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What Should I Do Next? (in Writing or Publishing) by Marie Lavender

I wanted to come in and talk about a specific topic. I get so many people, mostly aspiring writers, reaching out to me for advice and the one question I see the most is…

“What should I do next?”

In other words, the writers believe they have exhausted their options. Or maybe they simply haven’t read up on that particular subject. But, there is a moment, I think, in every writer’s career in which you don’t know what to do next, what steps to take. This is usually the moment I become a sponge; I try to absorb every article around and glean every tidbit I can from other writers who have been through the process.

Nothing…I repeat, nothing prepares you for the writing or publishing journey like making mistakes and learning from them. Is it a hard road? Definitely. Will I offer up some advice anyway? Of course. That’s what writing blogs are all about.

So, what am I really discussing today? Well, it’s that moment when you throw up your hands and ask yourself if the process is worth it. I’ll never encourage anyone to give up, but we all have to decide if we’re willing to put forth the effort. If you have the determination to keep going, then you can survive in this crazy business. And that’s not to say that all writers have to be published. Some are totally content with using writing as a hobby, and there’s nothing at all wrong with that. You should do what makes you happy, no matter what dream you have.

Let’s talk about writing for a minute, though. You’ve poured your heart out onto a manuscript, fallen in love with your characters (or maybe not in the case of non-fiction, but you at least believe in your subject) and made that story or novel the best you can. Do you do this for the joy of writing? Or because you want a quick path to money? Maybe you want more than anything to see your name in print or to see the proof of your work in the best form possible. A bookstore? An ebook?

So, what are your motivations? Figure that out first because this road isn’t easy and having that goal in mind will help you through so much. For myself, I do it because I love to write, because I can’t imagine doing anything else. Seeing my name in print? Well, that’s just a bonus. I don’t do it for money. If that was my real motivation, I think it would be an empty journey. But, I digress.

Writing should be a fun process. Is it full of work? Sure. Research is work. Though it’s fascinating, it can occasionally be hard to find the right information. And when you’re designing your story, it can be challenging if you encounter a character that is particularly difficult or a plot element that requires some finesse. Despite the random obstacles, you should love this process if you love writing at all.

I get questions related to writing such as “I have an idea for a story or book, but I don’t know what to do next. What do I do?” 

My advice? Write.   

“Yeah, that’s pretty obvious, Marie.”  

Look, I know you think it’s a challenge because of all those articles out there telling you how to write a perfect scene or what words NOT to use. But, believe me, that is something you can worry about later. You think you have an idea for the next Great American novel? That’s wonderful! Stop talking about it and write. Even if you only write a paragraph or a chapter, you’ve made progress. You don’t have any time?  Believe me, I understand. We're all busy people. But, it is feasible. Read Matty Millard’s article on the Writing in the Modern Age blog here. He explains how you can fit writing into your crazy life. I’ve said it time and time again. The only person disappointed in the fact that you’re not writing is YOU. Well, unless you already have books out and then you’re just making your readers antsy too. LOL. 

But, if you’re an aspiring writer, all you have to do is try.  

There is no perfect way to start writing. If you have trouble getting there, maybe you need to break through that clutter in your brain.  

We carry so much responsibility, so much worry, so much junk in our heads that it’s sometimes necessary to bypass it. How do you break through that clutter? Try brainstorming or journaling. Or, just freewrite for ten minutes about whatever comes into your mind. Break through that block and get to the heart of what matters. Your story.  

Think all of that brainstorming/journaling/freewriting is useless? It’s not. Not really. I have written poems from entire passages when I went back and read them months later. I have started great stories based on one random line of text. Never think that any effort is stupid. It’s not. You just have to be open-minded enough to use what's there in front of you.  

So start writing. Get down a paragraph or a chapter. Too daunting? Even just a scene would be an excellent start. Maybe you know more about your characters than what’s going to happen in the story. Great! Do a character worksheet. Here are some good questions to answer. I did a guest blog post on it once. Any effort, even the smallest ones, will get you closer to the goal.

“What goal is that?” you ask. Well, in this case, it’s finishing that short story or book. Just write. You can worry about the technical stuff later.

“What should I do next?”

Yes, what do you do after your book is written? Do you look for a publisher? Nope. The real work begins now.

Become an editor. 

What? Isn’t that what editors are for?

Hmm…yes, in a way, but don’t be arrogant enough to think that someone else will do all the work for you. This is your story, which means the final call is yours now and you have to make the changes. When I say “become an editor”, you don’t have to go to school for it, by any means. By now, if you are a writer, maybe you’ve taken a Creative Writing class. And even if you haven’t, we’ve certainly had English classes in school, telling us the correct ways to use grammar.

