Advice to Newbies
Updated: Mar 7, 2018
Once a week or so, I'm posting writing tips. Some are technical; some are career tips for authors. So, today, I'm giving advice to the newbie writer (or perhaps the not so new writer—see tip #1). There are lots of things I could say. I could probably throw out 20 NEED TO KNOW tips, but these are probably my top five.
Before I start, let me say, these are rules I follow too, but they're also things I see broken all the time.
1. Check the ego at the door. Honestly, I think this is the most important ever. If your critique group loves you, and/or you’ve won contests, you’re not ‘IT’. If you have one book out, you’re not ‘IT’. If you have twenty, thirty...fifty books out, you’re still not ‘IT’. You can give your editor, readers and other writers attitude when you’re Nora Roberts or Stephen King. Until then, a little humility will take you far. Not everyone will like you. You might even get some terrible reviews and letters (or online messages). It might hurt. It probably will. But an inflated ego will make it worse. When you think you're 'IT', you've started down the road of shooting yourself in the foot...repeatedly. Now don't get me wrong. A healthy appreciation for your talents is good. There's just a fine balance between knowing you're a good writer and being an egotist. You should have faith in your writing and your message. But also remember everyone's work needs some polishing and isn't sacred. That's probably clear as mud. Just...be nice. Accept help from editors. Help other authors. Don't be a jerk.
2. Follow the rules when submitting books. Tell about yourself in your query—but only that which is pertinent to the book or your publishing career. Tell about the book. Read the publisher’s guidelines and FOLLOW THEM. Read the books put out by the publisher so you know what sort of books they take. These are some of the most important things for getting your foot in the door. And if you're self publishing, there are still rules. Make sure you're familiar with them (i.e. format properly, include the right information, know how to use key words)
3. Find your voice. This is one of the most difficult things to do as a writer, but it’s the difference between invigorating and stale writing. Don’t focus so much on perfection that you’re writing is flawless yet lifeless. Your voice can only be found through lots and lots of writing. Do it. I find that writing exercises are great for this because there’s no pressure and you can write whatever you want. The more you do them, the more you’ll find a particular voice coming through. That, dear newbie, is your voice. Don't try to be someone else. Be you! My editor once said to me: it wouldn't matter what author name you put on a book, I'd recognize your voice anywhere. This is voice. This is because the real Brynn comes out on paper (swears and all, LOL). When that happens, your writing will have life!
4. Bone up on grammar so that it becomes second nature. Remember what I just said about focusing on perfection? You still need to get the words right. If they’re second nature to you, you can write them with your voice coming through. I know this doesn’t make sense. Um…it’s like doing stunts on a bike. If the rider was still learning the mechanics, he wouldn’t be able to do brilliant tricks. Learn the mechanics so you can shine. Learn the mechanic so you can break the rules with panache! Seriously, I am a grammar nazi, but I bet you can look at this piece (or any piece I've written) and find where I've broken grammar rules. Some of it is my voice. Some of it is for effect or flow. In some instances, being grammatically correct even seems stilted (in character conversations, for example). But there's a difference between intentionally breaking the rules and being a trainwreck on paper. Know the mechanics then you can go Surya Bonaly on that mother. Not everyone will appreciate it, but you will be amazing.
5. Remember that the internet is forever. For real. It is. Be careful what you say and what you do out there on the big world wide web—the world isn’t big enough or wide enough to hide bad behavior online. We all do stupid things—it’s part of being human—but we can limit that by watching our mouths/fingers. An internet war is never a good idea, and sometimes silence speaks a lot louder than fiery fingers. Also, remember what I said up in tip #1: Just...be nice. Accept help. Help others. Don't be a jerk.
And that is my advice. I hope you found something helpful in there!
All my best!
PS!!! Make sure you stop by tomorrow when I will have special guest, Lacey Thorn!