This is going to be a long answer! I apologize in advance, but if you’ve ever thought about writing a book, you’re going to love this question from Rachelle!

What valuable advice would you give to a writer starting out?

There is a ton of advice out there. You could read all day and all night and never get through all the advice offered to new writers. Some things you’ll do right, some things you’ll mess up. Some things will be a try and see experiment. Some you’ll figure out off the bat. But my advice is here…

Read, read, and read some more.

Every writer should be a reader. Read books in the genre you want to write in. Dissect these books. How do they work. Read good ones and bad ones and compare them. What makes one better than another? What ‘rules’ are there in each? What rules can be broken and which ones are unbreakable?

In romance, the only hard and fast rule, for me, is that the has to be a HEA, or happily ever after. There should be an ending that leaves you with that warm and fuzzy feeling. Sometimes it’s characters saying I love you, sometimes it’s a wedding or proposal, sometimes it’s just a commitment. But there’s always something that makes you feel like the couple is going to be together.

Find the rules for your genre, and stick to them.

Study everything you can about writing.

Follow writer blogs. Join writer groups. Make writer friends. Immerse yourself in the world of writers. Read books about the craft of writing. Then go back and read more books in your genre and analyze how they fit the guidelines. You will start to learn more about what rules can be broken, and how to break them and make the story better.

Start to build your following.

I know, you think it’s crazy. You don’t have a book out yet. It’s hard to promote nothing, right? But you will one day. Create your pen name, reserve your web presence, and hold pages and accounts on any social media sites you might want to join. Before you have a story out, you can publish a blog and engage with people. Get to know potential readers. Some authors find an agent or editor through social media also. Don’t discount making connections. And if you already have a following, your first book will earn sales, which is always the goal!

Remember to be true to yourself.

I think this was the hardest lesson for me to learn. When you’re starting out, you want to follow all the advice out there. You want to be on every social media site. You want to run massive launch campaigns. You want to guest blog and do book tours and Facebook parties.

And then you’ll wonder when the hell you’re going to write a book.

You won’t be able to do it all. At least, not if you plan to sleep and have a life. Pick and choose what makes the most sense for you. Pick one social media site to build and when that becomes almost automatic, add a second. Or skip social media altogether if you hate it. Publish a blog, or don’t if it doesn’t speak to you. Write six books a year, or two if that’s all you can do.

This is your career. Not someone else’s. Don’t compare yourself to another writer and think you should be doing everything she’s doing. Do what makes sense for you. Be true to you, and enjoy it. 

Thanks so much, Rachelle, for your question! If you have a question, send me an email (mary (at) maryethompson (dot) com) with Q&A in the subject, or post it in the comments below, and I’ll answer your question right here on the blog!

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