Guest blogs and bloggers / writing

Sally Cronin I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now

Sally Cronin is the webmistress of a wonderful writers blog, Smorgasbord Blog Magazine devoted to supporting authors–Indie and trad–as we-all struggle to get our name out there. If you haven’t met her, click the link and drop by, add a comment to one of her many topical posts, or join one of her recurring columns.

About nine months ago, she helped me spread the news about my prehistoric fiction, Man vs. Nature, by featuring me in one of her series, I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now. If you didn’t see the original, here it is:

I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now

I’ve been writing for over thirty years. I’ve written tech manuals, non-fiction, military fiction, historical fiction, freelance journalism, reviews for clients, lesson plans, class syllabi–pretty much anything that would pay the bills (within limits). I’ve learned a lot about what works and what should be avoided. I made a lot of mistakes, but honestly, I wouldn’t want to skip any of them because I learn from mistakes. I bet you do, too. But there are a few bits of wisdom I wish I’d known when I started that would have saved me time, money, and stress. Here are five:

Genre have rules. Follow them

Have you ever cracked open a book that promised to be a thriller, filled with action and adventure, and got instead a redo of Fantasy Island? World Famous Authors can break rules when they write. Ordinary Folk (like me) have to follow them and some of the most important are the ones that apply to genres. As a new author, these are sacred ground. Learn them and then follow them until your name appears on a cover bigger than the title. Then, do what you want. For example, thrillers are dominated by exciting plots with flawed super heroes who save the world by doing the impossible. Literary fiction characters are ordinary people out to find themselves while they save their souls. Historical fiction–don’t skimp on authentic details about your selected time long gone, be it Ancient Greece or the Old West.

There are over one hundred genres (I know because I have a genre series where I demystify them for you and I’m up to 147) so you have a lot of choices. Early in your writing, decide what your genre is and then research the guidelines. If it’s fantasies, your audience expects serious world-building. Sci fi aficionados want space, planets, and other worlds. Give people what they want at least at the beginning of your writing career and they will return the favor by buying your books and talking about them online.

Voice is why people read your book

Readers may buy your book because the blurb sounds good or it has a great cover, but they read the next one because they love your voice. Figure out who you are, what makes you different from other writers in your genre. Embrace that and never look back.

It takes a long time to write a novel

I took twenty-five years to write my first novel (and I’m not unusual) which included at least three complete rewrites, a dozen re-edits, and more than three times I quit only to return. I tried short stories and poetry, but really, novels are my schtick so I suffered through thinking I wasn’t good enough or smart enough or connected enough. But, each problem I knocked down like pins in a bowling alley. Sure, there were 3,498 and I had to solve all of them (because–no agent), but each one made me stronger and more confident.

Going Indie is a great option

I don’t know any authors who started writing with the dream of being an Indie author. Usually, that goal arrives after the 1,019th rejection, or the third time an agent suggests changes that revert a story to an original version. At a certain point, you get tired of playing the agent-publisher game, stick a toe in the Indie publishing world, and find out it’s  without piranha and has plenty of room for all kinds of authors. For me, that took a really long time, but I’d never go back. I like the independence, relying on myself, not having to accommodate someone else’s interests, writing according to my own timeline, choosing my own cover, making my own decisions, getting immediate answers to questions (from myself), and more.

And the money is better–unless your Elizabeth George or Lee Child. Then, stick with agents.

Writing is a gift with ‘some assembly required’

I often compare my writing to the Vulcan game of Kal-toh. It’s a Star Trek game where all the pieces look jumbled and misfit until they snap together as though by magic.

Most writers have heard that something like 80% (depends upon where you get your statistic) of people have a book in them. After all, it doesn’t take any special skills, right? You sit at a keyboard, write a story, edit it with ProWriter or Grammarly, have a best friend read and approve it, and then upload it to Kindle.

Trigger warning: Some assembly required. Remember Christmas Eve with a box of parts and you have to use all of them. That’s writing, too. All the pieces are in your head–characters, plot, setting, theme, goals. The trick is to get them all to fit before you lose interest.


That’s it–five things I wish I’d known when I started writing. How about you?

Copyright ©2022 – All rights reserved.

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular prehistoric fiction saga, Man vs. Nature which explores seminal events in man’s evolution one trilogy at a time. She is also the author of the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers and Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. Her non-fiction includes over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, reviews as an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Savage Land Winter 2024.


88 thoughts on “Sally Cronin I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now

  1. Thank you for sharing!!…. life is a learning process, provides us with adventure to explore, gather memories and knowledge… if we knew then what we know now or in the future, there would be no reason to get out of bed.. 🙂

