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 Everyone was unpublished once.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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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,