Wednesday, January 25, 2017

How to Navigate Today’s Publishing Industry P.4: Setting Out on the Journey

Pin this!

If you haven’t noticed, I write a lot about the publishing/writing journey on this blog. It’s because I’m passionate about not only for writing, but the entire process — from the initial dream {Part 1}, charting your course {Part 2 & Part 3}, and finally, to setting out on the journey.

This journey isn't easy. There are roadblocks. Dead ends. Yellow lights. Stop lights. And often, we might have to make a big decision — which path to take? — that will alter the course of the rest of our career. We’ll need to stay aware of the traffic signs (warnings from professionals, manuscript criticism, etc.) to prevent potential crashes.

We might reach high points in our journey — times of breathtaking scenery. When an agent shows interest. When we receive positive feedback from a critique partner. Win a writing contest.

Yet other times, the road will become bumpy, scenery will become dull, and the road will seem never-ending. We’ll start to wonder why we don’t release the steering wheel, put the car in park, and give up entirely.

But if we don’t keep going, then we’ll never know what could lie on the other side.

If you’re planning to set out on your writing journey, believe me when I say that it’s going to be a journey of a lifetime. Literally. Because if you’re in this thing for the long haul, then don’t assume the journey ends once you reach your destination (publication).

But where do you start? How can you break down what we discussed in Part 2 & 3 and take action?

Each writer’s journey is unique. But in effort to help you set out on yours, I’ve created a sample aspiring author’s journey toward publication below. We’ll call her Aspiring Author Anne.

Below are steps we’ve discussed in previous posts and a summary of how Aspiring Author Anne puts them into action …

→ 1) Carve out a block of time to write consistently and create deadlines that will push you further.

How Aspiring Author Anne puts this into action:

She examines her schedule and discovers that she has a block of 20 minutes in the morning that she can dedicate to writing before she leaves for college classes. Not much, but better than nothing!

She has also written her realistic goals on her calendar. She’s hoping to write 1000 words per week. If she doesn’t achieve this goal, then she’s going to wake up an hour earlier on Saturday and make sure her weekly goal has been met.

→ 2) While writing your book, also carve out time to invest in developing your craft.

How Aspiring Author Anne puts this into action:

Since Anne is a full-time college student, she doesn’t have much time to study an area that isn’t related to her school studies; however, she’s decided to make writing a priority in her life as well. Because of that, she’s subscribed to a list of podcasts that she can listen to while she does her chores on Saturday afternoons and while she drives.

She also noticed that she can read a writing craft book during her free time — when she would normally watch a movie or check Facebook.

→ 3) Eventually create social media profiles and possibly a blog. 

How Aspiring Author Anne puts this into action:

Anne is already active on social media, especially on Instagram. So that’s not a problem.

However, she isn’t as engaged with her target audience as she should be. So, she finds people to follow on Instagram and begins to interact on their posts. Soon, she receives several new followers within that network. She makes sure that engaging on Instagram becomes another priority and is active consistently. She doesn’t have the time to blog, but she does read blogs in her spare time and occasionally comments. This research helps her understand what goes into a good blog and it gives her ideas as to what she would eventually like to blog about when she graduates college.

→ 4) When you’re done with the book, take a break and set it aside. Then, read through it and self-edit. Find critique partners/join a critique group. Consider hiring a freelance editor.

How Aspiring Author Anne puts this into action:

Finally, after an entire year, Anne has finished writing her book! She takes a break from writing and uses her dedicating-writing time to study editing books. Then, she uses what she’s learned through those books to edit her manuscript from an objective standpoint. This takes months, but thankfully she finds more time during the summer to edit.

When it’s time for school to start back, Anne decides to join ACFW and finds an online critique partner through that organization. She’s careful about the feedback she receives and only uses feedback she believes will excel her writing.

Finally, her manuscript’s revisions are complete! She would love to hire a freelance editor, but she’s a college student and can’t afford one at the time. She does, however, give her book a final read-through before moving onto the next step.

