Today’s prompt is the worst writing advice I’ve ever gotten. Before I share my story, let me say that writing advice is very much an individual thing. What works for one author may not work for another author or even book. So take what advice you like and ignore the rest because it can really derail you when you get bad advice.
I’ve always been a scribbler but I didn’t seriously pursue my goal of writing a book until after I joined Romance Writers of America (RWA) in 1998. Back then, the only path to publishing was via a traditional publisher which involved papering New York City with query letters, along with a synopsis and the first few chapters. The query process could be quite lengthy–6 months to a year.
Though established authors could query proposals for unfinished manuscripts, unknown authors were expected to complete the entire book and then query. From a publishers perspective, this makes perfect sense. It didn’t make sense to me though, as a writer. I didn’t want to write an entire book, only to have it rejected. It seemed a waste of effort to me. Now, of course, with the rise of independent publishing, a finished book will always be published but back then, I didn’t want to have stacks of unpublished manuscripts lingering under the bed.
So, not wanting to waste time writing a full book that wouldn’t ever see the light of day, I seized upon the advice given to me by an established author to just send a proposal query. Then, when I received a request, write the manuscript and send it in. What could go wrong?
Well, I banged out my query letter for a vampire romance (they were hot at the time) and sent it off to all the major publishers in NYC. I think I kept working on it but it was slow going back then as I’d never written a book before. Six weeks later, I got requests from not one but three different NYC publishing houses for the completed manuscript.
Which, of course, I didn’t have and had no idea how to finish it. I never managed to finish that book and thus, never managed to respond to my requests for proposals. For years, I felt like I’d wasted my one chance to get published and it was devastating. I didn’t write for years.
To be clear, I don’t blame the established author at all. Now that I have two dozen books written, I could easily have finished that manuscript and sent it off in a timely manner. Her advice would have worked for a journeyman, experienced author. But, as a first-time author, I had no idea how to complete a manuscript and couldn’t do it under pressure like that.
Also, with the advent of indie publishing, I’m glad I never had a contract with NYC at all. The Kindle was truly a revolutionary device, a total game changer in the world of publishing, and I’m much happier being independent.
How about you? Did you ever suffer from bad advice?
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