To me, drafting a manuscript is akin to creating an animal figurine out of a pile of clay. Section by section, you mold, carve, and polish your loosely formed impression into a muscular, spirited stallion. Over the past few years, I’ve had to revise three manuscripts, and during that process, I stumbled across four methods that increased my efficiency. The clay analogy is ideal for conveying each one.
You’ve undoubtedly read an article titled “365 Ways to Set Yourself up for Success” or something like that. The internet is loaded with information on self-promotion and increasing the zeros in one’s bank account. However, success is dependent on much more than marketing techniques and get-rich-quick schemes.
The most helpful writing advice I learned this year came from the letters of a demon. C. S. Lewis published The Screwtape Letters serially in a newspaper called The Guardian, and he realized that the human race harbors an oversized sense of entitlement. Because others have more than we do, we think we deserve the same amount. In idle moments, we wake our phones and thumb through twenty social media posts per second. We read glowing reviews for a debut novel that the author pounded out in two months. We see friends gushing about their book deals, finished drafts, and beta-readers-turned-fans. They’ve achieved their goals while we haven’t. We try to celebrate with them. We extend perfunctory congratulations, but inwardly we can’t resist asking, Why not me?
Millions of books release each year—yes, millions. Between traditional and indie publishing, the number of new titles entering the market is staggering. Maybe those statistics boost your confidence that someday you’ll sign a book contract. If a million writers can slink past picky acquisitions editors, so can you. Or maybe the fear of missing out torments you. You’re struggling to finish your draft—what if no one ever expresses interest in your work because the proverbial field is already scattered with others’ stories?
Fiction is my wheelhouse, my first and last love, my comfort zone, the place where I shine. So, when I noticed Story Embers’ Instagram advertisement for an article writer, I scrolled past it. I couldn’t be the person they were looking for!
When I joined the writing community as a teenager, my peers insisted that I launch a blog to build a following (or else I’d doom myself to obscurity). Running with this misguided notion, I opened a WordPress account and fired off the world’s most random introduction post. To be clear, I’m not here to ram a sales pitch for blogging. Blogs aren’t as necessary to marketing as I originally believed, especially since social media and email newsletters offer more versatility. But in the six years I’ve spent maintaining a personal blog, I’ve developed a broader view of why I write fiction and who I’m trying to reach, as well as habits and skills that aid me in my pursuit of authorship.
A NYT-bestselling author I heard once argued that readers tend to “read fiction to escape. Authors are entertainers,” and whether we like it or not, we need to give people what they want. But is this really accurate? Or is there a deeper reason for why people read fiction and what we need to thus provide them as storytellers?
Conference season has arrived! And that means a fair amount of nail biting for new and returning attendees alike. Meeting authors you admire, pitching your work to agents, and trying to absorb as much knowledge as possible can be stressful.
A few years ago, an inquisitive stranger cornered me with a seemingly innocuous question: “What’s your book about?” Instead of rattling off a zinger, my brain blanked, my tongue tangled, and I stuttered something about “a monster who eats people” before hastily retreating.
I have a confession to make that may shock anyone who beta read my first novel, which sported a gruff, pipe-smoking wizard, a quest involving a mythical object of doom, and the line “All we have to decide is what to do with the time we’re given.” Despite these uncanny resemblances, no, I’m not Tolkien. I do, however, harbor deep respect and admiration for him, and I hope my own stories will evoke the same emotions as The Hobbit and The Children of Hurin.