Hello and Happy Friday! It’s ween 51 of the Marketing for Romance Writers 52-week blog challenge, and this week’s prompt is Advice to New Authors.
Well, okay, but remember, you asked for it.
The advice I’d give new authors today is vastly different from the advice I would have given twenty years ago. Back then, I thought all a writer needed was a plan, a little skill, some talent, and some determination, It didn’t take me long to realize that talent is the least important part of the equation. I taught writing classes and watched many authors I didn’t consider as naturally talented sail right past extremely talented authors using dogged determination and perseverance.
Back then, I thought there was something noble about writing every single day, come rain, shine, family event, holiday, or illness. I wrote 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year for probably 15 years, and swore by that method as a way to be prolific and successful. Back then, I thought it was all mind over matter, and I would have advised new writers to just put their minds to it and keep their noses to the grindstone.
But about halfway through my journey to where I am now, I learned some really valuable lessons about people, and about writing, and about being creative and about how sometimes, when it comes to the really big stuff, matter trumps the mind. And there are times when it should–at least for a little while.
Back then, I made compromises I really didn’t want to make because I was so afraid that if I stuck up for my vision of a book, I’d lose the contract. Somewhere along the way, I stopped writing because I loved to write, and kept writing because even though I didn’t enjoy it anymore, I needed the money. In my experience once a writer makes that shift, it’s dangerous, and it almost always shows in the work. Equally dangerous, I think, is believing our own press. All that stuff we post online about how amazing we are might entice a few readers, but if we really start to believe it ourselves we’re opening the door on trouble because that’s when we get lazy and start phoning it in.
Yes, we need money. It costs money to live. But when you start dreading the computer or the notebook instead of looking forward to it, when you force yourself to work with characters you don’t particularly liked because they’re what your publisher wants from you, when you write the same thing over and over and over, week in, week out, making it “new” and “fresh” and “different” (only, of course, you know it’s not) the work suffers. If there’s no spark in the writer, there’s no spark in the book.
And back then, I saw every setback as a death knell to my career. I had a plan. I knew where I was going, and I knew how to get there, so every change of editor, every change to the line, every rejection of a brilliant idea felt like the bridge on my path to success has been taken out, the road washed away.
Over the years, I’ve learned that if you are going to have a career as a writer, you will have ups and downs. They are inevitable. You will have to reinvent yourself, and probably more than once. Publishers come and publishers go. Editors come and editors leave. Lines open and lines fold. Reader expectations change. What they love today, they’ll find boring tomorrow. It’s the nature of the business, and none of it says anything about you, your skill, or your talent.
If I gave one piece of advice to new writers, it would be to protect the spark. Take care of yourself. Get rest. Get exercise. Live life. Interact with people. Try new things. Go new places. Eavesdrop. You can’t pour from an empty jar, so keep the jar filled with life, with love, with passion, with adventure, with hope, with dreams, and with imagination. As long as you still love what you do, you can ride out any changes in the industry and come out on the other side.
This is a blog hop, so be sure you check out what the other participating writers have to say. Their links are below.
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