If You Want My Advice… — #MFRWauthor

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.

Agenda 01 UnsplashThe 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.

work 01 UnsplashBack 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 Money Pub Domif 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.

Pier 01 UnsplashAnd 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.

Notebook 04 Unsplash smallIf 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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8 thoughts on “If You Want My Advice… — #MFRWauthor

  1. Helen Henderson says:

    I especially liked the way you contrasted years ago with now. And “Protect the spark” is perfect. It is something we all have to deal with at some point in our writing life.Thanks for sharing.

  2. storimom2 says:

    I compromised my 2nd published work, simply because I didn’t know any better. But there were four items we strongly disagreed on, so I asked my 1st editor for his input, and thankfully, he told me I was right. Editor #2 agreed to see my side of things for all but one….and I felt so strongly about it , I told her I’d take the heat for it if anyone complained. No one did…..but two years later I left that publisher with the rights to my book back. Thankfully, I’d saved the original version, and Editor #3 only made mild suggestions. It’s been one of my better sellers now:)

    Never be afraid to stick up for your characters; trust your gut.

  3. RobinMichaela says:

    The indie revolution has definitely helped. Now authors can do what they want with characters and story lines(even if it might not be the “best” thing to do). As much as my characters/stories are my “babies”, it would be very tough to have to change something, especially if I didn’t agree with it. Glad you’re still protecting the spark!

  4. RaineBalkera says:

    Wow, Sherry! This is really helpful advice and so thoughtfully written, too. I love this: “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.” because while most of us know it’s true and understand how it happens, a majority of ‘readers’ will quickly point it out in their negative reviews, which is even worse. Thank you so much for sharing! Merry Christmas!

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