Debut Novels and Whack-A-Mole



The first book you write is usually not the one that will see its day in print, as a debut novel, unless you self-publish. That’s just the way it is my darlings. Are there exceptions? Sure, but not so many. Why is this? The answer is simple. Most newbies are in the early stages of learning the craft and the publishing industry when they finish writing their first baby. There’s still so much to discover at that point. Rules, guidelines, trends, genres, word counts, character building, plots and subplots, what to leave in, what to take out, and so much more. Knowledge is power and it’s a crucial step in the budding author arena, but it can also be overwhelming. It takes time to sort out.



Writing a book takes a lot of effort, more than most understand. One needs focus, appropriate expectations, persistence, and perseverance. For instance, if I'm a wannabe author who thinks my first novel will be a bestselling, smashing success but I’m not carving out time to perfect my work, focusing on the DOs and DON’Ts, or educating myself about the industry, my expectations are too high. I must either work harder or lower my expectations. If I choose to lower the bar, I might miss the opportunity. If I choose determination and I’m in it for the long haul, I've upped my success rate.



The good news is, even if that first attempt is drivel, it isn’t wasted. We learn from trial and error. A first book is one we can go back to and rewrite once we’ve nailed down the basics like grammar, structure, tight prose and dialogue, and whack-a-mole. Wait, what? Yes, whack-a-mole. The act of spotting unnecessary elements in chapters and whacking the hell out of them. The more potential authors practice this, the better they get at it and the better their writing becomes.



The first book I ever attempted to draft is still in a document on my computer. It was good practice. I’ve learned so much since then and one day I’ll give this novel the attention it needs. Let me tell you, it needs an overhaul like nobody’s business. There’s no shame in that because writing it allowed me to test the writing waters and my ability to compose a story of novel length. Not a novella, short story, or poem, but a full-length book. Wow, once I completed the first draft, I was so proud. I strut around the living room like a peacock. While the writing is cringe-worthy, it’s also a testament to how far I’ve come. I plan to rework the title, POV, and the entire story structure. I’d never be able to do that if I hadn’t kept going, kept learning, kept positive.



Don’t be so hard on yourself if your first book is rejected. Think of it as part of the process for most. You must accept the struggles and tackle them one by one. Don’t give up! Study the business of book writing, cram as much info into your brain as you can handle, and take the next steps on the staircase to success.



That next step might be hiring a vetted editor to comb through your manuscript. They’ll find errors and plot holes, help you trim, and give their best advice about structure. Another route to pursue is finding beta readers. After reading your manuscript they’ll share what they liked and didn’t like, what worked and what didn’t. Moving on, you’ll need to decide on either narrowing down a literary agent or self-publishing. Partnering with the right agent to champion your manuscript means they’ll help with editing, and you’ll gain the stamp of approval that your book is worthy. They’ll bring your book to publishers and work on your behalf. Self-publishing means you will be responsible for everything; however, it also means all the profits land in your bank account.




It’s a tossup. I’m still deciding. In the meantime, I’ll perfect my whack-a-mole skills.




Hi. I'm Liz Ambrico, freelance proofreader and aspiring author. I too am querying agents, editors, and publishers in hopes of becoming a published author.

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Wordy is the get-in-the-know hotspot for writers. From grammar to publishing find info, tips, and inspiration to take your WIP (Work In Progress) to the next level.

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I co-founded and managed a successful author and writer group on Long Island for five years. During events with publishers and authors I learned what matters, what agents are looking for, and the benefits and pitfalls of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing.

I've gained a lot of tips and tidings on my writing journey and want to share what I know.

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