7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by F.T. Bradley

1. Know Your Process. Before I even got my agent or my books found a publisher, I had a writing schedule, and set deadlines for each stage of the process. At the time, it felt a little ridiculous, but I’m glad I did this now. I know exactly how fast I can write a first draft, or how long it takes me to do a deep edit. So when my editor asks me to complete a task by a certain time, I know what it’ll take to get me there. GIVEAWAY: F.T. is excited to give away a free copy of her 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: Linda Hatton 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 F.T. Bradley, author of DOUBLE VISION) 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: F.T. is excited to give away a free copy of her 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: Linda Hatton won.)

author-writer-FT-bradley
double-vision-middle-grade-novel

F.T. Bradley is the author of DOUBLE VISION (Harper Children's,
Oct. 2012), the first in the middle-grade adventure series featuring
Lincoln Baker and Benjamin Green. Her husband's Air Force career
has F.T. and their two daughters moving all around the world, but
for the moment the family lives on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. To
find out more about F.T and Double Vision, visit www.ftbradley.com,
doublevisionbooks.com; or find F.T. Bradley on Twitter.

1. Know Your Process. Before I even got my agent or my books found a publisher, I had a writing schedule, and set deadlines for each stage of the process. At the time, it felt a little ridiculous, but I’m glad I did this now. I know exactly how fast I can write a first draft, or how long it takes me to do a deep edit. So when my editor asks me to complete a task by a certain time, I know what it’ll take to get me there.

2. You’re An Apprentice. I always thought that once you have a publishing contract, you must know what you’re doing, right? Think again. I’m still learning new things about craft with each draft, and each stage of the publishing process. And that’s okay—I do feel like I get a little better with each book. By book 20, maybe I’ll be awesome, but for now, I consider myself an apprentice.

(How many markets should you send your novel out to?)

3. It’s Never Too Early. “I’ll go to that writers conference—once I have a book contract.” There are so many events I passed on and organizations I didn’t join, thinking that I needed to have that upcoming book to validate the expense. I now wish I’d joined organizations like SCBWI before—there are so many resources and guidance for writers pre-publication, it’s really worth it to join and go to events before. That way, once you have that good news, you’ll have more friends to share it with.

(Pitch agents at a writers' conference.)

4. Not Everything You Hear Is True. “Editors don’t edit anymore.” Or: “You have to meet your agent at an event or know one of their clients to get your foot in the door.” My editors edit every single word over and over (and over) until the story is perfect, and my agent responded to my email query—we still haven’t met in person. Don’t believe everything you hear. Every writer’s experience is different, so forge your own path.

5. Be Social. I am on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, I have a website and a blog—I could go on for a while, but you get the idea: I’m comfortable on the web. It’s called social networking, but really, the secret to all of these platforms is to make friends. Make a personal connection, and then it’s extra cool when you meet these virtual contacts in person. The added benefit to this social networking? If you do it before the book contract, you’ve already done the legwork. That way, when the book comes out, you have friends to cheer you on.

(Be social by building your writer platform and connecting with readers.)

6. Attitude Is Everything. Writing and editing a book is hard work. You’ll have tight deadlines, you’ll get (sometimes painfully honest) feedback on your writing, and once the book is out, you’ll get reviews, some nice, some not. Bottom line: the ups and downs don’t end when you sign that book contract, and it’s your attitude that determines how you’ll ride the tides. Whenever I hit a speed bump, I take a minute to mope. I do some laundry, or clean the fridge (eating ice cream is also good). Then I tell myself: “I can totally do this.” Positivity rules.

7. It’s all About the Writing. With all the hoops you have to jump through to get an agent, get that book contract, and the worries about marketing and such, it’s easy to forget that all of it begins and ends with the book. If the writing and the story isn’t your very best, the other stuff is just noise. Put the writing first, no matter if you’re a newbie or a NY Times Bestseller.

GIVEAWAY: F.T. is excited to give away a free copy of her 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: Linda Hatton won.)

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