General answers about writing, editing, readers expectations, publishing and marketing.
Answers from Elena Ornig.
Every decision we make in our lives will result in actions, reactions, consequences and resolutions. The same applies to the decision to become a Writer. You feel like you want to take it on because you can, even though you suspect it will not be an easy task. You are totally right – to become a good writer is a tough call. However, it’s exciting, thrilling, challenging and well rewarded at the end. One thing is for sure – writing is never boring. Regardless of everything else, it is a matter of hard work, persistence and luck.
The decision is made and you said to yourself, “I will be a Writer!” Great! Don’t hesitate to be proud of your decision and start to work toward your goal. But what is your goal? Is it just to become a Writer? Yes, but in which category, and do you want to become a self-published or a published Writer? For what purposes: to make some money or to make heaps of money, to become famous and recognised or to prove your point of view? See where I am going with these extra questions? Of course you see – I am delving into the matter of your own personal goal. To identify your own personal goal is the first step you must take in order to become a writer.
When your goal is identified, and preferably written on paper as a focus reminder, your next step is to assess your own personal writing skills, self-editing skills, self-organising skills and creative skills. Depending on your assessment you have to plan some steps to become knowledgeable in theory and in practice. If you hear from others that the process of becoming a knowledgeable and crafty writer is painful – do not believe them, even for a second. They are lying through their teeth. It’s never painful, even if it is a hard and long journey. Believe me; it is always rewarding and exciting. Rewarding, because you will gain considerable knowledge and exciting because a writing career is full of meetings with interesting people.
Just think of what you will learn: expressing your own idea (theme), plotting your own plot for your story, creating your own unforgettable characters, finding your own voice (unique style), self-editing techniques, mastering your settings, book reviewing, readers behaviour, publishing and legal requirements and even marketing aspects in publishing. That knowledge is simply priceless!
What do writers write? They write stories, and every story follows a well-known structure: beginning, middle and the end. To master the creation of a story you need to know how to establish a meaningful idea (theme), design credible settings, activate unique characters, construct a powerful plot and tell that story with a style (your own voice). To achieve all that you need to know language very well in order to express your voice in writing through dialogues and monologues, actions and flashbacks, emotions and descriptions. In just one phrase you must be able to concoct an emotionally rich experience for the readers.
You must be able to identify the readers you wish to target, and understand their behaviour and expectations. Therefore you must know theoretical guide-lines for writing in a specific category, such as fiction or non-fiction, writing for children (different categories also have different lengths) or teenagers and so on. As a minimum, your need to know how many words are expected for an educational book, fiction novel, non-fiction book and so on. The Publishers do have their own book-length requirements that are already based on readers’ analysis and industry standards. The readers will expect, at the least, one main character (protagonist (hero) or narrator). In a romance novel (love triangle) you need no more than three main characters but in an epic trilogy, for example, it is possible to have 10-12 major characters – it is a very long story. To create the right number of characters is very important in order to not confuse readers (too many) or in order to not diminish manifestation of your main characters. The same goes for the minor characters and their roles of importance. To go deeper into that matter you need to be tuned in with targeted readers on what are their expectations in specific categories in order to identify the magnitude of offensive language or sexual scenes, brain-teasing, amount of violence or humour, comprehension of religious beliefs and dynamism of the actions or suspense. You, as a writer, must determine every aspect of the taste of the targeted audience. It is your own prime responsibility.
Most likely your first draft will not be in a state of perfection – it never is. That is why self-editing and professional editing is compulsory. Every individual writer has his/her own approach to self-editing a manuscript, and so should you. However, some guide-lines are very helpful in order to work out your own system. At least, think about editing in terms of length – the longer your text the less concentration you will have in the process of self-editing, and self-editing is different to a professional editing. Self-editing is more complicated and demanding. (Click here to brief yourself on what is involved in self-editing). But remember, if you got yourself into a creative mood – do not stop for editing until you finish writing. After feeling that you are satisfied with your self-editing, you must, I repeat, you must give your manuscript to a professional editor, even if your goal is self-publishing.
After professional editing, go as you planned to find an agent or apply directly to selected publishing companies or publishing houses. At this stage your category must be identified and therefore it will guide you into the arms of the right publishers. Find out every publisher’s submission requirements. Learn and apply your knowledge in order to submit and wait for the answers. I use the plural here because it is wiser to make a few different submissions at the same time. What can happen if a few publishers love and accept your manuscript? Not a common occurrence, but a desirable situation for a writer. The publishers will go into action and will bid against each other for your book. In addition, before submission of a manuscript you owe it to yourself to learn and understand local (country) and international copyrights laws. There is a wide range of information on copyright laws in different countries.
Publishers are in the business of selling books, and in order to sell they rely heavily on marketing. Of course, it is their problem of how to market, but as a writer you must at least have some understanding of how a book is marketed. You need this knowledge in order to understand what the publisher is looking for from a marketing perspective. It will help you to create an appealing submission of your manuscript, including the introduction to a publisher. It will help you in writing your preface and synopsis (summary of your book). It will guide you in the direction of how to sell your book, particularly if your goal is to become a self-published author.
Here are a few links to read on these matters:
My warmest regards,