You’ve just written your first novel… now what?
As a prior “newb”, this was a daunting question, and one I found a fairly simple answer to once I did a bit of Googling.
As a not-so-new-pre-pubbed-writer, my advice to you is this: Don’t query.
There are far too many things out there for you to learn, and if you’re completely clueless (or damn near close), you aren’t ready.
I remember hearing things like “go to conferences” and “join a writer’s association” and thinking, why would I want to do that? Why? Because they have INFORMATION. Any YOU need it.
First, learn the writer speak. GMC, MC, MRU, CP, MS, BETA, WIP, Show vs Tell… for starters and the list goes on. Here’s a great Publishing Dictionary from the ladies at Bookends.
Second, learn how to apply the lessons behind some of those crazy acronyms! Did you know you can take workshops online? Personally, I love SavvyAuthors.com but there are so many others.
Along with the workshops, you really need to come out of your hermit shell and join the community. We are large and in charge, and we’re also here to help. Writers are the most supportive group! We understand your crazy like nobody else. You can’t tell Mom, “Man, seriously, Emma woke me up last night with the craziest conversation she’d like to have with Noah.” Mom is going to nod and smile and look like she’s listening, but inside it goes something like this: “I wonder if this is code for I’ve become a schizophrenic. Maybe I should hit up the WebMD later.”
If you aren’t on Twitter or some other platform, do that now. Follow all the agents representing your genre. Follow their blogs. Start building your own platform. Blog, Twitter, G+, Facebook, Triberr…whatever. And more than one. At my last conference, I learned how important this is, and not just for after you’re lucky enough to find representation… Did you know a good platform base can be a selling point for an editor? Don’t wait. (Just my opinion—don’t yell at me for it. You know who you are…I see you.)
READ. Read read read what you’re writing. When I started, I read things like James Patterson but wanted to write things like Stephanie Meyer. Two different genres! Not. Good. You have to know what your future fans are expecting.
DON’T FOLLOW TRENDS! Vampires (hot as they are) are the kiss of death, and as someone with a 3-book plot idea full of vampires, I wish nothing more than for that fad to kick back in, but unless it’s amazing, no agent or editor in their right mind is going to give it a shot. By the time you see a trend happening, and it’s popular, agents and editors are already way past it and looking for that new idea. You’re already too late. So if you notice a trend in Garden Gnome romance (LOL, omg, wouldn’t that be hilarious?!), and you LOVE it, the people that matter and will pay you money for it are already worn out on it. (And now my mind is spinning over this gnome romance, lol… my muse is akin to Satan sometimes. I’m seeing a blog post series in my future. Hmmmmm.)
Lastly, the biggest piece of advice I can give you is to grow the largest, biggest, baddest backbone you can. You. Will. NEED. It. You will receive harsh criticism from everywhere. If your crit partner isn’t rough, get a new one. I’m NOT kidding. How else are you going to learn? Honesty is the best policy or you won’t make it. None of us are perfect and in this business you need people to point the flaws out. It’s tough, but true.
I know I’m missing a A LOT, so if anyone has something to add, please comment!