My Author Countdown continues into its fifth month with this contribution from seasoned YA author and friend, Richard Hardie.
- Be absolutely certain you want to be an author; it’s a hard slog and statistically only one book gets properly published for every 1,500 that are written. Terrible odds! Mind you, a lot of really awful books are written and even some of those get published. Some people write books just for the thrill of typing the two words “The End” and don’t mind not seeing their work in print. They may even vanity publish and pay for the privilege which can be terribly expensive and guarantees nothing, except that your book will physically exist on your own shelf, if on no one else’s.
- In your first book, write about a subject / location / person that REALLY interests you passionately. It’ll be obvious in your writing, because enthusiasm, like laughing, is contagious. Also make sure you’re writing for the reader and not yourself. Ensure your plot, characters and subject have a universal appeal and not just a personal attraction. Know and understand the age group and genre you’re targeting. If you’re writing as a YA in the 1st person, make sure you’re “voice” is consistent. In my current series the books are narrated in the 1st person by a mid-teenage girl and I frequently reread the previous books to make sure she doesn’t change the way she talks and thinks, except through evolution as she gets older.
- Don’t ramble, or go off at plot tangents. You may know what you’re doing and it may be fun, but your readers will be lost very quickly. Remember the letters G.O.W.T.S. They stand for Get On With The Story and it’s the best piece of advice I ever received. J K Rawling was told much the same on her first three Harry Potter books. She rambled and as a result, what she presented to her agent were 500 page books. She was eventually persuaded to cut them down to 250 pages and the rest was history. However after book three she was powerful enough to dictate how long her books would be and she became a rambler again.
- Get your manuscript professionally proof read, edited and critiqued before presenting it to an agent, or publisher. Remember that any good agent receives between 5 and 8 submissions a day. To have any chance you have to grab their attention within seconds…. and keep it! Agents read the first few lines of the synopsis and 99% of submissions are rejected at that point. Most agents only take on 2 to 3 new clients every year.
- Sometimes it’s good to write a superb beginning and an excellent end before even starting on the middle. Frequently the middle part of the plot will finalise itself as a matter of course, but nothing can beat storyboarding the entire book before putting finger to keyboard.
- Remember that agents and publishers like authors who write series (e.g. Harry Potter). JK had the entire series of Harry Potter books fully mapped out before she submitted to her agent. It shows forward thinking and commitment. No agent, or publisher likes a one-hit-pony, because the first book is there to trail blaze and hopefully create some sort of interest, whereas the sequels are there to make money!
Thank you for these wise words, Richard!
You can find Richard’s books – an intriguing mixture of YA and a detective series – on amazon
I love the covers!