The path to becoming an author?

Alright, it’s been a hot minute since I started this journey! I asked myself recently what have I really accomplished in writing? I am new to the writing community and I feel it! You want to know what it takes to become a published author? So do I… What I have learned is it’s so much more than just words on a page.

Let me start with I am NOT A published author and right now not sure when I will be. It’s a lot of hard work and TIME! I work FT and have a family plus I was finishing my bachelors degree when I started this journey. That doesn’t mean I don’t have plans to publish my book, but it’s definitely a longer process then I expected. Right now I am considering the traditional path, but as I’ve learned my expectations needed to be adjusted. Traditional publishing is a long path and typical takes 3-5 years (if it happens!) so, don’t expect your great work of art to be published the second it’s finished, was definitely something I needed to know.

The writing process

Let’s start here. The editing process was probably the biggest area I learned about. Multiple stages of editing from developmental, (I got so much great feedback for it!) To the final proofread, all of which I did not know about. Or at least not in formality. Being in college and university, I wrote a lot of papers, but not nearly on the same scale, nor at such an in-depth review of the work. Here I thought spell check and grammar were enough 😂.

Here I thought I was done…
Not even close to the finished copy😂

I went through months of editing, no seriously… If you look through my computer you will see about 7 full variations of the manuscript, because I am NEW and don’t know what works best so I did the long haul and saved every draft separately after every round from developmental editing to beta readers to the final proofread. To make it worse I also tried multiple platforms to see what worked best for me (I do not recommend this way!) After some serious revisions, and massive editing, I finally think I have something! I sent it out to betas and got pretty great feedback that made me make a few more changes.

Clearly seasoned authors don’t go through all of this, but as a newbie… my first draft was a hot mess of every cliché ‘rookie’ mistake. Overwritten, overwhelming and a bad case of verbal diarrhea! I think my first draft was about 130,000 words and only 3/4 of the way done… I can pretty much split it into two books. YIKES!

FINALLY… I can say (drumroll please) I finished my 1st manuscript! YAY!! It’s an accomplishment all on its own! Many writers can take years to finish a manuscript, and I completely understand why! Now that’s all that’s left to do is figure out how to get it published and into readers’ hands!

There are so many things I am still learning besides just writing my thoughts on the paper and enough of them to form an actual story. Something I hope readers will enjoy. As someone new to the industry, the behind the scenes of writing was something I started looking at after I was about halfway through my first draft. If you’re asking yourself what do I mean, it’s things like formatting, research, and not just information for the book, but understanding industry standards like how to submit, query my manuscript for each agent or publisher I’m submitting it to.

The right path?

This brings me to another important question I asked myself: What path of publishing do I want to take? Traditional, small press, indie? All of them have merit. Indie publishing (self-publishing) is on the rise. Authors and writers have more freedoms and control over their books than traditional publishing, which can take YEARS to even get in the door with. On average, it takes about 3 years to go down the traditional path. One thing that helps is getting an agent, but finding an agent is like a needle in the haystack. Like many other professions Covid hit the industry hard and they are also facing mountains of backlogged work. Many publishers, especially the big ones, don’t have open submissions, or if they do, it’s few and far between.

How do I find an agent? Why do I need one? These are all things I have been asking myself during this process and yes, I would think that as a new author, an agent is going to be the best option for me. The experience and the know-how is crucial in so many aspects and not simply just for getting my book out there. How do I get an agent? Now that’s the tricky part. The entire process of ‘querying’ is research and research into all the agents who represent my genre, that are open to submissions and that are looking for things specific to my book. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack. I won’t lie, it’s tough and can be heartbreaking to see form rejections of it’s just not right for me, or it’s not as captivating as we hoped. Some authors can query for years before they get somewhere and some give up. Cue the stress… But for now I still have hope.

One surprising thing I’ve learned is that not everyone publishes the first book they write… it’s often shelved and other projects start and finish and might get published before going back to that first book baby and maybe reworking it, or sadly never publishing it.

I will say that although I am attempting the traditional path, it doesn’t mean I am not learning about self-publishing. Giving myself a realistic time frame for how long I want to follow the path is a good start. I don’t want to rush into throwing my book out there and having it not fully ready or being terribly reviewed, simply because I didn’t understand the process enough. There’ are a lot of things I need to learn, like how to self-publish, the best platforms, how to market it on my own, and the basic in and outs of putting a book out there.

One way I plan to learn more and make friends is attending a writing conferences. Which one is the best? There are a lot of choices. I found two that I am very interested in, but one is in person in NYC, a weekend away, no kids or the hubs… tempting, but it’s also soooo expensive! Which again, what can I afford to do? How much should I be investing at such an early stage in this journey?

What have I learned?

I learned I love writing, creating and coming up with new ideas on classic stories. My feedback on my book has been great, which tells me I have a good story, it might need a touch more finessing and that’s all part of the process. I absolutely need to dive into the backside more and make friends in this community.

I find the process easier and quicker already, I’ve gone back a few times with this new book and only had to make minor changes and that already feels so much better! I know what to expect this time and I feel like my writing has changed already! I can’t wait to see how it evolves the more I write.

What am I working on now? A new romance novel, I’m almost done the first draft and then I let it rest for a bit before going back to it with fresh eyes and start the editing process. You can find a sneak peek of my WIPS on my webpage under Madyn’s news.

Obviously, I am still fumbling in the dark here as a new writer. The deeper I delve into the publishing path, the more I learn I know nothing about it. I was foolish enough to think writing the book was the hard part (HA! right? I know…). I know I am not an author yet, but I will be! Considering I only really started writing in January 2021, I would say I have accomplished A LOT! The biggest thing was typing ‘the end’ of that final draft!

Anyone else out in the newbie zone? Tell me your experiences…

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