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Friday, November 14, 2014

Words of Advice to My Younger Self

There are things I wish I had known when I started writing my first novel years ago. I guess I didn't really know what I was getting myself into. I didn't know the hours upon hours I would spend reading, writing, and polishing that manuscript and subsequent manuscripts. Here is the letter I would write to my younger self. Maybe it will benefit some of you as well.

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So you want to write a novel?

After all these years, you're finally ready to do it. Don't be scared. Don't think you'll fail, even though at times you might. Don't be too hard on yourself, you are, after all, still learning.

Allow yourself to be inspired by the things around you—conversations you hear, people you meet, songs on the radio, maybe even a perfect sunset. That's what will make your writing unique—everything YOU see, hear, experience, feel, will be different from someone else. The story you have to tell, will be different.

Hour after hour you will plug away at your laptop. You will fill pages upon pages of words that only you will see. Line by line, page by page, a story will unfold. A story that captivates you, leaves you sleepless and longing for more hours with the characters you've created. And then one day, it will be done—and yet, far from finished. You will spend hours, days, weeks, even months polishing your manuscript. Rewriting scenes, taking out characters, adding motivation and ensuring there's a visible character arc. You may find that you need to step away from this novel for a while and come back with fresh eyes and a new perspective. Do it. That time away will be invaluable.

In the end, you may think your writing is no good. You many want to burn that manuscript or erase that document, but don't. Celebrate what you HAVE accomplished—you finished a novel. Something many aspire to do, but few are able to achieve!

Now is the tough part. You have to let your baby go, out into the world for other eyes to see. You need other's perspectives. You need to know what works, what doesn't, and where lie the plot holes and lack of characterization. Don't be offended if your best friend or critique partner has a very strong opinion about your main character. Don't get upset if your spouse or beta reader thinks your story "needs some work." Take the advice, thoughts, opinions of others and sit on them. For a while. You'll know what advice to take and what to leave behind. Think about what feels right for your story. And don't forget, most importantly, that this is YOUR story. Not theirs.

And after all that polishing, all that work, your manuscript will finally be ready. Will you choose to query agents? Or will you submit to publishers? Or perhaps the indie route is the way for you. Whatever you choose, you will celebrate the moment you can share your work with the world.

In the end, it comes down to one thing and one thing only. If you want to write a novel, then write.

**Originally posted on my blog, Swords and Stilettos, on October 1, 2014 as my contribution to the eBook anthology IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond, which will be released in December.