I’ve made more than my share of mistakes in the twenty plus years I’ve been writing, but in terms of getting and staying published my biggest mistake in the early years was not working on new projects while trying to get an existing one signed by an agent or sold to an editor.
I put so much effort into my first book – which I’ve since gone on to self-publish after much more revision – that I couldn’t imagine putting any more effort into another book unless I had some indication that I could actually write well enough to get published. I spent five years rewriting and revising that book, sure I was going to hit on the magical right words to get it published. I came close a few times, but never quite hit it, partly because at the time I didn’t know how to write good query letters and I didn’t know enough about storytelling.
It was only when I wrote a different book in a different genre that I got an agent and then a publishing deal. But then I continued on with my mistake. I didn’t write anything new even though there were long stretches of time while the manuscript was with the agent and then with the editor. I should have been writing that whole time.
I would have improved my writing more quickly, I would have had more manuscripts to show the editor (I did get a deal for a second book, which was great, but I had to write it under a tighter deadline because I didn’t start it as early as I could have done.)
I’ve since learned that it’s much better for me and for my publishing future to keep working on new unsold projects in the waiting times for contracted work, even if it’s partial novels or novels that need major revision. It’s helped my writing, because with each story, I run into new problems and I have to consider how to tell a particular story. It’s also made me write faster, because I don’t fall out of practice. When I do school or Skype visits, I tell the students that writing is largely a craft, and talent isn’t the most important part of it. Learning to write well is like learning to play an instrument or a sport or another artistic pursuit. Most people aren’t good at it without practice.
So don’t make my mistakes! Write, write, write.
If you missed my earlier posts on 30 days of writing and publishing tips, post 1 is here.
And here’s one of my books that I haven’t talked about much in previous posts, my upper Middle grade adventure, WOLF STORM in which young actors filming a movie on location in the mountains find themselves in an all-to-real adventure. (That’s my lovely little cat, Colette, who I miss every day and who was not happy wearing her wolf costume.)