1. Concept is almosteverything. Your prose might be fabulous, and you might be an amazing storyteller. But if your concept isn’t catchy enough, no one will ever bother to find out. Always think about concept.
2“Write what you love” is only useful advice in two situations. 1) You don’t care about being published by an established press. 2) You’re lucky enough to love what’s popular. That doesn’t mean you should write stuff you hate; that will show. It does mean it helps to read widely until you fall in love with something that lots of other people love too.
3. Finishing a novel is only the first battle. By the time you’re done editing it for yourself, you’ll be sick of it. By the time you’re done editing it for an agent (and/or an editor), you will despise its very existence. When someone tells you they love it, you’ll be overjoyed but look at them like they’re smoking crack.
4. Writing is a bit like being bipolar. There will be days when your novel is the greatest thing ever. There will be days when it should be burned. It only gets worse once you start querying agents or editors. Your opinion and mood will fluctuate with the sort of responses that show up in your inbox. Say goodbye to having an even emotional keel. Stocking up on booze or chocolate, depending on your vice of choice, is an investment in your mental health.
5. Although many people make it sound like signing with an agent means you’ve got it made, the truth is finding an agent is only one of many hurdles. The number of writer/agent relationships that go bust is a shocking but dirty secret that people rarely discuss. The number of books that agents can’t sell is, too. Then there’s the number of books that do sell to a publisher but readers don’t buy them, the books tank, and so does the author’s career. For every hurdle you overcome, you will be faced with yet another.
6. Don’t discount luck, or timing or serendipity or whatever you prefer to call it. There are factors out there beyond our control. Is the editor who gets your manuscript having a bad day? Did the agent you queried just take on a book very similar to yours? Some people will swear that all great books get published. But while being great helps, it’s no guarantee. (Luckily, self-publishing is a good option these days, and there are many excellent self-published books.)
In the end, the only thing you can control is yourself. Do you keep writing? Do you persevere with submitting? Do you work at your craft? Do you love what you do? Sometimes it’s easy to get beaten down and forget the love, but that’s the only reason to keep on going. After all, it might take nine books to get you where you want to go, although I certainly hope you get there faster than I did!
Tracey Martin grew up outside of Philadelphia, the lucky recipient of a drama-free childhood, which is why she spent so much time reading about other people’s lives. It was while she was working on her doctorate in psychology that she had an epiphany — imaginary people are way more fun than real ones. And so she began writing. Never able to choose just one of anything, she currently writes both urban fantasy for adults and contemporary stories for teens.
She likes her coffee simple, her music epic, and her movies to contain explosions. A city girl at heart, she doesn’t understand how she and her husband ended up living in New Hampshire, but writing keeps her off the mean, small town streets. You can find her online at tracey-martin.com. Website | Twitter