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10 Do's and Don't's for the Aspiring Novelist (from Writer's Digest)

I read a lot of different blogs and articles on Writer’s Digest, but this week, I found one that I can relate to and really stand behind.  I don’t know how many of the people who read this blog want to be writers, but I do.  I want to get published in the worst way, and I have written several manuscripts.[i]  I like this advice.  I have been doing these things.  That makes me hopeful that I’m on the right path to getting my manuscripts in bookstores!  Here’s hoping!

You can read the original article here.

Five Do’s:

  1. Start small.  Yes.  So you want to write a novel, but have never developed any sort of plot before?  All hope is not lost, but maybe start with a short story.  It’s easier to construct shorter plots than it is longer ones.  You have to build up to the 50,000+ word manuscripts – they don’t happen overnight.
  2. Look for a fiction writing class and/or a writer’s group in your area.  I took two in college, and they have been incredibly helpful in developing both my writing and my workshopping skills.[ii]  You begin to realize where your own writing may need some work by reading other people’s writing.
  3. Write things down.  One of the best things that I have ever done is keep a journal of observations while I was studying abroad.  It taught me to not only pay attention to my surroundings, but also to remember things that I saw.  It’s helped develop my description skills, for sure.
  4. Try to write something every day, even if it’s just a few paragraphs.  That’s what this blog is all about, for me.  You’re reading my product!
  5. Take advice from other authors.  This is the one thing on this list that I could stand to improve on.  I haven’t read a lot of books about writing.  It’s on my very long list of things to do.  I do thoroughly enjoy reading what Jodi Picoult has to say on her website and in question and answer sessions about her books – she’s my favorite author.

Five Don’t’s:

  1. Don’t let your day job get in the way.  Easier said than done!  But this year has already been an incredible learning experience for me.  I’ve been taking graduate classes, working full time, writing in a blog every day, volunteering at Feline Rescue, selling jewelry through Chloe + Isabel, and somehow still finding time to teach myself how to copyedit and spend time with H and Ole and our families.  It’s been exhausting, and rewarding, and I feel like I can do anything now.  You can’t let anything stop you.  It’s true – where there’s a will, there’s a way.
  2. Don’t fall in love with your words.  EDITING.  When people pick apart the story that you created in your head, it can feel like a personal attack.  After a long life of stubbornness, I have learned that these people are truly trying to help me turn out the best story I possibly can.  Sometimes my fingers can’t keep up with my brain.  Sometimes I can’t find the right words.  And sometimes I write things that just don’t need to be said.  Those are constructive criticisms, and they are a good thing.  You have to be able to change your words.
  3. Don’t keep your work hidden away.  This reminds me.  I need to start querying agents again soon.  My manuscript has been shelved for too long.[iii]
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask friends for help – especially if they are in the publishing field.  I’ve written about my friend who works at an indie publishing company.  She has been an outstanding resource, and is even helping me get some copyediting experience.[iv]  And, she knows that if I can’t find an agent and am able to finally save some money,[v] I plan to publish my already written manuscript with her company.[vi]  She’s been wonderful, and I owe her a lot of my knowledge about publishing and all that, so this piece of advice is extremely solid.
  5. Don’t forget that you are the writer.  This is your voice.  This is your story.  You can choose to follow other people’s advice, but ultimately, no one can change your story but you.  And that’s what I love about writing.

Do you have any big dreams?  Are you published and have more advice?  I’d like to hear from some people!



[i] Some of you may have even read one (or more) of them!

[ii] Although I really wish I had learned more about editing in my college classes.

[iii] Plus, I’ve got more on the way!

[iv] This is the second time I’ve mentioned copyediting in this post!  More on that later in the week.

[v] Grad school, you’re killing me!

[vi] You know that, right?  Because that’s been my plan all along, I just don’t have any money for it yet!

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