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Going Against Expert Advice: Lessons Learned by a Newbie

As I start this article, I feel like Jerry McGuire when he wrote his Mission Statement. Some people disagreed with his concept of spending more time with his clients even if it meant less revenue for the company where he worked. But at the end of the movie, not only did he win the heart of his lovely wife but also came to learn many lessons about his craft. And this is my intention. I am writing this article to share with you how going against the grain can sometimes be painful to your ego, force you to take the longest distance to your destination and in some cases, you may have to reinvent yourself again. Would I change any of the actions I took that got me here today, No, I wouldn’t. It’s been a journey full of lessons and as I sit here, I know similar situations will be around the corner. But now, I will follow the expert advice that is readily available all over the internet.

So, I will share my story as I share some ideas that looking back would have made better sense and hope that at least for some of the newbies, this information will be helpful.

1. Find a Writing Buddy

The main reason I started to write was because I had a friend who encouraged me to join the Nanowrimo Contest. It took me several weeks to spell and pronounce the name correctly. I had just quit my job to dedicate more time to my special needs child who was attending elementary school. I had the time and for some reason, the hunger to write and express myself on paper. I was fortunate that my writing buddy is an excellent writer and had several years of experience under her belt. Also, the one-on–one offered me more time to discuss questions and issues that came up during my writing.

2. Take your time to publish your first novel; Find a Good Editor

So I entered the contest and in two weeks, completed my novel. First mistake, I decided to split the novel into a series and then publish it a few months later. I did have the novel edited by a professional editor, but only once. Even though I edited my work at least six times, a professional is the key to creating quality work. Also, be selective in choosing your editor. I know it’s expensive but it’s worth it. Later in the article I will share with you the consequence of poor editing choices. Do your research, ask people in the industry for recommendations; my conclusion is to select a good, professional editor even if you have to pay more money. I’m living a conservative lifestyle and don’t have money to blow away but if you are committed to be in this business long term, then look at it as an investment.

3. Take your time to publish your first novel; Research your audience

I had not read books for a long time before I wrote my novel. But ask me about any movie and I can tell you anything you want to know. I was and continue to be a movie junkie. As a result, I did have many ideas for good plots that I felt I could convert to novels. To top it all, I was a Healthcare consultant and travelled around the States and the world, spending many hours in planes. So I read many books but they were professional, self-improvement and non-fiction books. This alone gave me the confidence to write. When you are unaware of your audience, you have a big chance of failing in this business because they are your customers. Like any company, knowing your customer is the most important aspect in developing a product that they will buy. If you are in this field to write and never make a penny, then this may not be important to you. But in my case, I would like to be paid for my services and do not want to release bad quality work because it reflects on my reputation. Been there, done that.

4. Take your time to publish your first novel; Research your genre

Once you select your genre, this suggestion goes hand in hand with the earlier one. Read books in your genre so that you can understand the wording that is being used. The audience likes the genre because of the way that it’s written so if you write something completely out of the ball park, they will put that book down in the first inning and they will never buy another one from you again.

5.  Subscribe to Blogs and Read Them

When you have a family and a full-time job, it’s hard to make time for all the demands of this business so take your Time. The business is not going to go away. I’m over 50 years old and changing to a different discipline has been a very humbling experience. Having been a successful Health Care executive and owning three business, to transfer and start in this career has not been an easy road, and I’ve come to accept that it will be very bumpy for a while. But when I went to a Statewide Writer’s Conference not too long ago, I noticed that many of the writers were either my age, and in many cases older. I cannot tell you what a sense of relief that offered me. It gave me hope that I can write for a very long time and still make it. Yes, there are many young and wonderful writers that we can learn from and will be around for a long time too. So age doesn’t matter in this business. Also, make sure you network because many authors will be your clients. Take your time.

