I was SO incredibly naive when I first ventured into the realm of creative writing. I am very glad I didn't know then what I know now. I am sure I would've never stuck it out. I have literally done everything wrong that's possible for novice writers. I'm probably banned from New York. I just know that when agents and publishers look at my query and see the name "CHRISBACHER" they heave a big sigh followed by an eye roll, then hit the delete key, or throw the papers into the garbage.
Here is a list of my NO-NOs:
1. A quarter of the way through my first draft (on my first ever attempt at writing a manuscript), I sent out query letters to just about everyone in NY, practically announcing, "Hey, I've arrived on the scene... You better snatch me up before you lose out."
2. I suck at grammar (did I mention that before?). I still do, but I've worked very hard over the last six or seven years to correct this character flaw (I say this because for me it isn't like math or computers, grammar rules WON'T stick in my noggin).
3. Up to that point--six months into writing my first manuscript--I didn't even know about critique partners.
4. Didn't know anything about not using cliches.
5. Had no clue about POV.
6. I practically "told" everything with very little "show."
7. Excessive use of weak words: it, began, started, suddenly...
8. My tenses were all over the board.
9. Never heard of character arc or plot & pacing.
10. An egregious number of formatting issues, which later took hours to clean up.
11. Wrote a five page flashback in the first chapter.
I still cringe at the recollection of those early days. Lessons learned the hard way. When I'm with a group of people, just hanging out or maybe at a conference, and I hear someone talk about how they're going to write a book and plan to become published, my ears perk up. I listen in silent agony when I hear them prattle on, discussing their visions of how it will all play out. Once or twice I made the mistake of interjecting, by offering some of my insight. Each time I was shut down (much the way I once reacted when done to me). Nowadays, I bite my tongue and silently pray on their behalf that they're spared the pain of my errors by showing more wisdom and forethought than I showed those first years.
For the last four-and-a-half years, I've participated with critique groups. I started out with a large group that I attended for many years. I won't go into great detail in this blog post about that experience (I will dedicate an entire session on this topic at another time); however, what was born out of that experience were several friendships without whom I would've thrown in the towel long, long ago. A group of talented authors who graciously took me under their wings and nurtured me along to the point of where I am now. Vastly different individuals, each one possesses a unique ability quite separate from the others, yet when put together works like magic.
I will end this session with one final point. The epiphany that finally sunk into my thick noggin, but only after picking myself up from the floor when the shattering realization that I had a better chance at winning the Powerball than I did at getting my query past the New York slush piles. To see the rejections my friends received--whose works are truly amazing and surefire best sellers--was mind boggling. I mean, I can understand why mine was overlooked, but for theirs to be shot down time after time was inconceivable to me. What hope did I have? For so long I persevered under the dilution that if I just stuck with it; if I sent out enough queries... C'mon, if "Fifty Shades of Grey," can be a best seller...(no offense to "Fifty Shades" fans, but it really is the worst written book ever). The world is a crazy place.
This segues nicely into my next session titled: INDIE PUBLISHING a Bold New Adventure.
Take care, my friends.