Writing fiction comes with a number of myths that keep many people from giving it a serious try. Don’t them get you down! Here are a few things that you might hear about the industry as you’re learning how to write fiction–and the reality behind them.
1. You Have to Be a Big Name to Write
Many aspiring writers are told that unless you’re Stephen King or you’re famous for something else, there’s no point in trying to get your work noticed. But the truth is, many publishers actively look for new writers. Plus, it’s also important to remember that every big-name writer started somewhere. Stephen King was a teacher struggling to pay his power bill when he wrote and sold his first novel!
2. If Your Friends Like It, So Will Publishers
One of the mistakes many writers make is asking their friends and family to read their work, and basing their worth on those opinions. After all, regular readers are your target audience, right? However, most friends and family won’t want to damage their relationship with you by saying they don’t like something you wrote. There’s nothing wrong with asking them for feedback, but make sure you’re also re-reading and being objective with your own work. Do the characters really resonate? Will the plot really keep readers interested?
Another helpful way to get feedback is by joining a writers’ group. These groups allow writers to critique each others’ works and get truly objective opinions about them. You can also hire a professional editor or work with a private tutor to get additional outside feedback.
3. Write Only What You Know
“Write what you know” is a piece of writing advice that has been around forever, but it doesn’t mean what you think it does. When learning how to write fiction, writers often hear this more than anything else. But if you have to write what you know, and you’re a college student in Illinois, does that mean you can’t write about pirates or geishas? Absolutely not. You can create a convincing world through research and imagination. If we only wrote about what we knew, we wouldn’t have fantasy, science fiction, or many types of horror stories. However, writing about what you know can be good advice if you look at it from an emotional point of view. If you know a lot about positivity, sadness, grief, or jealousy, for example, try incorporating that into your writing.
4. You Have to Write in Today’s Hottest Genres
Certain genres get red hot and draw in millions of readers. Think about the rise of vampire literature and dystopian teen tales. If you want to be successful, you have to pick one of the hot genres and write in it, right? The experts say otherwise. By the time a genre hits it big, it’s already too late to start crafting a similar story. Those works were accepted a year or two before they were published, and by the time something gets popular, the next big thing is working its way through publishers and getting ready to hit the stores. So instead, write what you are passionate about rather than what you think might be popular.
5. If the Publisher Wants It, Your Work Is Done!
Not so fast. You’ve put enormous work into writing a story that you love and that a publisher wants. But that’s just phase one of understanding how to write fiction that sells. You will have at least one round of edits from your editor , and that can often mean rewriting large sections of your work. You may have to cut characters out, shorten the work, clarify certain aspects of the plot, or even change the plot slightly for a different outcome. The fiction writing process can go on for months after you already have the work under contract–or even longer. In many ways, fiction is a collaborative process that starts with you but may end with you, an agent, an editor, and a publisher.
Writing fiction may not be easy, but it is one of the most rewarding of creative outlets. If you’re passionate about writing fiction, don’t let anything turn you away it! Keep writing and discovering your passions–you won’t regret it!
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