Writing Advice

September 25, 2010 at 5:57 pm (Writing Ranting, young adult)

I just published this over at twittertales. It bears repeating. (In other news, Publisher D inadvertently requested “The Monster Apprentice” so I sent it to them. Publisher B, meanwhile, just let me know that both my books are with one of their readers – ie, progress is happening at last.)

I’d love to know what you guys wish someone had told you when you were working on your first novel.

Here’s mine:

1. Successful writers generally make around $10,000 a year (see #2).

2. Around 1 in 10,000 slushpile manuscripts get published (at a conference recently, I discovered that a large publisher hadn’t accepted a single book in three years – and they get hundreds every week). Meeting someone at a conference and using their name/email changes the odds to about 1 in 200. (You still need to write a brilliant book – unless you’re famous, of course.)

3. Publishers. . .
(a) are all friends with each other, so don’t ever be rude to/about anyone.
(b) actually make a loss on 90% of the books they DO produce, so cut them some slack.
(c) usually take 3-6 months to reply to the opening chapters, and just as long again for the full book. The longest I’ve heard of is four years, and the longest I’ve experienced is 16 months (and counting).
(d) are quaintly optimistic about their response times (if they were realists, they’d quit and get a better job).
(e) will not work with someone who is too lazy to read their submission instructions.
(f) are nice – but they don’t like being hassled.

4. If an agent or publisher charges you money, they’re a scam.

5. Manuscript assessors are useful, especially when you’re starting out, but their recommendations of your work are worth only slightly more than the fact that your mum thought it was super good.

6. For kids and young adults, your protagonist should be a couple of years older than your target audience, and your length needs to be right (check a publisher web site for length details BEFORE you write). Your characters won’t get married or raise kids, because your readers won’t be interested in that experience (not while they’re still at the age they started reading your book, anyway).

7. It generally takes around 10,000 hours of focused practise to get good at writing. Most writers throw away several books before they get good enough to be published.

8. Reading books in your genre is essential. If you don’t read, why do you think anyone will read you?

So, in conclusion, don’t write unless you enjoy writing for its own sake. And keep your day job.

Even if I’d known all of that (and I knew some of it), I’d still be a writer.


  1. Paige von said,

    nice post


    must write

    want others to read, yet writing is the purpose

    • felicitybloomfield said,

      I’d like readers too (more so for my novels, since the twittertales appear to be doing fine).

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