Apply what you’ve learned. I imagine some of you get annoyed when you see a typo in the newspaper or even in a published book. Have you ever read something that didn’t sound quite right, but you weren't sure why? That was most likely awkward wording and it could have been improved. So, if any of this sounds familiar, you are quickly on your way to becoming a writer-editor. 

That’s not a word, Marie. 

Yes, I know. Thanks. Now I’m talking to myself, but I digress.

You need to be both writer and editor in this business. You MUST edit your own work. I recommend that you take a break from your manuscript for awhile, at least a couple of weeks or longer, before you try. If you do it sooner than that, you probably will overlook most errors because you’re way too close to the text. One method to brush up on your editing skills is to offer to become a beta reader or critique partner for another writer. You’ll see more glaring errors in someone else's work first. We are just naturally wired that way. In Creative Writing classes, workshops are done with this very idea in mind. It is also bad to start reading and bookmarking articles about how to edit your own work. I find C.S. Lakin (or Susanne Lakin) to be an invaluable resource in this regard. Subscribe to her blog/newsletter and you’ll get an email several times a week, or at least once a week. Subscribe to other blogs that provide this kind of help too. Ryan Lanz has some good tips, as does Now Novel, Crimson League, Write to Done and The Write Life.

Also, take some time to read books by other authors. Maybe that is just the key to stepping away from your own work for a bit. Pay attention to the story and the way it reads. It is always good to get an idea of voice and particular techniques other writers use. You may even find your internal editor waking up, ready to chomp at the bit. Enjoy the book, but also ask questions. “Why did this author decide to use first person point of view?” Or, “should the writer be switching point of view so much?” All good questions. (By the way, head-hopping is actually a bad thing.)

There are, of course, lots of story elements to wonder about. Examine techniques used, but don’t necessarily mimic them.  

You want to be true to yourself, but be open to fixing mistakes in your work. And prepare yourself. In the beginning, there will probably be a LOT of mistakes in your work. That’s normal. You’ll receive feedback from people and you’ll quickly see the merits of this system. After you’ve gained some much needed space from your manuscript, you can go back to it with an editor’s approach. If you have to, picture the editor on your shoulder as that stern teacher you had in grade school, the one that was willing to smack your knuckles with a ruler if you stepped out of line. Okay, maybe she wasn’t that bad, but we all had a pretty stern one.In any case, this perspective keeps you from straying too far away from editor mode. You may have moments in which you think, “Oh, that line is good! Did I really write that?” It might not happen often, but it could. Okay, bask in it for a moment, then move on. Don’t let yourself fall in love with the story as it is. Now is not the time. You need to look at the manuscript with an eagle eye.

I usually do three rounds of self-editing with some time between before I let anyone else look at my work. I don’t like to send out a total rough draft; that’s just me. But, it is courteous to get the major errors that you can find corrected before foisting your work on anyone else. And it will make you feel better about sending your work into the ether too.

Where do you find critique partners or beta readers? There are some groups on Yahoo!  There are also plenty of writer discussion groups on Facebook and LinkedIn where you can put out requests. Give a brief description of your work (blurb), the length and anything else you think they might need to know. Offer to proof or beta read someone else's work. People usually want something in exchange for their time. However, I have had just as many betas happy enough to read a new story. Writing classes are also great resources if you have the money. Most of the time, you won’t be able to offer an entire manuscript in those, but you can get part of it looked at. There are also some places out that help you find local writing groups.

After you have edited your work as much as you can and made the suggested corrections, I would recommend sending that final draft to a proofreader or professional editor. There will always be something you missed. Oh, one final thing. You are not going to agree with every suggestion from betas or critique partners. You will be asked to make drastic changes, and some might make you want to scream. If you come upon this dilemma, weigh the change carefully to see if it will really alter your story’s vision or not. Perhaps it will improve the manuscript. Who knows? Just keep an open mind.

So…

“What should I do next?”

What, you thought the real work was over? Nah. It gets more interesting. Now, you have to decide whether you’ll make a go of traditional publishing or opt for self-publishing. They are completely different animals. Maybe you want to try traditional and use self-publishing as back-up plan.  If you’re going to try traditional publishing, two invaluable resource are Authors Publish (they often email about noteworthy publishers) and QueryTracker (helps to track your query progress).  And if you’re going to self-publish, finding a great cover is key. I have seen some very affordable options on GoOnWrite. They offer pre-designed covers or premades. Of course, there are tons of other options on the internet, depending on the genre of your book. I have browsed for potential covers on SelfPub Book Covers and The Book Cover Designer. There are lots of others, complete with different price ranges. You can also go for a custom cover. I have used the remarkable talents of Sherry Soule at SwoonWorthy Book Covers several times. 

