My Best Advice to New Authors

1. If you want to be a writer, you must write. Too often I run into people who say they are going to write a book, but haven’t even begun. Being a writer means that you write. You need to write nearly every day. It’s best if you pick a time that works best for you, even if it means getting up two hours before your usual time.

2. Keep on writing until you’re finished with your project. It’s far too easy to quite when you’re only half way done. There are some books I’ve written that never got published, but I did finish them.

3. Once you’re done set aside for at least two weeks. When you pick it up again you’ll either be surprised by how much work it needs, or that is a pretty good book–or story.

4. No matter what you’ve decided about the value of your work, now is the time to do the real work. Edit your project.

Look for and eliminate overused words and phrases.
Get rid of adverbs and replace with the verb that accurately describes the action.
Like everyone will tell you, “Show, Don’t Tell.” That means let the most exciting scenes unfold on the page for the reader to read what happens as it happens.
Make sure you’ve stayed in the point-of-view of the character who has most at stake in a scene.
Is there enough white space?
Do pronouns refer back to the correct noun?
Is the dialogue realistic and does it move the plot along?

Of course I could write much, much more on each topic, but that gives you a brief idea of what you should be looking for.

5. Join a critique group, either one you can attend in person or on line.

6. When you think the work is ready to be sent out, if you can afford an editor, hire one to go over the work. If you can’t afford one, perhaps you can exchange editing services with another author.

7. Research agents who are interested in the kind of work that you write. Of, if you are going the small press route, research publishers who publish the kind of book you’ve written.

8. Write the most outstanding query letter possible with absolutely no errors. It should only be one page whether you’re mailing it or sending via email. (Be sure you do whatever the agent or publisher’s guidelines ask.) A query should have one paragraph about the book, one paragraph why you were the one to write it, and one paragraph about your writing credentials. Send lots of queries at once.

9. Once you get a go-ahead send exactly what the person asked for and in the format in the guidelines.

10. While you are waiting for an answer, start another book. Don’t let rejections stop you. If the rejection has criticism that will help the book use it. Otherwise, just keep sending out queries and when asked, manuscripts. Write, write, write.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith


Janine said…
Well said! Thanks for summarizing these important points so succintly.

My favorite advice for new writers is check out the AutoCrit Editing Wizard. It's awesome for the editing stage since it points out a ton of those exact flaws that you mentioned.

I couldn't live without it :-)
April said…
This is such a wonderful and perfect post for me! I'm one of those who have always dreampt of writing and use to do tons of it in school and college - even had things published in local papers, etc. Then life came up and I got away from it and have a HUGE desire to once again write - just don't know where to begin or how, lol!
You begin my plopping your fanny in a chair in front of the computer and start writing.

JM said…
Excellent advice. I'm drilling the 'you must write' point into my head these days. I think I've succeeded in tying up my editor and shoving her in the closet because I have been writing every night for a while now.

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