Kristan Higgins’s Tips for Aspiring Writers

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It was such an honor to be asked to write this column! Becoming published is a goal so many people hope to achieve, and it can be daunting at times. Just remember that no one was born published (except maybe Nora Roberts :)). Everyone was unpublished once. Kind of comforting to remember that, isn’t it?

As you might know if you’ve read my books, my characters are often list-makers…and so am I. Here are a few things that helped me as I wrote my first book…hope it helps you on your journey to become a published author!

  1. Be ruthless about the quality of your work. This sounds so obvious…as if any of us would send out something that we didn’t think was great. But great is a relative term. For example, my mom thinks everything I do is great (thanks, Mom!). Her perspective may be a little skewed on things; for example, when I came in dead last in a race on field day many years ago, she told me I was the best runner there. Remember that your book will be judged against thousands (thousands!) of other submissions. It has to be great compared with those. It took me six months to write the first draft of my first book. It took me another year to get it ready for submission. I was ruthless…I rewrote and revised and polished and proofed until I thought it really and truly held its own against published novels by my favorite authors, not just the other submissions in the slush pile. And in order to know what “great” really is…that brings us to #2.
  2. Read. A lot. You’ll want to know who writes the best books in your genre…not just to see what reader expectations are, but to see how these authors deliver those expectations. Will readers get the same satisfaction from reading your books as they do from those by Robyn Carr or Susan Mallery or Linda Lael Miller? You’ll also be able to see where your book might have something unique or fresh while still delivering on those expectations.
  3. Talk to other writers. When I first started out, I didn’t know any other writers. Then I joined Romance Writers of America and found a wealth of information. I realized there were terms and methods for the things I was doing by instinct—character arc, plotting, voice. And they offer a lot of industry information, too, which will save you a lot of time.
  4. Put in the hours. No matter how much you might think about or talk about or dream about writing a book, there’s only one way to do it. It takes time. It can be frustrating, infuriating and disheartening…but it can be uplifting, exhilarating and wicked fun, too. The only way to experience those moments is to sit down and face the blinking cursor.
  5. Believe in yourself. Anyone who sits down to write a book has already been blessed with something special—imagination. There are thousands and thousands of published authors in the world, and they all started out in the same place you are.

Hope this helps, gang! I’ll be checking back throughout the day, so if you have any questions, fire away.

All the best,

Kristan

www.kristanhiggins.com

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8 Responses to Kristan Higgins’s Tips for Aspiring Writers

  1. I really needed an inspirational post.

    Thanks, Kristan

  2. Thanks for the tips. If possible, writers should also become active members in writing groups and attend a convention or workshop every year. As you said, talk to other writers. We are all in this together.

  3. Those last two have been lacking in attention for me. I’m working on those now. Thanks so much for these inspirational words.

  4. Kelly Watson

    I am very close to finishing my first book. After the final revisions have been done, what do you suggest, agent or publisher?

  5. Bernadette Long

    Thanks for the tips, Kristan. I don’t know that I’m ready yet to start writing, but this is all good advice. I just finished reading your latest “My One and Only” and I loved the story! The story flowed and the dialog seemed real, too. You make it seem effortless; but of course, it wasn’t. Good luck!

  6. Deidra T

    Well said. This helps me out right now more than you know. Thank you for the inspiration to keep working!

  7. Hope this posts, gang…I keep getting booted off because it says I’m not typing in the right code words. Grrr! Am trying not to take it personally!

    So sorry for the delay, at any rate. Thank you for your kind words on the post and the books!

    Carol, I agree, you can never learn enough. Some workshops and classes will speak to you; others might not, but I’m a firm believer in looking for new ways to work things out.

    Kelly, I can’t imagine not having an agent! Mine does so much to help me on so many levels, from input on my ideas to negotiating the twists and turns of a three-book deal. That being said, there are many authors who start without one, especially if they write category. A friend of mine just landed a three-book deal with St. Martin’s…no agent. But for most of us, an agent is like a guardian angel and chief advisor, so personally, I’d start there.

    Carol, I agree

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