Skip to main content

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 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 Leslie Tentler. Leslie Tentler is the author of Midnight Caller (Jan. 2011, Mira Books). The book is part of a trilogy of romantic thrillers built around a fictional unit of the FBI.

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.)

Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title

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Unpublished, the advice I’d heard was to focus on a single novel, since publishers wouldn’t want to take a multi-book chance on someone brand new.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 burner—something I miss. We’re still early in 2011, and my resolution for this year is to find a way to balance it all—writing and the business of writing with family, friends and good health.

Image placeholder title

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:

Image placeholder title

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.

Paul Tremblay: On Starting With the Summary

Paul Tremblay: On Starting With the Summary

Award-winning author Paul Tremblay discusses how a school-wide assembly inspired his new horror novel, The Pallbearers Club.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: An Interview with Steven Rowley and Jessica Strawser, 5 WDU Courses, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce our interview with Steven Rowley and Jessica Strawser, 5 WDU courses, and more!

Writer's Digest Best Everything Agent Websites for Writers 2022

Writer's Digest Best Everything Agent Websites for Writers 2022

Here are the top websites by and about agents as identified in the 24th Annual 101 Best Websites from the May/June 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

Ashley Poston: On Love, Death, and Books

Ashley Poston: On Love, Death, and Books

Author Ashley Poston discusses how she combined her love of ghost stories, romance, and books into her new romance novel, The Dead Romantics.

Choosing Which Movements To Put in Your Fight Scene (FightWrite™)

Choosing Which Movements To Put in Your Fight Scene (FightWrite™)

Trained fighter and author Carla Hoch discusses how much of a fight's details to actually put into a story, and how even with fight scenes sometimes less is more.

5 Research Tips for Writing Historical Fiction, by Piper Huguley

5 Research Tips for Writing Historical Fiction

Author Piper Huguley shares her five research tips for writing historical fiction that readers love and writers love as well.

Announcing 40 More Plot Twist Prompts for Writers!

Announcing 40 More Plot Twist Prompts for Writers!

Learn more about 40 Plot Twist Prompts for Writers, Volume 2: ALL NEW Writing Ideas for Taking Your Stories in New Directions, by Writer's Digest Senior Editor Robert Lee Brewer. Discover fun and interesting ways to move your stories from beginning to end.

Interviewing Tips | Tyler Moss

Interviewing 101: Tips for Writers

Interviewing sources for quotes or research will be part of any writer's job. Here are tips to make the process as smooth and productive as possible.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Eliminate Threat

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Eliminate Threat

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character work to eliminate a threat.