How to write a book

How to write a book

Think that writing and publishing a novel is hard? Guess what: it’s ten times harder. The editor who bought The Regulars read roughly 400 submissions, via agents, the year she bought my book. She could buy a total of seven. A year. Most writers don’t sell their first novel. They sell their third or fourth. You have to submit a polished draft in order to get published, not a patchy first draft and certainly not a proposal. It. Is. Hard.

Okay: now we’ve scared away all the tourists, let’s get down to how you do it.

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1.    Go part-time. The most precious commodity a writer has is time.  I regularly turn down paid work to write: in my last job, I went from five days to four to finish my novel. I wrote nights, weekends and my day off, so I also sacrificed some of my social life (not all: friends keep you sane).

2.    Get serious. Time in the chair is precious. Train your kids not to interrupt you, turn your phone off, use the app Freedom to block the internet. Write through writers block, don’t indulge in it. Treat writing like a real job if you want it to be your real job.

3.    Skill up. No one is talented enough to write a publishable novel without help. Join a writers group, take a workshop, look into MFAs, read craft books or work with a professional developmental editor. Again, it’s a real job that is highly competitive. Loving reading won’t make you a contender.

4.     Write your genre. You are most likely to get published if you write in a genre you’re familiar with: the genre you read. You know what’s a cliché and what’d have you buying a book, because you’re a fan. Never write something because you think it’s marketable and would sell. Fads pass. Passion and authenticity remain.

5.    Don’t go out early. The number one mistake rookie writers make is sending their work to agents or editors before it’s ready. I get it: you’re exhausted, proud and excited to finally have a first draft. Now it’s time to get notes, take a break, and start on a second draft before it goes anywhere. You only get one chance to make an impression. Editors are looking for manuscripts that are all-but ready.  

6.    Keep going. As soon as I sold my first “big” book—an advance that was a year or so’s wage—I started writing the next one. To be a full-time novelist, you need to write and sell a book every 18 months – 2 years (and live cheaply while you do). So, back in that chair, lady. It’s writing time.

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Georgia Clark is the author of The Regulars out 11th August, Simon & Schuster. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and sign up for her newsletter.