The Top 10 Mistakes You Can’t Afford To Make When Publishing Your First Novel

Next week I’m giving a Marketing Talk at Romance GenreCon in Kansas City and I couldn’t be more excited! But one of the things that I noticed is that there are going to be a handful of debut authors in the audience. So to help put me in the right mindset, I’ve created this list of the Top 10 Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make When Publishing Your First Novel.

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/exhale.

This weekend I put on my big girl panties and did the unthinkable.

I sent my full manuscript (minus the epilogue) to a complete stranger for a meal. And it terrifies me to know that she is probably sitting on her couch up in Canada right now…chewing on my words…savoring them (perhaps?)…and quite possibly even spitting them out in disgust. I understand that this is a crucial part of the process and all writers who have come before me have done it…it just doesn’t make it any easier.

I mean…what if this manuscript truly is crap? It’s the main reason why I haven’t let my husband or mom or family read through it. I could serve them a steaming pile of dog shit and they would probably tell me it was the most beautiful thing they had ever smelled. I love my cheerleaders and have needed them over the past few months; but I also love my critical, candor-driven, plot-line chewing, make me so nervous I want to vomit pre-editor betas. I know their honest feedback could hurt, I just hope it doesn’t hurt too much.

Knowing the roughest, ugliest version is under a microscope is enough to make anyone mad. But I have faith that she (and my other Beta readers who are in the process of receiving my little baby) will make my story the best possible version of itself.

I’m tough enough to handle this, right?

I’ve got a few days to convince myself that I am…because in a few days, I’ll start getting feedback.

/exhale.

Epilogue.

I feel like I’ve been staring at this word document for light years. That word, epilogue, it’s haunting me. Taunting me. The proverbial carrot dangling in front of me. That damn gold ring on the carousel.

I want to reach out and grab it. I keep feeling my fingers brush up against it, just shy of clenching it. Each rotation of this carousel I get closer and closer.

But damn it, I want that gold ring.  

Sure, I know I don’t technically need an epilogue. But I feel like it makes sense to have one for these characters, this story.

This epilogue is the only thing standing in my way to typing those two final words that I’ve been craving for months now.

So help me…I will get there this weekend.

The final sprint.

I’ve been known to run a marathon back in my day. And an ultramarathon. And hell, even an Ironman triathlon (yes, the full 140.6 mile race). Yeah, I am fully aware that I am a special breed of crazy. I don’t like to half ass anything; if I’m going to do something, I go balls out and just go big. 

Which is probably why I outgrew the notion of short stories early on in my life. 

Writing this novel has been a lot like those endurance races. 

You start off strong. Excited. Keeping a steady pace of one foot in front of the other. And before you know it, you’re at the halfway point. Sitting on thirty to forty thousand words, thinking huh, that was surprisingly easy. When really, it was anything but. 

Then somewhere between mile 13 and mile 18…things slowly begin to unravel. Your feet hurt. You’re hungry. And an annoying little blister develops on your pinky toe and just won’t stop screaming at you. Every step you take turns into a fight. Each step may a well be a mile. Like each word feels like it’s own chapter. And each chapter takes a million light years to write. 

It’s painful, but you just keep pushing and make yourself move forward knowing that each painful step, each sentence you write and then rewrite twenty more times takes you one step closer to your ultimate goal: the finish line. 

And as long as you stay moving in the right direction, you can get your way through it. You know that you just have to put one foot in front of the other. Write one word, then the next and then the one after that. And with enough persistence (or perhaps it’s stubbornness in my case?) you will one day see the finish line.

That, my friends, is where I’m at right now.

I am at mile 26 of this marathon. The glorious finish chute of an Ironman. I see the blinding lights, the blaring music, and the crowd cheering me on, pulsing me forward to the finish.

And truthfully, it’s bittersweet. 

The highs and lows have been nothing but fun and emotional and quite the ride for me as a writer. I am thankful to be at the end of Ivy’s story. My girl needs and deserves her closure (in spite of some of the shitty people in her life).

But I feel like she has so much more to say. Perhaps there’s more in store for her on another day. Another page. Another novel.

This weekend was nothing but productive for me. My parents kindly took the kids all day yesterday, my husband escaped to the yard to get some outdoor work done, and I hid in my cave on that beautiful Memorial Day Monday. I finessed and noodled the language until I couldn’t see straight. I cleaned things up. I wrote and rewrote parts I didn’t love. I put the finishing touches on all twenty three chapters of my baby. And now all I have left to write is the epilogue. 

How do you say goodbye to characters you’ve grown to love? Maybe I don’t? Technically, once it’s down on paper their story lives forever. So perhaps it’s not a goodbye at all. But rather a “see you soon, Cubby Bear.”

So for now, rather than focus on closure (mine and my characters), I’m just going to enjoy the finish line.