This month we invited all our contributors to share their best advice to our readers. I have three tidbits to share. Of course, free advice is worth what you pay for, but I’ve been doing this a while, I can at least speak from experience.
First tip: listen to your gut, not the market.
Now I’m not saying ignore market trends or the industry. Novelists have to be business people too, and this IS a business as well as a vocation. But if you, for example, really want to write a simple story about two country teens who fall in love when the market is screaming for gritty urban fantasy, you should do that. You’ll give that story your best effort, the magic will come. If you try to wrestle your simple love story into a hot market segment when it doesn’t belong there, the reader will know.
Authenticity is the only thing we have as writers. It’s what makes us artists.
Most of us who have been writing for a while have seen trends come and go. Remember bodice-rippers? Gothics? Boy wizards? Quaint, aren’t they?
And sure, it might be easier to get the attention of an editor or agent if you can piggyback on a hot trend. But in the end, you’re the one sweating over the writing. If you aren’t feeling it, neither will the reader.
Which brings me to my second piece of advice: write from the heart.
If you don’t love your story, no one else will either. Oh sure, the heartache comes when you love your story but no one in the industry seems to, but at least you’ve spent a year with characters and situations that you want to spend time with. And you will learn a lot about yourself as a writer during the journey.
If that project doesn’t sell, move onto the next. It’s not going away. Unless it’s utter dreck, you may have a chance to sell it again when you are more established. It happens all the time.
Third tip: learn your craft.
Being solid in your craft will pay dividends. You’ll know how to get in and out of a scene. You’ll be able to write compelling dialogue. Showing, not telling will come naturally to you. You’ll allow yourself to make mistakes in the first draft without fretting.
Learning the craft of writing only comes when you, you know, write. There are no shortcuts in this profession. Get one or two great craft books (I like Self-Editing for Fiction Writers), absorb the advice, and then put it into practice every day. Pretty soon it’ll be second nature to you. Promise.