How to be a new writer

English: Image of a fountain pen.

English: Image of a fountain pen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


There are so many decisions to be made it can seem overwhelming. The first and best advice I can give you to start is this – stop worrying and just write. Then write some more. Enjoy yourself, enjoy the process whether you’re a plotter – you have to outline – or a pantser – you just write. If  you’re loving what you do, then do it. Just do it. Before you do anything else, before you make any decisions, write. If you can, write at least three novels.

Okay, now that you’ve done that, it’s time for the next step. If book one is any good, send it to a beta reader or editor. If it isn’t, don’t beat yourself up, rewrite and send book two to your beta reader/editor.

Now you’re ready for the next step.

  1. Do you want to write for a traditional publisher or as a self-publisher, or both? Both is a viable option these days, and all three have their points.
    Traditional publishing gives you the editors, cover artists, and formatters, but they have the control.  They also give you access to awards and recognition. You have to do much of your own marketing, at least at first, and you’re one of those one-in-a-thousand writers at the top, and not one of the mid-listers.
    Self-publishing gives you all the controls – you choose your editor, cover artist and formatter. Awards, recognition, best seller lists are a bit harder to reach,  except for the one-in-a-thousand writers like Hugh Howey or J. C. Wilder. Many successful indies have gone with traditional publishers – those are the ones who’ve done both – but there are some who do quite well as pure indies.
  2. If you chose traditional publishing learn how to write a good query letter. Try the query shark blog to see what works. Find an on-line list of agents and/or publishers to query. is an easy one to use.
  3. If you chose Indie publishing you have to choose your editor, cover artist and formatter. Go to on-line groups to find them. If money is tight, there are cover artists who have pre-made covers to carry you until you can afford a custom title. Check out their offerings to find something that suits your story. Editors and formatters range in price – contact them and message to get their pricing.
    An unprofessional looking book is your worst enemy, and confirms for many the complaints of some writers about indies. (Not all of which is deserved.)
  4. Determine whether to go with all publishers, or just some. My best advice on this subject is this – try Amazon KDP Select for it’s 90 days free. It’s a good way to generate word of mouth for your book. It’s only in Select for three months, just uncheck the box so it’s not automatically re-entered. Most readers are using Kindles – with Nooks and other devices far behind – although some people are starting to read on their phones.
    You’ll need to know your genre – either find books like yours on Amazon, look up book genres on Wikipedia, or find an on-line writers group who can help you.
    Categories, too. Find books like yours and tailor your categories the same (that can determine bestseller lists per genre for your book).
  5. Market, market, market. First, when the book is pulled together, determine a release date. Set up a website, a Facebook writers page, and announce the date. Find anything that will create interest in the book – the inspiration for the book, the faces of folks who might have given life to the character, and announce a cover release date. Post the cover in advance of the book to generate interest. Offer an excerpt on your web page or blog. Offer to do interviews on other blogs. Find reviewer blogs and offer them ARCS (advanced release copies). Release your book on Friday, so people have time to read it. If its your first book, it’s also a way to get reviews from readers.
  6. LEARN PATIENCE – it will take time to generate traffic and reviews. Post the first good reviews.
  7. While book one is building an audience, prepare book two (it does NOT have to be a series) and post about it as it’s being edited to assure readers that more books are coming. Get the cover art chosen, post it once it’s ready.
  8. Timing on a second release depends on the editing. Just keep in mind that having book one and book two out,  with book three in your back pocket, gives you time to write book four if you’d like, and without pressure.
    Release book three while you do that to keep reader interest alive.
  9. Good reviews are a wonderful thing, rough reviews are learning experiences – either about things to improve in your books or to toughen your skin.
  10. Writing should be an act of love, and a life-long career. If you’re writing to get rich and famous, find another job. There are few Stephen Kings, Nora Roberts, etc., and there are moments when even they burned out. Define your own success. Are you happy just having people read your books? Then relax.
  11. More than anything else, do what you love. Even at the worst of times as Neil Gaiman says – Make good Art.


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Valerie Douglas is a prolific writer and genre-crosser, much to the delight of her fans. She reads and writes classic fantasy, romance, suspense, and as V.J. Devereaux, erotic romance. Who knows what will pop up down the road!

Happily married, she’s companion to two dogs, three cats and an African clawed frog named Hopper who delights in tormenting the cats from his tank.

Valerie Douglas is the co-founder and one of the administrators of the 12,000+ member Indie Author Group – supporting writers around the world.
Visit her blog at Valerie Douglas, Author at Large

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