→ 5) When your manuscript is polished, research agents. You can also look into attending a writer’s conference, where you’ll have the possibility to meet with them face-to-face. Consider entering your book into writing contests.

How Aspiring Author Anne puts this into action:

Anne checks out the current “Writer’s Market Guide” from the library and makes a list of 10 agents who represent her genre. After researching each agent and their agency to make sure they’re trustworthy, she writes a query letter and begins submitting to her list. She keeps track of her submissions and rejections in an Excel Spreadsheet. After seven months of receiving rejections and wondering if she should give up, Anne finally receives interest from an agent! He requests the full manuscript and signs with her three months later. By this time, she’s already graduated from college.

The end … Well, really it’s only the beginning for Soon-to-Be Author Anne. ;)

~ ~ ~

Questions for you...

Are you struggling with setting out on your writing journey? Is there a certain stage you’re stuck on or an obstacle you need to overcome? Let me know in the comments!



  1. First time reader here, really enjoy what you've got.
    The hardest thing for me has always been finishing, I blast through the first parts of rough drafts, have lots of fun editing the first chapters, but I struggle not only to bring things to a conclusion (though I know how I want them to end), but in the final editing, grammar and what not. I started trying short stories, and I found that it has helped me a lot.
    One other thing I might mention in regards to point 2, beyond just general writing skills, I would recommend finding what you're bad at, and studying people who are really good at it. I was really bad at setting and atmosphere, so I studied Rosemary Sutcliff, and I think it helped. I'm pretty terrible at punctuation, so I'm working through 'Elements of Style'. Just a few things that have helped me. Really enjoyed the post, Thanks!

  2. Glad you enjoyed it, Evan!

    I think it's a great idea to write short stories as practice for finishing novels. I would also recommend writing a novella as well -- 20k or so words. I've heard that writing novellas help writers establish a sense of plotting and pacing on a smaller scale. And, of course, they're much quicker to write than a 50k+ word novel. I'm in the process of brainstorming a novella now, actually. =)

    Do you set deadlines? I didn't do that until I began the rewrites for my second novel, "Unwritten Melody". I wanted to finish it within a certain time frame, so I knew the only way I could meet that goal was through setting tight (yet reasonable) deadlines.

    Great advice! Plotting is a weak area for me, so I've been studying "The Story Equation" by Susan May Warren. It usually takes another person to read our work and offer criticism for us to come to terms with our weaknesses.

    Thanks for commenting!


    1. I have mixed feelings on deadlines at the moment, I think the key words are "tight (YET REASONABLE)". I worked on and tweaked my first short story for three years before giving myself a deadline to publish it. Going back, there's a few things I wish I had done first (another person to read to read and offer criticism would have been a good first step), but that has forced me to learn and take the next few steps, so I suppose deadlines have their place. I'm just trying to figure out what that is at the moment.

    2. I recommend setting deadlines that push you toward finishing your book. The tools at have helped me understand the process of creating such goals that are challenging yet reasonable.

      Here’s what they recommend:

      1) How many words will your book be? Let’s say 50,000 words.
      2) How many words can you write per hour? Let’s say 1,000 words.
      3) How many hours can you devote to writing per day, and how many days a week? Maybe you can write for one hour per day for five days a week.
      4) Do the math! How long will it take for you to finish? In this example, it would take you 10 weeks to finish at this rate. (That’s only a little over two months!)

      Of course, if you find that the goals are too much of a stretch then you could always adjust them. And if you fall behind, then maybe you could find time on the weekend to catch up.

      I’ve also found it helpful to write down the word count goals on my calendar. There’s nothing like the feeling of accomplish when I check off a deadline!

