Writing Tips: What I Wish I Knew

I get asked one question a lot, especially from fellow writers:

What did I wish I knew about writing when I first started out?

And there's a lot of different answers for this--because I knew nothing, and there's a lot of things I really wish I had known. Some things are basic: don't query too early, get a crit partner, do your research before you send queries, learn how to format a manuscript. Some are more complicated, things like how to pace, how to plan a story arc, how to create interesting characters.

But if there was one thing that I wish I had known before started this whole thing, it is simply this:

It is unreasonable to expect your first manuscript to be published.

Sure, it happens. But honestly, you shouldn't expect it. I wish I'd known this--and believed it--before I even started to try to seek publication.

Here's the thing. You don't expect an artist to sell his first painting for a million bucks. You don't expect a singer to get a record deal based on one song. And while yes, it does happen, you shouldn't expect it.

But if I had learned that lesson, I think I'd add another lesson at the end of it.

Treat every manuscript like The One.

Because yeah, not all of my early manuscripts were worthwhile. But I believed they were--and I put in the work on them. I edited, revised, rewrote. And that's what taught me to get better. If I'd known the manuscripts I wrote before would never sell, I wouldn't have worked so hard on them. And if I'd not worked so hard on them, I never would have gotten better.


Lyla said...

Thanks for the advice, Beth! I agree about the first manuscript. I've written three books since and I've gotten a LOT better!

Jessica R. Patch said...

Great advice and true! I've learned so much since the first one.

spajonas said...

I'm considering the 10+ years I spent writing screenplays as my "first works" or else I would be worried I might never publish! :)

Sometimes you do have to rewrite a story a dozen times before it becomes even remotely sellable. Great advice, Beth!

Mary Ann said...

Thank you. This post was definitely worth my time this morning!

Leigh Ann said...

:( I was worried about this. :(

Oh, well - I'm glad my MS was finished and polished to a shine before I realized it. Now I can get to the next one...which could be The One. :)

Thanks for the encouragement and awesomeness as always!

Reid Kemper said...

True. I heard an author once say that the first 100,00 words you write on a book (or books) are just training material, and that once you write the first book, you should start on the second and use what you learned. Basically, don't wait on getting the first one published.