As a newly published author, I get lots of questions, mostly from other writers trying to break into publishing. They want to know how I did it. How did I get published? How did I find an agent? How did I decide what to write about? How did I know I was ready for publication?
The answer to all of the above is surprisingly simple: I didn’t know anything. Seriously. At first, I knew nothing about publishing, and much less about writing itself than I thought I did. And for me, that was the key. Sometimes, ignorance really is bliss.
I’ve been a member of RWA for two years now, but I was writing for more than a year before that. I wrote my first novel in complete isolation. I didn’t tell anyone I was writing. I didn’t read any how-to books or take any writing classes. I didn’t have any critique partners or belong to any on-line forums. I didn’t even have an internet connection.
Though I didn’t know it at the time, I needed to approach writing a novel with a cushion of ignorance.CPs are a wonderful resource for an aspiring author (I have an awesome one right now), and organizations like RWA can be invaluable for those who are ready to approach the business side of the industry. But in the beginning, every writer deserves a chance to write whatever and however she wants, without someone looking over her shoulder and whispering well-meaning but defeatist advice.
As you write your first novel, you do not need to hear how passive your voice is, how many adverbs you’re using, and that your genre just isn’t selling right now. All of that will come into play later, and it will sting. A lot. But until then, and in preparation for that, what you need is a huge dose of confidence, and there’s no better way to get that than by writing your first book all on your own.Knowing early on how much work my prose needed, how long querying could take, and how many rejections would come might very well have frustrated me beyond repair. If I’d known how hard it could be, I might have given up without even trying.
But since I didn’t know, I wrote my first novel in one long, fevered burst of creativity, convinced that all 140,000 words were carefully crafted brilliance—the story every editor in the country didn’t yet know she was looking for.
I was wrong; I know that now. That novel wasn’t publishable, and won’t be, without serious work. But it was exactly what I needed at the time. A sort of practice novel with which I could develop my voice and exercise my plotting skills without worrying about things like formatting, querying, or even polishing.It worked so well that I dove right into the sequel for a second (extra) dose of self-confidence. And that’s when I started learning to polish, and tighten, and write query letters, and seek opinions. By that point I was already hooked on writing, and no amount of rejection or carelessly worded criticism could scare me away.
I never submitted those first two novels. They’re still buried on my hard drive until I find the time and patience to dust them off and polish them up. But what I learned from those two books—written in the peace and quiet of my own imagination—gave me the confidence to submit my third novel, Stray which is now the first in a six book series.So if you’re in that beginner phase and getting frustrated over all the details, maybe what you need to do is step back and retreat into your own head, into that blissful silence where naysayers dare not tread.
Let the words come however they will. They can be fixed and polished later.For now, simply finding them is enough. And trust me—it feels good. ;-)