I’ve got a treat for you today–my good friend best-selling author Jen Turano is here with some no-nonsense advice for aspiring writers. Jen was one of the first (about to be) published authors I met when I was shopping my first novel, Oath of the Brotherhood, and her honest advice was a godsend as I began to navigate the rough waters of publication. Please join me in welcoming Jen to the Writer’s Life column today!
My Top Five Suggestions for Anyone Thinking about Writing a Book
by Jen Turano
The question I hear the most since becoming a published author goes something like this – “I’ve always thought about writing a book. Got any suggestions about that?” My first impulse is to tell that person to run as fast as they can away from that type of thinking – they’ll be saving themselves a ton of angst and neurotic behavior. However, since that’s hardly what anyone would consider stellar advice, I’ve compiled a list of my five favorite suggestions which might be a little better than…run.
- Have an honest talk with yourself about why you want to write that book. If you simply love story and want to experience the satisfaction of writing an entire book, that’s great. I say get writing. But, if you’re thinking about writing a book because you want to pursue writing as a career, that changes everything. Publishing is a business, and it’s a daunting business, which means you need to…
- Understand the scope of your competition. When I first started writing, I had no idea what I was up against. I figured there were a lot of writers out there, but it’s almost unfathomable to grasp exactly how many writers are even now bent over their keypads, writing away. To give you an idea what your competition looks like, out here in Denver, we have a highly respected literary agency, but it’s small and represents under forty clients, most of whom are New York Times bestselling authors. Having said that, they receive over 30,000 query letters a year, and yet take on an average of two new clients a year from those 30,000 queries. That means your work needs to stand out, and also means…
- You should have an above-average grasp of the English language. I know that seems somewhat simplistic, but I encounter aspiring writers all the time who struggle with basic grammar and yet don’t believe that’ll stifle their goal of getting published in the end. Here’s the thing – when you have agents getting tens of thousands of queries a year, grammar matters. If they find numerous grammatical errors in your query letter, or in the first chapter of your work, they’ll reject it because they have thousands of other submissions that don’t have that problem. Editing is one of the most expensive aspects of publishing, so a publishing house does not want to sign on authors with grammar issues because fixing those issues is expensive. So be honest with yourself about your abilities.
- You need to be a voracious reader. Reading is one of the best learning tools a writer has. Every genre has unspoken rules, and by reading in your genre of choice, you’ll understand those rules. You’ll also have a better grasp of what your future target audience expects. I’m always taken aback when I ask an aspiring writer what the last five books were in the genre they’re thinking of pursuing, and they tell me they don’t read. I haven’t come up with a good response to that yet, although I think standing there with my mouth hanging open speaks for itself.
- And last, but not least, understand that it can take a very long time to find success in this industry. First books are often not worthy of publication and that’s okay. You should look at them like stepping stones, and you might have more than one book that never gets published. I have seven, and again, that’s okay with me. They were my stepping stones, and with each one written and rejected, I received wonderful, and occasionally scathing, advice from agents, pointing out in detail what I was doing wrong. Did that advice hurt at times? You bet it did. However, I learned so much, and if I would have taken the rejections to heart and abandoned my writing, I would have never seen one of my books in print, which I have to admit is a very cool thing to see.
So there you have it – my top five suggestions. Thanks for stopping by, and if you are an aspiring writer, good luck and God bless!
~ Jen ~
Named One of the Funniest Voices in Inspirational Romance by Booklist, Jen Turano is a USA Today Best-Selling Author, known for penning quirky historical romances set in the Gilded Age. Her tenth full-length novel, “Out of the Ordinary” released in November 2017. Her next novel, “Caught by Surprise,” releases in July 2018. She’s been a finalist twice for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards and had two of her books listed in the top 100 romances of the past decade from Booklist. When she’s not writing, she spends her time outside of Denver, CO. She can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jenturanoauthor/, or visit her on the web at www.jenturano.com.