Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Post – I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now! – #Writing, #Genres, #Indie Jacqui Murray

I am sure like me, there have been times when you have wondered what difference might have been made to your life, if your younger self had been gifted with the experience and knowledge you have accumulated over the years.

I invited several friends from the writing community to share their thoughts on this subject which I am sure you will enjoy as much as I did.

Today author Jacqui Murray shares the five things, that as a writer she wishes she knew then…wonderful insight for new authors about to begin their journey and a great review of useful tips for more established writers.

I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now by Jacqui Murray

I’ve been writing for over thirty years. I’ve written tech manuals, non-fiction, military fiction, historical fiction, freelance journalism, reviews for clients, lesson plans, class syllabi–pretty much anything that would pay the bills (within limits). I’ve learned a lot about what works and what should be avoided. I made a lot of mistakes, but honestly, I wouldn’t want to skip any of them because I learn from mistakes. I bet you do, too. But there are a few bits of wisdom I wish I’d known when I started that would have saved me time, money, and stress.

Here are five:

Genre have rules. Follow them

Have you ever cracked open a book that promised to be a thriller, filled with action and adventure, and got a redo of Fantasy Island? World Famous Authors can break rules when they write. Ordinary Folk (like me) have to follow them and some of the most important are the ones that apply to genres. As a new author, these are sacred ground.

Learn them and then follow them until your name appears on a cover bigger than the title.

Then, do what you want. For example, thrillers are dominated by exciting plots with flawed super heroes who save the world by doing the impossible. Literary fiction characters are ordinary people out to find themselves while they save their souls. Historical fiction–don’t skimp on authentic details about your selected time long gone, be it Ancient Greece or the Old West.

There are over one hundred genres (I know because I have a genre series where I demystify them for you and I’m up to 147) so you have a lot of choices. Early in your writing, decide what your genre is and then research the guidelines. If it’s fantasies, your audience expects serious world-building. Sci fi aficionados want space, planets, and other worlds. Give people what they want at least at the beginning of your writing career and they will return the favor by buying your books and talking about them online.

Voice is why people read your book

Readers may buy your book because the blurb sounds good or it has a great cover, but if they’ll read the next one because they love your voice. Figure out who you are, what makes you different from other writers in your genre. Embrace that and never look back.

It takes a long time to write a novel.

I took twenty-five years to write my first novel (and I’m not unusual) which included at least three complete rewrites, a dozen re-edits, and more than three times I quit only to return. I tried short stories and poetry, but really, novels are my schtick so I suffered through thinking I wasn’t good enough or smart enough or connected enough. But, each problem I knocked down like pins in a bowling alley. Sure, there were 3,498 and I had to solve all of them (because–no agent), but each one made me stronger and more confident.

Going Indie is a great option

I don’t know any authors who started writing with the dream of being an Indie author. Usually, that goal arrives after the 1,019th rejection, or the third time an agent suggests changes that revert a story to an original version. At a certain point, you get tired of playing the agent-publisher game, stick a toe in the Indie publishing world, and find out it’s warm, without piranha, and with plenty of room for all kinds of authors. For me, that took a really long time, but I’d never go back. I like the independence, relying on myself, not having to accommodate someone else’s interests, writing according to my own timeline, choosing my own cover, making my own decisions, getting immediate answers to questions (from myself), and more.

And the money is better–unless your Elizabeth George or Lee Child. Then, stick with agents.

Writing is a gift with ‘some assembly required’.

I often compare my writing to the Vulcan game of Kal-toh . It’s a Star Trek game where all the pieces look jumbled and misfit until they snap together as though by magic.

Most writers have heard that something like 80% (depends upon where you get your statistic) of people have a book in them. After all, it doesn’t take any special skills, right? You sit at a keyboard, write a story, edit it with ProWriter or Grammarly, have a best friend read and approve it, and then upload it to Kindle.

Trigger warning: Some assembly required. Remember Christmas Eve with a box of parts and you have to use all of them. That’s writing, too. All the pieces are in your head–characters, plot, setting, theme, goals. The trick is to get them all to fit before you lose interest.

That’s it–five things I wish I’d known when I started writing. How about you?

©Jacqui Murray 2022

My thanks to Jacqui for this wonderful response to the prompt. I am sure that you can relate to the five points included and great advice for new and established writers. I know she would love to hear from you.

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular prehistoric fiction saga, Man vs. Nature which explores seminal events in man’s evolution one trilogy at a time. She is also the author of the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers and Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. Her non-fiction includes over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, reviews as an Amazon Vine Voice, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Natural Selection, Spring 2022.

