All this is great—but it works only if we heed the warnings, prepare for the storms, and have a contingency plan. Are we excuse makers or listeners? Let’s consider some mindsets that send us into inclement writing weather without protection against the elements of failure.
This is my story. Only I can tell it the way it needs to be told. Do you believe your story is one-of-a-kind, a topic that has never been addressed in book? It has been stated on good authority that nothing new exists under the sun. However, the same story can be told in myriad ways. Your presentation, not your story, is unique. Just remember that certain techniques have been shown to keep that presentation consistent and on track, no matter what the weather.
Have you created character sketches? Unless you are blessed with the rare gift of total recall, you may have cousin Matilda skinny and green-eyed in the beginning of the story and fat, bespectacled, and brown-eyed in the climax. Or the single, childless friend of the protagonist may inexplicably show up with a husband and three biological children in chapter thirteen.
Did you make an outline? Every twist and turn need not be detailed on paper—and your story may not follow it in its entirety—but an outline provides a starting point and a path to guide you through the challenging first pages of your book until your characters take over and dictate their story to you. (Of course, you have to keep an eye on them so they don’t go too far afield.) Unexpected digressions may lead you down a cobblestone walkway that didn’t make it into that outline, but don’t let that unnerve you. Keeping your characters true to themselves and the main thread of your story in sight allow for occasional side trips as long as they relate to the story and move it forward.
I don’t want to share my work with anyone until it’s copyrighted. I’m afraid somebody will steal it, so don’t even suggest sending it to an editor. It’s amazing how often I’ve heard a variation of this from writers of poorly executed manuscripts. (Yes, after guaranteeing in writing the safety of their intellectual property, I have edited their books.) Bottom line: professional integrity dictates that an editor never compromises an author’s work in any manner. This is a good reason to ask an unknown editor for references, and check them out. Or ask members of your writing group to recommend someone. Remember that “professional editor” is not synonymous with high school English teacher, college professor, or Aunt Mary—who just loves a great novel.
I was pretty good in art when I was in school. Why should I pay a cover designer to do what I can do myself for free? As an agent of free choice, you just freely undermined your first great marketing tool. Your book cover is your calling card, and you never get a second chance to make that first impression. Cover designers know how to create a relevant cover that will appeal to your target audience. They know what they’re doing. And they know the market. Chances are you know neither.
Why do I need a publicist? With a million plus books published annually, the market is overwhelmed. Most new books are almost as visible as that proverbial needle in a haystack; so, at the very least, consult with a pro who knows how to reach your audience. She can point you in the right direction if you’re determined to do your own marketing.
Do you heed the warnings? Have you tried going it alone and found you needed a team? What advice do you have for newbies who are just dipping their toes into the writing pool? Yes, we’ve touched before on these issues, but they bear repeating. We want all our followers to weather the storms and find success on their writing trails.
Linda Lane is finishing up the last of her editing jobs and chomping at the bit to get back to her works in progress. Soon her new website, lindasbooknook.com, will be completed, and all readers and writers are invited to stop by, stay awhile, ask questions, share stories, and become a part of our new writing community.