“You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”
Hey Authocrats, Joseph here.
I imagine right now you are about to embark on one of the most important journeys of your life: writing your first novel.
First of all: you’re making a bold step. Writing a book can quite literally change your life. Finishing your first story is not only a recognisable achievement in self-disipline, but also proof to the world that you can see things through to the very end.
But I’m not going to beat around the bush here. Writing your first book can be tough, and I mean tough.
It can be a jointly exhilarating and heartbreaking experience. The sheer thrill of creation partnered with the almost criplling battle with self-doubt can turn you into a coffee-ridden wreck if you don’t approach it with the right attitude.
That is why us here at Authocracy Publishing want to disclose to you guys the attitude and habits you will NEED to get through the process and become the author you need to be.
So, without further ado, let’s get right into it!
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1) Ensure it’s a high-concept idea
First of all, we editors work to what’s called the high concept pitch.
What that means is that you need to be able to describe your story’s world in as few words as possible.
For instance, say you’re working on a fantasy novel with heavy religious undertones, you might pitch it as follows.
It’s a religiously inspired fantasy adventure.
That’s the most basic outline, and that is all you really need. You have clearly stated the genre and the unique spin you’re novel puts on that genre.
This applies to pitches of all kinds, from pitching to an editor, agent or publisher, to talking to friends and family about your upcoming work.
In all honesty, there’s a surprising amount of people who struggle to do this rather simple task.
So, my advice to you would be this: GET YOUR PITCH RIGHT.
Keep it short and keep it sweet. Let people ask for more rather than just forcing it on them.
As an editor, when I ask what someone’s book is about and they reply with “Oh, well, I suppose it all started when I had this childhood experience…”
I’ve already lost interest, as rude as that may seem.
Instead, that scenario could play out more like this…
Me: What is your book about?”
You: It’s a religiously inspired fantasy adventure.
Me: [Sits forward in chair] Oh, that sounds interesting. Tell me more?”
People will ask more about it if they are truly interested. If you profess too much initially you risk boring people and you also lessen your standing as a knowledgeable authority figure.
Short, sweet, to the point. That’s the way we like it.
2) Keep that Forward Momentum
This one I cannot emphasise enough.
If you have started to write your first draft, you MUST keep that forward momentum.
Time and time again, I hear from writers who have that idea, but then never see it through to the end.
It’s such a shame when that happens, and it always destroys me a little inside, as the world will now never get the chance to love that story.
The best advice I can give with this is to keep that forward momentum at all costs.
FINISH whatever you have started.
Don’t deprive people of your book. That’s not fair on you, and it’s not fair on them.
Which leads me onto my next point…
3) Don’t back-edit
Keeping that constant forward momentum can be tough at times, especially when you’re trying to simultaneously weave words into a beautiful tapestry of story.
Now, I know it can be incredibly tempting to go back and edit that chapter you have just written, especially if you think you could have done better.
Just for giggles, let’s see how this scenario will play out…
You: On second thoughts, I wish I had made that character do that thing instead of that thing… Maybe I’ll just redo that chapter…
Me [kicking down your door] Stop! Don’t do that. That’s the last thing you want to do!
You: [Speechless in chair] How did you…
Me: Seriously, don’t back-edit. If you do that every time you make a mistake, you’ll never get past chapter three. Instead, just make a note of whatever change you want to make and continue on to the next chapter as if that thing had happened all along. Make those changes in the second draft where they belong.
[An awkward silence develops]
You: I’d like you to leave now please.
Me [Sheepishly hanging my head]: Ok…
Do you see how that worked out? Don’t back-edit, kids, it destroys lives.
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4) Get a Second Pair of Eyes
This next tip is one which I took a while to warm to, especially when I first started off.
Getting a second pair of eyes on your early work is a must, especially if this is your first voyage out into the world of novel-writing.
The reasons for this are as follows…
As the author, you know your book, which means you know exactly where each sentence is going to go.
Your reader won’t.
The art of writing is about communication. Likewise, being an author is about being a communicator. If you aren’t doing either of those well enough, your story will definitely suffer for it.
After all, if the reader stops reading, that story will not be conveyed to them.
So, get yourself a second pair of eyes to look over your first few chapters and give you an honest opinion on how your story is conveyed.
Ask them what they liked, what they didn’t and ALWAYS ask for what they think you could do better.
At this point you should treat all criticism as constructive. Writers are in it for the long run, so, get yourself a hard skin and trust in criticism… not praise.
After all, praise never inspires you to improve.
5) Don’t let anyone stop you
Finally, we have possibly the best tip I can offer you.
Never let anyone stop you writing your book, EVER.
You see, there are an exorbitant number of people in the world who like to call themselves “Authors,” and only a tiny percentage of them have finished drafts to their name.
Many have tried to finish that first draft and promptly gave up. Others, as is more often the case, have never actually tried.
The issue with these people are that they are motivation vampires, for want of a better term. They will ensure that their bad experiences stifle and corrupt your momentum.
The fact of the matter is that you simply can’t let them get to you. Because, guaranteed, as soon as you prove them wrong and show them your finished novel, they will be the first ones to pick up their pens and start writing again.
Don’t let yourself become part of the unwritten percentage.
And that concludes our article on advice for first time authors.
In all honesty, writing your first novel is a gruelling task, but an infinitely rewarding one. By taking note of these tips, you’ll be setting yourself up for a flourishing career in writing.
Make sure you subscribe to the Authocracy blog for more publishing advice from our little gang of creators.
Until next time, stay creative, Authocrats!