7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Charlie Lovett

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers (this installment written by Charlie Lovett, author of THE BOOKMAN’S TALE) 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.

GIVEAWAY: Charlie is excited to give away a free copy of his novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: August Priest won.)


the-bookmans-tale-lovett    charlie-lovett-author-writer

Charlie Lovett is a writer, teacher, and playwright, whose plays for children
have been seen in more than 3,000 productions. He is a former antiquarian
bookseller and an avid book collector. He and his wife, Janice, split their time
between Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and Kingham, Oxfordshire, in
England. His novel THE BOOKMAN’S TALE  (May 2013, Viking) was a B&N
Recommends title, debuted on the New York Times extended bestseller
list, and has been featured in People Magazine, Parade, and USA Today.
It has sold in 11 foreign markets including Russia, Finland, France,
Germany, and worldwide Spanish. Find him on Twitter



1. Rejection is required. I used to see rejection slips as the bane of my existence. Every rejection felt like a backwards step in my writing career. But every writer has been rejected at one time or another—usually before ever being accepted. Once I began to look at each rejection as a necessary step on the road to acceptance and publication, rejection slips stopped being bad news and started being good news. Every rejection brings you a little closer to your goal.

2. Writing is Collaborative. I worked for twelve years as a playwright at a school, cranking out two plays a year and working closely with a director, actors, and technical staff to turn scripts into performances. It’s easy to see how playwriting is collaborative. But even writing a novel is a group effort. Without the sage advice of my agent, his assistant, my editor, her assistant, and many others, The Bookman’s Tale would not be enjoying the success it is. It almost seems unfair that I should get most of the credit. Once I released the idea that everything I wrote was mine and needed to be protected from them and saw writing for the collaboration it is, editing and revising became much easier.

(A WD editor’s best piece of writing advice — period.)

3. Some people know more than I do. I loved the first cover design for The Bookman’s Tale. Or at least I thought I did. Not until my agent expressed his displeasure with the design did I wonder if maybe I wasn’t right. In the end, after much consultation between agent, author, and editor, we ended up with a design that much better represents the book. It’s just one example of my learning to step back and accept that—especially when it comes to marketing, design, and lots of other factors involved in the creation of a book—my opinion is valued, but I need to listen to the professionals.

4. Good writing comes from a place of passion. “Why did I enjoy so much more success with The Bookman’s Tale than with my previous fiction efforts?” I asked myself. I think the answer is related to, but a little less obvious than, the old adage “write what you know.” For me that was part of it, but what really made the difference was writing from places of my own passions. For me those passions are rare books, English literature, and the English countryside, and those passions infuse my novel. If you are passionate about your subject, you readers will be too.

5. Not all reviews are made for reading. When reviews of The Bookman’s Tale started getting posted online, I was already hard at work on my next novel and when you’re in the middle of a first draft it’s no time to start having doubts rattling around your psyche. It’s important to know how your work is received by professional reviewers, but when it comes to sites like Goodreads and Amazon, read a few four and five star reviews and then let it go.

6. Revision is where the action is. Writing a first draft is an exciting act of creation, but books are made in the revision process. I did several revisions of The Bookman’s Tale as I started to see more and more clearly what the book was about. Then I did a major revision for my agent and another major edit for my editor. We cut forty pages from the final draft and at one point I had every scene in the novel on slips of paper laid out on a table and was carefully rearranging them to make everything work together in the best possible way. Revision was everything from ruthless cutting to creating new scenes to mathematical puzzle solving and it’s the process that took a manuscript and made it into a book.

(New for 2013: MORE Tips on Writing a Query Letter.)

7. There is no perfect reader. When I first started writing my novel, I thought there was an “ideal” reader out there. But the fact is, every reader is different and everyone reacts to my book in a different way. People who love (or don’t love) my book do so for reasons as individual as themselves. Some people love it for reasons that never occurred to me. The reactions of readers have made me stop worrying about pleasing my ideal reader. Instead, I can write and, when things go well, be pleasantly surprised at the things readers find in my fiction that I didn’t see there myself.

GIVEAWAY: Charlie is excited to give away a free copy of his novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: August Priest won.)


Don’t let your submission be rejected for
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Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:


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8 thoughts on “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Charlie Lovett

  1. DanielJayBerg

    Thanks for the helpful comments and positive outlook on rejection. The collaborative aspect of writing is something often overlooked.

    What is your most prized book in your personal collection?

  2. August Priest

    I love the cover of the book. I think it conjures to mind, the feel of old world enchantment; sort of transporting the mind back in time, into a world Shakespeare once breathe life into. It’s pure magic… I also loved your analogy on rejection letters being apart of a writers journey. And I often pose the question to myself, how I’d react when the time comes to submit my own work for publication; so thanks for the insight… And last but not the least. I think writers shouldn’t take much stock in reviews, because they are mere individual opinions. I think we should let the reader make the judgement call… After all; we write to share the world of our imagination with them. They are the truth…. Congratulations to your publishing The Bookman’s Tale.

  3. lesliemillernow

    I love your tip about writing being collaborative. I’ve just sent my first ever novel off to a professional editor for a critique. I can’t wait to hear her feedback on how to strengthen the book. It’s easy for a writer have blinders on.

    Congrats on the success of your book!

  4. Debbie

    I like the mention of both the passion for writing and there’s no perfect reader — these actually go hand in hand. It’s nice to know that I can write what I feel and know its appeal will never be for all, but for those that share my current passion. Thank you!


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