What Publishing a Novel has Taught Me About Writing

If you’ve been following me on Twitter and/or Goodreads, you might’ve heard about my debut Sci-Fi novel, The Bureau of Time – and if you haven’t, well, it’s my first published novel and responsible for many late nights over the last year. It’s now available on Amazon and Kobo, thanks to independent digital publisher, Fontaine.

In previous posts, and in the book’s acknowledgements, I touched on how The Bureau of Time has changed my life as a writer, but in this post, I thought I’d explain just how much I’ve grown as a writer in such a short period of time – and how you can apply these same tips to your own writing!

First Drafts are Meant to be Rewritten

Sure, there’s an old adage in the writing world that first drafts are always the worst version of your manuscript – but like every writer, I quietly hoped that wouldn’t be the case. Fast forward a year, and I’ve come to realize that, yes, that first draft written during the thirty frantic days of NaNoWriMo, was one of the worst versions of my book’s many editions.

Here are my tips:

  • Don’t waste time in the minutiae. First drafts should be quick and lay out the basic plot and character development. You can add more detail and subtleties in later edits.
  • Experiment! Now is the best chance you’ll have to explore potential plotlines – if you feel like your story wants to head in a direction, follow the proverbial rabbit. Your second draft can determine whether to keep the addition or not.

Above all else – remember that your first draft is like a rough sketch. You can sharpen the lines and fill in the details later, but without a sketch, you’ll have nothing to edit and polish later on.

Take a Break between Editions

Writing feels like a non-stop express train at times, as though even the slightest delay will throw the whole momentum of a novel. While you’re busy writing a draft, you should definitely be spending time every day on your novel – just a paragraph or two to keep the creative juices flowing.

But when you’ve finally put down your pen (or closed the word processor), take a week (or longer) break before you start editing the next edition. You don’t need to stop working entirely – feel free to spend the time drafting timelines, expanding the lore, or getting feedback from beta readers and/or the community; but before you pick up that red pen, let the manuscript rest (the cooks among us might liken it to resting meat before carving).

I found that a break refreshed my creative energy, and let me tackle the manuscript with a fresh perspective.

Write the Book You (and others) Want to Read

I love the saying ‘write the book you want to read’, because of all the motivational quotes out there, it’s the most accurate. As writers, we’re also readers, and most of us will always be reading in the same genre we write – or at least, we’ll be familiar with it, and know what makes a good and bad genre novel.

But there’s more to writing than simply envisaging a novel you want to read. After all, if it’s going to become published in some format, then you’ll want others to read it – and that’s where beta readers come in.

Having close friends and valued members of the writing community provide their feedback on my novel was key to getting my novel closer to publication.

Why should you consider beta readers?

  • They’re a sample audience – they’re readers who know what a good book is, and can provide you with crucial feedback.
  • Beta readers can help create demand – lots of betas will Tweet or Share your book and create a waiting fanbase!
  • Having readers provides a moral boost to get you across the finish line.

I was cautious of giving my manuscript to readers, but having readers spurred me on and helped provide critical feedback to fine-tune my book.

Don’t Be Afraid

When my manuscript was finally written, edited, and polished, I was struck with this sudden paralyzing fear. I had thought that, after a year’s worth of effort, I’d be excited to release my novel to the world – but instead, I was filled with this almost inexplicable terror.

Writers are so often conditioned to the prospect of failure – whether it’s from our own personal doubts, from well-intentioned but accidentally hurtful colleagues/friends/relatives, or simply from the bleak reality of the industry – that when it comes time for our fledgling bird to take its first flight, it’s easy to be scared of the infinite possibilities.

I pushed through the fear with the help and support from loved ones and family, from close friends and even strangers on the internet. There was a moment of doubt, a hesitation; but in the end, I’m immensely proud to see my novel on digital shelves, and for people around the world to be reading it.

Learn from my experience by applying these tips and tricks to your own manuscript, and before you know it, you’ll be proudly wearing that author badge too!

This has been just a tiny part of my experience writing The Bureau of Time, and in the coming months I’ll hopefully be sharing more about the sequel, and about my newfound role as an author.

Do you have your own insight or tips? I’d love to hear them – leave a comment below!

Find The Bureau of Time in the Amazon US, Amazon AU, Amazon GB and Kobo stores, plus add it on Goodreads!

21 Comments Add yours

  1. Congrats again, Brett, on your novel!!! What an incredible achievement! As it’s finally 2016 and I can offically say my book will be coming out THIS YEAR, I totally understand that fear. When we’ve been working on something for SO LONG, it’s hard to a) let go when it’s finally done (and you have to resist the urge to re-read and tweak and change) and b) the realizatdion that not EVERYONE is going to like it. Which is completely okay. People have any manner of varied opinions, and yeah, I’ve accepted that, but that doesn’t make the prospect of our books being out in the Big Wide World any less easier, right?

