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Set your expectations

Writing is an incredibly rewarding adventure, and for many, the very act of penning a story to completion is an accomplishment greater than any award.  We all have different goals, though, and whether you want to write for yourself, your family/friends, self-publish to sell to others, find an agent to try to make it big, or make a career out of this some other way, you have to start somewhere.

There is no easy way to say this, so I’m just going to put it front and center:  your first novel will probably suck.  There are exceptions, of course, but this is a pretty universal rule among the writing community.  Most people look back on their first long form work and think, “Wow, I’m glad I didn’t publish that,” despite having loved and nurtured it to completion.  My first novel was like this as well and is for my eyes only, because despite how I love the characters and some of the ideas, the writing is hot garbage and the storytelling is not refined.

But, this is to be expected.  When you start a new job, do you know everything right away?  Of course not.  You work at it for weeks, months, years, gaining experience until you are an expert in your craft.  Writing is no different.  Even if you’ve written flash fiction or short stories, long form writing is a very different beast.  Practice makes perfect, so don’t look at your first novel as a way to get rich or famous.  Look at it as a wonderful personal achievement, because there is nothing wrong with writing a novel and not publishing it anywhere.  However, if you can arrange for an unbiased third party to give you their thoughts on your completed manuscript and it turns out that your first novel is an exception, then celebrate that as an unexpected victory.

Important takeaways:

  • Even though you should go through the whole process in its entirety as if you were publishing, you probably won’t publish your first novel.
  • Just in case I actually need to say this, writing a novel usually takes a long time.
  • Writing a novel involves multiple rounds of editing.  Don’t expect to type out “The End” and be done.  You are far from it, but you can do it.
  • Writing is a difficult field to be successful in.  Understand this and embrace it.
  • Temporary setbacks are just that – temporary.  Do your best, try your hardest, and don’t give in to negative influence from anyone, including yourself.

The important thing is to set realistic goals, even if you are shooting for the stars.


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