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7 Things I've Learned So Far, by Lee Thompson

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers (this installment written by Lee Thompson, author of A BEAUTIFUL MADNESS) 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: Lee is excited to give away a free copy of his 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: DanielR won.)

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,”where writers (this installment written by Lee Thompson, author of A BEAUTIFUL MADNESS) 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: Lee is excited to give away a free copy of his 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: DanielR won.)

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Lee Thompson is the author of the suspense novel A BEAUTIFUL MADNESS
(August 2014), which was called "one of the best novels of the year"
by the Minneapolis Books Examiner. His forthcoming suspense novels include
IT’S ONLY DEATH (January 2015) and WITH FURY IN HAND

(May 2015). He is represented by the extraordinary Chip MacGregor of
MacGregor Literary. Visit Lee’s website to discover more.

1. Having an agent does not equate to overnight success. Just because he loves my novel does not mean a publishing house will love it. My agent has had two novels on submission over the past year and so far no sale. But I’m not alone in this, thank God, otherwise it’d be depressing. If you write, and a professional believes in you, keep faith in yourself and accept that there are possibly numerous reasons your novel hasn’t sold yet. Not a good fit; yours is too similar to one they just bought; you’ve written in a subgenre that has passed its trendiness; etc. Plan your career for the long haul.

2. I’ve grown the most as a writer by studying my heroes and reading in various genres. I make notes when I’m reading books I love. And one thing I’ve noticed about my biggest heroes is that no matter what genre they’re writing, they write wide and deep. They write about contrasts and the human heart in conflict with itself. The disturbing aspects of a violent act are not as powerful if they lack tenderness or understanding or empathy to frame them.

(Ever want to adapt your novel/memoir into a screenplay? Here are 7 tips.)

3. I want to have what my heroes have. Writers like James Lee Burke, John D. MacDonald, Tom Piccirilli, William Faulkner, Peter Straub, Stephen King, Clive Barker, etc., have their own subject matter, their own style, the unique way with which they execute the plot, characterization, and pacing of their stories. You read the first couple pages of their work and you know it’s them. I want that and I strive for it. Reading novels that could have been written by anybody because they play it safe, or lack style, tend to bore me.

4. I learn best by working. I learn best by brainstorming and listening to my instincts when they start beeping. I learn best by hand copying favorite novels to improve my understanding of the craft and my options on how to execute a particular story. I learn best by actually sitting down and knocking the words out, and then by editing them.

5. Not everyone will like what I write. It’s a fact for every writer. Why the hell I ever thought it was possible (and I did when I started) makes me feel quite silly now. It’s important to find our core audience, of course, and once we find them, to treat them well and give them another thrilling story.

(Learn how to protect yourself when considering an independent editor for your book.)

6. My greatest weaknesses have always been on the non-narrative side. Promotion/marketing. Query letters. Writing the jacket copy. Writing a synopsis. I find that work too much like work. Worse than work actually, because work can be fun if it interests you. I have to ask for help with those things, and I don’t feel any shame for it, because then I have more time and energy to focus on what I’m good at.

7. My greatest enemy is impatience. The next acceptance... The next book cover... The next review… none of them can ever get here quick enough. I think it’s because I’ve always feared dying young, so subconsciously I am driven to produce and see the tangible results of what I produce as quickly as possible. The only thing I’ve found to fight my impatience is to start writing the next novel or novella. Idles hands/Idle minds, the devil’s workshop… It’s good to have friends in the business who have been there and can often remind you how long the publishing process takes.

GIVEAWAY: Lee is excited to give away a free copy of his 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: DanielR won.)

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