Over the last month I’ve found myself more and more in the company, both in person and online, of writers trying to make the leap into publication. No matter what kind of book they’re writing, fiction, non-fiction, poetry; they all tend to say some of the same things. After a few dozen times of hearing the same things said, and knowing that I have said most of them myself, I figured I’d use the platform I have here as a way to reach out and send a message, for what it’s worth.
1) “I don’t think my writing is good enough to get published.”
How do you know? Seriously. Are you an expert? If you are a literary agent for a living, or work for one, you might have a leg up here, but almost every writer is their own worst critic. Why don’t you just go ahead and find an unbiased peer group to review your work, and grow a thick skin. After all, they’re not all going to like everything you write, but taking the criticism well (assuming it’s constructive) could make your writing more than good enough for publication.
2) “I write a lot, but I can never seem to finish anything.”
Now that is a hurdle. I know a lot of people who write a lot, but have never finished a book. I really don’t want to think about how many half-novels I have on my computer and in notebooks littering my house.
Drive and focus are really all that I can suggest here. Just keep driving. I’ve heard a lot of people tell me about their writer’s block, and to a degree I understand it, but I don’t let it stop me. I’m never writing just one project at a time. I always have 4 or 5 things I’m writing at once, and if I get hung up in one, I’ll put it aside and begin working on another.
The most important thing for me has always been to just keep writing. Everyday. No matter what. My daily writing goal is ten pages. That can be ten, or more, productive pages, or it could be 10 pages about how I can’t figure out what to write. Either way, I’m writing.
3) “I wrote a book (or books) but I don’t know what to do with them.”
This is the easiest question to answer, but it also has the most right answers. Get your work edited. By that, I don’t mean your Aunt Flo who taught English for a year. Get an editor.
Once you have that done, self publish, or begin submitting or writing query letters. It really is just that easy. There are dozens of paths here to choose from though, so find someone who has taken the road you want to take and ask some questions. Don’t be pushy or rude, but what does it hurt you to ask?
Don’t be afraid of rejection either. It’s going to happen. Sometimes a lot. Expect it.
4) “My First book is coming out (with a publishing house or self published) but I’m really nervous and I don’t think anyone is going to like it.”
You’re not Neil Gaiman. You are not Stephen King. Hell, to a degree, they aren’t either. Their names are bigger than they are. They are real people, too. I’m willing to bet that they’ve both had their fair share of flops and rejections before they succeeded big. They also likely have a lot of unfinished works as well. What they have over you primarily, right now though, is that they didn’t quit. They never gave up. Because of that they found success. (And yes, they have boatloads of talent too. But who’s to say you don’t?)
At the core of every writer is someone who has something to say, no matter how important, and they want it to be well received by others. How can you expect people to support, and buy books by you, when you are unproven and unknown? You could suck, right?
This is like the age old conundrum of not getting hired for a job because you don’t have experience, but finding it impossible to get experience without getting hired for a job. You can let yourself get caught up in that, if you’d like. In the end, however, everyone goes through that. If you are ever going to be successful, the first (serious) step comes in letting yourself be.
Assuming you’ve done your homework, and a lot of leg work, and more writing than you ever thought you’d do in one lifetime, you’ll go far. You’ve had good unbiased peer reviews of your work and an editor, and your feedback is positive, then you just have to jump in with both feet and hope.
At the least, you've had a good time putting your story together, and nothing can take that away from you. Nothing else really matters.
You did something most people will never be able to do. You finished a book. That alone is massive. If you had fun doing it, all the better. Remember, it doesn’t matter if it’s published by Penguin, or by you, it’s still out there for the world to enjoy. You’re story has taken flight. How awesome is that, right?