Rushing To Publish
Advice to New Authors
By Craig Faris
So, you are writing your first novel. That's quite a goal and best of luck with it. You may be a natural at storytelling and technique, but most of us are not. If this is your first attempt at writing, my best advice is to set the novel aside and try your hand at short stories or something easier like poems, essays, or articles. Writing is a lot like singing… we all think we know what we are doing, and some of us might be pretty good at it, but like singing, writing takes practice. Lots and lots of practice!
If you have already completed a book or a short story and feel that you already have all the practice you need, don't rush to publish. Make sure you find a "professional" editor to go through it with a nit comb before you put it out there. Why? Because people will read it and they will find and point out all of those tiny errors that you missed. My biggest errors are missing words... not important words, just those little extra words like “a” or “of” or “is.” Nothing ruins your day like seeing all of your wonderful 5-stars reviews, spoiled by that nasty one-star review that points out all of our ignorance in grammar and spelling. Unfortunately those reviews are the one's people seem to read the most and remember.
Believe me when I say that I'm not trying to throw cold water on your writing efforts. By all means, we need to write more because practice makes perfect. I’m just speaking from my own experience, so perhaps you can avoid my mistakes.
I really thought my first novel would become a bestseller "until" I joined a writer’s critique group and quickly discovered that I really had NO IDEA what I was doing. During my first meeting in our group, the answers to these and other questions were answered:
1. My “Sci-fi Historical Suspense Romance Thriller,” is over three times too long for a first novel? Really? Why wouldn’t a publishing house jump at the chance to buy a 226,800 word novel from an unknown author? Is a 3 ½ inch spine a bad thing?
2. What do you mean by “needing to better define my genre?”
3. After three years writing, how come I’ve never heard of the writing concept called, "show us, don't tell us?"
4. What’s wrong with changing point-of-view in mid paragraph?
5. I thought "editors" took care of little things like grammar and spelling.
6. Did you know that Microsoft Word has a little known error message that says, "There are too many spelling errors in this document to correct?" (no kidding)
7. So if my computer gave up on correcting my book, you think it's time I try something else?
8. Do you mean a short story can have all the same elements of plot, characterization, suspense, humor and satisfaction as a 970 page novel, but it only takes 3 days of my life to write, rather than 3 years? Wow!
That said, by all means keep writing. The more you write, the better you get. Then find a local "supportive" writers group (not one that tears your manuscript apart and offers no helpful suggestions) and attend every meeting. Once you have the first draft, let them read it and study their suggestions and critiques. You don't always have to apply every suggestion, but ask yourself why they made the comments. Plan on rewriting your book at least three times and then show it to a professional editor.
Finally, before you publish your masterpiece, enter it into some contests. Why? Because MOST contests require the work to be unpublished. Win some awards! Those plaques on the wall and award checks are far more satisfying than seeing your book on Amazon.com, with 67 total sales. And guess what? Awards help you promote and SELL your book.
My second novel when through "10 years" of rewrites and was finally published last year. But on the day it came out, it had already won four literary awards in regional, national and international competitions. Even the book trailer won an award; Second Place in the MARSocial.com international book trailer competition. That helps, but we are still finding little mistakes even though it has been rewritten and edited more times than I can remember.
Every time I get a new review on Amazon, I hold my breath and look at the little stars. So far they have all been good, but I know the day will come when an English professor from Harvard writes that first scathing review and I’ll say to myself, “Why didn’t anyone tell me about comma splices?”
Best of luck, and I’m sure all of you have corrected the comma splices in your novels. :-)