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Advice to Myself as a Newbie Author

September 22, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as ,

by Shauna Roberts

Today’s Guest: Lynna Banning

Lynna Banning is the author of thirteen historical romance novels and a former RITA nominee. Her newest book, a September release from Harlequin Historical, is Templar Knight, Forbidden Bride.

Lynna, if you could travel back in time to before you were first published, what advice would you give yourself?

1. Read lots in my genre (historical romance). It’s helpful to see what other houses are publishing and how other writers handle problems of point of view, pacing, types of villain, etc. Keep up with changes in the overall market and your particular genre.

2. Read more outside my chosen genre—nonfiction, literary fiction, trade and mass market popular fiction, and especially how-to books. Start with the “easy” ones: James Frey, How To Write a Damn Good Novel; Jack Bickham, Scene and Sequel; Syd Field, The Screen-Writer’s Workbook (good for plotting); and Ann Hood, Creating Character Emotions. Then move on beyond “the basics”: Linda Seger, Making a Good Script Great; Donald Maass, Writing the Breakout Novel and the Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook.

And keep reviewing these helpful books as you write!

3. Try to join the most advanced critique group you can find, preferably with published authors. You will suffer, but you will learn. However, protect yourself from critique groups that feel overtly or subtly “toxic.” Sometimes this is hard to recognize, but if you generally feel worse after the session (and not fired up and encouraged), give some hard thought to Why.

4. Do go to workshops, writing groups, and writing classes. Just keep your good sense about you, and your ego and your sense of “self” on an even keel. If your ego is very tender, protect yourself first and learn writing stuff later. Also consider getting some psychological counseling to help you retain perspective.

5. Brush up on the basics of grammar and punctuation. I highly recommend two reference books: (1) my old high school grammar text, Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition and (2) Jan Venolia’s Write Right. Both are easy to look up stuff in.

6. Learn to distinguish a “good” rejection letter from a “real rejection” letter. If the letter goes into any depth at all, they might consider a rewrite addressing those issues. Any letter that has even one line addressed specifically to you or your manuscript is a “good” rejection letter.

7. Learn not to see a manuscript’s rejection as anything but rejection of the manuscript itself, not of you personally. This sounds so easy, but it’s hard to detach one’s “person” from one’s “work.” But do try. Squashed egos are not good for writers.

8. Try to write consistently, every day if you can manage it. Use even small blocks of time, such a lunch-hours at work, hours spent on airplanes, time in hotel rooms (it helps if you first hand-write, as I do, on yellow lined note pads, or use a laptop). Set a daily goal: Mine is four typewritten, double-spaced pages a day, about 1,000 words. (Caveat: If a child has the mumps or I have a migraine, I take that day off.)


To learn more about Lynna, please visit her Website at http://www.LynnaBanning.com. Her newest book, Templar Knight, Forbidden Bride, is available in September at major bookstores and can be ordered online from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and Borders.

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