7 Things I've Learned So Far, by Heather McCorkle

This is a 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 YA writer Heather McCorkle. GIVEAWAY: Heather is excited to give away a free copy of her book to a random commenter. Comment within one week; you MUST leave your e-mail in the comment somewhere or else we will not be able to contact you; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail; international winners will receive an e-book. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Dawn won.)
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This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,”where writers (this installment written by Heather McCorkle, author of THE SECRET OF SPRUCE KNOLL) 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: Heather is excited to give away a free copy of her book to a random commenter. Comment within one week; you MUST leave your e-mail in the comment somewhere or else we will not be able to contact you; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail; international winners will receive an e-book. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Dawn won.)


Heather McCorkle is the author of the young adult urban fantasy,
The Secret of Spruce Knoll. Helping other writers and supporting
fabulous authors is her passion. As a native Oregonian, she enjoys
the outdoors almost as much as the worlds she creates on the pages.
Every Monday night, she's on Twitter where she co-moderates the
#WritersRoad chat. See her website and personal Twitter.

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1. Start improving your craft right away.
Attend writers' retreats, workshops, or take classes. This is the number one thing I wish I would have known from the beginning. It's never to early or to late to start and there is always room for improvement.

2. Edit until that baby shines like a diamond. Don't think just because you write 'The End' that the novel is finished (see number one). When I wrote my first novel I revised it a tiny bit and then thought it is what it is and either they like it or they don't. Oh yeah, I actually did think that!

3. Reading your novel aloud makes all the difference in the world. Try it and you'll see what I mean. I now have a strict editing process that seems bullet proof. Yet at the end of it when I read my novel aloud I catch so much it blows me away.

4. Join and utilize a good critique group. They're hard to find but they're worth the blood, sweat, and tears it takes to seek them out. The right critique group has helped me improve more than I can say. They are worth their weight in gold.

(Do writers need an outside edit before querying agents?)

5. Start your social networking early but stick to what you're good at. It can be tempting to try everything out there and end up spreading yourself to thin, leaving yourself no time for writing. Work off your strengths when it comes to networking. Not every avenue of social networking is right for everyone. Understand that when networking it isn't about what people can do for you, it's about what you can do for them.

6. When you're ready to query agents, do your research and choose carefully. Read their website and submission requirements very closely. This is not the time to rush. If they have a blog you need to read it. If they're on Twitter you need to read their tweets or follow them. The more you know about an agent the easier it will be to determine if they are the right one for you. That way when you submit to them you will be educated about them and can personalize your query to them.

(In the middle of querying? Here are some helpful tips.)

7. Understand that having an agent doesn't guarantee that your manuscript will sell. The market is tougher than it's ever been and even agents get rejected. Give your agent ample time but be sure to keep the lines of communication open. Be prepared by writing another book, and another. Don't hang your hopes on one novel and don't give up. There are a lot of options opening up in the changing market and it's good to keep that in mind.

Best of luck!

GIVEAWAY: Heather is excited to give away a free copy of her book to a random commenter. Comment within one week; you MUST leave your e-mail in the comment somewhere or else we will not be able to contact you; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail; international winners will receive an e-book. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Dawn won.)

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