From Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris:
If you’ve used the pandemic lockdown as a time to write that novel you always knew you had in you, congratulations! You’ve taken the depressing, horrific lemon that was 2020 and turned it into literary lemonade.
You deserve a great big “Congrats!” and several pats on the back. You are awesome.
But if you’re thinking of publishing that novel now that you’ve finished it, you might want to hold off for a bit. Especially if you’re hoping to make some money from it.
Even though you’ve typed that satisfying “the end” on that book, chances are good that it’s not ready to publish. Or even to go to an editor.
Self-publishing has freed up a lot of writers and allowed them to express themselves without the restraints of corporate publishing. But just because you CAN publish that magnum opus with a minimum of fuss doesn’t mean you should—yet.
The truth is it takes a long time to learn to write well. Even if you were an English major. If you’ve only written one novel or memoir, you’re still in the learning phase. Keep writing and start something new. Write some short pieces and start sending them out to journals and contests. Work on your next book. Start a blog and learn to write for an online audience.
And read, read, read. Read books on craft and marketing as well as novels in your genre.
. . . .
Signs You Aren’t Ready to Publish
Here are some tell-tale signs that writers are still in the learning phase of their careers.
There’s a reason why agents are wary of long books. New writers tend to take 100 words to say what seasoned writers can say in 10. If your prose is weighty with adjectives and adverbs, or clogged with details and repetitive scenes, you’ll scare off readers as well.
2) Writerly Prose
This was a hard lesson for me to learn. It turns out those long, gorgeous descriptions that got so much praise from your English teacher and your college boyfriend can actually be a huge turn-off for the paying customer who’s searching for some kind of story in there.
We need to learn to use description to help the reader get oriented in the scene, not to show off.
3) Episodic Storytelling
I admit my own guilt on this one too. I could never end my first novel, because it didn’t actually have a plot. It was a series of related episodes—like a TV series. I will always be grateful to the agent who read my whole manuscript and told me I’d written a fine sitcom, but a novel needs one big, over-arching plot.
Learning to plot and pace a novel is way harder than it seems. Seasoned novelists make it seem effortless. You’ll learn, too. It took me a longer time than most, but I got it eventually.
Critique groups often don’t catch this problem, if each episode has a dramatic arc of its own.
4) A Hackneyed Opener
Beware overdone opening scenes. The most clichéd opener is the “alarm clock” scene—the one where your protagonist wakes up and gets ready for his day. Film teachers say, “78 % of all student films start with an alarm clock going off.”
Why? Because it’s an obvious place to start.
But obvious is not what we want. That’s what makes something into a cliché—a whole lot of people have used a phrase or situation before you. So if your opener is similar to one you’ve seen in a ton of movies, and read in lots of books, you’re probably going to want to change it. Try moving your story ahead a few scenes. Or behind. Do something new and different and creative.
Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris