6) Kill your darlings! This is an old editorial expression I simply love. (I think it was spoken with me in mind.) The darlings are the lines you love, the ones you thought were so clever, the words that set you apart as a writer, that define you as an artist. Problem is, the agents and the editors are going to hate them. Why? Because you are supposed to be telling a story, not showing off your wordsmithing. Please don't take offense: if I were to be given a month's prison time for every such transgression, I would be serving ten consecutive life sentences with no chance of parole.
7) Agents and editors hate prologues. Ok, hate is the wrong word, substitute despise, loathe, or detest. Resist the temptation to write one. It doesn't matter that your favorite author always starts with a prologue; she is a published author. The funny part: I don't know why agents hate them, I just know they do. I put a prologue in my first two mms which are gathering dust on the shelf; my third ms didn't have one and received a half-dozen offers.
8) A good premise atones for a lot of sins. Message: find a good premise. Don't have one? Write a few short stories as you wait for the bolt of lightning to strike. It's hard to get your debut novel published, and getting harder every year. Put the odds in your favor by having a great idea around which you can build your book.
9) Your first manuscript is not going to get you there. Scrap it, and use everything you learned to write a better 2nd ms.
10) A bad manuscript written by an author with a good platform will be more successful than a good ms written by an author with a bad--or in my case, no--platform. This is a universal truth about NF, but it is more and more relevant for fiction as well. Why? Because novelists are now expected to help promote their books, and a good platform helps you do this. Message to you: build a platform. Dust off the blog you haven't touched in years, and sign up for Twitter. Start attending reunions, hang out at the barber shop--but not mine, I've got dibbs.
Thanks again for your attention, I appreciate it. Don't forget to share the link with someone you don't like, and come visit me on Facebook (Peter Hogenkamp) or Twitter (@phogenkampVT).