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!
Excellent blog and yes, love the covers. Writing is a hard slog and for anyone thinking about becoming an author, three words I give you. Commitment, dedication, passion. And the greatest of these is passion.
Sound advice, Claire!
I totally agree, Claire. If you don’t have passion abour your writing, how can your readers?
Reblogged this on Crooked Cats' Cradle.
Reblogged this on Anita & Jaye Dawes.
Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
Great advice from Author Richard Hardie 😀
Very welcome Richard – Sound advice and straight talking 👍😃
I loved the article, the only thing I would disagree on is J.K Rowling’s rambling! Plot tangents can make the story more interesting, personally I love a good plot ramble.
Actually I agree, Eric, a well placed and controlled ramble can add to the enjoyment of a book. However when JK first gave the initial HP book to Chris, her agent at that time, he told her that no publisher will publish a YA book with more than 235 pages from a first time author, because it’s too big a risk. He persuaded her to cut Philosopher’s Stone from around 50 pages to 235 and it became a faster paced book in every way. The oiut-takes and edits were in many cases used in subsequent HP books of course!
That should have read 500 pages, not 50!
Pretty much followed this advice. Chose a setting and a narrator I love;wrote a series of 10 original stories; revised it into one book and self-published it; am continuing the series, working hard at blogging and marketing and book is doing well, but I’m spending too much time away from actual writing. I now realize I need an agent and so I’ll be trying to figure out that whole new element in the next few weeks. Thanks for the tips in respect to agents.
Glad this has helped you, Claremary. I, too, have been thinking along the lines of an agent – problem is how to find one! Perhaps that should be another subject for discussion.
I’m carefully looking into it and will do a celebratory blog post if at all successful!
Well done, Claremary!
Finding a good agebnt is very difficult. Typically every good agent receives an average of 8 submissions every day, so getting their attention is very, very difficult. Sometimes professional editing services (like Cornerstones) have the ear of agents and will pass their clients on if warranted. Literary Festivals and Writing Buddy groups can help, or even sometimes ask an author you know really, really well whether they have an agent and could they introduce you. I don’t have an agent in the UK at the moment and do miss the interaction with a professional to guide me.
A very informative post.
Sound advice, Richard, for all new writers and those thinking of putting fingers to the keyboard. I also agree with Claire Stibbe, commitment,dedication and passion are essential if you are to really succeed. The book at the point of publication has, however, only got you to ‘base camp’ on the mountain that one must climb to be a successful author. You then need the confidence to promote your book whilst writing the next, not as easy as it sounds.
Too true! But you don’t only need confidence, you need perseverance, dedication and vision in ample measures. Wish I could have them all of the time!
You’re absolutely right, Richard. One book is only the start and the hard work comes when you have to market and sell it. You and I (and Jane) have done joint signing days at bookshops. They can be fantastic fun with a queue of people (Lee-on-the-Solent), or can result in drinking lots of coffee and chatting to each other with one book sold. Still great fun though!
I like J.K. Rowling, but you’re right, she’s quite a rambler. Exactly my thoughts when her last Harry Potter books kept getting longer and longer. In the end, I think it just got THAT long because she wanted to tie all possible loose ends together. Victor Hugo, a fave of mine, also came to mind when you mentioned rambler. He rambled a lot about architecture. Nevertheless, I love his books.
Oops. I meant Mr. Hardie when i said “you”
It’s so nice to be called “Mr”! It’s usually “Oi, you!”.
Her books got so long because she became so powerful. Strangely her publisher (Bloomsbury) made less money per book because the shipping, printing and storage costs of a 600 pages book are so much higher than one only 235 pages long. Equally supermarkets were using them as a loss leader, undercutting independent book shops. In the end few people made much money out of the HP books, except of course JKR herself and her agent who made £50m before she sacked him.
Wow…I never knew THESE!!! Great info. I never thought about stuff like these. You really learn everyday from other people if you just take the time.
Oh, by the way, I shared a link to this on my FB page, Mr. (!) Hardie, just want to let you and Ms. Bwye know 🙂
I actually like the HP books and read them quite openly on the train going to London. Other businessmen hid them behind copies of the FT! My initial agent told me that you’re taking your reader on a journey from London to Edinburgh (not literally), and quite possible the reader doesn’t want to go via Cardiff, Lowestoft and Paris. They’ll just get confused and want to get out of your car! Especially if they’ve paid for the petrol!
“Other businessmen hid them behind copies of the FT!”
Reblogged this on The End Justifies the Journey and commented:
There are very good tips here from author Richard Hardie. Incidentally, you can find him at RHardie.com and at his blog, richardhardies.blogspot.com…
Thank you to Jane Bwye for giving us opportunities to learn from the professionals. Kudos to you both!
Many thanks, J. Greatly appreciated
Reblogged this on Etcetera and commented:
Re-blogging this because I might need it someday. I’ve considered writing a novel before, but it never really materialized. You know what? I’m thinking about it again. 🙂
(Special thanks to Miss Gi for re-blogging this!)
Great news, Jane. Just put pen to paper, and add perseverance…
Good for you, Jane!