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Tips for the Serious Novelist

Amy Bennet

Developmental Editor | Book Editing Associates

Science Fiction Editor and Author
Developmental Content Editor
Marketing Materials Including Elevator Pitches
Agent Query Packages

This is a marathon, not a sprint. Be prepared for rejection. Be prepared for your work to be ignored, insulted, and misunderstood. Be aware that the people closest to you may not understand why you want to write.

Be honest about your goals, and even more honest about what they mean to you. Lots of people want to be writers, but most of them don’t want to commit the time. Are you in this because you love telling stories and would do it for free?

Create a life that prioritizes writing. This might mean living cheaply. It might mean doing unglamorous work to make ends meet. It might mean staying up late, getting up early, and working weekends. It might mean having a dirty house sometimes.

Learn to be okay with exposure and vulnerability. Writing is intimacy that’s done in public.

Make friends who care about the same things as you. Go to conventions, use Twitter and Facebook, listen to podcasts, read blogs, go to classes or workshops or Meetups, and find people who are doing what you’re doing. They will become your emotional support and your professional network.

Read. Read everything you can, not just what you stumble upon for free online. Read during your lunch break and when you’re in the bathroom. Everyone thinks they know how to write but unless you’ve read a lot of books you may not have a clue about what goes into one.

Envision your career. Do you hope to write ten, twenty, fifty novels? If not, this might be a hobby rather than a career. Publishing a book is an admirable goal, but be realistic about the odds that it will reach a large audience. It’s a rare writer these days who succeeds with their first and only novel.

Be specific when you picture what success will look like. A published story? A completed novel? An agent? A ranking on Amazon? A book contract with a major publisher? A Hugo Award? A movie deal? Foreign sales? Being able to quit your day job? How would you feel if you succeeded? And how much is that success worth to you? Is it more important than sleeping in, watching Netflix, or going out with your friends?

Give yourself every advantage you can, because your manuscript gets one chance. Agents and publishers aren’t going to read something they have already said no to. Editors do less editing these days, and the agents who now do more of the editing have limited time and motivation to correct a manuscript by an unknown writer. If you’re self publishing, be aware that once a reader gets turned off, they aren’t likely to come back.

And good luck. If you have what it takes, your readers are waiting.


About the Author

Amy Bennet

Amy is a critically acclaimed and agented science fiction novelist who enjoys helping writers get their careers going. She can steer you toward the agents and publishers who best fit your work and answer your questions about writing and publishing with honesty and empathy. As a novel editor she pays special attention to the most daunting aspects of stories: plot, character, and pacing, to ensure the best chances of success. Working in publishing for over a decade has taught her how important a professional network is, and she can help you build yours. Published books that she has edited include science fiction, fantasy, horror, crime, thriller, erotica, and literary criticism.

Amy has worked for Locus, the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop, and a major Japanese publisher. A Clarion 2004 graduate with years of peer workshop experience, Amy has spoken about literature and publishing around the world.

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