What have I learned after writing 4 novels?

A great post by user MyFirstBook on the /r/writing subreddit. Reprinted with permission from the author.

Jon Bjarnason

Hello there,

It has been a long time since my last post here. Well, I’m back to write another overly long post about my writing journey for those of you that are interested.

As stated below, I have written four books. Three released, and the 4th currently in the final stages of beta readers. And here is what I have learned about the writing process and how it pertains to my particular style.

1: What have I learned?

Writing is probably the most mentally taxing thing I have ever done. For the longest time, I found that the maximum amount of words that I can write in a day is around 2k before my brain turns to mush. Well, that is actually untrue. What I have found out recently is that after those 2k words, my brain needs a reset. (AKA -- I need to take a nap for about 3 to 4 hours) Afterward, I am able to wake up and write another 2k.

For me, after waking up. I must write, or the writing will not get done. How it works for me is that my brain will tire itself out watching YouTube videos. So if I watch YouTube before writing, then I can give up on writing until I’ve had a reset. But the opposite is not true. If I pump out my 2k words first and then start watching YouTube. My brain doesn’t feel sluggish at all. (I have no idea why this is.)

2:What have I learned from Self-Publishing my novels?

Simple, it gets easier after you continue to refine the process and form relationships with cover artists and beta readers. And with that being said. Don’t be surprised when people disappear on you. In the past two years of writing. I have had artists disappear off the face of the earth, only to reappear and rise again from the ashes like a phoenix. So if you are planning a series and that particular author has a very distinctive style. Try to order 2 or 3 covers at once. Also, if you have the extra income, Tip your artists. Art, liking writing, isn’t exactly making us all millionaires any time soon. We do it because we are driven, but a little tip will go a long way.

3. My biggest Mistake

Recently, I’ve started writing my 5th novel, which is a sequel. Well, to gather my thoughts, I decided to reread my first novel to familiarize myself with the nuances of the story again. And let’s just say that the first novel was an absolute mess. I never realized the number of grammar errors that were still in it. Yes, I had it edited, but that only made it worse to see that so much had snuck by. So instead of writing the sequel, I had to speak another month re-editing the previous novel to bring it up to the standards I wished it to be. Now, I was told that my eyes are just more sensitive to mistakes since I’ve written around 500k words now. And maybe that's true, but it will always suck buttocks to open one of your novels and see a grammar error staring back out at you.

4: Caution Moving Forward

I just wish to keep writing. Writing isn’t what I do to make a living. Writing is an enjoyable hobby. And like many hobbies, such as bowling, football, cycling. It requires time, effort, and money. But also, like a hobby, you get to decide where and when you invest these things into it. Putting pressure on myself to complete a hobby will, for me, ultimately take away the fun of it. Personal goals are great, but forcing myself to do something during a moment of exhaustion or high levels of frustration will rob me of something I think of as an escape from those things.

5: My goals.

I wish to write in a bunch of different genres. For some reason, I find myself wanting to write a romance novel. A genre I have absolutely no experience in. And While that is like two books away, I find myself looking forward to it. Even though I’m almost 100% sure that it is going to be straight trash. I must admit that I’m kinda excited to start writing that hot mess of a book.

I do wish to become a better writer, though. I don’t exactly read other authors' novels and think things like, ‘I wish I could write like them.” I just wish to expand my own range as to how I describe environments and build character relationships.

6: Reviews

I’m now at the point where I can comment on what it is like to receive negative reviews on my novels. (Especially that badly edited one that I mentioned beforehand.) And truthfully, I don’t care. If anything, I start laughing, especially if they go on a rant about how they disliked certain parts of the story. If someone dislikes certain characters in my stories or actions taken because they wish for a character to do this or for a scene to work out a certain way. Then I honestly think that is great. It means they were invested enough to have an opinion on the situations I put them in.

But I will admit, I do not like seeing a comment that says the book has grammar errors. That still kinda gets to me. Not the comments that say the book needs an editor or that it was too long. That is subjective. Some may like a longer novel, while others may dislike it, claiming it has too much fluff. But spelling errors are not subjective; those are just plain facts. When you think you’ve written,(-She climbed into his boat.-)” But instead, the readers see (-She climbed into his buttock.-) That takes you ALL the way out of the story. And I would like my books to be an easy reading experience and not a trip through the DaVinci Code, where they need to decipher what I was trying to write.

Oh! Here is what my uncle said when I showed him my first review. It was a five-star glowing review on someone's website. I was excited and show him. And this is what he said.

****(Uncle Johnny)****

------Congratulations. Now I hope you never read another review.


------Because it's all downhill from here. No matter what reviews say from now on, you'll just be looking for an experience that is gone. Like a drug addict that is always chasing that first high. That is your first review, and it's a great score. You now know you can put one word in front of the other and make it tell a story. Go out, have a drink, and celebrate the day. Just remember. If you are going to write, write for the people that enjoy your story; don't try to write for the people that don't.

Now let's see, is there anything else to put into this update:

Oh Yes, Sales:

I have put my book on amazon and Barnes and Noble after all. So are my books bringing in the big bucks?

Absolutely not. But that is my own fault. I simply haven't promoted them outside of handing out a few arcs of websites. I always accepted that I would start promoting myself when I felt comfortable doing so. I created my little website and such, but no major promotion. I remember reading some advice a while back that said, "You can't really promote and sell a book that is unwritten. But if you sell a book and people like it enough, they will see what else you've written. So I've taken that to heart for the most part and have just decided to write and publish, and when I'm ready, I'll start a proper promotion. But for now, I'm just a writing fool.

Yes, --- Writing has become one of my greatest joys and worst nightmares (Editing is the Devil, and no one can change my mind on that.) But outside of Satan Editing, I have enjoyed this experiment in my life and see myself continuing it as long as I’m allowed to sit in front of a keyboard and type one key after another.

Have Fun out there, Fellow Author Friends.

I am not the author! Here is the Original post



Personally, I am not big on self publishing. Why? Many publishing companies and agents don’t want to touch you after that, unless you are selling like crazy, have a huge following and are bringing it the big bucks. I read somewhere that the average sales of self published books in Amazon is 10 books. That is it. Yes, there are those that sell a lot. But when you do the statistical math, that is what you get. I don’t want that, I am not wishing for that. So I prefer to go traditional. I had a novel sit at Simon & Schuster for two years, and another one at the Atlantic for about a similar time and they got rejected. Many years later, I went back to look at those novels, and they needed more work. Why? Like you, I evolved. You understand nuance much better. You’ve read other authors that are more in line with what you do. Publishing is not about paper, ink and glue. It’s about distribution. And Amazon just wants to take your money and give you that illusion of greatness. It’s a lie for about 99 percents of writers out there. Oh yes, there’s that one percent.
Before you go switching genres, understand that each one has quirks about their audience. Things that have worked or not worked that make it difficult to someone new to break in. Let’s say you have this great idea, but then, you talk to someone in that genre and they tell you that is just like so and so. So don’t go there. But, let’s say you write in the speculative SiFI spectrum. Who says there are not love affairs within that world. So stick to what you read, understand. If you have a particular audience, stick to them.
About having that perfect review. It’s nice, move on. I kind of agree with you. Realize also that negative reviews tend to be more reflections on the background of the reviewer than your own work. Don’t get blinded by only accepting the good, but also take everything with a grain of salt and see what will make you better, and what to ignore.

So, thank you for your comments and perspectives and keep writing. But above all, keep having fun.

Dec-04 2022


Dear Nonnib,
Like the pen name, BTW. I read your post, thinking yep, yep, so true.
I have self-published six books on Amazon. Why? Because although I enjoy writing, (and I’m never going to sell many) I thought, shouldn’t people be able to enjoy my work? And if they don’t who is any the worse off?
It’s comforting to read your honesty. Thanks for sharing.

Dec-04 2022


Nice read.

I have 4 books catching up to do.

Dec-04 2022


I can identify with so much of what is stated there. I write because I have stories bouncing around in my head and I have to let them out. Being an amateur writer is nothing to be ashamed of, if you think of it in terms of “a person who engages in a study, sport, or other activity for pleasure rather than for financial benefit or professional reasons” (from dictionary.com). Writing is enjoyable for me other than, as noted in the OP, editing.

Also, writing is an art form. You could set “masterpieces” of twenty famous artists in front of me and I might only like fifteen of them. In the same vein, you could give my first book to 100 people and only two or three might enjoy it. It doesn’t bother me. My greatest compliment to date came from a co-worker. He said, “I’m not a reader, but I’m going to buy your book and read it.” He read it, enjoyed it, and wanted to know when the next one would be available. (He’s reading it now and won’t like what the MC is going through)

We all get to have our own definitions of success. I often remind people that I have no desire to be a professional author. However, that doesn’t mean that I can’t learn from others who do have those aspirations. That’s one reason I remain on this site. The different perspectives of my critters can help me make my stories better, and I appreciate their comments and suggestions.

Dec-04 2022


Interesting that you don’t like editing. Editing is my favorite part. I say this because all the hard stuff is done once you start to edit… all the words are down. Things will only get better as you edit. For me, writing things for the first time is very difficult. I know where I want the story to go, and I know what needs to happen (100% a plotter) but finding those first words… it’s hard. So, I like editing, because things will only get better :slight_smile: thank you for sharing, I liked reading about your experiences.

Dec-05 2022


A blog post with a twist at the end. Very artful.

I also found the article relatable and helpful.

Dec-06 2022


If someone dislikes certain characters in my stories or actions taken because they wish for a character to do this or for a scene to work out a certain way. Then I honestly think that is great. It means they were invested enough to have an opinion on the situations I put them in.

I can certainly relate to this ^^
I tend to get that a lot, but I haven’t developed the right mental attitude yet :slight_smile:
An interesting experience, thank you for sharing!

Dec-06 2022


Thank you, Jon, what a great description of your journey!

Dec-08 2022


That pretty much sums up how I got started writing in the first place.
People on other forums have thought I was crazy because I was there to learn how to be a better writer, but NOT necessarily how to get things published.

It’s not that I mind learning that aspect of things, but my real goal is the story. Not the publishers, or even the readers to a certain extent.

I just want to be as technically correct - if there is such a thing - as possible when I put what’s in my head down on paper.

If something I write turns out to make a little money, fine. But if not, it’s no big thing and I don’t feel like I’ve wasted my time doing it.

Dec-08 2022


I definitely ordered three book covers ahead of time for my series. Just in case.

Dec-09 2022
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