Check self-entitlement at the door. Your novel is a fresh start.

Emmitt Smith

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?

Goal setting

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.

Edit again

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?

Published by Carly Watters

Carly Watters is a SVP, senior literary agent and director of literary branding with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent that develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career. Never without a book on hand she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents and is actively seeking new authors in including women’s fiction, commercial and upmarket fiction, select literary fiction, platform-driven non fiction and select memoir. She occasionally represents children's book projects. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

9 thoughts on “Check self-entitlement at the door. Your novel is a fresh start.

  1. Great advice! Two things you mentioned in particular have really helped me: One, reading (and re-reading) On Writing. And two, reading tips from agents and other writers on the process – how to query, who to query, and what the industry looks like today. My plan is to be published; my goal is to stay positive and focused throughout the process. Thanks again.


  2. I have a question. I sent a partial to an agent who requested it (first 25 pages) and after I sent it, I realized I had included the first 25 pages when I queried and her response had asked for the NEXT 25 pages. I sent off an apology email, attaching the first 50 pages instead, but I feel like an idiot. Did I ruin my chances with her??


    1. If the agent requested it, I’m sure they still want to read it. I doubt it will be held against you, but it depends on the person and how particular they are about format and submissions.


  3. Thanks for another great article. I hope you’ll forgive me for saying so, but sometimes I feel the publishing industry spends a lot of time trying to put writers in their place. A common theme is that we shouldn’t expect too much, we should just keep our noses down and be grateful. Keep working and don’t be too pushy or grouchy.

    Why not have crazy, audacious goals and expect amazing things? A lot of us are working really hard and I don’t think it’s crazy to feel entitled to success. Aren’t we all at least entitled to want that? Maybe others work well when the industry is beating them down, but for me, my best writing comes when I’m feeling the most confident, the most sure that my work will triumph. After all, isn’t is the squeaky wheel that gets the grease?


    1. Hi Amy! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      A couple comments:

      The industry tries to help authors manage expectations because it is hard out there. And as I mention in one of my goal setting points you have to have thick skin because no matter how happy and ambitious you are, there are going to be hard times. All agents have authors that work so damn hard and don’t find a publisher. That’s why we’re selective with taking on authors and that’s why we have to manage what they think they’ll get out of the process and get them ready for the business side of publishing.

      Authors are opinionated! That’s why some of them are great writers in their genre etc. So I don’t think writers should ever feel that they can’t share their opinions.

      I think it’s wonderful to be ambitious and want big things, but at the end of the day writers have to deliver on those big expectations if they want to be mainstream published and get marketed in a big way.

      I wish you and your crazy, audacious goals all the best!!! And I hope you’re the exception to the rule :) Go Amy!


What do you think? I love hearing from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: