7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Leslie Tentler

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers (this installment written by Leslie Tentler, author of MIDNIGHT CALLER) at any stage of their career can talk about writing advice and instruction as well as how they possibly got their book agent — by sharing seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning.

Leslie is excited to give away a free book to one random commenter. Comment within one week; winners must live in Canada/US48 to receive the print book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: J.T. won.)



Leslie Tentler is the author of Midnight Caller (Jan.
2011, Mira Books). Publishers Weekly said this of
Leslie’s debut novel: “A smooth prose style and an
authentic Big Easy vibe distinguish Tentler’s debut.”

The book is part of a trilogy of romantic thrillers
built around a fictional unit of the FBI. Leslie lives
in Atlanta, and is a proud member of the RWA,
ITW and MWA. See her website here.


1. Writing is a business. Before writing Midnight Caller, I worked for years as a PR writer and editor. I’d grown tired of the business aspect, especially the constant deadlines, and daydreamed about the creative life of a fiction writer. While achieving my goal of being published has been exciting and fulfilling, I’ve also learned it’s every bit as much of a “business” as the one I was in before. There are contracts, marketing expectations and yes, still a lot of deadlines.

2. At least in the romantic suspense genre, think “series.”
Unpublished, the advice I’d heard was to focus on a single novel, since publishers wouldn’t want to take a multi-book chance on someone brand new. To my surprise, however, I learned the publisher interested in Midnight Caller wanted it as part of a three-book, loosely tied-together series. This sent me into a bit of a scramble, since I hadn’t prepared to spin more stories around this theme. When I pitch my next book outside of the current series, I’ll be sure to have multiple follow-on ideas already in mind.

3. Expect to dedicate a lot of hours to marketing. Nothing replaces having a good story. But beyond that prerequisite, you also have to participate heavily in building your brand and promoting your books. Fortunately, coming from a PR background, I understand the benefits of social networking and the fundamentals of building a promotional campaign. However, I still didn’t fully realize how much time the marketing aspect would take, even with the help of valued publicists and internal marketing departments.

4. Don’t let your internal critic psych you out. This is a big one for me. I believed once I was published, all my self-doubts would vanish. But as much as ever, I still find myself plagued by insecurities. These days, what I’m writing is definitely not going to be shoved into my desk drawer and hidden. It’s going to be out there. I always worry the story isn’t unique enough, that I’ve started the scene in the wrong place or the characters aren’t compelling. While some of this analysis is necessary and good, making you a better writer, too much of it will freeze you up and that’s not something you want to happen when you’re on contract and facing deadlines. I’ve had to learn to push aside my internal critic and keep going, have some faith in myself.

5. Try not to let the external critics get to you, either.
Whether it comes from the relative who asked to read your work, the contest judge or agent you queried, any unpublished writer has to deal with criticism. Some of it is necessary and worth its weight in gold, while some of it can be harsh and unfounded. These days, I see past criticisms as training ground for the public comments you may receive about your novel. Writers are by nature sensitive and introverted types, so really think about whether that visibility is something you can handle.

6. You may have to go it alone.
Writing is solitary, something that increases once you become published. Writing my first book, I had the luxury of time and the constant feedback and support of a critique partner and writer’s group. I had the time to enter contests. All of this builds your confidence as a writer. Now, I have to work much faster which means I have less time to have others assess my work. I’ve had to learn to edit myself harder knowing that fewer eyes will be on it before it goes to my editor.

7. It’s easy to lose balance.
Writing is unbelievably time-intensive. For me at least, the fear of not making deadlines, and of having my writing be anything less than it can be, has led me to become singularly focused. I know this about myself; I have an obsessive personality. As a result, I don’t socialize as often and have put working out on the back burnersomething I miss. We’re still early in 2011, and my resolution for this year is to find a way to balance it allwriting and the business of writing with family, friends and good health.

Hook agents, editors and readers immediately.
Check out Les Edgerton’s guide, HOOKED, to
learn about how your fiction can pull readers in.


Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:


Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more. 
Order the book from WD at a discount.


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24 thoughts on “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Leslie Tentler

  1. Vicki Geisler

    Years ago I wrote a story for my children. I now have the ambition and courage to try to send the book out to publishers. I will not fail because if I can’t find a willing publisher, I will self publish and promote the book via social media or other mass communication contacts.

    This book has waited too long to be published and my supporters will be happy I decided to share the story with the rest of the world.

    My passion is writing, however in my past careers I wrote technical documentation (training and curiculum) for my employers. I am constantly in front of the computer and know that if I follow my dream I will not stop writing for pleasure.

    I really hope I am selected as the winner of this book. It will remind me of where I started and will assist me with the steps to be become a successful author.

  2. Bonnie J. Toomey

    Hi, Leslie.
    First off, congratulations on Midnight Caller, I am looking forward to reading it, but I’ll be sure to keep the light on when it’s tome to get some much needed sleep.

    Thanks for sharing your insights and writer’s wisdom. It’s encouraging to think I can do it, even if it means second career, social sacrifice, and a few extra pounds. Old bitches can learn new tricks!

    I am enjoying the luxury of writing a column as well,(two of them!) for a moderate sized paper whose editor I somehow bamboozled that my pitch was worthwhile, both times. At about the same time I convinced an editor at a regional magazine that I would be a good bet for feature stories and she took me in…the hardest part was actually making the follow up calls!! It’s hard to write a damn good call, but my useful phrase "plethora of prompts" seemed to work on her quite well.

    Anyway, I never planned on writing for newspaper or magazine, but realized I was writing in a sort of social vacuum, becoming slightly down trodden as writer’s often do when they do not get any real validation; ahem, like a pay check, for example.

    It’s all coming very fast, but helping to build a good platform, I think, for my real dream, which is to write for my own creative pleasure and of course to become published. Isn’t that the "be all end all" for a wordsmith? But as I read your column and came to deadlines and business, I realized, that is never going to go away. So cheers to deadlines, they keep us very much alive!

    I’m happy to report I have experienced a teensy bit of success, you should have seen my face when I discovered The Massachusetts Poetry Society, ect. publication thought mine was worth sharing. My screams echoed through the house; I’m going to need a mountain top to shout from when I publish my book, which should be entitled, "How to survive writing, housework, and horny husbands".

    Anyway that’s one mountain I am looking forward to climbing, and I won’t even need a megaphone. It’ll give me the physical excercise that I finally deserve and sacrificed for the greater literary good.

    What your column reminds to do is to keep in mind that writing is a business, a business for the insanely miserable and the enthusiast who craves a bit of euphoric recognition who can’t put the pen down or step away from the key board under any circumstance just to make someone feel something real. Thank you for keeping it real and thank you for giving the newbies out here some realistic guidance.

  3. L.F.

    Thanks for the great tips Leslie. Would love to know more about how you distinguish between the external critics worth their weight in gold, and the others.

    Congrats on your book 🙂

  4. Jennifer Hillier

    I haven’t got a background in PR or business of any kind. I am certainly not a published author. I am definitely my own worst critic. And I find that writer’s block strikes me so often these days that I rarely lay pen to paper anymore, or fingers to keys as the case may be. Most of all, I appreciate the fact that others often feel the same way. I also like knowing that people we hold in high regard, such as the authors of the stories we lose ourselves in, are actually people, who often have the same fears and concerns that we do. They’ve simply found a way to surpass those fears and concerns, which we haven’t yet. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

  5. Mary Whitsell

    The advice about balance certainly resonates: I’ve got an exercise ball, a yoga mat, and a jump rope in the room I write in — that’s my gym. My social life is the odd walk with a friend, plus a weekly choral group. But that’s an improvement over last year!


    This is such great advice, Leslie. Many of your points I suspected were very true–the luxury of CPs and multiple eyes. I was just thinking how if I were on a deadline for an editor, I wouldn’t be able to wait for my fave readers to get back to me! And I already see how the writing life can be all-consuming. Sigh…

    but your books look/sound AWESOME! Congrats~ :o)

  7. Stepanie

    Good advice about writing a series. I’m very new at all of this, but I have in mind one stand-alone story, with potential for more stories in a series. Maybe I’ll be the only one to ever read them, but I like the idea of my characters having a chance to develop further in the future!

  8. Shelley Koon

    Leslie –

    What a great list! Very interesting that your publisher is encouraging you to do a series when so much of the information out there warns against new authors doing so. I went to a book signing for a well known mystery writer who had the same thing happen to him. I am working on a book that is part of a series (young adult) so this is an encouraging piece of advice for me.

    Congrats on your debut novel 😉

  9. leslie Tentler

    Hi guys, thanks for the comments!

    Cathleen, it sounds like it’s a universal trait among writers. My next "lunch out" with friends is pre-scheduled for late March. 🙂

    Lynn, just ignore her as best you can. Those inner critics are loud! 🙂

  10. Cathleen Holst

    You hit the nail on the head, Leslie. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one blowing off friends, or making plans to meet them, literally, months in advance. No spur of the moment girls-day-out for this chicka. And exercising…forget about it.

    Great interview, Leslie!

    Cathleen Holst xx


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