A selection of books by Jacqui Murray

My review for Laws of Nature August 2021

I read the first book in this trilogy in 2018 and eagerly awaited book two. The author does set the scene for this second book, but I do recommend that you read Born in Treacherous Time first.

Difficult to extol the virtues of this book without giving away spoilers, but I can tell you it is an extraordinary story of survival under the most extreme conditions the earth was experiencing 1.8 million years ago. Unpredictable is putting it mildly, with earth shifts, bitter cold, droughts, floods with violent storms with lightening splintering the ground and causing rampant fires. Shelter is a rarity from the elements and when it is discovered it holds even more dangers within.

This is not a fantasy story, as it is about the real and dangerous evolutionary journey of not just man, but many of the world’s beast that we are more familiar with today. It is a time where there are a number of versions of humans, some who are more advanced than others, but even they marvel when they come into contact with those they consider more primitive. Despite this early stage in man’s evolution, natural and instinctive skills have already been lost, and it is the respect for these abilities that spark the fascination of ‘Man who Preys’ a long term enemy.

Lucy and her group have members gathered along the harsh journey who have found themselves outcast or abandoned during shifts in the earth or extreme climate conditions. They are a mismatched mix of species who learn from each other and adapt to form an unbreakable bond.There are whispers of how the individuals will evolve into modern day counterparts such big cats and primates but also sadly those that have become extinct.

The author writes flawlessly and takes you on a journey into our past with detailed accounts of this harsh environment and its inhabitants. It is an adventure with heartbreak and also moments when you can only applaud the ingenuity and the will to survive of these primitive ancestors of ours. It certainly leaves you will a greater appreciation of all we have in this modern world.

I hope you will read both book one and two of this trilogy and I am looking forward to following Lucy and her group as they continue their journey in book 3.

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US – And: Amazon UK – Follow Jacqui: goodreads – Blog: WorddreamsTwitter: @WordDreams


Thanks for dropping in today and it would be wonderful if you could share Jacqui’s post .. Sally.

148 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Post – I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now! – #Writing, #Genres, #Indie Jacqui Murray

  1. Hi Jacqui – you’ve certainly given us some important information and ideas here – also your posts are always interesting … writing appropriately for your audience – get to know them as you do … we only learn over time and put those puzzle pieces into place. Good to see you here with Sally and her Smorgasbord blog … cheers Hilary

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Great post and points, Jacqui. I never considered anything but Indie as I wanted the freedom. However, I did have a steep learning curve! Such as I should have gotten a website and blogging started before my first book was published, etc., etc., lols. Posts like this are absolute gems for new authors! Thanks for sharing, Sally and Jacqui. Hugs 💕🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Genuinely useful advice! I’ve really struggled with genres and when I’ve looked them up, no one seemed to agree on even a core definition. I’ve just clicked on your link and read the one on thrillers. I’ll book mark it and work my way through the others! Another great take on the prompt, Sally! xx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you, Jacqui, for sharing these jewels. I love your statement, “Writing is a gift with ‘some assembly required”. Beautiful!! Hugs to both you and Sally for another great post! 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I checked out your genre link. Great information, Jacqui! And your advice here is spot on. Thanks for sharing these gems of knowledge and experience with us. Thanks for including her in your series, Sally! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You always have great advice, Jacqui. I’ve often wished I had known then what I know now, but I suppose most of us do. But it’s a sign that we have learned something along the way. I’m looking forward to book three of the Lucy series. Can’t wait to find out what happens in this next book. They are all page turners.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Jacqui, this was fabulous information. I wish I’d known more before I wrote my first book. I’m bound and determined to rewrite that book, and I will. In the meantime, I’m thrilled to start your series that Sally recommended as close to the Clan of the Cave Bear. Congratulations on some wonderful tips. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Great post and I agree with pretty much everything here. Yet I have a problem with “Genre” writing. My first was a horror novel and looking back not very good but achieved a modicum of success. My second followed a similar route and did well (for an unknown author) but like many authors, I wished to spread my wings and so my third novel was a contemporary romance. Despite being billed as a romance, reviewed, and sold as a romance, mainly Horror readers bought it. Few of them enjoyed it (as you can imagine). I persevered with romance and found a happy audience until I had a great idea for a historical fiction novel. And so, this went on; jumping genres when I wished, to some success and some abject failure depending on the novel. Until one day my publisher (yes once upon a time such mythical beasts did exist) called me in and told me that from this day forth I would be four different writers, presented me with names and biographies and from that time till now things have been fine. Of course, sometimes the books still fail to sell but that is down to the story (all my fault) rather than selling in the wrong genre. So please be careful when pushing yourself upon a single genre you may be beating yourself.
    Lastly (an audible sigh exists the reader and PC) I now self-publish, and it is great if you put the effort in.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Great post and advice, Jacqui:) I always struggle figuring out what genre I’m writing under. I have enjoyed your series in the genres.

