First-time Authors Need to Know A Few Things

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First-time authors need to understand a few rules

The first thing I’d say is that everyone must start somewhere. We were all first-time authors at some point in our careers. I receive many emails from people who are eager to write a book. These budding authors often have great ideas, but don’t know how to start. There are many things any new writer need to know.

 

Writing takes time, patience, and perseverance

 

First-time authors need to understand that writing isn’t an overnight process. Not by a long shot. I’ve been a ghostwriter for over two decades and it takes me a good year to write a book for a client. Sometimes longer. Once in a while, I can swing it in eight months, but less than that wouldn’t be wise.

You’ll run into people who claim to have finished their book in a month or two. I would question the quality of the final product. Don’t trust my word. Read over their book and see what you think.

One key element for any story (whether it be a true account or a fictionalized tale) is structure. Every seasoned author starts out with some kind of outline. It could even be a rough sketch of the concept, but there would be a plan in place before a writer began writing. After talking to a few hundred first-time authors, I’ve learned many just start writing like a thoroughbred at Belmont. While I admire the passion, it’s wise not to put the cart in front of the horse. They will stumble.

If you develop your story through an outline, you’ll spot the problems easily. Trust me, it saves a lot of time in the long run.

 

Study and Practice Are Required

 

There are no shortcuts. If you want to become a successful author, you need to gain expertise. This requires practice. That means you need to write. A lot.

When I was a kid, I loved to write short stories. Were they masterpieces? Well, I thought so, as did my mother. But, no, they weren’t that great. However, those stories started me on a path that brought me to where I am today. And as luck would have it, my mother was a decent writer and could give me a little feedback (mixed in with a lot of praise).

I recently helped a client create an outline. She was grateful but didn’t want to hire me to help her write the book. “I’ve got it from here,” she told me. Although I was disappointed, I gave her advice and tips before we parted ways.

She finished the book, self-published, and sent me a copy. Although it had a lot of good parts, she made some very key errors. It just wasn’t ready for publication. One was that she failed to stick with one perspective. She jumped from first person to third, which was terribly jarring. Sure, you can break the rules, but you first need to understand them. And you need a darned good reason to do so.

What she sent me was a very good first draft. She really needed to hire an editor or ask a friend who knew the rules of writing to read it over and help her fix the various problems.

That brings me to the next thing every first-time author needs to know. You won’t like me very much for saying this, but…

 

You’ll probably need to rewrite your first draft

 

You may need to completely rewrite your manuscriptI know. No one ever wants to hear that. I’ve worked with dozens of first-time authors and read their manuscripts. None could simply be edited. They all needed to be rewritten from scratch. Over the years, here are some common errors I’ve found:

 

  • Jumping from one perspective to another
  • Telling the reader what to think and feel rather than having them experience it through your writing
  • Repeating thoughts over and over
  • A lack of conflict for the characters
  • No character flaws in the main character

 

There are plenty of pitfalls for first-time authors. Learning to navigate these is a learning process that takes time (aka practice). Give yourself a break and enjoy the adventure of becoming a writer. Don’t rush it. If writing a book were super easy, it might not be much fun. After all, we all thrive on a challenge.

Sadly, many first time authors bang out a first draft and think they are ready for a publisher. My advice is that you hire someone to read over your manuscript and give you a good critique. This could be a “book doctor” or a “developmental editor.” Of if you’re broke, find a friend who loves to read to give you feedback.

Once you receive this feedback, don’t be discouraged. Yes, you’ll probably need to do a complete rewrite, but that’s not unusual. You’re working to gain experience as a first-time author, right? It wouldn’t be realistic for your first draft of your first book to be flawless.

Whatever you do, don’t give up on your dream of writing a book. Your story needs to be told!

 

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