      The key is to keep producing. The more you keep at it, the easier it will become! =)

  3. I like how you've set this series up. Steps really help make things clear in my mind, and they also remind me that you don't have to do everything at once which is hard for me to remember...
    I'm doing really good with #1, started thinking/dabbling in #3, and I really should work on #2. Perfect word for that - carve. It's pretty much what I need to do. Sometimes I have difficulty reading an entire book about writing or anything that's 'how-to' if I'm not to that point or am not actively asking the questions answered in them. Otherwise I feel like I'm swallowed by all this good information that I'll need in the future but will probably forget about. I suppose I could take notes, but I'm afraid I'd spend most of my time doing that.

    1. Thank you! Good to know that you’ve found this series helpful. =)

      Maybe you could find a specific area that you need help with in the craft (such as what Evan mentioned in the comments above). For instance, do you struggle with dialogue? Story world building? Plotting? Search for books on Amazon, but make sure that the author has credentials and the book has good reviews.

      Perfecting our craft is often our ticket to publication. That’s why it’s important that we continue to learn, study, and grow. Have you considered listening to writing podcasts? I list several on my “For Writers” page ( Maybe you could listen to a podcast while you do chores, take a walk, drive, etc.

      It’s okay if you spend most of your time taking notes while reading a craft book. I do the same! It takes me forever to get through a craft book. They’re filled with valuable info for writers, and it might take time for the instruction to sink in and digest. You’ll find it helpful when you begin to write, though!

      Hope that helps!

    2. I have heard there's a lot of good podcasts out there, but I'm one of those people who does better understanding through reading than listening. My mind always goes drifting off when I'm suppose to listen to sermons at church or stuff like that; so I guess I just need to settle down and take notes with craft books.

      I also have difficulty pinpointing my exact weaknesses in writing. I know there are certain aspects that I need to give more time to(world building, mainly, and making character journals for side characters. The second I have more internally but not written down), and I do know that some things in my writing aren't working, but I just don't know how to pinpoint them. I've tried to get friends and family to read stuff and give me some feedback, but that hasn't been successful.

      Because of all that, I'm really interested in your Creative Writing Mentorship Program. I was going to look at the questionnaire that all potential students are required to complete, but the link is non-existent? At least I can't seem to find any word that clicks.

      Anyway, thank you for your time!

    3. Thanks for letting me know about the link! I'll try to fix that asap. In the meantime, if you are interested, feel free to email me: tessaemilyhall (at) gmail (dot) com.


  4. I'm struggling to know which agents to submit to. The more I research the more I realize how many there are. I like the idea of making a list of ten and just going through them. I think I need to be braver in sending my book out. I think I'm scared they'll reject me because they haven't met me in person, but I'm not sure I can make it to a conference this year.

    1. Is there a specific agent or literary agency that you would consider to be your dream agent/agency? Maybe they represent authors you admire, have several client books published by your dream publisher, or have an esteemed reputation in the industry. I would start there.

      You can also try to aim for the newer agents as well since they’re actively searching to build their client list. ( posts new agent alert announcements. I think you can sign up for their newsletter to receive these.)

      Yes, definitely make a list. Spreadsheets are awesome in keeping track of this kind of thing! Make sure to carefully read an agent’s submission guidelines and to understand what genres they’re searching for. I would also do research on the agent to make sure they’re not listen on a site such as “Writer’s Beware” (

      Once you send your query to 10 agents, it might take 3 - 6 months before responses start rolling in. Just a warning: Most agents will likely reject you. That doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t think you’re a good writer, though. Agents reject for several reasons: they’re not seeking new clients, your book is similar to another book they represent, they don’t think they could sell your book at the time, etc. Don’t take it personally, but do use their valuable criticism to take your writing to the next level.

      So, as you receive their criticism, choose which feedback you should apply to your manuscript/proposal/query. Then send the query out for another round of 10 or so submissions.
      Although conferences can help you meet literary agents, going to one won’t guarantee a contract. It’ll simply help your submission to rise to the top of their slush pile.

      Let me know if you have any questions!


Thanks for stopping by my blog!