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Writing and Publishing a Novel from Start to Finish

Updated on April 14, 2014

It’s Just so Overwhelming

Writing is an extreme privilege but it's also a gift. It's a gift to yourself and it's a gift of giving a story to someone.

Amy Tan

Well, not really, but I understand that it seems that way. For anyone who has never written a novel, the idea of creating a cohesive package out of 100,000 random words must seem monumental for sure.

Well take a deep breath. It is not that bad. The key is to take it one small step at a time. Don’t think of 100,000 words. Think, instead, of one chapter, and then the next, and then the next. Breaking the task into manageable chunks, and then doing those chunks as time allows, is the only way to approach this task and remain sane.

What I want to do for you today is take you through the process I used in writing my latest novel, “Resurrecting Tobias.” I am going to give you a bare-bones outline from start to finish….and then beyond. Yes, there is a “beyond,” after the novel has been written. In many ways, when the writing is done then the real work begins.

So kick back and allow me to tell you what I have gone through and how I handled each step. Of course other writers have different approaches and I say hooray for them. However, this is my article so it is my process that we will concentrate on today.

It all begins here
It all begins here | Source

Planning the Novel

I am not going to spend a great amount of time on this section since I have already written several articles about it. The main point I want you to realize is that you have to go through a planning stage before you ever start writing.

I recommend some sort of outline, even if it is an informal outline in your head. Know where your book is going, or at the very least have some sort of idea where you would like it to go. Yes, I have heard writers explain that their characters actually write the book, and I understand that, but you still need some sort of roadmap to get from Point A to Point Z.

During this time you also need to meet your characters and get to know them….and I mean really know them. They are going to be carrying the load in your novel, and the more you understand them the better. After 130,000 words and what I believed to be closure with my novel, I realized I still didn’t know one of my main characters….so I am now re-writing her part in my drama.

Decide on scenes…decide on point of view…decide on the whole gamut of small details before you start writing. Heck, read my articles about this if you need to know more. I have included them to the right of this article.

Writing the Novel

If it is important to you to write a novel then make some time to do so. One hour per day? Schedule it and stick to it.

Here is where the outline comes in handy. There are some excellent online tools that will help you to organize your novel and thus allow you to just fill in the different sections of your planning sheet.

The hardest part of writing a novel, in my humble opinion, is maintaining pace and flow for 100,000 words. This separates the short story writers from the novel writers, and it is no easy task. There must be a rhythm to your writing. There must be peaks and valleys. There must be twists and turns, and it all must be written with cohesiveness. As a general rule of thumb, for every 25,000 words there should be a major event that produces conflict for the main characters. Those events will help your novel to keep moving at a decent pace.

Doing the final edit of your novel is a mistake many make
Doing the final edit of your novel is a mistake many make | Source

Editing and Rewriting the Novel

You are all done with the first draft. Take a deep breath. Now, start editing and rewriting.

In my first rewrite of “Resurrecting Tobias, I simply re-read the manuscript to spot any inconsistencies. I left the heavier editing for later.

In the second rewrite I fleshed out the characters more and developed the scenes in greater detail.

Then I turned the whole thing over to some volunteers who graciously offered to read the manuscript and give suggestions. This is a valuable step in the process. It is important to find out what the reading public feels about your book. Some suggestions are excellent. Some you can choose to ignore if you feel they compromise your work. You are, after all, the author, and the final decision of what to include and what to discard is yours.

Finally, when all of that is done, turn your manuscript over to a professional editor. They will do a line edit checking for grammatical errors, and if they are any good they will make a professional assessment of your book and make suggestions to make it stronger.

Publishing the Novel

Anyone can publish a novel. In a world where ebooks are so popular, all you need do is download and format and within days you will be a “published author.”

If, however, you long to be published in the traditional way, then you will now start sending our query letters to publishers and/or agents in hopes that they will fall in love with your book and offer a publishing contract. You will need a synopsis for this step. You will also need a tagline (summary of the novel in one sentence).

This is a long, slow, and aggravating process. Many publishers will take months to respond to your queries. Many will reject you outright. Some, if you are lucky, will be interested enough to make suggestions. One in twenty might actually ask to see a synopsis. This process is not for the thin-skinned or weak-of-heart out there. Plan on being rejected but do it anyway.

Your other option is to publish the book in hard copy or paperback yourself. There are many local printing companies who will print your book at a substantial cost. There are many online publishing companies who will also do the job. Research and find the best deal.

The final product
The final product | Source

Marketing the Novel

And now we have come to the part of publishing that few writers enjoy. In fact, I would venture to say that most writers literally hate and fear the marketing side of writing.

If you are self-publishing then you are the head of your marketing department. It is your job to go to bookstores and get your book placed in those stores. It is your job to network and promote over the social media. It is your job to schedule and conduct book readings and book signings. It is your job to set up a website and yes, it is your job to lay awake at night figuring out a new approach that will make the buying public aware of your book and eager to purchase it.

And if you are lucky enough to have found a publisher, it is still your job to do these things.

Accept that truth and be prepared for it.

Are you considering writing a novel?

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And Then Do It All over Again

Let’s take a look at the worst case scenario. You spend six months writing your novel. Then you spend an additional month or two rewriting and editing it. Then you publish it and do your due diligence in marketing it…..and it does not sell.

What do you do?

Sit down and start writing again!

Why?

Because you are a writer, and writers write….it is as simple as that.

2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

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    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Time and proper planning to write a book from start to finish is most crucial to writers . Valuable points here.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 3 years ago from New York, New York

      Loved hearing about the process for you here today and seriously so very excited for your upcoming book now. Happy Monday, Bill!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      And, DDE, a desire to do the work and commit to the time needed. :) Thanks as always for being here.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Janine. I'm in the final edit now, but I still think it will be a month before publish date.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 3 years ago

      I am adding this hub to my billybuc novel of writing. Thank you. Voted up, useful, interesting and awesome.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm flattered, breakfastpop...thank you!

    • Rafiq23 profile image

      Muhammad Rafiq 3 years ago from Pakistan

      Useful hub billybuc! Great tips for those who intends to start writing a novel. Thumbs up!

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 3 years ago from Central Florida

      Thank you for sharing the process, Bill. As always, your insight is valuable and eye-opening. We're very fortunate to have someone like you offer guidance so freely. You have a heart of gold, my friend!

    • Anna Haven profile image

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      I can hear the fully deserved pride in your voice and I look forward to seeing your latest novel on Amazon. I like your non gloss account of the real trek of novel writing.

      Thank you for sharing your experience and I for one was listening intently and soaking all your advice in.

    • Bishop55 profile image

      Rebecca 3 years ago from USA

      I need to save this info. I've been wanting to do this forever! Thank you for sharing. I'm pinning if that is okay. And will be following you billybuc!

    • cygnetbrown profile image

      Donna Brown 3 years ago from Alton, Missouri

      Now that I have written three books, two novels and a nonfiction gardening book, writing the book has gotten easier. Self-publishing has also gotten easier. Marketing, not so much, so that's where my focus is now. Good luck on your new book. I know it will do great!

    • profile image

      DJ Anderson 3 years ago

      Great advice, as always, Bill.

      I keep trudging along at a very slow pace.

      Making sure that this material is authentic is a tiring task, but I feel it

      is absolutely necessary.

      I wanted to mention something eerie that has happened all through

      the writing of this novel. When I get bogged down and feel overwhelmed, I take a few days off to clear my head. Invariably, something will come on TV, radio or computer that will contain information pertaining to my storyline. It is an unmistakable nudge

      to get me back to the never ending research and writing on this novel.

      I realize that the storyline is never far from the forefront of my thinking,

      but this had passed the point of coincidental and has moved into something outside the realm of normal.

      Was wondering if anyone else gets the feeling that there is a greater force

      at work continuing to guide their creative hands? I am quite serious in

      this query.

      Thank you,

      DJ.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Bill, really looking forward to reading 'Resurrecting Tobias.' My collection continues to grow, no excuses, it's time to start focusing, an hour a day sound doable. :) Thank you my friend for all the helpful tips, have a lovely day.

    • cfin profile image

      cfin 3 years ago from The World we live in

      My process is broken and includes going back to edit before I am finished. I am about 80,000 words in and have transformed the whole thing at lest 3 times. Nice article :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Rafiq! I always appreciate you stopping by.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sha, we can thank my parents. They are the ones who taught me to give freely. Thank you dear friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Anna, thank you so much. This novel is a work of love for me, and I have given it my best effort. What happens next should be interesting at the very least. :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Bishop, of course it is okay and I thank you for sharing it. I'm very happy to have you following me my new friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Donna, that marketing thing is the bugaboo for most writers. Good luck on your writing journey and thank you.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      DJ, thanks for saying that you are serious. I never know with you. :) Yes, to answer your question. I have had it happen with this latest book of mine, and it is strange and exciting and a bit scary. LOL Thanks for sharing that and good luck with that research and writing.

      your friend

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jo, I really hope you start the process my friend. You are a good writer and I really want to see a book coming soon from you. Best wishes always, Jo!

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      cfin, best wishes to you. This is not easy by any means, and it does not surprise me that you describe yours as broken. We have all been there. Good luck!

    • Froggy213 profile image

      Greg Boudonck 3 years ago from On A Mountain In Puerto Rico

      Thanks Bill for your great advice. I will share it with others who are making the same journey.

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 3 years ago from Jamaica

      I was just remembering how daunting it was to get to 10,000 word short story some years ago. Then the challenge was 20,000 and I almost peed my pants. When my first 30,000 word novella job came I had to make sure I had a good outline that would take me there. I am now on my first 50,000 word novel and it doesn't seem insurmountable at all. I laugh at myself all the time remembering those first days of challenging myself to reach each goal.

      Thanks for the tips Bill. I always learn a lot from your writing articles.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks, Greg, although I'm quite sure you don't need this...but thanks for sharing it.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Cardisa and I hear what you are saying. I remember the same thing and the same progression. This novel was planned to be 100,000 words....I over-shot that by 30,000 and forced myself to stop there. LOL

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Hooray for Bill's way! I believe it is every true writer's dream to be published the traditional way, but until that day arrives, as you say, keep writing and trying other avenues that are prevalent today. Great advice to set aside a certain amount of time each day devoted to your novel, or it may never be written!

    • BNadyn profile image

      Bernadyn 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida

      I like that rule of thumb - for every 25,000 words there should be a major event - I'll have to keep that in mind. It's a good rule to go by to keep the pace in the book going strong. Marketing a book does sound like more work than actually writing it but I'm sure the process of it all will be worthwhile in the end. Thanks for the helpful tips, as always!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you BNadyn! Like all rule of thumbs, play with it to fit your needs, but on average you can count on some sort of conflict every 25,000 words.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Hi Faith! Thanks for having lunch with me. My sandwich as tasty; how about yours?

      Thank you dear friend and have a great week.

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 3 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      You have a nice way of breaking things down that seems overwhelming. Marketing is the often forgotten about part and such hard work.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      truthfornow, thank you! I like to keep things pretty simple and eliminate the unnecessary....it's nice to hear that my style is working.

    • profile image

      sheilamyers 3 years ago

      As always, great tips and advice. I had to decide last night if I needed to do a rewrite or let things flow and I'm only half way finished with my novel. After at least four chapters, I realized I had two characters with the same last name. So the choice was to go back and change one of those or write an explanation for the names. I was afraid I'd miss making a change somewhere, so I just wrote they were cousins and worked that into the story. I'm only relating this so people can see the value of a rewrite, whether it's during writing or after it's complete. I could've totally confused people without the explanation.

    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Excellent advice. I'm almost done with my newest novel and I know the next part is the part I dread-the editing. But, it is a necessary evil and then yes, I'm going to revisit my characters and make sure I like all of them and that they are behaving as they should! Good luck with your new novel!!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Liz, that's where I am now. I still have a main character I'm not happy with, but it will come in time. Best wishes on that new novel my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sheila, I'm only laughing because I caught an amazingly obvious mistake on the fifty read. LOL I'm not sure it ever gets easier but I do know it is still very enjoyable. Best of luck on your latest book and thanks for the visit.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      If I ever write a novel I will definitely reread all your hubs on the topic before I begin, Bill. They are very helpful. Best of luck with your latest book.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 3 years ago from California

      With encouragement us like this and I may have to write a novel.

    • theBAT profile image

      theBAT 3 years ago

      "Sit down and start writing again! Why? Because you are a writer, and writers write….it is as simple as that." - this is really a very inspiring advice! No matter what happens, writers have to write and not get discouraged by failures. Thanks for another great hub.

    • ocfireflies profile image

      ocfireflies 3 years ago from North Carolina

      Bill,

      Per always, you give excellent information. I think one of my greatest challenges is to compartmentalize and create that so needed outline.

      In addition, it would help if I would keep one notebook with me as ideas pop into my head so I won't forget them. Instead, I tend to pick up whatever piece of paper closest to me and jot down the thought, but then I forget to keep all of these random pieces together. I like to think there is a novel in me, but I will need to get serious and use the tips you have provided if I am ever to have any success with the endeavor. For me, just actually completing the task would be so exciting. As far as getting such a project marketed and published (at this point anyway) would just be an icing on a cake that took many years to bake. Smiles. V+ as always.

      Kim

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks again for sharing the how-to as well as the motivation. I have written story in which a publisher showed interest and then disappeared. I haven't gotten stable enough to submit it again, but I will. Thank you for all the useful advice you give. HP writers are lucky to have you. Some of the information you give are what people pay for.

    • btrbell profile image

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      While writing a novel can be, without doubt, a most daunting task, you break it down in a way that makes it feel "doable" Thank you, Bill, for your ever present words of advice and encouragement.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so much, Alicia, and have a great day my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      tireless, I hope one day that you do. Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      theBAT....thank you! Good luck on your writing today my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Kim, there are some excellent online programs that can help you with outlining. I can't remember the names of them, but I know Rolly uses one that he swears by.

      Best wishes my friend and thank you.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Dora, I get paid for this...in friendship and smiles. Don't think for a second I'm doing this for free. :)

      Thank you dear friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You are very welcome, Randi. I'm just giving back to the people who have helped me so much.

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      I struggle with mine. I've been working on it a few years, I planned it all out well and keep restarting it, I am hoping to get to the finish line soon. This is great advice. I'm pinning this to my taskbar for inspiration.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Wiccan, sometimes it takes a break. I had a mentor who told me time takes time....when it is time you will write it. Thanks for the visit.

    • Dawn Fair profile image

      Dawn Fair 3 years ago from Maryland

      I've been writing mine for over a year. I feel I'm really close to finishing it. Of course, then starts the slow process of revision. It shouldn't be so hard in a lot of parts because I've been taking writing courses at a local community college and what we do in the class is read out loud and others read along with a copy of what's being read. These people make constructive comments that really help. It's great fun!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Dawn, that's great that you are taking a writing course. That kind of feedback is invaluable. Good luck with your book.

    • VioletteRose profile image

      VioletteRose 3 years ago from Chicago

      Great tips! I enjoy reading novels, but never tried writing one myself. I very much agree about the idea of dividing the task and finishing step by step :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Violette. I appreciate you stopping by.

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      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Billybuc, if ever my novel gets finished and published, I PROMISE to include you in the page where you thank people for helping to get the book done. Come on wings, one feather at a time...

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      grand old lady, thank you so much. I am flattered and honored my friend.

    • vkwok profile image

      Victor W. Kwok 3 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks for sharing this helpful hub, Bill.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You are very welcome, vkwok! Thank you!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      Well I have achieved a great deal today and one of these achievements is catching up with three of your hubs Billy. Each one as interesting as the last. Great work here and explains some unanswered queries I had.

      Voted up and shared.

      Enjoy your day and lots of love to you and Bev.

      Eddy.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Eddy, I greatly appreciate you taking the time to read three of my hubs today. Thank you so much dear friend.

      Sending a warmth of friendship from across The Pond.

      billy

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      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      An hour a day sounds like an investment that most writers can afford. Helpful hub, Bill!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I would think so, Flourish...if writing is important to them. That's a mighty big if. :) Have a great day and thank you.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 3 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Your photo reveals your secret -- a table, a chair, and a writing implement.

      Good summary of the novel writing process. Up, Useful, and Interesting.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Brian, what more does a writer need? Oh yes, a little creativity would help. :) Thank you my friend and Happy Weekend to you.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 3 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Oh, yes, I forgot the unseen ingredient -- the creative, skilled, and persistent application of imagination.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Brian, there seems to be quite a few writers who forget that ingredient. :) Thanks for the reminder.

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      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      I feel like I have been to a seminar on how to write a novel with the background information from your book. Thank you for sharing this valuable part of writing for success.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Dianna, I thank you for that lovely comment. I hope you had a wonderful weekend.

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      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      You're so right. It might not sell, but you can't stop writing. As Stephen King told me, "Don't ever give up."

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Deb, King is the perfect example to use. He was rejected for years and actually was told he was a poor writer. Live and learn my friend.

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