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Writing Books/First Book Jitters


Hi Cathy,

I recently started my first fantasy novel.  I outlined my first book, then it quickly turned into plots for three.  At this point I am aiming for a YA novel.  At first I was excited to get started on this adventure, but now I go through periods of worry and doubt.  I only have about 5,000 words written right now.  Should I have someone in the genre read what I have so far to give me feedback or wait a little longer?  How do I know if I am good enough or if I'm just wasting my time?

Thank you for your time!

Hi, Lindy!

I don't know that there's any way to know after only 5,000 words whether you're good enough. I understand getting jittery the longer you write because it's only when you start to really reveal the plot (versus just writing a scene) that you know whether it'll hold together.

It's okay that you have plots for three books, but make sure that the first book can stand alone in case it's the only one that ever gets bought. I tend to compare a debut novel to STAR WARS (the movie, not the books.) If EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and RETURN OF THE JEDI were never made, would STAR WARS have still been a great movie and stood alone? Yes, absolutely. Because even though you knew there was still a war going on between the rebels and the Emperor, the battle of the day was won and the people survived. If your three books is the "war", make sure the first book wins the "battle."

My best advice is to wait until you have at least 25,000 written, so a full quarter of a typical 100,000 word novel. Then, if you're still not sure, have someone who reads the genre take a look.

Hope that helps. Good luck!


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Cathy Clamp


I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of writing novels, from the beginning kernel of an idea through completion. I can help with writing a query letter and synopsis to an agent or editor. I can explain publishing terminology and acronyms. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of agents/publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication. I can teach the rules of formatting a manuscript, creating viable plots, characterization and flow in the following genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, horror, women's fiction, mainstream and mystery.


I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for Tor/Forge Books. Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen novels (combination of mass market and trade softcover) since 2003, and have contracts for four more books through 2011.

Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America.

Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing, BenBella Books, Running Press, Wild Child Publishing. Many others.

My educational background is limited to real life experience of publishing novels commercially for the past five years.

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, RT BOOKreviews Career Achievement Award winner, 2009, Book Buyers Best Award for Paranormal, Romantic Times Best Werewolf Novel, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Best Historical Chronicle Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

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