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Swoon Author Danika Stone: 10 Things I Wish I Knew BEFORE I Published My First Book

No matter how prepared you think you are when you publish a book, the actual experience is bound to throw you a few curves. This post is full of those helpful little things I WISH I’d known before that exciting (and terrifying!) process began. Book-hacks, if you will. This is your hand-guide to surviving the writing process: from the first word to the bookstore and everything in between.

1. Write for yourself first. Worry about publishing later.

As obvious as this sounds, this is difficult to do. Human nature makes us compare ourselves to others and that makes us unhappy. Avoid those comparisons. Just write.


If you’re always chasing the next-big-thing, you’ll always be two steps behind, because book tastes change fast, and publishing (a one- or two-year process) moves slowly.    

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2. Anything can be your inspiration. Absolutely ANYTHING.

You don’t have to start with an AMAZING life-changing concept, but you do have to have a topic that inspires. Just focus on the things that already make you happy and run with them. Your passion for the topic needs to sustain you through many months of edits. If you hate high school sports, you won’t want to rewrite the big game ten times, but if you love sports, you will!

3. Start with characters. Let THEM guide the story.

One excellent piece of advice I received was to build my characters first. I tend to gather a box of objects (or create a Pinterest page) as I develop them. I use those details for the inner workings of the characters and once they’re established, I write what the characters want. (Then I try not to lose control of them.)

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4. Destroy everything your characters love.

One of the things I struggled to learn while in the early stages of publishing was how to manage the pacing, and avoid those dull spots. One quick fix is to list all your plot points, organize them from least dangerous, to most dangerous / painful and make THAT your plotline. The ending should go something like this:

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5. Be protective of YOUR time.

In a world where EVERYTHING takes away your time, a writer must hoard theirs like a miser. Plan your writing and editing. Write at that set time and stick to it. The sooner you learn this, the easier it is to maintain.

6. Finished is better than perfect.

My husband likes to say that “perfection is procrastination’s prettier twin.” He’s right! When we get on the polishing-forever treadmill, we protect ourselves from putting our work out there. But you MUST make that leap if you want to publish.

Yes, it’s scary. No, that shouldn’t stop you.

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7. Publishing is never easy. Don’t give up.

There are so many steps along the way. From alpha readers and beta readers, to substantive edits and scrapping projects altogether, it’s important to remember that THIS is part of the process. So stop beating yourself up about it, and find your Zen for writing.

The only way out is through.

8. There is no such thing as an overnight success.

Although there is a point where it feels like you’ll never make it, you must keep writing if you want to get there. Giving up is the failure, not the rejections. So keep slogging away.

 dark night of the soul

9. Edits are NOT the same as copy-edits.

To put it simply: If you want to be published, you have to rewrite (a LOT). It won’t be fun, but it will be worth it. Try to keep in mind that a finished, traditionally published book is a group project, not a solo piece. The more you can work together with editors and publicists, the easier the process will become.

10. Promotion is important, but it is NOT writing. Writing is the job. (Do it.)

The social media treadmill is always on a writer’s mind. But even though social media is GREAT for networking, it can also be an excuse for procrastination. Keep your eyes on what’s important: the book. Writing is the most important part of what you do to make it happen! So do it.

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These ten points are book-hacks I wish I’d learned before I started, but I know them now, and that means YOU do too. 

So how about you? What are bits of advice you’d give to someone who is just starting out as a writer / blogger / reviewer? How about someone who has never written before, but wants to start? Put your replies in the comments below!

Author spotlight

Danika Stone

Danika Stone is an author, artist, and educator who discovered a passion for writing fiction while in the throes of …

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