I’m a novice at writing fiction. I don’t have an English degree, I don’t blog often, and I am not well-read in the classics. But after realizing how much fun writing was, the ideas kept flowing. Really. I have ideas that’ll take me up to 2027. But there is more to the trade than cool ideas. My first book, A Trinity of Wicked Tales—Jilted, is a collection of short, dark tales. I used this to get acquainted with my audience and fine-tune the process.
What process? Writing a good book.
So, what did I learn from writing The Trinity, and how have I incorporated these lessons into my first novel, When We Swing?
Well, I’ll tell you.
- Write it. That’s the first step. I wrote it. It didn’t matter how bad it sounded. I wrote an outline and made sure the plot was well laid out. “What is the point of the story?” I asked myself. Don’t get me wrong, character development and an amazing story arc are just as important. But you don’t want to sit on the first manuscript for too long or you’ll find yourself sitting on it forever. There’s more than enough time for perfection after the developmental edit and during the dreaded rewriting stage.
- Get critiquing partners. Other writers are amazing resources for critiques. Why? Because they know what it’s like to finish a first draft and how hesitation can prolong submission to the editor. Sending my manuscript to writing buddies who wrote in the same genre eased the separation anxiety. They were honest, asked questions, and revealed blind spots that I totally overlooked. Example: “Instead of information dumping, add flashbacks.”
- Get a writing coach. I had a nasty ‘telling’ habit that I was desperate to kick. Talking to a seasoned professional helped me understand what ‘telling’ meant and how to catch myself when I was doing it. Example: “Who are your protagonists and antagonists? What type of people are they? Show how they would react to each situation. What would they say? What’s their body language? ”
- Understand the different the types of editors. I had to learn this the hard way. For The Trinity, there was a developmental edit, a line edit, and another line edit by the same person. Then two proofreads. But for When We Swing, I did things different:
- A developmental editor read my manuscript and pointed out inconsistencies in character development, story arc, and things that didn’t seem to make sense with the plot.
Example: “Maybe you should drop more clues about the ending by diving more into this character’s intentions. Show it by using their personality. It’ll add more suspense.”
- A line editor went through my manuscript line by line checking for word misuse, spelling inconsistencies, and sentence structure. This is not the same as the developmental editor or a proofreader. Actually, this editor got the manuscript after the developmental edit and the first rewrite.
Example: “Lilly should be spelled Lily as you have spelled it this way through most of the story. There are quite of few times when you’ve spelled it Lilly.” And “’Their going to rome this Summer.’ should be ‘They’re going to Rome this summer.’”
- Proofreaders read through the story and checked for grammar, punctuation, and spelling. I don’t think you need an example for that. I found three proofreaders at reasonable prices using Fiverr.
Five sets of eyes. Three different duties. One cool story in the end.
How do I know it’s a cool story?
- Get beta readers. Beta readers who typically read my genre read the book before I compiled a list of reviewers. It gave me the chance to get a reader’s input on the story. They asked questions and pointed out holes and things that annoyed them. They identified likable characters and gave details about how the story made them feel.
Example: “Wait. You mentioned how he loved her a few paragraphs ago. Now he hates her? I’m not understanding the subtle change of heart,” and “I need a drink after finishing this. I totally didn’t see that coming,” and “This transition from past to present isn’t clear,” and “I finished this in two days. I couldn’t put it down.” For me, three is the perfect number of beta readers.
- Take the criticism. I agree that some criticism isn’t constructive, but I took every question and comment into consideration. If you don’t take criticism, you won’t learn anything. All the money and time spent on developing your product would be worthless and you won’t grow as a writer. Period.
Writing a good book is the first step to growing an audience and becoming a paid author. With this process and doing some beta reading and critiquing for others, there has been some massive improvements in my writing skills and I’ve made some new friends along the way.
Be open-minded, perfect your process, and remember, patience is key.