6. To  Blog or Not to ; That is the Question

Well, if you are reading this you know where I stand with that. But it’s been over a year that I’ve been writing and just started a blog. With determination, I will continue it. A major part of your success will depend on marketing your product and social media will get the word of your novel out in the market. This part of the business is the scariest for me not because of its complexity but of the time commitment it requires. I cannot say, Take your time, because in this case you need to be available at whatever time. So know that once you publish your novel, if you don’t start the ball rolling, you are going to miss momentum and potential opportunities that will make your book successful. I found the following website in researching which web hosting product to select,

http://www.consumer-rankings.com/hosting/?a=148&c=2968&s1=80681060.82174544&vn=nrd3-nbf&ls=g&gclid=Cj0KEQiAp4yjBRCE_enjmpug944BEiQATCpLvbaJ_IHyxWefofhWoYt-HJv2iz3QbRdMnL8eZLfAxpEaAk0y8P8HAQ

I decided to start now because I’m planning to publish my 4th book in the spring if 2015.

7. Research your Publishing Options

With the internet and eBooks, there are so many options for publishing; indie, self-publishing, hybrid, traditional and so on. Compare them and check which one not only fits your financial goals but also your time limitations. Your time is money and if you go pure self-publishing, your flying solo. Some people love it and after doing it several times, it’s become second nature for them. But there are options that will support you in some aspects of the business, allowing you time to breath. Whatever you decide, be aware that the marketing will mainly fall on your lap. The audience wants to see you so no matter which route you take, if you make it big, be ready to travel and invest considerable amounts of time unless you can clone yourself.

8. Reviews of Your Work Can Hurt

One of my first reviews was a one star. That evening I called my writing buddy and cried like a baby. And for those of you who think I was exaggerating, I’m just a very sentimental person. After a few days, I re-read the check and did what everyone tells you not to do; I emailed my reviewer. However, my email was not to insult her but instead to thank her. I think she was shocked and to be honest, I didn’t think she would respond. But she is professional and did. Every point that she noted from the fact that I wrote like a child, that my work should’ve been edited more, that after 11 pages, she had to put the book down and that she couldn’t believe anyone would ever release a book in that condition, I analyzed and concluded that she had given me the aspects of the novel that I had to check to improve it. For me, that was priceless. I’m now in the process of editing the book and publishing a 2nd edition and will feel proud to do so. And every bad review that I got for the book, I will read and take into consideration. In my email, I explained to her that it was my first book and that the 2nd one of the series was in the process of being released. I asked her if she would give me another chance. And she said, not only a 2nd, but a 3rd, a 4th and so on because this is what she does. She reviews books not only for her audience but also for the writers to consider suggestions for improvement. Since then, I’ve kept in communication and have utmost respect for her work. I will be sending her my new book in the spring and hope she enjoys it.

9. Your Reviews Can Hurt Other Writers

No one likes to have their baby called ugly so my recommendation is not what you say but how you say it. I have not been the most diplomatic person when it comes to this. Perhaps being in Consulting and telling companies how to improve their operations hardened my speech. This is an area that I need to work on. I’ve seen the work of some colleagues and while I’m the least person to have the ability to give a proper opinion, I can at least recognize some syntax, POV and character consistency issues. When I see how some writers give their comments in such a soft yet assertive way, I applaud them. Now if you are a professional reviewer, your job is to be assertive and direct but from one colleague to another, you can be less aggressive. Again, this is just my opinion.

 

There are many other lessons I learned but these were the major ones. So to summarize, after going through these experiences, I changed my pen name. Yep, my insecurity got to me and decided to start anew. Interestingly enough, I do like my new pen name better than my old one and will not be changing it even if I get remarried. This is a craft and I need to learn many skills. I am taking internet courses for writing but am planning to go back to school and take some formal English writing courses as recommended by my writing buddy. There are so many factors that will influence your success and skills in one of them. But I think that the most important one is to be determined and be ready to like rollercoasters because you will have lots of ups and downs; but if you have the desire and passion to write, it will be a great ride. Finally, thank you Writing Buddy for being my seat belt and helping me stay on my seat.

Next

Writing Styles: I can’t stop reading until I finish! – Part 1

2 Comments

  1. Thank you for having the courage to share your journey and your mistakes.

    Many people, including myself, believe that having an amazing story is enough to make it big, but the reality is that we must work on our craft over and over again until we get it right.

    And then we need to find our niche.

    Writing newbies, like me, will benefit from your insights. 😉

    • Dear Audrey, Thank you for reading my blog and sharing your insights. It’s always a pleasure to encounter people who we can relate with and learn from. Like you said, it is a craft and requires time. Always, a work in progress.

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