Guest Blogger: Gini Koch – I Give You Permission!

There are a lot of books out there about how to become an author, some focused on the craft side, some on the business side. All of them tell a writer what to do, and much of the advice can be conflicting.

In my experience, there are only two absolutes:

1. Money should flow TO the author, not FROM the author

2. Spelling, punctuation, grammar and syntax matter, particularly to agents and editors

That’s it. Yet, there are so many sources out there, contradicting each other, all in the tones of absolute confidence, and I’ve noticed that this can cause a lot of, if not writer’s block, then certainly writer’s angst. But is that angst necessary?

I say no, for a few key reasons.

1. 50% of what any ‘expert’ tells you is wrong.

Per Bob Boze Bell, who was the first published author I had the privilege of spending time with at the start of my career, half of what you hear from stage or read in the writing how-to books is wrong. Mostly because everyone’s different and what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for the other.

Bob’s view was that if you heard something that seemed ridiculous, it probably was. If someone said you couldn’t write, well, they were wrong. I’ve listened to that for my entire career — any time I get conflicting information, any time some expert tells me I ‘must’ do it ‘this way only’ and that way happens to go against what I know works for me, I simply think to myself, “Bob says you’re wrong,” and I ignore it and keep writing.

2. Writers write, and you need to.

Every author has X number of words to get through before they stop, frankly, stinking on ice. For most it’s in the hundreds of thousands…for some it’s in the millions. But everyone has to write those words to get to a point where their writing becomes decent, then good, then good enough for publication.

Don’t let those numbers scare you. Average novel length is 100,000 words. So, write a few novels, and observe the improvement in your writing from the first to, say, the sixth. And then edit those first novels, improve them, and along the way, they’ll become ready.

3. Most writers’ first books won’t be published, so have more than one book in you.

This tends to end up a truism because the majority of writers finish their first book, write ‘the end’, and then send it out immediately. Only, they haven’t written enough words yet, they haven’t learned how to kill their darlings, they haven’t learned how to edit properly, and they’re completely unprepared for the reality of the industry, which is that it’s a business, and it’s in the business of making money, not building authors’ dreams.

So, break out of the mold and, instead of hitting ‘send’ the second your book is done, let it sit for 6 months to a year (yes, seriously) and work on other books during that time. Not only will you have more product available, said product will be much better for this, and that much more likely to be published.

4. Newer writers try too hard to be perfect.

This sounds like it’s contradicting #3, but it really isn’t. If you listen to too many ‘experts’, if you spend all your time crafting one perfect sentence, well, then what do you have to show for it? In a lot of cases, you have frozen fingers to show for it, but not a completed manuscript.

You have hundreds of thousands to millions of words to get through before your writing’s good anyway, right? So, just write. So what if it’s not brilliant? So what if it’s never going to be favorably compared to Shakespeare? It doesn’t matter. You’re getting the invaluable experience of writing a book and finishing it. Over and over again.

5. Permission Granted.

Many newer writers seem to spend their time asking permission. Can I write my story this way, can I have a character who does this, can I use an adverb now and again, can I write even though my writing currently sucks?

To these and all other ‘permission’ questions, I say, “Hell yes.” I give you permission to stink on ice until you get better. I give you permission to write the story you want to, regardless of what ‘experts’ or others tell you. I give you permission to be dull, to be too much, to be out there, to experiment, to do something that’s considered overdone or so five minutes ago. I give you permission to do whatever you want, as long as you’re writing, writing, writing, and thereby getting better and better.

Now, get going, get those fingers moving and those butts in those chairs, and let’s be writers out there!

Gini Koch speaks frequently on what it takes to become a successful author and other aspects of writing and the publishing business. “Touched by an Alien”, the first novel in her Alien Series, will release from DAW Books on April 6, 2010, with “Alien Tango” to follow in December 2010. Visit Gini on the web at

4 Responses to “Guest Blogger: Gini Koch – I Give You Permission!”

  1. 1 Judy 03/08/2010 at 11:40 AM

    This is fantastic, Kris.

  2. 2 Rebecca 03/08/2010 at 11:44 AM

    This was a great blog, Kris. Loved it!!

  3. 3 Paisley Kirkpatrick 03/08/2010 at 3:53 PM

    Words to live by – or, better yet, words to write by. It has taken me years to realize just this and to be true to myself first and last and always. I once change my work due to contest judges comments and hated my story. It wasn’t mea any longer. I put it all back and now am winning contests…go figure. Intuition and instinct grows along with skill I think.

  4. 4 Gini Koch 03/10/2010 at 12:38 PM

    Glad you guys liked it!

    It’s a subjective business. What’s one girl’s trash is another girl’s diamond. Just write, write, write and trust yourselves and you’ll be right.

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