Are you looking to be the next Rowling? The next King? I admire your tenacity. But it’s going to take a little more than that to be become a successful author. It’s going to take dedication, lots of hard work, resilience and just a little bit of luck. Budding Authors far and wide, I hope these 10 brutally honest tips will help better prepare you on your writing journey.
1. Be Prepared For Failure, But Always Hope For Success
Like in any creative platform, the chances of success in the life of an author are very small. But the trick is to never give up hope. So what if the first couple books you write aren’t immediately picked up by agents? It’s all part of the growing process.
On average, authors don’t get representation until they’ve written around four books. It’s a good round number that shows you are dedicated to the lifestyle, and the you have some experience and growth under your belt. So don’t rush yourself! Use this time to experiment with different genres and find out what suits you.
2. Be Ready To Throw Away Hours Of Your Work
Ever gotten halfway through writing something and realised that you have no idea where it’s going? Or maybe you even got to the end of the book and thought ‘Oh, god. This is terrible…’. It happens all the time.
Having belief in your work is great, but also having a healthy dose of cynicism and detachment when viewing your own ideas will save you some pain. Sometimes you need to stand back a bit to see the whole picture. As yourself, does this really work? You don’t know how many time I’ve completely scrapped chapters after spending hours trying to refine them, only to realise that I was trying to force a square peg into a round hole.
3. Turn Off The TV And Read
Author Stephen King famously said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” And he’s right. You can’t binge the Harry Potter movies without reading the books and say you know how to write a great story. Formulating a story and translating it into writing are two very separate things.
If you’re new to reading, or looking to start a daily habit, try beginning with the safe, easy-read hits that are widely seen to be good writing. Children’s and young adult books like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games are great places to start because they are series that’ll keep you reading for a while and help you start a daily routine.
4. Not Everyone Will Like Your Work
This is marathon, not a sprint. Don’t take it too personally if a friend reads your book and they tell you it needs work. If you get a scathing response from an agent you submitted to telling you that it “just wasn’t for them”, don’t hold it against them. They’re all trying to help you.
Write for you and only you. Don’t write to wedge yourself into a sellable genre. You’d be surprised by how many people pick up on work that has been written with real love and care. Trust me, it makes a massive difference.
5. Automated Responses Are The Worst
If you send away to an agent or publisher and they reply with something like, “Thank you for giving us the chance to read your work. However, I’m sorry to say that…” then you’ve received an automated response. It sucks, when you realise you weren’t even worth the ‘human touch’ in someone else’s eye.
But you know what sucks more? No response at all. A fair few agencies are infamous for not giving rejection emails, and the and the waiting is akin to being left hanging in mid-air. Will you hit the ground or fly? Or will you just float forever?
When this happens, all you can do is grit your teeth and move one. Be strong and keep moving forward!
6. Good Books Are Made On The 10th Draft, Great Books Are Made On The 100th
Don’t be skimpy on the edits. This is the part that of writing that will find tedious. But it’s the part that makes or breaks a book.
A few spelling errors are sure to sneak through. But making sure the story is flowing, the characters are embellished, and the world you’ve creating is jumping off the page is what editing is all about.
7. It’s going to take longer than you thought to get published
When starry-eyed me wrote my first manuscript and sent off to publishers and agents, I thought I’d get published before the year was out. That was a year ago now.
Accept that this process is going to take some time and the experience will be different for each person. For some people, it could take a matter of months. For others, years, maybe even decades. But what’s the one thing they all have in common? The keep trying.
8. Get A ‘Real’ Job (On The Side)
Creation really is a rich man’s game. And unless you’ve published a couple bestsellers, you’ll need another job with a steady salary in order to stay afloat.
Many writers were in teaching and journalism before they were able to make a living off of their writing. Famously, Stephen King worked in as a janitor, Charles Dickens worked in a shoe polish factory, and John Steinbeck was a tour guide in a fish hatchery! Just goes to show that great people really can come from anywhere.
9. Hold Out For The Right Agent
Agents and publishers are picky. But it’s nothing to be mad about. An Author is a creator and it’s the publisher’s job to sell what creators create. So, they’re going to want to find books and authors they really believe in. If you don’t make the cut for one author, it can be hard to take but they might just be doing you a favour.
To have an agent you share a connection with is a special thing. They aren’t just their as your gateway, agents are confidants, partners, and sometimes they’re you biggest fan. Your agent will officially be the first person that believes in you to be a big success- that can actually do something about it. You want to hold out for an agent that’ll roll up their sleeves with you and help you turn you manuscript into a masterpiece.
10. Don’t Stop Writing
This can be the hardest thing for a budding author to do sometimes. Life can get in the way, things can get you down, you struggle to get your foot in the door.
But you can’t give up. The real way to test a dream is to get out there and just do it. Write and then write some more. What are you waiting for?