The Top Five Mistakes Young Writers Make: Daydreaming [4/5]

March 26, 2012

Daydreaming? Surely I read that wrong. Of course I need to daydream. I need inspiration for my story. How could daydreaming be a mistake?

If you do nothing but imagine yourself as a published author doing book signings, selling millions of copies and sitting in the theater watching the film adaptation of your bestseller, you'll never get there. Period. Novels don't write themselves. Additionally, novels generally do not become bestsellers overnight, if at all. While it's good to dream, it's important to be realistic.

Here are some tips on staying grounded and humble in your novel-writing endeavors.

• To write a novel, you generally need a plan. What goals do you have for your novel? What message do you want it to convey, if any? What is a realistic time-frame in which to write it given your crazy schedule? Are you thinking about self-publishing or getting an agent?

• Once you've established what you want to do, write. Don't start searching online for the stars of the film adaptation you've got in your mind's eye. Don't research agents. Don't sit at your desk and drool about how great it's going to be to be published and famous and traveling the world and changing lives. Write the damn thing. Set a schedule, and try to write consistently.

• Being an author isn't glamourous. You're going to log a lot of hours writing and revising and writing and tearing hair out of your head and writing some more!

• Don't expect to have something sellable after one draft. A good novel requires hundreds of hours worth of revisions. It's not as simple as correcting spelling and grammar issues—there's character consistency, plot structure, scene fluidity, and boat-loads more to consider.

• Don't expect to send your novel to HarperCollins or Penguin and get published. It doesn't work that way. Most reputable publishing houses don't accept unsolicited fiction submissions, so you'll need an agent to represent your novel and pitch it to said publishing houses. You will need to query many agents, and you will receive many rejections.

• Finding an agent could take a very long time. Once you've written your novel, do your research. Find agents that represent novels similar to yours and are actively seeking novels in your genre. (Obviously, you shouldn't pitch a YA Paranormal novel to someone who's looking for baseball memoirs and cookbooks.) You will also need to follow each individual agent's submission guidelines to a "T." Typically, they'll want a synopsis, the first X pages of your manuscript, and a query letter. Never query an agent with an unfinished and unedited manuscript—your novel should be at its best when you begin the querying process!

• If you decide to self-publish, be sure to hire an editor and enlist the help of beta readers who can give you an honest and constructive opinion on your work. Understand that you will have an enormous amount of work ahead of you, as you will be in charge of absolutely EVERYTHING. Your ISBN, LCCN, publicity, book cover, editing, publishing, formatting—the list is substantial.

Few authors become famous or can support themselves on royalties earned from their novel(s) alone. Most of us will remain undiscovered and will sell only a few hundred copies of our novels. A few will get a lucky break and sell a little more. It's not impossible to become the next Stephenie Meyer or Veronica Roth, but it's unrealistic to expect it. What you should expect is to work your butt off and that if you're lucky, your hard work will pay off down the line. It is incredibly, incredibly difficult to become famous and reputable.

You need a brilliant, fresh product. You need appeal. You need a lucky break.

You need to go write your novel.

Aspire for greatness, but don't expect it. Quit sitting there and daydreaming about it—work for it!



  1. Love this post. It is so insightful and helpful!

  2. I lack the patience to ever be able to write a novel. Not to mention a lack of skill.

    I am however a constant daydreamer. And my mind is always wondering.

    Sunny Days and Starry Nights

  3. Another great post... so how come you suck so much at letter writing?! ;)

    1. I KNOW, RIGHT? Ridiculous. I really wish I knew why. When I write letters, I sound like a fourth grader.

  4. What an amazing post! Thank you for providing feedback and truth to those who have a desire to write! I'm going to try and get a hold of one of your books to read :)


Comments are appreciated! Please include your URL so I can return the favor.