To Rember, When Book Writing and Seeking Publication

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Practice Writing, Revise, Repeat

I’ve been writing a loooong time. When I was in high school, I was thrilled to be gifted an electronic typewriter with built-in correction tape [to be clear – this was state-of-the-art at the time]. By the time I was a senior, Dad, who was an early tech adopter, purchased our first family computer. I could not get him to understand how that didn’t help me as a writer unless he actually bought a printer. This was decades before publishers were taking electronic submissions, and with dial-up modems, it would have taken over a day to send a manuscript electronically and with the amount of electronic screaming the phone lines provided, no one would have put up with that for longer than it took to send a fax.

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I mention this because newer writers sometimes ignore the foundational part of becoming a writer – practice writing. Lots, and lots, and lots of writing, revising, and reading, and learning, and practicing. I’m published now, but that took over two decades, three strokes and recovery from them, and time off for graduate degrees.

Malcolm Gladwell has posited that one requires 10,000 hours of practice to become established at something; this may not be true for everyone but when it comes to writing, there’s a lot to be said for practice, revision, and more writing.

It also helps to come to terms with the realization that some ideas are good without being novel-worthy and some characters are engaging but don’t have a story that’s compelling enough to earn readers.

  1. Just because you’ve written something good doesn’t mean it’s good enough to find a traditional publisher.
  2. Just because it’s good enough, doesn’t mean it will find a traditional publisher.
  3. Your journey to becoming published requires as much persistence, research, and work as it does creative talent.
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Perseverance and research

If your goal is to go the traditional publishing route, then writing the book is arquably only half of the work you have to do. Querying agents and independent publishers who are open to your genre and unagented queries, is hard work. I previously posted on how to write a compelling query letter – which needs to be on point at 300 words.

The first paragraph of your query letter should be changed to suit each individual and company that you send it to.

You may have to revise your letter 50 – 150+ times. Yep, it does get discouraging to get 75 people in a row telling you that while your manuscript is good, it’s just not what they’re looking for at this time.

I found this response on a thread where a new writer was asking people who had submitted, how many rejections they received:

“My first novel I queried -140 rejections, 0 offers. Second novel I queried – 40 rejections, 5 offers. Third novel- 10 rejections, 1 offer.

None of those novels were related, I just got better at timing and hitting the right audience during the hard part of research in the trenches.”

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First Written Doesn’t Mean First Optioned

The more writing and querying you do, the better you ought to get at doing what you’re doing. Sometimes the first written novel will not find an agent, but as a writer, you should also be working on your next book even while you are querying the first.

Sometimes the second book gets picked up; sometimes it is the third. You can always resubmit your earlier work once you eventually do have a publishing record. People – including Steven King and Ellis Peters – have done variations of this.

The ghostly presence of Sherlock Holmes, 221B Baker Street by Mike Quinn is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0


Of course, you may also find that like Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle, once you’re known for a particular genre/character, readers aren’t really interested in your ‘other’ ideas. Writers, like actors, can basically become typecast, e.g. known for a particular genre. Which is a bonus for sales of new work, and a curse if you want to write different kinds of things. Readers cannot be counted on to buy work that is outside the genre they initially loved you for.

Not that any of us early in our careers can really wrap our heads around the idea of resenting readers for loving us too much for a particular story we’ve created. That’s a future-you worry, right?

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