What I Wish I'd Known When I First Started Writing by Stephanie Faris
When I decided to write my first novel, I was in my early 20s. I’d been through journalism school, interned at a TV station, and worked a year or two in public relations. I knew fully well that I lacked the experience necessary to write a best-selling novel, but I still had those stars in my eyes. What if I was one of those wunderkind stories that make big news?
I wrote three young adult novels before I even began researching what to do with a book once you’ve written it. I knew you sent it to a publisher, but what publisher? How did you know the address and editor name? There was no such thing as Google back then, so I hit the “how to write” section of my bookstore and started reading everything I could find.
I’ll never forget reading the words that there was not currently a market for young adult novels. I read up on book packagers, which was the only real option for young adult novelists in the 90s. I had no idea so many popular young adult series were ghostwritten, but I dove in. I auditioned to write for Sweet Valley High TWICE and failed both times. I quickly decided I simply couldn’t write young adult, since the market was pretty much nonexistent in the 90s.
So I gravitated toward romance. And that was where I made another big mistake. I wrote my first manuscript and, sure it was brilliant, I put it in the mail to an editor. Luckily she simply sent a form rejection--one of many I’d received over the years. It was only THEN that I decided to seek out a writer’s group. And then the real learning began.
If I could speak to my twenty-something self, I would tell her to read and research before writing that first manuscript. No writing is wasted--it’s all practice that helps us get better. I just would have gotten much further, much faster, had I known more about the market before I wrote “The End” on my first book.
If you’re a pre-published author, that would be my biggest advice. Read, meet other writers, and grow. Consider your career and build your support system before you write 100,000 words, only to realize you’ve done all of that work for nothing. But I can say that even knowing that now, I don’t regret all of that hard work, especially since Harry Potter came along and changed everything. I’ve now come full circle. I started my career writing for young readers and that’s what I’m doing now. And I’ve loved every minute of it!
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Stephanie is the Simon & Schuster author of 30 Days of No Gossip and 25 Roses. When she isn’t crafting fiction, she writes for a variety of online websites on the topics of business, technology, and her favorite subject of all--fashion. She lives in Nashville with her husband, a sales executive.