Newbie Writer ~ The 2nd Email

It’s a series on Advice to Newbie Writers. This will last a while. Enjoy.

What’s Up with the Newbie Writer posts? Here. Head back to July 1 to get the context.  Or read on, because I explain below — but if you want to back up and read everything, great! Just back your way through these blog posts because everything is also here.

So, I answered that first email. Guess what? I got ….


Back on July 1, I shared that a newbie writer had reached out for information about my mistakes when I first started publishing. Originally, the question came up in a discussion board for a national writers group to which I belong (Sisters In Crime, Guppies chapter … which is for Newbies). I was one of several who answered the original question with just a quick comment that we all make mistakes and that was the glory of the Guppies chapter, sharing what we know with others.

The newbie writer privately messaged me about my mistakes, so I shared my seven mistakes then gave three mistakes that I didn’t make (Notta Mistakes) to create 10 bits of advice. (I always deal in round numbers, you see.)

Now that a couple of months have passed since the original post, I am offering those 10 bits of advice as blog posts for this website. Because ~ hey, why not?

All through July I shared those 7 Newbie Writer Mistakes, then in August I shared the 3 major Newbie Notta Mistakes.

After giving this newbie writer these answers, she popped a 2nd email, a much more involved email. I’m sharing it here—names changed to protect the innocent, abridged (with ellipsis …) to focus specifically on her concerns—and I’ll answer her second set of questions and concerns through September and likely into October since she had a lot of concerns, and I’m too much of a teacher not to try to smooth those over.

So, here’s her email to give context to the next blogs in this series.


The Newbie Writes:

Your message has helped me more than you could imagine! I was feeling pretty bummed yesterday after another author had looked over my editorial synopsis and was trying to help me find the beats of the novel.

(For all of you who don’t know what beats are, here’s a great explanation of the Beats process. )

Mostly, she (the other author) matched up the first three and then the novel would have to change significantly from there to fit into the 15-beat structure. I had been encouraged to read Save the Cat and the entire time I was reading it I kept feeling like the questions it was asking didn’t apply to my novel. I am definitely a pantster (although I realize I create scenes in my head that get strung together before I write, which is some minimal form of plotting, I guess?) and I am anxious about any of these story structure ideas that seem too rigid or formulaic. I also recognize that it can be hard to kill your work but I truly feel like I am capable of a balanced approach to this. The hardest thing for me is not knowing what to do next in the revision process of how to do it.

I am mostly an eclectic reader too, but my biggest realization is that I don’t often read novels that are in the genre I am writing (which I think is best described as romantic suspense)… . I honestly do not want to give up the crime aspect of my writing, but I feel like I also need to connect with some romance authors to get their perspectives. Except, I did read a craft book on romance and beats and disliked it more than STC. I understand how story structure came about, how it leads to a compelling read, etc., I just don’t agree with what feels like prescriptive premises… .

I haven’t gotten as far as blurb writing … [and] I am also curious about critique groups and finding veteran novelists… .

A Few Questions

1] What does self-publishing mean to you? I have a suspicion that there is a spectrum for self-publishing and I am trying to decide where I want to be and the work it will involve: promotion, hiring people to look at the MS first, etc. I have a local friend who is a romance author and she self-publishes and she said hiring for a cover designer is a good idea.

2] Do you have revision advice from when you were pulling together your first MS written in scenes (or any others). I have a coherent, continuous manuscript but it is 200,000 words. I have been advised to cut it in half and that is where I am struggling to know what to do next. I think I can see a few scenes that can be pulled, a few that can be shortened, and possibly ONE thread that could be pulled or changed to make it shorter. I want to go in and find where all the story action starts and stops in each scene and cut those out (I tend to write it ALL because that’s the way I think—I am always wondering what happened when a scene stops an exciting point of dialogue—I want to know the boring stuff like how did they get out of the situation? So I write that). I am unsure of just how much that would cut down my book, but I feel like it is a worthwhile approach to take.

3] When you say let Beta readers read the finished MS—at what point in finishing? Right now I have one who has read the entire first draft (that had some minor line editing done to the first ¼ of the book) and another who read the first half of the book before I finished it. I guess I am just wondering how much revision work to put in before sending it to a reader. Many people have suggested that 200,000 words is too much to send to a Beta reader… . My mom was the Beta reader who read the entire thing. She has made a lot of notes for me, and we’ve talked through some of it and I think it was helpful, but I am not sure if I could find someone outside of a friend or family member to read the terrible first draft!

4] A question I like to ask authors: what writing advice did you ignore? Was ignoring it to your benefit or not? ….

Thanks for your initial response about self-publishing! I have gone deeper with some of these questions so if you don’t have the time to reply, that is okay.

And she signed off.

I took the time to reply honestly and candidly, always pointing out that this is IMO. I didn’t originally answer with the idea to turn the answers into a blog series >> but hey! Here it all is, through this month and the next and the next. Whoo!

Next Up

So, September starts my first answers based on her first paragraph above. Yeah, took me a while to get through that one paragraph. It’s loaded with problems and unspoken questions.

Good teacher that I am–I mean, was–I analyzed so I could explain.

For the rest of September, we’re on the 5ths (5 / 15 / 25). Join us.