Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A letter to new writers

I would like to give some advice to aspiring authors who are attempting to write their very first book. But before I begin, I want to assure you that I mean this in the most constructive manner possible. I'm not trying to discourage anyone, I simply want to share some of my (admittedly limited) experience and knowledge.

Just a few days ago, I read a new writer's blog. She's in the beginning stages of writing her book, and she mentioned that she hopes to have it published by the end of summer. I struggled with myself over replying to that statement because I never want to be the guy who goes around destroying other people's dreams. I don't want to be mean, condescending, or a know-it-all.

But publishing takes time. Especially traditional publication. The fact is, even with a contract, it's going to take several months to turn a finished manuscript into a printed product. Jim Butcher just finished his next Dresden Files book (just over a month ago, I think), and it won't be released until July 26th. And that book is almost guaranteed to be on the NYT top 10 list. Kiersten White was able to get a rush job on her debut novel, Paranormalcy. From the time she got the publishing deal to when the book hit the shelves, it was over a year.

Should this writer have goals? Of course! Goals are what drive us to finish what we started. But getting a book published, at least through the traditional method, will take a long time. Even self-publishing takes a while, though. I know Todd Newton spent months going over his book when he self-published it. He spent a great deal of time editing, re-editing, and then going over cover designs, putting together a cover blurb, etc.. And it paid off because now the title has been published by a small traditional publishing house.

The fact of the matter is: it's the middle of April. September 21 is the last day of Summer. That's five months away. Finishing a manuscript in that time is COMPLETELY reasonable. In fact, I encourage that. I'll go farther and challenge any new writer to finish their manuscript, revisions and all, by the end of July. I came close to doing that last year, and it was one of the most enjoyable, eyeopening experiences of my life.

Please don't get discouraged by what I just said. I'm not trying to turn anyone away from writing. I know how depressing writing can get, though. I've set impossible deadlines for myself many times, and now every time a deadline passes and I haven't reached my goal, I consider moving on to another career. Some of you reading this have been writing for a few years, some of you have been writing for decades. I've spent half my life working at a career that, as of yet, has not moved beyond the amateur stage. Thirteen years is a long time for me, and I do get tired of missing deadlines. But that's part of being a writer.

If you're new to this, I just want you to be prepared. I don't want your enthusiasm crushed because you set a goal that isn't possible to reach. There will be plenty of instances that will make it difficult for you to move forward. I just hate to see writers create them for themselves.


  1. I remember thinking I would be published right away, but luckily I didn't voice it. Writing a novel is not so simple, and it takes time to do it well. I do, however, encourage every new writer keep their head up and there minds wide open.

  2. I thought the same thing. And my hope is that everyone who reads this will be encouraged to stand tall and stick with their dream to be published. It takes work, and it may take longer than planned. I don't want ANYONE to give up :D

  3. Totally agree. It's great to have goals, but you absolutely must manage your expectations. Naivety and ignorance are part of life and being an amateur at something, but some people don't realize that it's their responsibility to do something about that. New writers, the ones with stars in their eyes for dreams of fame and fortune, are in dire need of education. If they don't learn by reading the honest truth from folks like Stephen King and Holly Lisle, they're in for learning the hard way.