I am a few weeks away from being a published author, and I have made a LOT of mistakes. Some of the ones I wouldn’t recommend making are:
5. Querying agents BEFORE finishing your manuscript
They do not like it when people do this (unless you are writing non-fiction). Additionally, some of the themes and finer aspects of your book make themselves known after you have put everything together. Querying agents takes a while and can be very disheartening. Don’t waste your time and effort trying to sell an unfinished manuscript to agents.
4. Keep your work a secret
I understand the allure of keeping your work to yourself, I really do. I’m afraid of people making fun of the ideas I have, and the personal thoughts that I put in my stories. HOWEVER, you’re planning on publishing those ideas to the world. You want people to read what you write. Getting feedback can be a painful process, but just rip the band aid off early! Have friends read through what you wrote. If they don’t like it, or can’t get through it, it may be time to go back to the drawing board. Or maybe it’s time to find new friends (no, I’m just kidding).
3. Overuse outlines
I don’t outline anything at all. That’s just a personal preference. I know the advantages to outlining, and I’ve tried it. That being said, I feel that RELYING on an outline like a life jacket can diminish some of the creative writing process. I’ve had some awesome changes that I wanted to make once I got so far into the story. Sometimes I have no idea what I want to happen next, and I just make something insane up just for fun. And I’ll love it and keep it, or hate it and figure out what else could happen. I do admit that having a general outline helps a great deal with keeping details consistent, and can really help keep track of subplots. My work loses a bit in terms of depth and complexity since I don’t use any form of outline. So my recommendation would be to do a half and half. Maybe keep an outline of the big picture, and go crazy on the actual writing.
2. Write yourself into the story
This is a lot of fun to do, and I know a lot of people who have done it. And they will completely disagree with this suggestion, but please bear with me. In a very short work that was my first foray into publishing, I wrote myself and my high school friends as the main characters. And like any 15 year old girl writing a book, I made myself the protagonist. Since I know myself so well, I didn’t really do much explaining or really any character development at all. All of those who requested samples of my work said the same thing: they hated my protagonist, and didn’t sympathize with her at all. So… While it was fun to write myself into a story, I don’t really do that anymore. It can be hard to hear that your protagonist is unlikeable, especially if you modelled him/her after yourself.
1. Beat yourself up about negative feedback/rejection
This is an unfortunate reality of any artistic dream. There will be people who LOVE your work, and there will be people who think you’re the most untalented waste of space under the sun. Sorry if that’s a bit harsh, but you are opening yourself up to the world for criticism. Get used to hearing things that are on the mean side. Reviews, trolls, and opinionated commentators do not particularly care if they hurt your feelings. Try to think of any kind of feedback as a positive thing. I mean, at least people are reading and talking about your work! That’s a step ahead of being unnoticed. Twilight gets a lot of bad rap nowadays, but Stephanie Meyers is laughing all the way to the bank. Have a positive attitude and keep on trucking!
A lot of this is probably common sense, but it’s easy to lose sight of things while fascinating about book release parties and book signings. Honestly, I think this whole process has been the most educational experience of my life — and I’m still in the process of paying for my college education. It’s an adventure, and I’ve learned so much about myself and my goals. Thanks for taking a look at my little nuggets of advice! Is there anything you’d do differently? Or anything you would add?