No matter where you are in your life or your writing the road to publication starts off at the same point for everyone: unknown debuts. It’s easy to carry things from your life into your writing–expectations of success, timelines, ideas about working relationships and more–but, you have to be easy on yourself, let go of comparison to other writers, and let go of any expectations you are projecting.
Remember: You’re starting at the beginning and for many, it’s the first time you’ve started from scratch in awhile.
How are you going to leave your perceptions about your writing behind and start on the road to publication?
Set realistic goals for your writing. How many words are you going to write per day? When do you want to have your book on submission? Envision your plan from the start and develop a sensible strategy to get there.
Just like when you studied in school, you need to train in your craft. Take a short story writing class. Do an online workshop. Buy a writing guide like Stephen King’s On Writing. Make an effort to learn about the industry you want to be a part of. These are gifts only you can give yourself.
Evaluate your natural skill
Now’s the time to evaluate whether you’re cut out for the publishing business. This should be done early on. Do you have thick skin? Do you see books on the shelf and reasonably think that you can sit along side them? Are you working on a project that will catch the attention of agents and editors?
You’ve decided that writing is for you? Good. Now write. You’re the only one that prove that you can write a marketable novel.
Revisions and edits
Part of writing is editing. Learn how to self-edit and be reflective of your writing. Get a beta reader or a critique group to help.
You only have one chance to make a first impression. So do a close proofread and copyedit to get it ready to show others.
Now that you’ve written and revised your book and know how the business works, you’re going to search for an agent. There is no replacement or short cuts for research. Know what books yours will sit alongside. Know which agents represent authors whom you admire. Get a curated list of agents together.
Write your query
Know what the agents you have on your list are looking for and write your queries to them. Follow guidelines like this.
Now what are you going to do with it?
Whatever you thought you knew about yourself will be challenged everyday when you set yourself a goal this big. There is a difference between expectations and goal setting. Expectations will weigh on you because they are built from a lifetime of learning about yourself and what you think you can achieve. Goal setting creates milestones in the future to work towards and you can–and should–leave all the negativity, comparisons, and muddled expectations behind. You’re starting this goal from scratch so build and support it that way. It needs a foundation (workshops and other skills) before you get to the aesthetic details (complex plots and characters). However, the only way to get started is to put pen to the page, fingers to the keys, and write your way into a position of knowing what you can accomplish without harbouring the past successes and failures in your life and bringing that into this new endeavour. This is your fresh start. What are you going to do with it?