By Jeanine Englert
Writing may feel like it’s done in a lonely dark void most of the time. Perhaps that’s a bit overdramatic. It’s only that way when the words don’t flow. However, most of the time, it is a solitary endeavor: you versus the blank page. But, the path to publication is a rowdy, carnival like journey full of people. Some are trying to sell you wares you don’t want or need, others try to get you to buy tickets to a ride that’s not for you, but through all of that you also find other lovely writers who become your lifelong friends and mentors. People you would have never met if you hadn’t been united by the love and obsession with the need to tell your stories, share your character’s lives, and to become that thing that is the published author.
Along my own journey, which began in January of 2013 when I joined Romance Writers of America and Georgia Romance Writers, I have met some of the most amazing people. Many of them gifted me with advice that I still to this day use, and I thought today should be the day I share five of my favorite pieces of writing advice. To protect the innocent, I have not added the names of the authors that shared such advice with me. As with all unsolicited advice, take what makes sense and resonates with you and run from the rest.
Tip #1: Just because a publishing or agent says yes to you, doesn’t mean you have to say yes to them.
This one is a doozy. As an unpublished author all you want is to BE published, right? So a yes from any agent or any publishing house begins to sound like blissful wind chimes in your ears. But, don’t be fooled. Do your research on who it is that is offering to represent or publish you. If it sounds too good, it might be. If they are new to the business, be extra careful. Above all, check them out. Look at sites that help you weed out the good versus the bad like writer beware and query tracker. Take your time, trust your gut, and say no if you want to. The most important thing is that you say yes to yourself and your manuscript.
TIP #2: If three or more people give you the same feedback on your manuscript, then listen.
It can be hard to hear what isn’t great about your story. It often feels like your heart has been ripped from your chest and is being held in that other person’s hand while it’s still beating. But, here’s the truth of it. If three or more of your beta readers give you similar feedback and suggestions for changes to your manuscript, then take their words to heart. If it’s just one person, it might just be personal taste, but more than three often means there is a significant flaw that should be addressed . . . and quickly.
TIP #3: Stay in your own lane.
If you think the first two pieces of advice were hard to take, this one may seem like climbing Mt. Everest, but you will save your sanity if you stay in your own lane and focus on your writing, your books, and your successes. Once you begin comparing yourself to another writer’s career, you begin to steal all of the joy from your own journey. You’ll never feel satisfied or content with your successes because you will always be doing better than someone else and worse than someone else. It’s just facts. Give yourself the gift of only competing with yourself and reaching your next goal. It’s really difficult to do, and I still struggle with this one all the time. It takes practice not to compare.
TIP #4: Listen to your manuscript from end to beginning when editing.
This was an editing game changer for me. Listening to my books always helps me to hear my errors and doing it from the end to the beginning helps me to find more plot holes, repetition, and continuity issues than I would have otherwise. So after I finish a draft, I listen to the last chapter, then the second to last chapter, etc. until I reach page 1. If you’ve never tried this, give it a whirl. It is my absolute favorite editing tip.
TIP #5: Let go of people who do not support your dream of becoming a writer and your worries of what they think of you.
Okay, perhaps THIS is the hardest of the five, but it will free you and your writing in a way that nothing else did for me. If you’re like me, writing and my writing are a core, soul-tied aspect of who I am. To say otherwise is a lie, and for years I pretended like it wasn’t that important to me. Because to say out loud how important it was and be scoffed for it seemed, well, unsurvivable. But, you do survive it, and knowing where people stand in their belief in or lack of belief in you and your dream is quite telling. And once you grieve that disappointment, you can let them go or at least let go of your worry over what they may think of you or your writing.
Then, suddenly, you find that your words flow more smoothly without the thorns of judgment being pressed into you or them. Write all of the stories of your heart without fear of anything because those are the stories that capture readers and don’t let go.
Most of all don’t ever begrudge your gifts as a writer. There is a Hank Williams Jr. quote that I love, and I think it applies to writing as well as music. He said “People don’t write music. It’s given to them.”
I believe stories are the same. Cherish the ones that are given to you and your duty as the shepherd of those words.
Care to share your favorite writing advice? Feel free to drop a comment and share them with us. I’d love to see them!
Jeanine Englert is a Golden Heart ® Finalist, Silver Falchion Award Winner, and Daphne du Maurier Award Winner in historical romantic suspense. After years of writing in secret, she joined Romance Writers of America and Georgia Romance Writers in 2013 and has been an active member ever since. She writes Scottish Highland historicals and historical romantic suspense novels.
When she isn’t wrangling with her characters on the page, she can be found trying to convince her husband to watch her latest Masterpiece or BBC show obsession. She loves to talk about books, writing, her beloved pups, and of course mysteries with other readers on Twitter @JeanineWrites, Facebook, or at her website www.jeaninewrites.com.
Her debut novel, Lovely Digits, released in June of 2019 by Soul Mate Publishing, is a Victorian romantic suspense that won the 2020 Silver Falchion Award for Best Mystery and the 2020 Maggie Award for Best Romantic Suspense. It also won the 2017 Daphne du Maurier Award and was named a 2018 Golden Heart ® Finalist for best unpublished romantic suspense.
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