It’s likely I have confused you now. “What are you talking about, Marie? What are all these sites?” For more details about traditional and self-publishing, you can look at this article I did on Linda Lee Williams’ blog about the “big choice” and what to do in both cases. I would go into more detail here, but I am running out of time and space.  

I hope I have helped you cut through some of those “What should I do next?” questions. As always, happy writing and I’m so glad you got to visit the blog today!  :)

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Tags: article, author, authors, blog, challenges, craft, editing, fiction, helping, honing, More…message, new, publishing, readers, tips, writers, writing, your

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Paragraphs Bookstore Mount Vernon, OH
The Bookshelf Cincinnati, OH
The Learned Owl Book Shop Hudson, OH
Oklahoma
Brace Books & More Ponca City, OK
Oregon
Annie Bloom's Books Portland, OR
Beach Books Inc. Seaside, OR
Bloomsbury Books Ashland, OR
Broadway Books Portland, OR
Grass Roots Books & Music Corvallis, OR
Jacobsen's Books & More, LLC Hillsboro, OR
Jan's Paperbacks Aloha, OR
Klindt's Booksellers The Dalles, OR
Oregon Books & Games Grants Pass, OR
Paulina Springs Books Redmond, OR 
Sisters, OR
Powell's Books, Inc Portland, OR
Sunriver Books & Music Sunriver, OR
University of Oregon Bookstore Eugene, OR
VJ Books Tualatin, OR
Waucoma Bookstore Hood River, OR
Winter River Books Bandon, OR
Pennsylvania
Aaron's Books Lititz, PA
Chester County Book Company West Chester, PA
Doylestown Bookshop Doylestown, PA
Firefly Bookstore Kutztown, PA
From My Shelf Wellsboro, PA
Gettysburg College Bookstore Gettysburg, PA
Giovanni's Room Philadelphia, PA
Harleysville Books Harleysville, PA
Head House Books Philadelphia, PA
Main Point Books Bryn Mawr, PA
Moravian Book Shop Bethlehem, PA
Mystery Lovers Bookshop Oakmont, PA
Newtown Bookshop Newtown, PA
Otto's, A Booklover's Paradise Williamsport, PA
Penguin Bookshop Sewickley, PA
The Quiet Man Bookshop, LLC Mountainhome, PA
Towne Book Center Collegeville, PA
Wellington Square Bookshop Exton, PA
La Maison Anglaise Quebec City, Qu
Rhode Island
Barrington Books Barrington, RI
Island Books Middletown, RI 
Newport, RI
Island Bound Block Island, RI
South Carolina
Books on Broad Camden, SC
Booksmith Seneca, SC
Burry Bookstore Hartsville, SC
Fiction Addiction Greenville, SC
South Dakota
Mitzi's Books Rapid City, SD
Prairie Pages Bookseller Pierre, SD
Tennessee
Applegarth Books Millington, TN
Parnassus Books Nashville, TN
Reading Rock Books Dickson, TN
The Booksellers at Laurelwood Memphis, TN
Union Avenue Books Knoxville, TN
Texas
Blue Willow Bookshop Houston, TX
Book Spot Round Rock, TX
BookPeople Austin, TX
BookWoman Austin, TX
Brazos Bookstore, LLC Houston, TX
Katy Budget Books Houston, TX
Murder By The Book Houston, TX
Paragraphs on Padre Blvd. South Padre Island, TX
The Dock Bookshop Fort Worth, TX
The Twig Book Shop San Antonio, TX
Utah
Back of Beyond Books Moab, UT
Braun Books Cedar City, UT
BYU Bookstore Provo, UT
The King's English Bookshop Salt Lake City, UT
Weller Book Works Salt Lake City, UT
Virginia
One More Page, LLC Arlington, VA
Over the Moon Bookstore & Artisan Gallery Crozet, VA
Prince Books Norfolk, VA
Scrawl Books Reston, VA
Sundial Books Chincoteague, VA
The Fountain Bookstore Richmond, VA
Winchester Book Gallery Winchester, VA
Virgin Islands
Reader's Nook St. Thomas, VI
Undercover Books & Gifts Christiansted, VI
Vermont
Bartleby's Books Wilmington, VT
Book Nook Ludlow, VT
Northshire Bookstore Manchester Center, VT (Multiple Locations)
Norwich Bookstore Norwich, VT
Phoenix Books Burlington, VT 
Essex Junction, VT
The Flying Pig Bookstore Shelburne, VT
The Galaxy Bookshop Hardwick, VT
Vermont Book Shop Middlebury, VT
Village Square Booksellers Bellows Falls, VT
Washington
...and Books, Too! Clarkston, WA
A Book For All Seasons Leavenworth, WA
Ada's Technical Books and Cafe Seattle, WA
Auntie's Bookstore Spokane, WA
Book 'n' Brush Chehalis, WA
Eagle Harbor Book Company Bainbridge Island, WA
Edmonds Bookshop Edmonds, WA
Elliott Bay Book Company Seattle, WA
Garfield Book Company at PLU Tacoma, WA
Inklings Bookshop Yakima, WA
Island Books Mercer Island, WA
King's Books Tacoma, WA
Liberty Bay Books Poulsbo, WA
Lopez Bookshop Lopez Island, WA
Mockingbird Books Seattle, WA
Mostly Books Gig Harbor, WA
Orca Books Inc. Olympia, WA
Port Book and News Port Angeles, WA
Queen Anne Book Company Seattle, WA
Riverwalk Books Limited Chelan, WA
Seattle Mystery Bookshop Seattle, WA
The Secret Garden Bookshop Seattle, WA
The Traveler Bainbridge Island, WA
Third Place Books Lake Forest Park, WA 
Seattle, WA
University Book Store Seattle, WA
Uppercase Bookshop Snohomish, WA
Village Books Bellingham, WA
Vintage Books Vancouver, WA
Watermark Book Company Anacortes, WA
Wisconsin
A Room Of One's Own Bookstore Madison, WI
Apple Blossom Books Oshkosh, WI
Arcadia Books Spring Green, WI
Books & Company Oconomowoc, WI
Boswell Book Company Milwaukee, WI
Chapter 2 Books Hudson, WI
Dragonwings Bookstore Waupaca, WI
Northwind Book & Fiber Spooner, WI
Redbery Books Cable, WI
The Velveteen Rabbit Bookshop Fort Atkinson, WI
TribecaGalleryCafe & Books Watertown, WI
West Virginia
Kerri's Korner Bookstore Fairmont, WV
Wyoming
City News & Pipe Shop Cheyenne, WY
Cody Newsstand Cody, WY
Second Story Laramie, WY
Sheridan Stationery Books & Gallery Sheridan, WY
Whistle-Stop Mercantile Douglas, WY
Wind City Books Casper, WY


