This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,”where writers (this installment written by Emily Hainsworth, author of THROUGH TO YOU) 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.
Emily Hainsworth is the author of THROUGH TO YOU (Oct. 2012,
Balzar + Bray). She was raised in upstate New York and currently
resides in Denver with her husband, cat, and standard poodle.
THROUGH TO YOU is her first novel. You can visit her online
1. Allow yourself to dream. Before I had a book deal or even an agent, I used to spend a significant amount of time daydreaming about becoming an author. What it might be like, how it might change my life. At the time, this felt silly and self-indulgent, but the daydreams kept me going, thirsting for a taste of true success. If I’d given them up, I might’ve given up hope, and I never would have seen those dreams finally coming true.
2. Surround yourself with people who have similar goals. As in many aspects of life, it helps to have friends working toward similar goals. I didn’t know anyone else who even wrote YA when I started out, but I quickly found supportive friends beginning their publication journeys, just like me. Almost every one of the people I met back then now either has an agent or a book deal. You can boost each other up the rungs of the ladder—you don’t need someone at the top to pull you up.
3. You’ll never understand constructive criticism until it’s been given AND received. I never appreciated the feedback people offered when critiquing my manuscripts until I was put in a position to offer the same people insight into their own work. Deconstructing flaws in someone else’s story will help you identify similar issues in your own writing. It’s amazing how perfect words can seem until you’ve had a two-way feedback exchange.
4. Writing is important, but so if your personal life! Sometimes I get fixated on my goals and it’s difficult to see anything but the brass ring I’m reaching for. Being driven is a gift, don’t get me wrong, but don’t lose sight of your support system along the way. If your spouse/family/friends are giving you space to work endless hours on that manuscript, take time to show them how much you appreciate their confidence in you. Many sacrifices are made on the road to publication, but your loved ones should not be among them.
5. Don’t let success grind your productivity to a halt. After THROUGH TO YOU sold, I became consumed by ‘what happens next.’ But the thing is, not a lot does happen immediately after your first book sale. You should simply keep writing. I spent so much time worrying about what the editing process would be like and what my next book should be that by the time I started making progress on the second book, I was very behind and wished I hadn’t let myself get side-tracked.
6. Don’t be afraid: authors, agents, editors, even filmmakers are people too. The first time I spoke on the phone with many of these people, I was petrified. I don’t even remember some of the conversations because I was so sick to my stomach with worry I’d say the wrong thing. In retrospect, I probably would’ve made a better impression if I’d remembered each of these people had to get started somewhere, just like me…and they didn’t somehow become super-human in the process.
7. If you did it once, you can do it again. This goes for everything from completing a second manuscript to selling a second book… and beyond. The first book I wrote didn’t get me an agent and will never be published. When I realized I needed to abandon it and start from scratch, I wasn’t sure I had it in me. Starting a novel is the hardest part for me, but I did it a second time, and it got me an agent and a book deal. I just repeated the process with my next published book, and will go for it again with the one after that. It doesn’t get easier, but it is possible to start from the blank page all over again.
This guest column is a supplement to the
"Breaking In" (debut authors) feature of this author
in Writer's Digest magazine. Are you a subscriber
yet? If not, get a discounted one-year sub here.
Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- Writing fantasy, mystery, literary, urban fan, sci-fi or horror? Query Shira Hoffman.
- Writing the Male POV: 5 Tips.
- Author Antonio Hill explains: 5 Keys to Writing a Great Thriller.
- Agent JL Stermer puts out a call for more women's fiction and young adult.
- 5 Ways to Build Solid Relationships in Your Story.
- Sell More Books by Building Your Writer Platform.
- Follow Chuck Sambuchino on Twitter or find him on Facebook. Learn all about his writing guides on how to get published, how to find a literary agent, and how to write a query letter.
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