10 Tips for Debut Authors

  1. Ignore the doubters – I remember the sympathetic looks I received whenever I was insane enough to tell people that I was writing a novel, they was almost enough to make me crumble into a self-doubting wreck. Writing and getting published is tough, but it’s not impossible. There are plenty of us who do it (although it’s probably true that many of us have been described as “special” by our mothers). If being an author is what you want to do, smile politely at the doubters and then walk away muttering something offensive under your breath.
  2. Get it written, then get it right – I read this somewhere once and it has become my mantra. You have to get the words down. If they suck, that’s fine. That’s what editing is for. But you have to have something to edit. Don’t worry about pretty words or perfect plot. Just write. Then re-write, re-write, re-write.
  3. Get an agent – A lot of unpublished authors ask if they need an agent. Yes. Oh dear god, yes. The work that your agent will do is absolutely critical to the development of your career. I know absolutely nothing about contracts, submission strategies, foreign rights, TV and film rights…the list goes on. Fortunately my awesome agent, Camilla Wray at Darley Anderson, has me covered.
  4. Forget about your muse – Another question I enjoy is “How do you manage when you just don’t feel like writing?” Um…how do you manage when you don’t feel like working? I’m rather guessing you show up anyway. Same here. Writing is my job. Waiting for my muse to show up is a luxury I simply cannot afford, not if I intend for this to be my career.
  5. Don’t be precious about your words – Being edited by somebody else can be tough. And when you come to being published, your work will be edited many, many times. There will be criticism and sometimes it will sting and sometimes you won’t agree. But remember that when it comes to publishing your novel, you are a part of a team with a shared goal – to make your novel as good as it possibly can be. So when your editor slashes that paragraph that you were convinced would secure your place in the annals of literary history, mutter to yourself, grit your teeth, and move on.
  6. Not everyone will like what you write and that’s okay – Every reader will be different. Some will love what you do, some will hate it, and still others will be completely indifferent. The only thing we can do is write for ourselves, write what we love, and then let the chips fall where they may. Oh, and for the love of god, stay away from your Amazon reviews! Down that path lies only madness. And wine. Much, much wine.
  7. Rejection sucks – You knew that, right? But the thing is, even once you have that elusive book deal, there will still be rejection. Rejection sucks and it will keep on sucking even once you have become a published author. And you will swear, possibly cry, probably eat too much chocolate, and then you will pick yourself up, dust yourself down, and start chasing the next dream. Because we are authors and that is what we do.
  8. If writer’s block hits, move – Let me preface this by saying I don’t believe in writer’s block. I believe in rubbish days, thorny plot problems, troublesome characters and sheer exhaustion. But writer’s block makes everything sound insoluble. Nonetheless, when I do get stuck, sometimes the only thing that I can do is walk away. I often need the perspective that getting away from my computer screen will give me.
  9. Never stop learning – There is always room for improvement in our writing. None of us are infallible. Educate yourself on the craft of writing, not just the art of it. Read authors you love and study their work to see how they achieved what they did. And pay attention to your edit notes – they are a gold mine for helping you to understand your particular writing tics and to identify those areas in which you may need to improve.
  10. Never give up. NEVER! – Yes, we all know the stories of the debut author who snags a six figure deal with their first ever novel. Which is marvellous and doesn’t fill the rest of us with the bitterest envy at all. But the truth is, these cases are the exception. The vast majority of published authors have at least one (sometimes many) books that will never see the light of day. But to become a published author, you keep trying. If this book isn’t the one that gets you the publishing contract, then maybe it will be the next one. Or the one after that. Writers write. So if this is what you want to do, why would you ever consider stopping?

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