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Aussie romance

Started by Karen Cogan in BOOKS AND READING Jul 23. 0 Replies

On 13th May 1787, 11 ships and 1300 people left England to found a penal colony in Australia. They landed in January 1788. The Naval officers and their families and the convicts worked to establish the first European settlement of Australia. The…Continue

Tags: clean, and, sweet, romance, Historical

When did that happen?

Started by Karen Cogan in FREE DOWNLOADS Jul 23. 0 Replies

Ever wonder in what time period was the victory at Waterloo? Or when Mary Shelly published Frankenstein? What about a toxic paint color called “Emerald Green" made with arsenic and verdigris that subjected citizens to a chronic exposure to…Continue

Tags: historical, mystery, sweet, and, clean

You're A Dog, Chase

Started by Ronald Robinson in ANNOUNCEMENTS Jul 2. 0 Replies

You're A Dog,Chase! is a colorful and comical picture book that teaches children to be responsible for and take care of their pets with a story line that will have everyone laughing!Tyson is a young boy who lives on a farm and love to play Frisbee…Continue

Tags: Kidlit, Humorous, book, Book, Picture

Points of View - SciFi/Espionage series

Started by Tony Thorne MBE in INTRODUCTIONS & WELCOMES. Last reply by Jordani May 28. 2 Replies

This month eBook One is free. BookS 2, 3 & 4 in this exciting series of near future, artificial intelligence, adventures. https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/742997Continue

New killer rats novel out now on Audible USA

Started by Lee Andrew Taylor in FREE DOWNLOADS May 26. 0 Replies

For all you American fans of audio horror books, use the link below to start a FREE trial on Audible.USA & listen to my story about a town under attack by killer rats...Narrated by Dave Neal.S.T.A.R.S. (Scientific testing aimed at a rat’s…Continue

Tags: rats, killer, horror, novels

New killer rats novel out now....

Started by Lee Andrew Taylor in BOOKS AND READING Apr 17. 0 Replies

For a limited time, I am selling the hardback version of my killer rats story - The S.T.A.R.S Project - with 20% off direct from …Continue

Tags: rats, killer, horror, novels

I'm new here

Started by Kenneth Teicher in INTRODUCTIONS & WELCOMES Apr 13. 0 Replies

I began writing about fifteen years ago. After going through the process of attempting to find an agent/publisher for several years I decided to begin self-publishing my work. My wife and I have taken many vacation during many vacations over the…Continue

Hello I am Alex, writer and creator of Kindle Ranker

Started by kindle ranker in INTRODUCTIONS & WELCOMES Mar 16. 0 Replies

For the last few months I have been adding nice features to Kindle Ranker as well as supporting retailers other than Amazon. As of today, you can:Rate a book idea: competitiveness, difficulty, best sellers,…Continue

Tags: marketing, book, selfpublishing

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