Saturday, November 3, 2007

Novel Writing

I mentioned NaNoWriMo a couple of days ago. I'm sure that at the end of this, many people who actually managed to turn out 50,000 words of precious, absolutely brilliant, ground-breaking, Pulitzer-winning material just want to see it in print. Lots of people will do that for you—or pretend to—for a price. When you think about it, this is a situation ripe for someone to take advantage of. A writes a book. Convinced that it is the next Great American Novel, he or she sends it off to several publishers and agents. He doesn't hear anything for a while, but when he does, no one seems to share his opinion of his work. All say, "Sorry, not right for us." Finally, he finds an agent who guarantees results, but who wants a reading fee. That seems reasonable. Or he finds a publisher who charges him to publish the work, but points out that they will be in featured on Amazon and in a major national chain. Surely he'll recover the fee and be making more money than he ever dreamed of. I've written one novel so far, and I haven't gotten any published yet (I haven't tried, since it was crap). So my credentials on this are thin. But I do know this: writing is hard. All stages of the writing process are hard. Writing is hard, editing is hard, getting an agent is hard, getting a publisher is hard (which is why people hire agents to do it), marketing your book is hard (which is why publishers help). There are no shortcuts. Talent helps. Being willing to look hard at your work and to take criticism helps. But perseverance, stubbornness, and sweat are critical. The point? Be careful. You are probably fine, but many new writers aren't aware of what rubbish their work is, and many people are willing to feed them lies, take their money, and deliver nothing. Before you try to get published, do two things. First, ask yourself why you want to be published. Do you want to hold a printed book in your hand with your name on the spine? Fine, self-publishing or print on demand (POD) is probably fine. But if you want to be read by strangers or make money writing fiction, the traditional publishing industry—while it has its problems—is your best chance right now. And face it, most people write to be read, being published is just a means to that end. Second, do your homework. Visit Writers Beware. Hopefully, you'll be establishing a long-term business relationship with your agent. Make sure it's someone honest, someone good at their job, someone you can work with. Write well. Be safe.

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