7 Things I've Learned So Far, by Eric Scott Fischl

Author:
Publish date:

"7 Things I’ve Learned So Far" (this installment written by Eric Scott Fischl, author of Dr. Potter's Medicine Show) is a recurring column where writers at any stage of their career can talk about writing advice and instruction as well as how they possibly got their literary agent—by sharing seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning.

Eric Scott Fischl
Eric Scott Fischl

Eric Scott Fischlwrites novels of speculative historical fiction and the supernatural. He lives in Montana's Bitterroot Mountains. His debut novel,Dr. Potter's Medicine Show (Angry Robot, February 2017), is the story of Dr. Alexander Potter, a disgraced Civil War surgeon—now snake-oil salesman—who travels the Pacific Northwest in 1978 with a disheartened company of strongmen, fortune-tellers, and musical whores. Under their mysterious and murderous leader, they entertain the masses while hawking the Chock-a-saw Sagwa Tonic, a vital elixir touted to cure all ills both physical and spiritual. For a few unfortunate customers, however, the Sagwa offers something much, much worse.

1. Relax. You've spent months or years writing a book, editing it to within an inch of its life, until finally: It's ready. Well, pull up a chair and relax because everything in publishing takes a really, really long time to happen. It's the nature of the business. Logically, you know this, but still … you check your email a few times a day, just in case your agent/editor/publicist has gotten back to you on something. Knock it off. Go work on something else. You're going to wait weeks, and months, and that's just the way it is, so chill out, killer, because ...

2. You can't do it all yourself. Boom! Look at this masterpiece I wrote, it sprang from my head fully formed and perfect and … nope. It didn't. You need people to beta read; you need other takes on what you're writing. You need advice on the market. You need people to help spread the word about your book, on your behalf. You need people to introduce you to other people. Quit being such a hermit, then, and …

3. Make friends. Note I don't say “contacts” here. You're a writer, and writers—and people in the publishing industry are, by and large—pretty cool people. You have things in common with them and, if you get out there, personally or digitally or both, you will make friends with some of them. Don't be a jerk: you don't use your friends, you use “contacts”; you help your friends out, and they'll do the same for you. They'll give you advice and spread the word about you, all those things from item 2 above. You don't have to be friends with everyone, but be a good person to the ones you make, and …

Interested in reading about how other authors broke in?
Every issue of Writer's Digest features three debut authors,
with advice on how they did it, what they learned, and why you can do it, too.
The latest issue of Writer's Digest is on sale now.

Writer's Digest, Short Stories, Breaking In

4. Listen. Your new friends are readers and writers and agents and other industry professionals. Collectively, they know far more than you do, and have far more experience, even if you've been writing and publishing for fifty years. They’re a great resource to have, so listen to what these people have to say. Take the criticism of your writing/marketing plan/what-have-you, and keep an open mind to new ideas. But, you don't have to take every suggestion, or even most of them, because …

5. So much is subjective. Your masterpiece isn't going to be to everyone's taste. Some people are going to love it; some people are going to absolutely hate it. Most people are probably going to be in the “Sure, I liked it just fine” range. Don't take it personally; that's just the way it's going to be. Do the best work you possibly can, and know that it's not going to please everyone. You'll hear some painful things, but …

6. Don't be afraid to make changes. No, not because you've heard painful things. Don't be afraid to change things in your writing that just aren't working. It's a hard thing to do, but sometimes you just have to take a step back and realize that a scene or chapter or section or even a book, just isn't working. But, whatever you do, don't give up just because something gets hard, because …

7. It's all hard. Writing, for most people, is the very epitome of the difference between something that's enjoyable and something that's satisfying. It's hard, hard work and there's no getting around that. There aren't any shortcuts, and there aren't any excuses. It's on you to do your best work, to keep at it, even when it's not quite right. Write and revise and revise and revise and, when you're done, you have something that you're proud of …

And then you can relax and move on to what's next.

Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 2.57.50 PM

The biggest literary agent database anywhere
is the Guide to Literary Agents. Pick up the
most recent updated edition online at a discount.

Other writing/publishing articles and links for you:

If you're an agent looking to update your information or an author interested in contributing to the GLA blog or the next edition of the book, contact Cris Freese at cris.freese@fwmedia.com.

Stohlman_10:31

Five Reasons to Write Flash Fiction: Understanding the Literary Love Child of the Short Story and Poetry

In this article, award-winning author Nancy Stohlman breaks down the difference between flash fiction, prose poetry, and short stories and explains what keeps readers on the hook.

Amir

The “Secret Sauce” Necessary to Succeed at a 30-Day Writing Challenge

In this article, author and writing coach Nina Amir lays out her top tips to master your mindset and complete a 30-day writing challenge.

Kane2

Crashing Into New Worlds: Writing About the Unfamiliar

Award-winning crime author Stephanie Kane explains how she builds characters unlike herself and navigates their worlds to create vivid and realistic stories.

plot_twist_story_prompts_without_a_trace_robert_lee_brewer

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Without a Trace

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character leave without a trace.

WDVintage_10_29

Vintage WD: The Truth about True Crime

In this article from July 2000, true crime novelist and former New York Times correspondent Lisa Beth Pulitzer shares with us some key insights for breaking into the true crime genre.

new_agent_alert_barb_roose_books_such_literary_services_adult_christian_fiction_and_nonfiction

New Agent Alert: Barb Roose of Books & Such Literary Management

New literary agent alerts (with this spotlight featuring Barb Roose of Books & Such Literary Management) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.

Grinnell_10:28

Evoking Emotion in Fiction: Seven Pragmatic Ways to Make Readers Give a Damn

Evoking emotion on the page begins with the man or woman at the keyboard. Dustin Grinnell serves up seven straightforward tactics for writing tear-jerking stories that make your readers empathize with your characters.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 546

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a spooky poem.

Richard_Shadowlands

Learn Better World-Building Strategies Through World of Warcraft and the New Shadowlands Expansion

WD editor and fantasy writer Moriah Richard shares five unique ways in which writers can use World of Warcraft to better build their worlds—without playing the game.