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7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Donna Gambale

This is a new recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers at any stage of their career can talk about seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning. This installment is from writer Donna Gambale. Donna Gambale blogs at the First Novels Club and is the author of a mini kit, Magnetic Kama Sutra.

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,”where writers (this installment written by Donna Gambale, author of MAGNETIC KAMA SUTRA) 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.

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Donna Gambale blogs at the First Novels
Club and is the author of a mini kit,
Magnetic Kama Sutra. She’s currently
revising her young adult novel, Multiple Choice.

1. Writing is like acting. Always be yourself? I don’t think so. In 2008, when Running Press asked me to write a book for their upcoming mini kit, Magnetic Kama Sutra, I couldn’t refuse a publishing credit to my name … despite the topic! Writing about sex—even in a playful manner—intimidated me. But the somewhat hilarious process made me grow as a writer, and I’m much less afraid to take those risks in my fiction and write the unfamiliar.

2. You, too, can become addicted to blogging. I once had zero interest in blogging. In April 2009, my critique group and I wanted to chronicle our writing journey, and the First Novels Club blog was born. By September, I was hooked. I became passionate about creating unique content that readers would find useful and entertaining—and the blog grew. I love the instant gratification of comments. And I “follow” a long list of other bloggers whom I’ve come to know, respect, and banter with on a daily basis. The sense of community and knowledge I’ve gained are invaluable.

3. Surround yourself with people who speak your language.
Face it, no matter how supportive family and friends may be, they usually don’t “get it.” And on the rough side, more than a few people will be patronizing or discouraging when you tell them you’re writing a book. That’s why it’s so important to connect with people who have interests and goals similar to yours. If I didn’t have my critique group, I can say for certain that I wouldn’t have gotten past chapter five in my novel, and sharing in the struggles and successes of other bloggers has inspired me to accomplish even more.

4. Challenge yourself.
The beginning’s the easy part. Your shiny new idea keeps you up at night with its untold glory, begging to be written. So you write with fervor … for about a week. And then you find the plot holes. And the weak characters. And the contrived dialogue. Oops. No novel is easy! Set manageable goals, tackle one issue at a time, and push yourself to write better/faster/smarter than you ever thought you could.

5. But work at your own pace. Every writer works differently. Sure, you hear stories about people who wrote and revised their debut novel in six months, got an agent three weeks later, and a “very nice” deal listed in Publishers Marketplace two months down the road. Ignore them. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else, but make sure you’re always moving forward.

6. Talk to strangers. Readers, authors, agents, editors, booksellers, aspiring writers, bloggers, librarians. Meet them. Put yourself out there. If you attend book signings and conferences and read fifty blogs but don’t talk to people, participate, or comment, you’re missing valuable opportunities to network and learn from people firsthand. But be warned: no one wants to talk to someone whose primary goal is self-promotion.

7. Don’t underestimate yourself. If you told me three years ago I would have a novel written and ready for agents before my twenty-fourth birthday, I would’ve laughed at you. If you’d told me about Magnetic Kama Sutra, I would’ve fallen off my chair. You never know what you can achieve. Call yourself an author. Treat your writing goals seriously. Trust yourself. Embrace the learning process. You’ll get there!

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