Wednesday, January 30, 2008

5 Mistakes That New Writers Make By Nathasha Brooks-Harris

Today's article is by Nathasha Brooks-Harris, the co-author of the Kimani Books (Harlequin Books) anthology, Can I Get An Amen Again, for which she developed the concept. It is the sequel to the ever-popular, Can I Get An Amen. In addition, she currently has a short story in the anthology, Erogenous Zone, and an essay in Gumbo For The Soul anthology. Her debut novel, Panache, earned her an Emma Award as Best New Author in 2002. She is the former editor of Black Romance and Bronze Thrills Magazine and the Associate Editor of True Confessions Magazine at Dorchester Media, and she edits independently under her company, NBH Literary Services. She is also a Contributing Editor at Today's Black Woman Magazine and freelances for several other publications. In her spare time, this Brooklyn-born and bred author and editor creates cloth dolls and quilts under her recently-created Studio 447.

Can I Get An Amen Again?

When Dr. Gabrielle Talbot arrives in Red Oaks, Georgia, the last thing she has on her mind is romance--that is until she meets Marcus Danforth. But will he break her heart like her ex-fiance, or will he find a way to win her trust? From Nathasha Brooks-Harris's "A Change is Gonna Come" in the anthology Can I Get An Amen Again?

5 Mistakes That New Writers Make By Nathasha Brooks-Harris

I cannot say how many time readers have come up to when I was on tour to tell me about how they wanted to write or how they were writing a book. To that, I would politely nod, give them a few words of encouragement, and wish them well in their venture. However, I’ve yet to meet the person who has actually completed a book, sold said book, and wanted some sage advice about the mistakes they have made as a new author. Those mistakes are myriad, and they’re so easy to make. It’s not an easy process to go from writing and selling a book to becoming a new author. Surely, the road is long and arduous at best, and mistakes will be made. However, mistakes are just that—mistakes—and should be considered a learning experience. Learn from them and keep it moving. Don’t dwell on them. Simply take them for what they are and build on that which you’ve learned as a result of making them. There are many mistakes that writers will make over the course of their careers. As a result, they will become better and stronger writers because of them. They will get past them and apply the lessons learned to improving their writing. During the course of my career as a magazine editor contributing editor and author, I’ve seen a lot. Of the many mistakes new writers make, I’ve found several that they make most often. Let’s discuss them. They are:

  1. New writers don’t finish the book.
    They talk a good game, perhaps write some of the book, even edit it, but they never actually finish it. They have more excuses than the law should allow, and put their work away to collect dust. Let’s face facts: we all have real-life issues: child care and elder care responsibilities, job responsibilities, and church commitments—just to name a few. Those things give us character and help us grow as people, To give it a positive spin, they give us life experience that lends itself to our writing. The bottom line is that if you are a new writer who’s sold a book, finish that second one! If you’re an aspiring writer who hasn’t finished a book, you must finish your book, submit it, and sell it in order to become a new published author. No one said the road would be easy to finish that book, but the results are well worth the effort.
  2. New writers submit their books and become complacent.
    Now that they’ve sold the book, new writers take a sigh of relief and express how glad they are that writing and shopping the book for a deal is over. But guess what? That’s only the beginning of the process. It’s not over, yet. In fact, this is only the beginning. They must think about the next level—promoting the book and getting their name into the homes of readers across the world. They must also take the time to attend workshops, conferences, and seminar to keep learning the writing craft. The better their skills are, they’ll be able to shop their forthcoming books to larger publishers and get better deals.
  3. New writers don’t take their writing seriously; they think of it as a hobby or just something to do.
    Newsflash folks: writing is not a hobby or something to do! It is work—hard, back-breaking, sweat-busting work! That means that new writers should consider their writing as their second or third job. They have to devote time to it in the same manner as they would their day jobs. They have to have up-to-date, working equipment, reference books, and the desire to improve their craft. They must also learn the business aspect of writing such as marketing and promotions, taxes, hiring support staff such as an agent and publicist, as well as the importance of blogging, My Space, and having a website. Writing is a business and the bottom line is that craft is fine, but it all comes back to whether or not you can sell a book. It’s all about book sales and based on that, you will get subsequent book deals and better respect from your publisher(s).
  4. New writers aren’t true to themselves.
    New writers seem to love patterning themselves after other more established authors. They are afraid to let their style and writer’s voice come through. But think about it: these authors have already sold their books and publishers aren’t so eager to buy others like that. They want fresh, new, and exciting. That is where you come in. Write the book of your heart. Explore new, uncharted literary territory. There’s room for new voices. Yours might be the next six or seven-figure book deal. You never know; it can happen! Be yourself and don’t feel so compelled to write what everyone else has written. It’s okay to be a maverick; try it because you just might like it.
  5. New writers are defeated by rejection.
    To this, I say toughen up and try again. Today’s bestselling and wealthiest authors can paper their offices with the rejection letters they’re received. They have suffered many rejections over the course of their writing careers—so will you. But they kept on and tried again. You should do the same. New writers have to take rejections in stride, read the letters, and if the editor gives you any hint of why your book was rejected, consider that a gift! They don’t usually share their reasons. Go on and make any appropriate changes, repackage your book, send it out again, and pray. That next time could indeed be the charm. The point is not to give up. Try again and again until you make a sale. Also, if the major publishers don’t want your book, try a reputable small publisher. They might be more open to a non-traditional book or a book with a different flavor. If you’ve submitted a book and it came back all marked up with deletions, cross-outs, and questions about something you feel is important to your plot, speak up. Don’t be timid; politely fight your case with editor and show her why (or how) it’s important.

Good luck with your writing and please realize that there will be good and bad days. Writing is not as easy as many think it is, but it a very honorable and worthwhile calling. In order to do it justice, always keep that passion that first brought you to it. Study the craft, learn the business, and keep writing those books. When you are ready for the next level, move on, and pursue it. However, never give up or let industry trends come between you and your writing. Trends come and go, but your writing will remain constant and consistent.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you via this book tour. Thanks for taking the time to read this and learn more about me and my writing. Be blessed and always remember: “To whom much is given, much is required!”



Anna "The Real McCoy" said...

Thank you for your straightforward and direct advice on being a writer. You have encouraged me to continue my efforts another day. Good luck on your tour.

nabrooks said...

Hi Anna,
Thanks so much for stopping by. It is my hope that something I've said will help you with your own writing. If your dream is to write, do it! The only way I know to say what needs to be said is straight no chaser. Write until it hurts and until you see your name in print. No excuses, please; just do it! Good luck to you.