On the eve of my fourth -FOURTH!- book publishing, I have been reflecting on what I’ve learned about writing professionally.
1. Writing doesn’t get easier. It’s not like after four books I can sit at the computer and stories just pour out onto the keys. The process of writing- the thinking, experimenting, research, etc- is just as challenging as it was the first time I completed a novel. Each story has it’s own challenges and quirks and requirements, making the experiences varied. This is the exciting part for me. If writing was a staid, formulaic process I would get bored.
2. Learn all you can about the industry, then forget it. I firmly believe you should be informed about and involved in your industry of choice. In this day in age there is no excuse for ignorance. But while it’s nice to know what’s popular and selling and what books have won awards, don’t let it inform your writing. If you don’t feel passionately about your characters and your story that will come through in your writing. You’ll probably get bored. All of a sudden writing will feel burdensome, instead of invigorating. The market is always elusive and fickle, why on earth would you let it dictate what you’re passionate about?
3. Tell everyone you are an author. This is one I still need to work on. When people ask me what I do, I always answer “I work in publishing.” This is true, but while I may work in publishing, I AM an author. It’s a deeper part of my identity. Luckily I have wonderful friends who will pipe up and say “AND she is a published author.” It always feels a bit creepy and self-aggrandizing to say the words out loud which is of course ridiculous. I’m not bragging, I’m stating a fact- one that I am very proud of. I am an author! I love being an author! Kid’s books are THE BEST! I have found that most people are thrilled to meet an author, and in some cases it has lead to unexpected readers or even school visits.
4. Enjoy every step of the process. Writing is not results based. As wonderful as it is to hold your bound book in your hands or see it face out on a shelf, the process is full of many exciting and fulfilling moments; falling in love with an idea; finally working out a plot quirk that’s been driving you crazy; finishing your first draft; stumbling upon the perfect title; securing a contract; reading your first editor’s letter; seeing your cover for the first time; a young fan telling you they loved your book- all of these moments are just as exciting. Note that many of them have little or nothing to do with reviews, awards, or sales. Try not to forget that.
5. Self promotion is part of your job. These days if you want to reach as many readers as possible, you need to be active, particularly online. It is a fact of life, one that stresses a lot of writers out. There are MILLIONS of readers online just waiting to love your book, but you need to make yourself available to them. It is easy to get snowed under by all of the many ways to be connected. Blogging, twitter, facebook, and Goodreads are good places to start. Find out which methods you enjoy and make time for them, but don’t let them eat into your writing time. Approach it as a dutiful pianist who must first do scales before digging into that Sonatina- who knows, you may even enjoy it!