    Liked by 2 people

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  11. Thanks for sharing your knowledge gained over the years with us, Jacqui. Some interesting points. I think many of us learn by trial and error when it comes to writing.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Thank you for the great advice from your 30+ years of wealth of experience, Jacqui! I listened to one author’s presentation about spending 10 years to find a publisher. Finally she found one that would publish for her, but they didn’t publish the book she wrote. They wanted her to write a book they wanted to publish. She ended up doing research on something she knew nothing about, and wrote a book. After that, whether the same publisher or a different publisher published her books. But she didn’t like the control they had over her, so she eventually self-published.

    Probably she would say she wished to know 10+ years ago to be an indie author.

    Thank you for sharing Jacqui’s wonderful advice, Sally!

    Liked by 3 people

  13. I brilliant article Jacqui – great advice not only for writers. I especially appreciated you discussion about voice and how connected we are to hearing/reading another persons voice. And whatever creative endeavour we pursue, learning is incremental – it takes time. I enjoyed the follow-up conversation that added so much to the discussion.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I appreciate all of this writing wisdom acquired through yourexperience and hard work. I’ve found my genre and voice, and I suspect I’ll eventually go indie. I would imagine that one would feel like pulling their hair out if an agent suggested you revert back to an earlier version from years before. I admire your perseverance and appreciate you sharing the lessons you’ve learned along the way.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Pete.. being Indie is becoming a more popular option for a number of reasons, including the fact that writers are creating their own presence on line globally which makes one of the reasons for being with an agent and publisher redundant. Indie authors are also using the same illustrators, editors and proofreaders and whilst paying for it themselves, it does mean they retain their artistic control. xx

      Liked by 1 person

    • I love hearing that you’ve found your voice. That took me well onto a decade to do. But, the more I get to know you (what an amazing trip to visit Jennie and her classroom you post about on your blog), the more I see you have a solid moral core that probably translates nicely into ‘voice’.

      Liked by 2 people

  15. Hi Sally, Jacqui has raised 5 excellent points in her discussion. I didn’t know anything at all when I published my first Sir Chocolate book. In fact, I never set out to publish at all, it sort of came to me as an opportunity and I took it. I am a bit of a muddle when it comes to genre, but I’m working on it.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. There was SO much I did not know when I embarked on this writing journey. Jacqui, your advice is spot-on. I love that you mentioned writing voice. Just as we each have unique fingerprints, we have our unique writer’s voices. Finding it is not always easy and especially at first. These tips are so helpful, even for seasoned writers. Thank you for sharing! Thank you, Sally, for hosting this amazing series!

    Liked by 2 people

  17. I am so happy that indie writers are appreciated more and more every day. Your tips resonate with my experience as a writer. Enjoyed your article, Jacqui.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. This was a terrific post. So much great information and so much honesty. It’s what you learned along the way that brings you where you are today. Thanks, Sally, for featuring Jacqui and for encouraging Indie authors. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Another good post.
    At the beginning of my indie publishing journey I was extremely hesitant, but when I spoke to another publisher (who had rejected my work ), she said I had done everythig the right way and had I been taken on by a publisher they would have altered and dictated what the finished book would be.
    The rejection was not that it wasn’t good enough just that it was not what they wanted at the time.
    Plus for me the illustrations led me to self-publishing and the indie route.
    I’ve stuck to that road because my illustration contact is very good.

    Liked by 2 people

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  21. I could relate to your five things, Jacqui. And completely agree with the joys and benefits of going indie. I’ve also never looked back. And great advice about genres too. Thanks for sharing your “things.” And thanks for another installment in a wonderful series, Sally.

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  22. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now! – Guest Round Up – Part Two – D.G. Kaye, Sandra Cox, Roberta Eaton Cheadle, Stevie Turner, Dorothy Grover-Read, Terry Tyler, Alex Craigie, Jacqui Murray, D.L. Finn, Re

  23. Very wise words from Jacqui, especially for writers, although anybody with a dream involving creativity would be able to apply some of them, if not all. Thanks, Sally, for this great series and thanks to Jacqui. ♥

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