My writing dream all began when an innocent teacher said the fateful words, “Wow! You’re a good writer!”
And a monster was born.
I’ve been writing since middle school, more seriously since high school, and first tried to get published over five years ago. (*I’m still not yet published.) Over that period of time, I’ve made a lot of mistakes and learned many valuable lessons. But here I am still plugging away at my writing & publishing dream. Why do we writers torture ourselves this way?
We have words inside us that need to be heard.
I’ll continue writing even if I never reach the illustrious level of “published.” Even if no one ever reads my words (I know someone will, my sister is my biggest fan,) regardless, I have to write.
So… How Do We Champion Our Words?
After long years down this rough road, I’ve learned a few thing that bring me closer to publication every passing day. And, guess what? I’m going to share those secrets!
Ha, this one is self-explanatory. This is why we’re in this mess in the first place. But this is the nitty-gritty part of who we are. Write about what moves you. Write about what scares you. Write about what people need to know. Write to change the world. Write to entertain yourself. Write to get that world out of your head and onto paper. Write so you don’t keep muttering to yourself making people think you’re crazy. (We are.) Write so you can finally sleep without characters whispering their secrets to you before you doze off. Write!
When your beautiful words have finished spilling out of you and decorate the page like the splatter after cooking, it’s time to clean it up. I recommend taking a break before you start doing this. Go for a walk, clear your head for a few days, weeks, months, years. Mostly joking, but I do have multiple WIPs that I’ve come back to years after writing and magically discover the perfect way to fix it. Sometimes I know a certain part needs more thought. One of my favorite parts of writing novels is the brainstorming process. I find a song matching the mood and theme of my story and fall asleep listening to it, all the while thinking about the scenes that need fixing as if a movie. Fix up those scenes, add more, take away. Do whatever your novel needs to flow smoothly and grab the reader.
For the longest time, I didn’t understand the difference between Editing and Revising…and I TAUGHT third graders how to write and do this. It’s finally clicked with me. Editing is the small fixes, grammar, word choice, spelling, etc. This is when you sift through with a lice comb. (Have you ever seen those? The comb teeth are super thin and narrow, catching every little gremlin. Ugly comparison, but it works. Also, I’ve never had lice, but I’ve helped younger siblings who did.) Find every little mistake and deal with it.
When your book is the best you can make it, it’s time for others’ opinions. This is where a group of Beta Readers and Sensitivity Readers comes in handy. Friends and family can be wonderful for this IF they understand writing craft and can be honest. My sister and husband have been excellent advisors, possibly because I interrogate them relentlessly before they can sleep. Some friends have been very helpful as well, but my BEST advice comes from strangers, Beta Readers I met online. I have two ways of finding Beta Readers: a Goodreads Beta Reading group and searching/posting on Twitter in the #writingcommunity. A Sensitivity Reader is harder to find but necessary. If your book has any characters that are different from you in any way, a diverse viewpoint will point out your own bias and protect you from being offensive to any groups of people once your novel is published. As with anything in this business, a thick skin is necessary and the honest critiques will make your book better.
Guess what? We’re back! Take the wonderful advice from Beta and Sensitivity Readers and make the necessary changes. Throw out any “advice” that doesn’t work; after all, this is your book.
I hope you didn’t throw out that lice comb (but please wash it well) because you need it again!
EDIT SOME MORE
Yup, again. I recently found a website called ProWritingAid.com that is a great resource for this. I copy/paste my chapter into the free document online and it points out all the mistakes: grammar, spelling, passive voice, etc.
Now you are finally ready to query. Please don’t make the mistakes I’ve made and query too early. The writing market is small. If this version of your book isn’t the best it can possibly be, then wait. Let it sit and come back to it. It won’t go anywhere (unless your toddler spills a cup of water all over your beloved Mac, true story) so BACK IT UP! Email it to yourself, save it on an external hard drive/flash drive, do whatever you need to do to protect your work. You’ve written a book and that’s amazing!
Spinning Pen has some wonderful articles and resources to help in writing the query so I won’t go dive into that, but even your query needs another pair of eyes and several rewrites. Find your support group and cherish them! Good CPs, BRs and SRs are invaluable.
Send your queries in small batches of five. If you get a nibble, you’re on the “write” path (hehe, get it?) If not, go back and rework your query letter; maybe your novel needs another Revise & Editing pass. It’s a long process but enjoy it. I hear it gets harder once your name is out there and fans expect more!
I’d love to share my advice in this, but I haven’t gotten this far…yet. Hopefully, I’ll guest post again with “How I did it” until then, I have to get back to my own Revise/Edit work.
Revising and editing an entire novel is HARD WORK, but organization simplifies this process. If you use Word like I do, add a Document Map to the left side of your screen, organizing your chapters as headings and making it easy to navigate through your entire novel. Check out this link to see how to do it:
I’ve recently tried out several Beta Reading websites but always come back to Google Docs as the easiest way to share and receive prompt feedback. Find what works for you and use it.
Connect with the #writingcommunity on Twitter. Sift through to connect with other writers and authors. Glean as much advice as you can about the business and build friendships. Check out writing blogs, like The Spinning Pen (yay!), study the craft, research agents and publishers, and keep learning even while you’re not actually writing. Buy your domain name soon and save that space to connect with future fans! Feel free to check out my new website I made through SquareSpace at www.rebeccaalexandru.com.
Even though it can be a long, uneventful, rough road, it’s an exciting business because we’re the original dreamers.