Monday, April 20, 2015

10 Things You Need to Do Before You Write Your First Book

by Alycia W. Morales

As an editor, I work with a lot of first-time novelists. And I can always tell the difference between the ones who've put in the time to learn their craft before they write their first book and the ones who haven't.

Here is a list of 10 things every writer needs to do before they write their first book:

1. Read. Read books in the genre you want to write. If you want to write YA, read YA. If you want to write romance, read romance. If you want to write non-fiction, read non-fiction. If you want to write thrillers, read thrillers. By doing so, not only will you learn what works in a book, you'll also learn what doesn't.

2. Read some more. Read books about the writing craft. Read books like Donald Maass's Writing the Breakout Novel, Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell, Story Trumps Structure by Stephen James, and Creative Nonfiction by Philip Gerard. You may be great at writing dialogue, but your character may still fall flat. Or you may have the three-act structure down but you may not understand what point of view is. Learn the craft before you start to write your story. This really is important.

3. Read more. Read books about writing in general. Books like Stephen King's On Writing, Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, and Writing for the Soul by Jerry B. Jenkins. I bet you'll be amazed to find out how long it took these greats to publish their first books.

4. Read some more. Read blogs written by professionals in the writing industry. Blogs like The Write Conversation by Edie Melson, Goins Writer by Jeff Goins, and Cecil Murphey's Writer to Writer.

5. Guess what? Read some more. Read books in genres you normally wouldn't pick up. Maybe you'll find a new passion. Read books that have been published by the main houses. And read books that have been self-published. Again, you'll learn what not to do. You'll also recognize the difference in quality between a writer who really wants to write and a writer who just wants to see their name on the cover.

6. Join a writers group. If you can't find a local writers group, find one online. What are the benefits of joining a critique group? There are others who share your passion for writing. There are others who can look at what you've written and provide feedback. There are others who will stretch you and help you grow in your craft.

7. Take an online course or a local writing class. Jeff Goins has a great course via his Tribe Writers site. He only offers this once in a while, so you need to watch the site for the next opening. This course has a one-time fee and then you have access/membership for life. Susan May Warren has the My Book Therapy site. There is a monthly fee to have access to MBT, but the archives are worth their weight in gold. ACFW has online courses that run throughout the year. There is an annual membership fee, but once you've paid it, you have full access to the site and the courses are then free.

8. Attend a writers conference. Take classes on what you want to or think you want to write. This is a great opportunity to learn your craft, figure out what suits you in the writing field, and network with other writers and agents and editors. If you're a new writer, don't go to your first conference to try to get a contract or an agent. Go to learn what it takes to be a writer in the first place. Meet with people and ask them your questions about how much money you can potentially make and how to find a local writers group and what advice they have for first-time novelists. Go for the learning experience. And then ...

9. Practice. Practice. Practice. Put your fingers to your keyboard or your pen to your paper and write. Give yourself a goal. Whether it's to blog twice a week or write 500 words each day or write and publish five articles in a month, be sure to practice writing. Hone those skills before you attempt to write the larger manuscript and land a publishing contract.

10. Decide to put what you've learned into practice. You've read the books and blogs and more books. You've taken the online course. You've gone to the conference. You've spent time with other writers. You've decided to start your blog or submit articles for publication or submit a story to Chicken Soup for the Soul. Use the skills you've learned. Heed the advice you've been given. Put what you've learned into practice. And keep practicing.

Here's why you want to do these things before you write your first book:
You will be leaps and bounds ahead of the author who hasn't put in the time to learn their craft before pursuing it. It's very evident when a writer has taken the time and spent the money to get an education in their field of work before they attempt to do something big with it.

Let me ask you this: would you want a surgeon to perform surgery on you if you knew they hadn't spent the time to go to medical school? Probably not.

Would you want a reader to spend money on a book that you haven't spent the time and money to learn how to be the best writer you could possibly be? I wouldn't. Because it would kill my career before it had a chance to start. Think 1-star reviews.

By doing what I've presented above, you will save yourself money in the long run. I've had a few authors pay me a decent sum of money only to discover that they really didn't learn about character development and plotting and conflict/resolution before they decided to spend the money on an editor. They could have spent a lot less on an edit if they'd done their homework first and then tried to graduate into the world of publishing. Usually they're grateful for all I've pointed out and they go back and work on their manuscript some more. But now they'll have to pay another editor to go through their manuscript after they've applied what I've taught them.

So please, before you write your first book, do the things I've mentioned here today. Trust me when I say it'll pay off in the long run. You really can't rush a good thing. And shortcuts don't tend to work in this industry. Spend the money to get an education and take the time to hone your skills. What you are willing to put in is going to be what you get out of this. As with anything else in life, you will reap what you sow.


10 Things You Need to Do Before You Write Your First Book via @AlyciaMorales

Don't #write your first book without doing these 10 things first. 

Q4U: What else would you recommend a first-time writer do before they write their first book? OR Share a resource you would recommend to writers (books, websites, blogs to follow, etc.).

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