How Not to Spin Your Writing Wheels: A Debut Author’s Advice

by Christa MacDonald 
Like many new authors
I started off making absolutely every mistake in the book. I was all tell and
no show, used more adverbs than an episode of School House Rocks, and I killed
off two characters in my prologue, never mind the fact that I even had a
prologue.  I had many painful lessons to
learn before selling my first book so to save you from the same; I humbly
submit the following insights.
1. Research! This tip starts off with plain ol’ knowing your genre. Are
you Romance, Women’s Fiction, Upmarket, Literary Fiction? There are genres and
sub-genres and you need to know where you book falls before you start to shop
it around to agents or publishers. Best way to know? Find books similar to
yours and read them. Read a lot. Then read some more. By the time you
understand what genre you’re in you’ll probably have a good understand of what
your sub-genre is as well. Research prospective agents. Don’t make the mistake
of querying someone who will auto-reject you because they don’t represent your
2. Word count matters. Now that you’ve researched your genre you’ll know what the
range is for word count. If you’ve got a contemporary romance at 130,000 words
you’re not gonna get a lot of agents or editors willing to look at it. The same
is true if it’s 40,000. If you’re shopping around a high fantasy at 60,000 you’re
not gonna get a lot of interest. Fair? No. But this is a business and as an
agent, why read something you know misses an important criterion.
3. Know your audience. So you’ve written this really compelling story about a
heroin addict and his long journey to sobriety. It’s gritty and real with the
word choices to match.  Probably not a
novel to shop to an agent who deals with young adult or middle-grade novels. As
important as knowing your genre, watching your word count, is knowing who your
likely readers are and what category that puts you in. You want to be sure
you’re querying agents and publishers who are looking for what you’ve written.  You also want to your book to appeal to your
readers. Again, read to research. Seek out comp titles.
4. Edit, revise, and refine. I can’t say this strongly enough. You cannot edit
your own book unless you yourself are an editor. A good one. Get beta readers
for big feedback, but for the heavy lifting you either need to hire an editor
or choose skilled critique partners. A good CP is worth their weight in gold. There’s
online CP forums if you need to seek one out. I found mine on Twitter and they
have been incredibly helpful.  A skilled
CP will point out where you’re telling and not showing, where you switch
tenses, where your characters suddenly act out of character. Then you need to
kill those spots with fire! Chop those adverbs and clean up that writing. Clean
writing can make the difference between pages that get a full request and
endless rejections.

5. Invest
in your career.

Don’t be afraid to pay for that workshop, that editor, or that class if you
think it will improve your writing. If you’re taking this seriously, you need
to invest in your talent. Don’t be afraid to take a risk on yourself. You are
worth it.

How Not to Spin Your #Writing Wheels: A Debut Author’s Advice – @CricketMacD on @NovelRocket (Click to Tweet)

Katherine Grant takes the job at Sweet River Christian Academy hoping a small town in the wilderness of Maine will be a vacation from her high-powered career and a break from the emotional toll of the secrets she has buried deep. With the school director on a power trip and evidence of shady dealings, there’s nothing relaxing about it. Maybe it would be easier if she wasn’t so distracted by Captain MacAlister, the local cop she can’t get along with, yet can’t get out of her head. She didn’t trek up to the middle of nowhere to lose her heart.
Mac doesn’t need the kind of trouble he believes Katherine will bring. He’s got enough to deal with from poachers to drug crime. Mac has rules to maintain his faith, like avoiding the pull of an attractive woman who doesn’t fit his life. But when he meets Katherine, he’s drawn in by her intelligence and strength, despite getting burned by her quick temper.
When near tragedy strikes, Katherine reveals her feelings, and Mac doesn’t hesitate to respond. If only their scars, both seen and unseen, didn’t threaten to tear them apart. Two wary hearts must soften and two steel wills bend if they have any hope of making it down the broken trail to love.
Christa MacDonald began her writing career at the age of eleven, filling a sketchbook with poems and short stories. While at Gordon College she traded the sketchbooks for floppy discs, publishing short personal narratives in the literary journal The Idiom. After graduation and traveling cross-country she settled down to focus first on her career in operations management and then her growing family. When her children reached grade school Christa returned to her love of writing, finding the time between conference calls, dance lessons, and baseball games. 

When not at her desk working or writing, Christa can be found curled up in her favorite chair reading, out and about with her husband and kids, or in the garden.  She lives with her family along the coast of Massachusetts in the converted barn they share with a dog and two formerly-feral cats.
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