Author Truths

I posted a medium-sized writing rant on Facebook and my friend asked me to post it here, so I did. I tweaked it. And I added gifs. Because that’s what I do. Enjoy!

I get asked writing and publishing advice on a pretty regular basis. I love to help where I can. Really. Helping other writers is one of my favorite things. But I can’t count the number of times someone has asked for advice and then shrugged it off. I write books for money (not a lot, but I’m working on it). I have a literary agent. I’m traditionally published. If you ask for my advice, listen!

But because they won’t, the burden falls, my hapless readers, on you. Here are a few truths about writing and publishing people don’t love to hear:

1) Most authors don’t make enough money to quit their day jobs.

meme artist crying money poor

2) You aren’t just going to write a novel with no training/practice and make money. In fact, the odds are slim that you’ll make money at all. See #1. Writing fiction will NOT make you rich quick.

3) Your first novel will likely not be published, because your first novel is terrible.

tv excited good computer new girl

No it isn’t, Nick. No it isn’t.

Sorry, fact of life. If you have an idea for a story you just know will be your magnum opus, write something else first so you have some clue what the heck you’re doing. Or two or three something elses.

4) You MUST read. If you don’t take the time to read, both in and out of your genre, both classics and new releases, your writing will be out of touch and/or out of date and/or your story concept will have been done a million times. Which you would know. If you read.

book read beauty and the beast

5) Research fiction writing before/during/after you write your book. In fact, never stop. Keep learning. Just because you can write papers for school does not mean you can put together a coherent piece of fiction, let alone a compelling one. So take a class or start Googling.

6) Your spouse/mom/bff is great for encouragement, but is not going to give you adequate feedback on a professional level. You need to meet other writers.

7) Go to writing conferences. I’m not kidding. Yes, they cost money. But take it from someone who understands money struggles: the cost is worth it.

8) If you want to be a professional writer, you MUST master basic grammar.

meryl streep writing english grammar bane of my existence

Your story might be fantastic, but there are a lot of people out there who have good grammar AND write fantastic stories. Agents would rather represent those people. Editors would rather buy books from those people. Be one of those people.

9) Don’t take too long to write your story.


Authors who actually support themselves generally write one or more books per year.

10) If you want to be published by a large publisher, you need a literary agent. Large publishers won’t even look at a manuscript unless it’s sent to them by an agent. Small publishers will, but it’s also a good idea to have a literary agent when you work with them to make sure you don’t get screwed. If you’ve made it this far into this post, are interested in publishing, and don’t know about agents, you get them through a process called querying. Google it.

If you have any questions about writing or publishing that I haven’t covered here, feel free to ask.

rant end rant rant over

About Caitlyn McFarland

Mom of three girls, writer of fantasy novels.
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5 Responses to Author Truths

  1. Good advice! The only one I hate is number three because I KNOW, my 1st manuscript is TERRIBLE despite how much I’ve edited and revised it. I love the story though, so I’m not giving up on it! I might have to rewrite the whole thing one day, but I’m willing 😀

    • You can definitely get it up to speed if you take time to write other things, learn craft, and are willing to tear it apart! Soul of Smoke was the first novel I ever completed. But between writing the first draft and getting an agent, I wrote two other novels, a couple of short stories, and rewrote 70-80% of the story. Plus I studied my butt off reading everything I could find online about different aspects of writing, from storytelling to polishing prose.

      • Mine is the first in a series too, so I REALLY want to make it work. I’ve rewritten loads of chapters, added new ones, and cut over 20k words from it, but some of the descriptions and prose are still pretty cringe-worthy, lol! I agree, I plan to keep working on other manuscripts until I’m ready to tackle revising and editing it again 😀 Thanks for the advice!

  2. Reblogged this on Writing of Whitney Danielle and commented:
    I took a class from Caitlyn McFarland at the LDStorymakers Conference last year and I really respect what she has to say. This advice about writing is awesome so I thought I would share it.

  3. annelippin says:

    to add to #6: spouses can be extremely detrimental to the writing process. Plan accordingly.

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