    Hope your journey is filled with happiness and until we meet again..
    May the road rise to meet you
    May the wind be always at your back
    May the sun shine warm upon your face
    The rains fall soft upon your fields
    May green be the grass you walk on
    May blue be the skies above you
    May pure be the joys that surround you
    May true be the hearts that love you.
    (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can relate to everything you wrote, Jacqui. We had a very similar journey into writing. One extra aspect I’ll mention, is that no one ever told me hard writing is or how difficult marketing is!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the comparison to Kal-Toh! I usually describe the writing process as putting a jig saw together when you don’t know what it’s meant to look like, but I much prefer the 3D version. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is such a helpful post, Jacqui. I so agree with learning a genre’s rules and sticking by them. It’s important to think of the genre and what your readers are likely to be expecting when you are writing a book.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Brilliantly done Jacqui. Wow, 25 years and that’s typical. That is a book in itself.
    Great tips.
    This about sums me up right now…. I’m waiting for the magic … that would be my editor I hope.. lol
    “I often compare my writing to the Vulcan game of Kal-toh. It’s a Star Trek game where all the pieces look jumbled and misfit until they snap together as though by magic.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. That was a great series over at Sally’s, Jacqui. I was addicted and I think I caught every post. I love how you used writing as your topic. I couldn’t agree more with all of your “knowings,” but my favorite was: “Writing is a gift with ‘some assembly required.’” Oh, yeah, baby! That was one I had to learn too. Lots and lots and lots of assembly. 🙂 A great share.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is such a helpful post, Jacqui. I so agree with learning a genre’s rules and sticking by them. It’s important to think of the genre and what your readers are likely to be expecting when you are writing a book. As someone who is writing my first book, I can so relate to the part where you mentioned it can take a long time to write a book. Sometimes you just can’t see the ending but with more time spent, you are making progress. From your previous post, I know now there are people who specialise in doing book covers 😄 Thank you for sharing things on the write stuff as always 😊💕

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m plotting my next story right now. Many times, I simply sit back, watch my character, try to see what she’s doing–and then I get the plot! If I force her into a role she doesn’t like, it just doesn’t work.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This is why I love your blog, Jacqui. I think I speak for many when I say something that gets me invested in any blog are attributes like honesty and authenticity. You’ve nailed it with this post. It’s going into my saved folder.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. So much truth, Jacqui 🙂 I learned many things the hard way, but now they are learned. I love the creative control of indie but hate the costs. It may be true that 80 percent have that book in them, but I wonder how many of those have marketer inside too?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. When I began authoring books I had no idea the business of writing, marketing, and its complexity. The cost of publishing has me wondering if it is worth it. My next book “Poseidon’s Atlantis Adventure” will only be a novella e-book. I will see how well it is received.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It can cost a lot. It took me a while to convince myself to spend money on covers and edits–those are worth it. The marketing–I have yet to try a method that paid off for me! I don’t know why.


      • You have the best marketing, your blog and blog tours. Spending money on Amazon ads is a waste. The algorithms are a moving target. Not worth it. People want to know if it’s worth not just money but their time when they consider reading a book. Entering book contests has been the best marketing I have done. When I announced Einstein’s Compass, a movie producer helping me people wanted to know where they could buy the book. The ten book awards and editorial reviews got me noticed by the Hollywood producer. And I downloaded EC into an AI that Hollywood uses to determine whether a book would make a good movie. EC rated 89.7 out of 100. The average rating was sixty-eight. The Hollywood producer called me. Each book has its own destiny. The rules of engagement for publishing change every six months or so. Navigating the wind of change can be challenging.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. In my case, what I didn’t know when I earned two creative writing degrees to learn the craft of fiction didn’t exist–namely that authors have to be marketers as well. If I’d know that at the time, I probably would have quit writing. So, I’m very glad I didn’t know then what I know now!

    Liked by 3 people

  12. With the number of rewrites often done by traditional publishing, I wonder if indie publishing contributes to the decrease in the quality of writing (of course, the internet is more to blame, along with fewer editors in newspapers, publishing houses, etc!). Good thoughts. I never knew there are 147+ genres.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It may–contribute to a decrease in quality–but I bet it also contributes to an increase in readers. Where I used to have 20-30 books a year that pulled me in to read, now I regularly read over 150.


  13. Sorry, but my experience is that editors and agents make you change your text for the better. This is the problem why I hardly ever read indie lit. you see it immediately it lacks editing and therefore reading isn’t fun. It’s too much about the plot but not about the style. It’s a cliché of unsuccessful authors to blame editors and agents.
    As a professional author, I read a bit. When I buy books I go for the publisher because different publishers stand for quality in different genres.
    I suppose one of hobby authors’ biggest mistakes is seeing editors and agents as their enemies and not as essential helpers.
    Keep well and happy
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I did have an agent at one point and he gave me winning suggestions for my story. So in that, I agree. Problem is, there are not enough excellent trad published stories and the gatekeepers decide what is best (pretty authoritarian in a sense). Niches tend to get left out. Half of my reading is now Indie writers. Granted, I probably don’t quote them as I would Twain or Dostoevsky, but I have a few hours of pure enjoyment!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Thanks for the inspiration and encouragement, Sally! I’d wish for the insight there’s no bottom to the research well. Now I recognize it takes the assembly you cited based on the writer’s preferred genre and writing style. One size does not fit all because there are only two rules: (1) there are no rules, only principles, and (2) don’t forget rule #1.

    After years of deep dives, I focus through three lenses: Story Beats, Scene and Sequel Sequences, and Actual Content. My hunt was like a trailer for a Cecil B. DeMille film: three years in the making and a cast of thousands.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Hi Jacqui – we all have to start at the beginning – and build our knowledge up … I must say I do a little of that as I follow along the blogs, or the articles I look at … it applies to life too! Good luck to all authors – Cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Pingback: Sally Cronin I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now — – uwerolandgross

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