All right, I’m about to drop some brutal honesty on you. In particular, this post is geared toward those who wish to publish (either traditionally or indie), but are at an early point in your journey.
The entire writing process is hard, and there are some difficult truths I wish some people had shared with me when I started.
1. You will get harsh feedback and you will face rejection.
At some point in the process, this happens to everyone. For me, it was my very first beta reader, who peppered their notes with things like “Yawn” and “your main character is stupid”. (Gee, thanks for that helpful comment).
Not all feedback is going to be like that. You’ll find good betas and hopefully a few solid critique partners who can offer constructive criticism in a professional manner. (Check out my post on where to find these elusive individuals here.) But eventually, you’ll get a critic who just rips your baby to shreds. Maybe it’s a vicious beta reader, or it may come later as a scathing Goodreads review.
To make matters worse, querying writers on the traditional publishing path are going to face a lot of rejection. For every full/partial request, you’ll hear two, three, or ten “no’s”. And most of those fulls and partials will get rejected too. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a personalized rejection, but get used to hearing “not a good fit for my list”.
It will happen. It will hurt. And you’ll have to lick your wounds, get back up, and keep going. (If nothing else, spite is always a good motivator.)
2. You’ll need to study writing craft.
I know, I know. “Averyyy, I don’t want someone else telling me how I should or shouldn’t write.” But most carpenters don’t start nailing together boards without learning technique. Chefs–even those with natural talent–apprentice to other chefs before striking out on their own. Even artistic prodigies still hone their craft through study.
I’m not saying you should follow every bit of advice you read or hear. Goodness knows, some of it is outright contradictory. However, you’ll absorb those lessons that are most pertinent to you. You’ll find those scraps of information that give you “a-ha” moments and improve your story 100%.
Where do I learn?
Personally, I love podcasts. They allow me to listen while I drive my daily commute. Writing Excuses and The Writescast Network are two favorites. But some great books on the subject are Save The Cat Writes a Novel, Story Genius, and The Emotional Craft of Fiction.
3. You’d better learn to enjoy (or at least endure) revising.
You’re probably going to spend as much–or significantly more–time revising than you did drafting.
Cambiare was a garbage fire of a pantsed NaNoWriMo disaster in its first draft, and consequently is currently on Draft 25. And no, that’s not a typo.
I always balked at heavy-duty revision before I decided to dive deep into polishing up Cambiare. But in the two years I spent fixing that hot mess, I learned to tear my manuscript apart and rebuild it even better. I came to terms with savagely murdering my darlings.
It’s hard, hard work, and it’s a necessary part of the process that cannot be skipped.
4. You’ll have to brush up on marketing techniques.
This one is particularly crucial for self-published authors like me, but even traditionally-published authors will have to market their work. As a debut, there is a high chance that even a traditional publisher will only offer minimal advertising or marketing (unless you’re one of the lucky handful of “hype” books that get pushed per year, but even those rely heavily on word-of-mouth).
You’ll need to build anticipation for your novel through audience engagement, social media, and eye-catching graphics. You might do some giveaways to generate excitement and extend your reach. Start a street team, or do a pre-order incentive. Build a mailing list. There are a lot of moving parts, and the more of them you master, the better your book’s chances of standing out from the crowd.
5. You’d better really, really love your book. Like, a lot.
This journey is tough. When you hit those low points after the umpteenth rejection, or when you’re mid-revision and absolutely sure you’ve ruined your story, you need a reason to scrape yourself off the floor and keep going.
I almost quit writing several times while working on Cambiare. But every time I came close (or threw in the towel for a couple of weeks), I would come back. And I did it because I adore my characters. I breathed life into them and I want to see their story to its conclusion. I truly do love this book.
That’s what makes the horrible roller-coaster worth it: the passion you have for your novel. You have to love it more than your most devoted fan ever will. You need to be willing to go to bat for it over and over again.
(Also, you’re going to have to read the damn thing a hundred times.)
So there it is, the harsh truth.
What this all boils down to is that writing, revising, and publishing isn’t easy. It’s a lot of work.
But it’s so, so worth it.