5 Things I Wish I’d Known Sooner

Image: Person surrounded by questions.

I recently had an enquiry from a new author who was working towards finding a publisher. This got me thinking about the things I wish I’d known when I was starting out.

1. Formatting Matters

Whatever you’re writing, there are rules to follow when formatting your work (here are some guidelines for formatting your manuscript for a novel, for instance).

If you’re an independent author, following these rules from the outset will make your manuscript easier to read and typeset for publication. If you’re hiring an editor, applying the correct formatting before you send them your work will save their time and your money.

They’ll have more time to resolve any concerns you have, and to check for typos, spelling mistakes, and grammatical errors. Of course, if you do find you’re struggling with formatting, your editor will still be there to help.

If you’re looking for a publisher, then it’s absolutely vital to follow these rules. If you don’t, it’s highly unlikely they’ll read your manuscript.

Most publishers also have their own guidelines on how to submit a manuscript, so it’s best to check these out before you send out your work.

2. Writers’ Groups Are Awesome

Most things I’ve learned about writing, including how to format a manuscript, I first learned from my local writers’ group.

It’s a supportive, warm and varied community on your doorstep. It’s face-to-face and full of knowledge about every aspect of writing.

Every writers’ club is different, so it’s important to find one that’s right for you (Reading Writers suits me well). There are some online groups too, such as WriteWords and Critique Circle.  

3. Directories Make Your Life Easier

Somebody once said to me, “Think about the kind of stuff you like to write and approach publications that publish that kind of thing”.

If there is a magazine you read or an imprint you really like that you think you’d be a good fit for, it never hurts to investigate their submission guidelines.

This style of hunting can feel a bit overwhelming. The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook is an invaluable resource for taking the legwork out of the situation. A friend of mine also recommends FirstWriter, an online directory of agents, publishers, magazines, and competitions.

4. There’s More Than One Way To Get Information

Podcasts and videos are so, so good for getting more detailed information on specific subjects. I really like this episode from The Editing Podcast, which neatly explains different types of editing.

5. You Can Always Ask An Editor

An editor can offer you an utterly non-judgemental perspective, complete confidentiality, and a friendly smile. If you have a specific problem you’d like advice on, or you’re looking to improve your writing but just don’t feel comfortable sharing your work with people you know, asking an editor could be the solution.

What other tips would you add? Please leave your ideas in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

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