Every author has “advice” for new writers, and every new writer wants as much of it as they can get, for obvious reasons. We don’t know what we’re doing when we get started. This is a hard business that, for the most part, doesn’t pay well considering the time and effort we put into it. Those of us who stick with it long-term do it more for the love of the written word than the paycheck because seriously…if we relied on it as our main income source, we’d all be pretty hungry.
I think the largest problem I had in my first years was that I tried too hard to listen to the advice of others and emulate them. And you know what? It didn’t work for me at all. It put me in a bad place that I don’t ever want to go again, and after all this time I’m just starting to dig myself out of the funk and figure out who I am as a writer and where I want to be in ten years.
So for those looking for advice on how the system works and what to do, let me offer you my advice: don’t take anything I say for the rest of this post too seriously.
Sh*t People Told Me
Advice: You don’t need to worry about grammar and punctuation. That’s what editors are for.
My Response: First of all, this is the one piece of advice every single one of you SHOULD listen to, because it’s the truth and pretty much any publisher and/or editor worth his salt will agree with me: YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND HOW THE TOOLS WORK IN ORDER TO USE THEM PROPERLY. If you don’t understand the basic mechanics of the language, then you are in no capacity to be using it in a professional manner. You, as the writer, cannot rely on an editor to “fix” you. An editor is there to make you better, not rewrite your shit. They can write their own books without your assistance.
Oh, and if you write poorly and chose not to use an editor before slapping it up on Amazon, then you really don’t need to be part of the writing community because you’re not presenting a professional product. Sorry, kids, but them’s the breaks.
Advice: Just write every word that comes into your head without editing. You can go back and do it later.
My response: Uh, no…but thanks. That might work for some people, but it also opens the door for lots and lots and LLLOOOOOOTTTTSSSS of mistakes. I am very much a proponent of “write how it feels right to you”, but I want to caution against letting your creative side get too far ahead of your technical side. Freewriting is fine, but remember, kids, it’s much harder to self-edit because your brain automatically fills in the blanks and reworks the things your eyes take in because you know how it’s supposed to work.
I wish someone had told me to forget all the BS about the best way to write and just told me to do what comes naturally to me.
Advice: Read a whole bunch of brand new things on the market and write just what’s trending now.
My Response: Nope, nope, and nope. Here’s the problem with this scenario: trends change quickly. It takes at least three months start-to-finish to write, edit, and publish a book. By the time you get your book out and into the ring, the trendsetters will likely have moved onto the next bizarre and frightening new “thing”.
My advice…write the book you want to read. If you love it, you’re going to be more inclined to give it the care and attention it needs. If you love the final product, other people will love it too.
Advice: Just write the same book and change the names. People won’t notice.
My Response: Yeah, someone actually said this to me. No, I don’t think it’s fair. I never underestimate my readers. I like to think you’re all at least as smart as me and will notice if I plagiarize myself. I write a new story every time.
Advice: Write sex scenes with all the detail you can. People really like it when it’s dirty.
My Response: Guys, I don’t want to smell the smegma. I am a voracious reader – we’re talking a book a day most days – and nothing pushes me away faster than an overly complicated sexual act with too many limbs and way too many sensory triggers. I have a good imagination, so when you start talking about tastes and odors like you’re reviewing a new restaurant… yeah, I’m gonna put that down and walk away.
Seriously, it’s okay to not be up in the chick’s hooch while they’re going at it. Again, I say do what works for you, but I much prefer a carefully crafted scene that presents the illusion of beauty and pleasure without being able to count pubic hairs.
Advice: The format isn’t important. You just have to tell a good story.
My Response: Yes…yes, it is. Speaking as a formatter for multiple publishers and self-published authors, I can tell you that writing in the proper format is ESSENTIAL to being a good writer. Refer to statement one and the “know how to use yer shit” requirement. Proper manuscript format gives you a clean presentation, makes you look like you can follow directions, and ultimately shows you what your book is going to look like in print…to a certain extent. You need contact information so the person you submit it to can reach you – ’cause lemme tell ya…they don’t sit there and read your work with the email browser open so they can immediately praise your brilliance.
We’re slush, guys, and if we don’t give the ones potentially buying the rights to our books what they want to see, they’re going to kick us out and move onto the next one who can follow directions.
THIS SITE has a fabulous example for you to follow. It’s easy…just read it.
That Having Been Said…
The best advice I can give you is this: Do what works for you. Write at your pace in your style with your voice. There’s only one you, and you have to make your writing work. You can take my advice to the letter, but I wouldn’t recommend it. And for the love of Pete, please follow the directions.