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