    P.S Do you think you’ll be releasing it in paperback? I’m *terrible* at e-reading. >.>

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    1. Congratulations to yourself! I can’t wait to see your book out in the world, and I really do understand everything you said – you just have to let control go, which is the hardest thing to do for writers!!

      I don’t have an idea for paperback yet, I’m afraid. Physical publication is something I want, but isn’t currently on the cards – but I’m optimistic something will change this year. Thanks for your interest in a physical copy!

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  2. Jay Eldred says:

    Congratulations!

    First, thank you for the tips on time management. One of my goals is to write part of “The Book” every day – even if it’s just one paragraph.

    Second, how should one find or choose beta readers and at what stage(s) did you find them most helpful?

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    1. Hey Jay!

      Thanks for reading, I’m happy to share tips! I chose my beta readers from close friends online – writers and bloggers I respected, and who’s opinions I valued. They were friends before betas, and were really happy to help me!

      They were most helpful at the ‘beta’ stage, which was after some of my largest edits and first attempts at polishing. I wanted to get feedback from betas, then edit my novel with respect to that feedback, and finally polish it all before querying and publication.

      Hope that helps you!

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  3. I really like how you added in the “write the novel you (and others) want to read” because that’s so important!! And it’s hard to find the balance, right?!? Because we need to write firstly for ourselves, buuuut, we gotta have others’ inputs and follow their wishes too, otherwise it limits the audience. *nods sagely* And congrats again on your book!! SQUEE.

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    1. You’re exactly right Cait! We have to write novels other people will want to read, so it’s important that we don’t just write “our” novel. Thank you so much for reading!

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  4. Cassie says:

    This is great advice. Thanks for writing this 🙂

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    1. I’m glad it was helpful! Thanks for reading! 🙂

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  5. This is an inspiring post for me Brett! Since finishing your novel, I am very very happy for you. The writing journey is one of constantly being on the road to improvement, I’ve noticed. For me, I’m still in the stages of writing my first draft and reading this post while in this stage not only encourages me, it gives me something to look forward to.
    This is awesome and I seriously cannot wait to hear more news about your sequel!

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    1. Hi Josie! Aw, well thank you for your kind words! The writing journey really is a path, and it’s a different road for everyone, but all pass the same landmarks – writing your first draft is an exciting time, and there’s even better things ahead on the road for you.

      Thanks so much for reading my post – and for reading The Bureau of Time, too!

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  6. I’m so glad you got past that terror of publishing your book Brett! and thought about what others would want to read. Beta Readers are a great sample audience and I think all authors should have one to spread the word. Great advice and inspiring words for aspiring authors.

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    1. Hi Meleika! It was definitely scary, but I’m really happy with the end result – and the betas were one of the best parts of writing this novel. Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

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  7. Congrats on your book again, Brett, I’m really looking forward to reading it :’) I think the aspect I’m the worst at is writing the draft daily – even if it is a few paragraphs. I utilize my writing spurts – a few days in which I write a couple thousand words, so daily doesn’t really work out for me :c But I’m definitely trying to improve that, and I loved all your advice! 😀

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    1. Hi Nirvana, thank you – I hope you’ll enjoy it! I know, I struggle with daily writing myself – as much as I always want to, the reality of real life is that you’ll miss a day or two; it’s normal, but frustrating. It’s more about the overall picture of writing daily, I think, so don’t criticize yourself for missing a day or two, especially if it doesn’t work with your writing style, or if something comes up in life.

      Thank you for reading!

      Like

  8. Resh Susan says:

    That is a ‘from-the-heart’ post!

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    1. Hi there Resh, welcome to my blog! Thank you so much, this all means a lot to me!

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  9. It sounds like writing and publishing your book has gotten you out of your comfort zone and for the best of it Brett! Publishing your own novel is definitely an achievement that should be celebrated – so congratulations & well done!

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    1. Hi Jeann! It definitely stepped out of my usual writing comfort zone and tackled the first step on my path to being an author. Thank you so much for reading my post, and for having me on your blog as an author interview!

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  10. I love this post, Brett!

    I know that I’ve sat down many a times to write a novel, but I always get scared and back out. I’m thinking that this summer is when I’m going to tackle one of the many ideas that I have in my head and then start exploring my options.

    P.S. I can’t wait to read The Bureau of Time!

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    1. Awww thanks Erin, I’m so glad you liked the post – and I can’t wait to hear what you think of Bureau. I know exactly how you feel about the fear of writing a new novel – if you ever need help or advice, I’m always there to offer some support!

      Like

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