As fantasy author DK Drake, my mission is to bring you entertaining, engaging, wholesome adventures too packed with action to leave room for eye-rolling sappiness or mind-numbing fluff.
As a creative writing coach, my mission is to help authors find their voice, craft captivating stories, and finish book after book.

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Published Before College Podcast

June 7, 2023

New Novelist? Do These 2 Things to Speed Up Your Success

If you are a new novelist, don’t let this happen to you:

When I started writing my first novel right out of college, my mental game was weak. I felt like an imposter because no one had given me permission to write. It took me decades to gain confidence because of this mental barrier of not believing I had permission to be an author.

Listen to the podcast episode #57: New Novelist? Do These 2 Weird Things to Speed Up Your Success.

New Novelist Action Step 1: Own Your Author Identity by Giving Yourself Permission to Be an Author

Now I, author DK Drake, do bestow upon you the right, the privilege and the permission to be an author. You get to own your author identity even before you publish any book or article or short story. Because you are an author, you will do the things authors do.

  • You will write with diligence by setting aside pockets of practice time to write each week, then following through with writing during those times.
  • You will write with discipline by protecting your practice time and writing even on days when you don’t feel like it.
  • You will write with passion by enjoying the process and letting your unique creativity pour onto the page during those writing practices.
  • You will strive to continuously improve your skills by practicing, reading, and learning.
  • And you will hold yourself accountable by tracking your progress and telling at least one other person your writing goals.

On the days you doubt your ability or wonder if you are capable of finishing a story, remember that you are an author.

  • You can do hard things.
  • You can write.
  • You can learn.
  • You can improve.
  • You have a story that only you can tell. It’s your duty to share that story with the world. The world is waiting.

So write with diligence, discipline, and passion. Finish your story and publish it for the world to read because you are an author.

There. Permission granted. Now you don’t have to wonder if you can write or if you should write or if anyone will want to read your story. You’re officially an author. Behave like one, and the books will follow.

New Novelist Action Step 2: Let Yourself Be Lousy

As a teen, I did not let myself be lousy. I played it safe in sports and school and even friendships to avoid looking like a mistake-making fool. I even kept my writing dream hidden because I didn’t know where to start or what to do. Had I embraced the idea of making mistakes and letting myself be lousy so that I could learn how to be great, I would have made progress in every area of my life so much faster than I did.

These days I take more chances. Some of those risks are rewarding. Like this podcast. Some are painful and embarrassing, like last night. I was playing left field in a co-ed softball game. A guy hit a high pop fly that I didn’t think I was going to get to. But I sprinted after it as fast as my unspeedy feet would allow. As it was coming down, I surprised myself by realizing I was close enough to catch it. I put my glove up but lost sight of the ball at the last milisecond. I caught it…with my forehead.

The thunderous blow knocked me to the ground, and the batter made it safely to second before time was called. The entire game stopped as half the folks from my team and the other team came to check on me. All I could think was, “How did I miss that ball. I was right there! I know how to catch. I must have looked like an incompetent fool running towards the ball only to get bonked in the head.”

You know what, though? I’m proud of myself for trying. For giving my all. For risking looking like an idiot. Because that mistake is going to make me a better ballplayer…once my head heals, that is. My head is still hurting, but I was able to finish the game (it was only in the third inning when it happened, and we ended up winning by two). Before going home, my sis did take me on a detour to the hospital. The CT scan confirmed that my skull was still intact, and the wallop didn’t do any damage to my brain. I just have to scale back on exercising for a few days.

The good news is that being lousy at writing will not land you in the ER the way a softball to the head will. So be lousy. Write the words even if they don’t make a lot of sense the first go round. That’s what editing is for. Let loose in that rough draft phase. No one is going to read this draft, so don’t worry about what anyone else is going to think.

I tried to churn out a publish-worthy manuscript from the get-go when writing my first novel. It didn’t work. I stressed myself out and felt constantly frustrated at my inability to be a great writer, but my first draft of my first book wasn’t supposed to be great. It was supposed to be lousy. I had no experience writing a book and thus had no idea what I was doing. Had I simply relaxed, let myself be lousy, and enjoyed the experience of telling a story, it wouldn’t have taken me years and years to complete that first book. In other words, don’t strive for perfection. Just get the story out of your head knowing you can make it better in the revision and editing stages.

To be clear, the goal is not to publish lousy books. The goal is to publish a fantastic book that will captivate readers and leave them wanting more stories from you. Let yourself be lousy in the beginning stage of every novel you write. That’s how you write faster and get to the learning, growing, and improving stages.

Author Action Steps

There you have it. Two weird things you can do to speed up your success as a new novelist. One, own your author identity by giving yourself permission to be an author. And two, let yourself be lousy.

Now go own your author identity and write something lousy.

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