Someone on Instagram asked me through the week if I have any advice for them as an unpublished author. They were looking for a little direction.
Now, I ain’t no famous writer, but I have had some minor successes so far in my career and seeing as though I am still only a newbie myself I think any success is great. So, that being said, I am going to give you my top ten tips newbie writers.
- Write! This may seem pretty stupid and simple, but writing everyday can be harder than what it seems. You need to get some sort of writing routine in place. Start out with small goals, say write for half an hour a day, and then you can build from there. And keep this routine every day. The only times I don’t write are when I am too deathly sick I can’t even get out of dead or if, you know, life happens and I can’t do it. But if I miss days then I do try to make up for them.
- Read! I love reading, but when I first started writing every day, I told myself that I was a writer now, not a reader. I didn’t have time to read. This was wrong. And my writing suffered for it. You can’t make a good coffee if you don’t know how it tastes, you can’t write a good story if you don’t read. Reading gives you tools that you can use when writing your own books. It also lets you keep up to date with what has been done. There is nothing worse than being so engrossed in writing your own stuff and then going to submit/publish it only to find out then that someone else has just had huge success with something similar. (EL James, I’m looking at you)
- Get a writing buddy. I think this is so important. You need someone that you can show that all important first draft to. Someone you can trust and someone who will be honest without being a dick. This person is not a Beta reader, this is that person that is your first reader. They could be a friend, a partner, a parent or someone you meet through writing groups or book clubs. But you need someone to bounce ideas off and to read your work and to even give you a little boost when the old hag in your attic (mind) comes down to tell you how bloody horrible your writing is.
- Social Media. Get on that shit now. I mean get yourself on author page on Facebook, Twitter, whatever and start using them. Don’t spam your writing stuff though, that’s not cool. But post stuff that is interesting to start building that fan base. Some people say you should do everything. Get on Pintrest and Youtube and tumblr and anything else that has just come out. I think this is wrong. You should pick the ones that you want to do. The ones that you will be able to keep up-to-date on. If you have all these social media and never post anything because there are so many and goes into the too hard basket then what is the point? If you can keep up with all of them then go for it. If you think you can handle only a couple then I suggest the trinity of social media. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. And if you can squeeze Google+ in there then that would be awesome. (Cause Google controls everything)
- Freebies. About four/five years ago I started writing short stories as well as novels. But I give away most of my short fiction away for free. I have them on Smashwords, on my website, I even had them on Wattpad for a while (argh) I had them published in magazines/newspapers and it just got my name out there. People love free stuff. Who doesn’t! And giving your stuff away is only going to help build your fan base. Even if it is giving away sample chapters for your novel away on your website, it is all helping towards getting new fans.
- Learn how to self market. If you can go do a short marketing course, that would be great, but not all of us have this sort of time. so do your research and learn how to market yourself. As much as us artists don’t like it, we are selling a product. And you can’t sell it if people don’t know it exists. And they find out by marketing. Start saving your money too because some things (like Facebook ads) can cost money. This is applicable for whether you are going to self-publish or traditional.
- Dream Big! Someone once told me that I should start dreaming big. And by this they meant that I should start thinking and preparing myself to have a fan base. Get yourself a website and an author email and business cards and whatever else that you will need as an author. You want to be an author? Start acting like one now.
- Make a decision. These days we have it easy, kinda. We have two main choices when it comes to publishing. We can go the traditional routine and submit to agents/publishers or we can self publish. Both have their advantages, so do your research. But you have to decide which one you want to do. It is okay if you change your mind (I did. A Lot.) but it is good to have some sort of goal that you are striving for. Either way you choose, start developing a thick skin. Rejections and bad reviews are coming your way and everyone of them hurt. It is up to you to decide how deep the wound is.
- Research. This more of an actual writing one. There is nothing worse than reading a book that has factual flaws. well, there is. And that is publishing a book with factual flaws. I speak from experience. Although my main character in Dead Bunnies is very poorly treated when it comes to her mental disorder and that was part of the point, I still had her on medication, which is not what happens at all with DID. Now, I still stand by that her doctor is a D bag, which is why she is on meds, but still, I should have made more of a point in the story showing that it was not normal practice. I had planned on pointing it out in the sequel, but I didn’t emphasize it enough in the first book. Of course this has since been pointed out to me… Do your bloody research.
- Edit!!! Oh for the love of sweet holy fuck, edit. Edit until you know the words off by heart. Edit until your fingers and eyes bleed. Edit until you hate your story. Edit until you recite the words in your sleep and you freak out the people you live with. And then edit again. This includes, but is not limited to, first reader phase, Beta reader phase and PAID editor phase. Yes, you MUST pay someone to edit your work. Do your research and pick someone good. My very last editing phase, normally done the day before print day, is the read out loud phase, where I read the story out loud to my first reader or (even better) they read it to me. Soooo many things get picked up in this phase! Even after all this, Gaiman’s Law will always apply …