Back to the Basics

Good day, fellow writers. This last week I have seen an influx of fledgling authors contacting me in the hopes of receiving advice. The most common questions seem to be about publishers, and how one goes about getting published. I am here today to share what I told them.

My hope is this: that if you are a new writer, you will find a bit of a map to help you get started. If you have been writing for years, hopefully this might serve as a reminder of the basic strengths we need to continually be successful in this art. Either way,


Step one: write the novel. You cannot do anything else until it is done. If you already have a few chapters written, you have accomplished something few ever do! Now, finish the book. Try not to edit as you go, there will be time for that later. Just finish the story.

While you are writing, read as much as you possibly can in your genre. (There are different schools of thought on this, but I am giving you the advice that has helped me the most. Take it how you will.) Read RECENT releases. This will not only give you brain food, but it will also help you see what agents and editors are buying these days.

When you finish your first draft, celebrate! Most people will not make it that far.

Read through it once or twice to make sure you have it everything the way you want it, and all your facts match up. You will probably miss some, but do not worry. It is still early in the process.

When you feel comfortable with your novel, have other writers read and give you feedback. Then make changes according to what feels right for your story. You will repeat this step multiple times, but keep in mind one thing: this is YOUR story. Do not make a change simply because someone tells you to. Take the feedback, think it through, then decide whether you use it or not.

To find writer friends you could join a local writers groups, such as the local NaNoWriMo region or get involved on sites like CPSeek or the writing community on Twitter or Facebook to find critique partners (CPs) that fit you and your genre. Keep in mind that you should always offer to read and critique for them in return, and always ALWAYS thank your readers for their feedback. Whether you use it or not, they took the time to read, and that is no small thing.

After a few rounds of reader and revisions you should be feeling much more confident about your book. It is at this point that you have a few decisions to make. 1. Do you want to pursue Traditional Publishing, or Self Publishing? 2. Do you want an agent? 3. If Traditional, do you prefer small press, or would you like to go for the big New York houses?

New writers often ask about publishing houses, and I must beg you to be patient. While I know writing and publishing sounds so exciting, please believe me it is a rough road. There are many small press publishers, plus the Big Five, and all of them are very choosy. It takes the average author ten years or more to break in to the business.

All of this information can be found online with some digging. Some websites to look at are:

Writing Excuses Podcast
Creative Writing Lectures (Emphasis on SF/F)
Dan Wells on Story Structure
Absolute Write
Writer's Digest

There are also books on writing craft like ON WRITING by Stephen King, or CHARACTERS AND VIEWPOINT by Orson Scott Card.

I hope this has helped in some small way. The biggest piece of advice I hope you take to heart is this: there is no one right way to do this. We all must press on in trial and error to discover what works best for us individually.

Go forth, my friends, and find what works best for you.


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