Saturday, 11 January 2014

Common Writing 'Myths'

There are plenty of myths surrounding fiction writing, the kind that stick in our minds and give us many of our misconceptions. 
 
We’ve all experienced them, more so at the beginning of our writing careers, because many writers make the mistake of assuming that fame, untold riches and success will land at their feet. Unfortunately, this rarely happens, but if writers put in the hard work and they are willing to learn, then success is sure to follow.
 
So, what are the main writing myths?
 
Writers earn millions
 
This is one of the biggest misconceptions. The truth is that most writers don’t earn millions and they have an average 9 to 5 job to ensure a reliable income.
 
Writing, on the whole, won’t pay the rent. The few lucky ones that have caught an editor’s eye (and said editor thinks they can make lots of money) or the few writers that catch the zeitgeist and write something that is currently flavour or the month (i.e. Fifty Shades, Da Vinci Code et al). That doesn’t necessarily mean these novels are actually any good, however.
 
Getting a novel published is easy
 
No, it isn’t. It's more likely that your magnum opus will be rejected countless times before it catches an editor’s eye, if at all.

Becoming published is not as easy as it sounds. It’s only easy if you self-publish, through the likes of Amazon. Mainstream publication is somewhat different, however. It’s difficult because it’s competitive, and anyone who says it isn’t competitive is misleading potential writers. It is competitive, and that is simply because of the amount of manuscripts that agents and publishers receive each week. They have to sift through hundreds and hundreds of submissions, and maybe one or two might be special enough catch their interest.

In essence, your submission must compete with thousands of others, therefore, what you submit really does have to make them sit up and take notice.
 
Grammar isn’t important.  Editors will do it for you
 
A poorly written submission will not impress an editor. They can help with certain things, they can highlight areas for improvement and help guide a writer to improve a manuscript, but they will not correct it for you. Poor submissions tell the editor all they need to know about the writer, and it will end in rejection.

Grammar is important. If you can’t get the basics right, no editor will want to publish you.
 
Once published, you’ll never be rejected again
 
Don’t bank on it. Being published isn’t a golden ticket to all prospective publications and isn’t a guarantee that you will ever be rejected again, because you can still be rejected, even if you are already published.

Each piece of work you submit for publication is assessed on its own merits. That means it may be accepted or it may be rejected. That’s just the way publishing works. 
 
Writing a novel is easy. Anyone can do it
 
Writing is never easy. And not everyone can do it.

Anyone can write, but not everyone is a writer. That means most of what they write is substandard and not worthy of mainstream publication. These writers wouldn’t get a second glance from agents.
 
Writing is hard work and takes time and a lot of effort. Nothing is instant.
 
It only takes a couple of months to write a novel
 
Sometimes they’re quick to write; sometimes they take longer than expected.  But that’s only the first draft. It’s the second, third, fourth and fifth drafts that take up the time.
 
Anyone who can churn out a perfectly edited, polished novel within the space of a few months is a literary genius. Trouble is, literary genii are extremely rare.

Don’t rush your writing. Take your time to polish your novel to perfection. Editors accept nothing less.
 
Once published I will be a huge success
 
Yet another myth based on preconception. The sad truth is that around 75% of all new novels fail to break even, let alone make a nice profit for the publisher. Often, it is the second or third book that sees a profit and sells the author’s name. 

It is a well known fact that new and unknown authors need time to establish themselves with the book buying public. If they have been on the writing circuit for a few years, establishing themselves, then the progression of success is made easier.
 
This is another reason why writing is never an easy, instant process.
 
I don’t need rules and conventions.  I’ll do it my way.  Editors will love my stuff.
 
Good luck with that.
 
I’m a fabulous, talented writer. My novel is so brilliant, agents will fight over it.
 
Fabulous, talented writers are rare, and those who shout loud about being fabulous and talented are nothing of the sort.  At most, they are mediocre. The only thing they are fabulous at is being arrogant. And editors do not like arrogant writers.
 
You are only a fabulous, talented writer when you’ve got something published and you’ve received the praise to back it up. And novels are only brilliant if your editor thinks so and gives you a publishing contract.
 
Writing will make me rich and famous
 
Unless you are one of those rare authors who just happen to write something that can make a publisher’s head spin with dollar signs, the sad fact is that the majority of writers don’t make that much money at all, and most have full time jobs in addition to their writing.
 
Many people write simply to become rich and famous, but the reality soon hits home. 
 
The best advice is to get rid of any expectations where writing is concerned and purge any preconceptions. That way you won’t be that disappointed when you don’t get that mega bucks publishing deal, but equally you may be pleasantly surprised and if you did.
 

Next week: The Art of Layering

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