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Every time I see interviews with writers or read about them on blogs or any other type of printed media, they always have to address the same question: What advise do you have for young writers? They always answer with a mixture of the “try harder” pep talk and some tips on how to improve writing. Having published three novels and going through the trials and tribulations that come with that, I can tell you that they are selling the young writers short with that answer.
I am not saying that improving your writing and perseverance are not necessary. Those are two very solid principles that need to be adopted. My main concern is some key points neglected by authors in these interviews. To be fair, most interviews you read are from the big name authors that have little to worry about at this point in their careers. The publishing world is a lot different from when Stephen King or Richard Patterson started. When they first got started, they wrote their manuscripts, sent them out to publishers, kept doing this until a publisher decided to buy their manuscript and publish. The process is a lot more complicated these days.
Today, new authors need a skill they did not in the days before the internet. They must have a working knowledge of marketing. Even if you go the traditional route of sending off manuscripts until one publisher understands what you are doing or can find a way to turn the story into something they consider marketable. Authors today are expected to set up their own blogs, have websites for their books, and have a presence in the social networking scene. The Stephen Kings, and J.K. Rowlings of the world can hire other people to do these things, but they still have to be done.
Knowing all this, I decided to do this entry to give new writers advice that you will not hear in normal circles. Please remember that I am basing this list on my own personal experiences so other people may have different opinions. I think a wise thing to do is get different perspectives on everything you do.
This may seem obvious, but you would be amazed at how many people start writing without a solid foundation of how to. If you are serious about being a writer and want to make your living that way, you have to know sentence structure, punctuation, know how much dialogue is appropriate, and for God’s sake, do not use texting language. Also, learn the difference between passive and active language, and use active as much as possible.
Spell check is a great tool. Do not rely on it. One problem I have is that I keep interchanging the words they and the. Spell check will not find things like this. Editing is a skill you must learn, practice, and hone to perfection. No matter how good you get though, it is still imperative that you get a second pair of eyes to keep you honest. It is always hardest to critique your own work. Find somebody you trust to read your manuscript and find things that you could not. One thing I do is print out the whole manuscript on paper so that I can read the hard copy and write out corrections. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT send your manuscript out to a professional script editor and pay for them to do it. If you want a solid example of what happens when you do this, buy my first two books Modern Disciples Volumes 1 and 2. This may sound like a cheap plug, but when you read them, you will see what I mean. I sent Volume 1 to a professional editor. Volume 2 I edited myself, then my father edited it, and I edited it again. Take it from a guy who had to pay over $1000 to learn the hard way. Do the editing yourself.
Let me give you a brief summary of the two. Traditional publishing is finishing your manuscript, sending it off to a publisher, getting many rejections until one finally takes it. These days you have to send it to agents until one is willing to take you on, and then they send it to publishers until one takes it. Self-publishing is you send your manuscript to a company that does this, and you pay them to publish it for you. You can also just upload it to amazon.com and just sell it in E-book for if you want to do it that way. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. I will include a link to a video that explains them both very well. When you do learn the differences between them, you will have to make a decision as to which one is better for you.
As authors, we do not want to worry about setting up websites, author profiles, and several different social networks. The cyber age no longer allows us to rest on our morals. We have to be good writers, and good marketers, or know people who are good marketers willing to help for a reasonable fee. If you are planning to go to college, choose marketing as one of your courses of study. You do not have to make it your major, but do not take just one class. At the very least, make marketing your minor. If you are not planning on college, there are plenty of resources on marketing books. You can start on Youtube. There are also plenty of books on how to do market your book. Get an account on Goodreads and make as many friends as possible.
Even if you are lucky enough to take some formal classes on the art of creative writing, there is no substitute for experiencing the real thing yourself. For writers, this entails reading books yourself. When you do read them though, seriously think about what you find good and bad about the book. This will help you develop your own style. Another important aspect is to move out of your comfort zone now and again. Read something other than what you usually read. Read some independently published books also.
I hope I have given you all something to think about for your future endeavors. If you find this discouraging, that shows wisdom on your part. If you really do want to be a writer, take what I have said to heart, but do not let it weigh on you.