Three Things I Wish I Would Have Known Before I Got “The Call”
I will be the first to admit that I’ve been very blessed to come this far in my writing journey after only a short time. Although I wrote my first manuscript in 2006, it was completely awful. I started writing again for publication in February 2008 and received “The Call” in December 2009. My debut novel SEDUCING THE DUCHESS was released earlier this week on October 5th. Throughout the whirlwind of this past year, I’ve discovered a few things that I wish I would have known long before now.
1. How to Estimate Your Word Count
When I first began writing for publication, I researched everything I could about writing a romance. One important piece of information I needed to know was how to estimate your word count, since I knew my single title historical romance needed to be between 90,000 and 100,000 words.
The first advice I found was from a book written by a romance editor, which said to pick 10 random lines from a page, multiply that word count by 25, then multiply again by the number of pages you have written. Seemed a little complex to me, but hey, it’s the publishing world. These types of things are supposed to be somewhat mysterious, right? However, I then found a website where a published author said that the old 10-lines equation was obsolete, and that publishers now (this was early 2008) estimate word count by multiplying the number of pages written by 250, as each page should roughly come to that amount.
Since this was the most recent advice I could find, I did exactly that. I also knew, of course, these should be double-spaced pages, and I had read editors and agents would accept either New Courier or New Times Roman font.
The first thing I found out after accepting my publisher’s offer was that the manuscript I had originally thought was somewhere around 95,000 words was actually only 79,000 words! Not only should I have used Times New Roman instead of New Courier, but I discovered that editors don’t estimate word count at all. Instead, they accept the word count that Microsoft Word and other word processors automatically provide. As a result, the largest part of my editing for my publisher included the increase of my word count by a significant proportion.
2. Network, network, and then network some more!
I’ve always been an introvert. Before “The Call”, I joined RWA so I could enter chapter contests, but I never went to my local chapter meeting, and I never went to the national conference. I figured my time was better spent at home writing or with my husband and new baby, and since I wasn’t published yet, I didn’t have much to say, anyway. Oh, and of course—the money. Going to nationals seemed awfully expensive.
I cannot tell you how much I am regretting this now! You see, although I’ve been really busy trying to promote myself the past couple of months through Twitter, Facebook, my website, and now a blog tour, because I never took the time or made the effort to build relationships within the romance writing community, I have no one except my two critique partners to cheer me on and spread the news about my book. Fortunately, I’ve been getting some great reviews, and I know that will help. But at the same time, I know that if I had built an extended network with other aspiring and published authors, promoting myself wouldn’t be nearly as difficult now because I wouldn’t be a completely new face and new name.
3. Establish a set writing routine.
Like me, I’m sure you’ve heard this dozens of times before. Writers write; they don’t wait for inspiration to strike, they just sit down to work and do it. And yet, while I’ve always believed in this principle, I allowed various things in my non-writing life to distract me from my writing routine: pregnancy, a new baby in the house, the 9-5 job, family, etc. As a result, after getting a publishing contract I found it difficult to get settled into a normal writing routine. And a normal writing routine is essential to being able to meet publisher deadlines. I am embarrassed to tell you that I had to ask for an extension for the deadline on my second book, simply because I hadn’t become comfortable in my own writing process and with my writing routine. If nothing else, I hope you can learn from my mistake and do whatever is necessary to stick to your schedule. Day by day, never thinking “tomorrow I can make up for it.” Make every day count.
Now that I’ve told you the three things I wish I would have known before I got “The Call”, I’d love to hear your must-know tips for other writers, something you wished you have known long ago. One random commenter will be chosen to win a copy of my debut, SEDUCING THE DUCHESS (open to both US and international residents).
You can read more about Ashley and discover what else she's writing at her website: www.ashleymarch.com (including more chances to win).