The Novelist’s Apprenticeship

Writers contact me frequently, asking how they can get their novel published. I usually take a few deep breaths, knowing they won’t like the answer. There’s an apprenticeship, I start out, one that for most novelists will take at least ten years and up to four written novels. The silence tells me the writer either hasn’t considered practice as a step in the process or else this writer thinks he/she will be “the one” to break the standard rules.
Writing Tip for Today: What does the typical writing apprenticeship entail?

  • Hearing the “Call,” and developing your writing skills aren’t the same thing. It’s a good thing to feel in your bones that you are meant to be a writer. Maybe you even feel you’re destined to be a famous writer. But most writers–even the famous–began as lowly practitioners, making mistakes, getting frustrated, maybe even quitting on occasion. But the famous writers always pick up writing again. And good writers are always refining their skills and writing, writing, writing.
  • Don’t like getting wet? Get a dry suit, one with a very thick skin. Rejection is awful, but once you as a writer understand that very few rejections are personal, they don’t soak in as much. Everyone gets rejected. The best way to advance is to submit. When personal rejections (as opposed to form rejections) start rolling in, you know you’re getting better.
  • Get quality feedback. If you belong to a mutual admiration crit group, you can’t be getting honest feedback. Find the toughest group you can get into and use your dry suit and water wings to keep from drowning. Be faithful to revise, but don’t try to please everyone except yourself.
  • I’m a Believer in having someone who believes in your writing. Your cheerleader can offer comfort when the rejections or critiques are painful. A fellow writer is the best choice–non writers rarely understand what you’re going through.
  • Write, write write. Write crap. Write as if nobody’s going to ever read it. Through the thousands of hours, millions of words and bazillion ideas, you will find your voice, you discover what you have to say, you learn why you felt that Call to Write.

Try This! I’m a believer in goals. Wherever you are in the apprenticeship, make a weekly, monthly, yearly and five year goal. Where do you wish to be in 5 years?

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

5 comments on “The Novelist’s Apprenticeship

  1. How appropriate today, as yesterday I received a critique of my second unpublished children’s book, which indicated the book would require doubling in size and a complete rewrite to be publishable. It may join the first book in a drawer for some time. Although I am able to see short material regularly, I can’t seem to get the hang of books. I think I’ll take a day or two to complain and be discouraged, then move on and keep trying. I may need something more long term than even a five year goal, however, since I’ve worked on that book for over five years…

  2. One way to think of your progress in writing is to consider how rare the company is, even before publishing a book. Most would-be authors give up way before you have. Susan, in my opinion, you should look at the crit as gold–do the necessary things, read LOTS of recent books in your area and keep trying! ~Linda

  3. My five year goals vary wildly depending on my day, which I know is not good because wishy-washy goals get you nowhere.

    When I’m feeling on top of the world I see myself in five years traveling around, homeschooling my kids on the road, and supporting my family with my writing.

    However, more realistically, I would just love for my dear husband to be able to quit his second job and us still pay all our bills in a timely manner.

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