Greasing the Path to Getting Your First Novel Published

There are enough obstacles in your path as a first novelist, and you are wise to omit as many as you can. Here are five of ten tips to increase your chances of getting your first novel published. (You’ll get the other five in Part II when it’s published next week.)

1) Write in a genre that’s popular.

  • Don’t follow micro trends.

Any new subgenre or genre mix is something to wait on. I am comfortable writing SciFi, but not comfortable writing steam punk for my first novel. Steam punk is growing, but it’s new. I’ll wait on that. (Another example of this would be ‘no’ to chick lit, and ‘yes’ to women’s fiction. You don’t know when a fad will suddenly die out.)

  • DO follow long-term trends

In Christian publishing, “speculative” categories such as science fiction are growing and have been for some time. In the secular market, the overall genre of SciFi is solid. It’s a good bet the category will be there for me when I attempt to publish my first novel.

  • Google “publishing trends” to see what the trends are.
  • Look at bestseller lists and internet book reviews.
  • Look for the growth trend in your genre

Remember, I’m only talking about your first novel. Once you get a following, do what you want!

2) Don’t over-depend on dialogue. Describe body language and what is going on in your p-o-v character’s head.

  • Novels have subtext. People don’t always say what they mean, and their body language can say it all. They also think things and say the opposite. Break up your dialogue with description.

3) Use the most popular points of view.

The most-popular points of view right now are close third person and first person. Avoid Omniscient point of view unless that is what your publisher likes.

4) Don’t head hop. A writer head hops when she changes p-o-v quickly from one character to another.

  • Most writing gurus recommend that when writing a book with several viewpoints, you make sure a p-o-v gets ample time before switching to the next one. Writing experts say to restrict several scenes or even a whole chapter to one viewpoint.
  • However, I’ve seen some Romance lines still allow head hopping. Check with the line you are submitting to in order to determine this rule. Generally, head hopping is considered old-fashioned writing.
  • A good rule-of-thumb is to have no more than two characters as viewpoint characters.
  • Experimenting with p-o-v is great, but wait until you have an established audience and are known in the industry before you try it. Remember—you want to increase your chances for your FIRST novel to be published.

5) Avoid Prologues.

Jeff Gerke in his book The First 50 Pages has great instruction on writing good prologues. Editors and publishers HATE prologues because few writers know how to write good ones and use the prologue properly. Do yourself a favor and don’t write a prologue for your first novel. Wait until the industry trusts you and you are versed at writing a good one.

Denise Miller Holmes is the director of Words for the Journey and instructs writers on 

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2 Responses to Greasing the Path to Getting Your First Novel Published

  1. This blog design is beautiful, and you have some fantastic content!

    • wftjourney says:

      Thank you, Paula. I can’t take credit for the banner logo–Sharen had that made a long time ago. All Mark and I did was match the color in the pen. I like things match-y match-y. I’m glad you find the content good. It’s what our lessons are like at WFTJ. People usually weep when the lesson is done. (It’s that good!) Oh my. Just pulling your leg, as I’m wont to do. 😀

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