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Five Things I Wish I Had Known Before Writing a Book.

Small lessons that were unexpected in my journey of writing my first novel.

By Elise L. BlakePublished 3 years ago 7 min read
Five Things I Wish I Had Known Before Writing a Book.
Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

It’s not the coffee shop fairy tale I thought it would be

I had always dreamed of being an author but was content with the idea that it would be a hobby instead of a profession as my mother constantly drilled into my head that it would be a foolish notion to make a living with THOSE kinds of stories. I continued with my studies and my writing, keeping my personal notebook with me where ever I went so I could keep my little horrors with me and write whenever I felt the itch.

In the second year of my Biology undergraduate degree, I took a creative writing class as a free elective, and as soon as I stepped foot in that class I was doomed. We had the usual introduction of two truths and a lie, but after that, we went around in a circle the opposite way to announce what we liked to write.

The answers were all similar there was fantasy, romance, and poetry. When the teacher finally got to me I cleared my throat and mumbled through my explanation that I only wrote Horror stories. The teacher rushed right on over to me and gave me a high five and said, “Yes! I can’t wait, you give me as many stories as you want to write and we’ll see where it leads us.”

No matter the prompt she gave, I gave it my most gruesome try.

When the semester was over she sat me down for a personal one-on-one and asked me what it was I wanted out of life and why I was wasting my time with a major in Biology when it was clear to everyone my heart wasn't in it and I was barely scraping by. I told her about my family’s expectations, but I also confessed to her my dreams. On the last day of class, she called me up to her desk as the bell rings and hands me a blue folder. In this folder was a change of major sheet and all the information I needed to become an English major.

I had the papers handed in that very day.

I had always idolized books on a shelf and imagined the wonderful people behind the pages that were now living out my dream of having their words printed and bound for all the world to see. Normally a short story writer I put everything I had learned into my brain and decided I was going to see my name in print.

However, there were many things I hadn’t been prepared for before making that final journey to being a published author.

If you’re a writer about to take the plunge on that full-length novel be prepared for these five things.


I had no idea that sitting in front of my computer for hours on end could be so exhausting. I had done it for an entire day’s length at a time before watching Youtube and Netflix while scrolling idly through social media.

When sitting down and typing out paragraph after paragraph my back started to ache, my wrist needed to be iced, and my butt lost all feeling for a time.

Not only was it physically exhausting somedays, but it was an emotional roller coaster. On days I followed my outline and my characters were behaving in the way I wanted them to, writing didn’t seem like that much of a hassle. However, on those days where the words had to be pulled from my head on the back of a semi-trucks tow hitch, I would suffer for it greatly the next day by getting a headache just looking at my computer.

Be prepared to start shopping for a chair with some good support if you’re going to be sitting in it for longer than a normal person should and start buying coffee in bulk. When it comes time to edit your work… you’re going to need it.

Friends and family do not make good editors

Editors and proofreaders and beta readers are all so very expensive! So when your brother, cousin, or best friend offer to read your story for free of course you’re going to want to jump on that. Here’s the warning though. Those closest to you may not be your best option. If your mom is an English teacher and can help check over your work by all means go for it, but if your brother hasn’t read a book since high school he’s not going to be of much help.

There’s also the fact that if there's something really really wrong with your book such as you switched the name of your main character halfway through but never noticed it or the small fact that you have a GIANT plot hole that destroys your entire story. Your sister might not say anything to you because she “didn’t want to be mean” this gets you the result of the publisher all but laughing in your face.

The end doesn’t mean the end

You just typed the final sentence in your novel and a huge wave of relief has washed over you. Now it’s time to publish this masterpiece and let the money start rolling in…right?

HA! If only that was truly the case. Little did I know that writing the novel was the easy part! After writing you have the awfully cringy reread to get through, then it’s time to edit it, reread it, edit again, then reread it again. After you’ve gone through that two others need to read it, a beta reader and possibly an editor. After sitting around and waiting for their feedback you then have to go through your work again line by line and make changes based on the feedback you received.

If I had known this part was going to be so exhausting I might never have written the dang thing in the first place. By the time I finished with my final read I swore I was never even going to think about that story again. The lines were burned into my brain and I saw them floating above me in my sleep.

It was all worth it in the end though. My book was published and my sister was only too happy to point out the typo on the very first page

Not all publishers are created equal

When I first set out to write my book I didn’t think much about the end goal until I was about to cross the finish line of the final chapter. There is a large debate in the community on whether authors should be traditionally published or go the route of indie publishing. In the beginning, I wish I had known that self-publishing didn’t make me any less of an author. I struggled through rejection after rejection with my novel.

“There just isn’t a market for horror novels right now.”

“Young readers want romance, not blood and guts.”

Oh, and here is my favorite.

“You can’t take a famous horror author's name and expect to sell under it.” I’m sorry, but that one is really my father's fault. He should have given me a different last name. What was he thinking?

In the end, I’ve made my decision to be a hybrid author, publishing my horror works independently and my others through a publishing company. It’s ok to do both or to pick aside.

Social media is very important even before you finish your book

If you write with a pen name, you should grab every social media handle you can think of just in case. If you write with your real name but want your family-only account to remain private, make new ones adding Author to your title.

Even with traditional publishing much of your marketing is going to come back to you. Facebook ads, Instagram pages, why not even a Snapchat account.

Having these accounts and growing a small audience will help you if you’re just starting out. Building this small base will give you the platform for a better book release when it’s time. Share your favorite quotes along with some artwork depicting a scene in the book, hold a contest for your cover art if you haven't found one yet. It’s never too early to start interacting with those who may become your loyal readers.

By the time I had decided to make my Instagram page, my name was already up there and the only suggestions it could come up with added a bunch of random letters to the end. Not a very professional look by any means.

Even if you’re not ready to post anything, grab up those names just in case. Nobody will believe the username of BarbraKing3426 is a professional author account.

Bonus: It was the best decision I’ve ever made

Writing a book and getting to that final stage where your words are out there in the hands of others is exhausting, repetitive, and oh so so worth it.

There have been days when I’ve wanted nothing more than to throw my entire laptop from my third-floor balcony and my handwritten chapters into the fireplace just to have them out of my life. However, there were also days when I watched a loved one reach an emotional scene in my story, and tears escaped from the corner of their eyes with emotions I put there.


With just my words.

That’s all I’ve ever wanted.

I hope with this list I was able to forewarn at least one person from going through some of the unknowns I faced alone, now as I am joined with a community of support from other authors, I’m ready to bring on that first feeling of diving headfirst into a new novel.

Sure I’m still going to want to throw the laptop out the window at some point, but now I know that it will be worth it, in the end, to keep it seated safely on my desk.

Best of luck in all that you do.

Keep writing.



About the Creator

Elise L. Blake

Elise is a full-time writing coach and novelist. She is a recent college graduate from Southern New Hampshire University where she earned her BA in Creative Writing.

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