Writing isn’t for sissies—just ask anyone who’s been doing this for any length of time.
For the last 13 years I’ve been writing like a mad dog to pursue publication. I’ve written 10 novels—2 published and 1 slated for 2018. Needless to say, I’ve lived through highs and lows, and there are a few things that I wish someone had told me in the beginning. Things that would’ve made my journey a little easier by helping me focus on the amazing parts and not obsessing over the hard stuff.
As if writing novels isn’t hard enough, there’s a slew of other important things that anyone seriously pursuing publication should know. The following items, if internalized, will save your sanity. Or at least show you what to expect. There are some good things and some hard things, and it’s good to keep your eyes wide open!
What Every New Writer Needs to Know
1. There are no guarantees
You already know this…but do you know this? Writing is unlike almost everything else you could lay your hand to. For example, when you go to college you know that if you pay your tuition and do reasonably well in all your classes, you will graduate.
If you do X you will receive Y.
Not so with writing. You can do all the right things—learn your craft, write books, make connections—and still remain unpublished indefinitely.
You must write for the love of it and be willing to stay nimble. By that I mean be willing to share the message that’s on your heart in other ways or look for alternative routes to publication.
2. You need a posse
Writing is a solitary journey, so you must intentionally find a posse. There is no one like a good writer pal to help you through the hard times and celebrate with you when you’re making progress. Writer friends are the only ones who will truly get you and understand where you’re coming from on any given day, and during any given stage of your journey.
But the posse doesn’t end there. There are editors, agents and most importantly, your family and loved ones. Include them in what you’re doing, because once you dive into the writing world, you need them on your side.
3. Social media matters
Writing great books isn’t enough. If you want to be published, traditionally or indie, your social media numbers will matter.
But you must remember the people behind the numbers. Connecting on a personal level will make a difference, and this is difficult because none of us ever have quite enough time. (Look at this if you need more help with time management!)
Do not neglect your writing in favor of building your social media presence! It’s a delicate balance, but the bottom line is this: if you don’t have a great book, all the social media in the world won’t make a difference.
One word of advice if you’re tired of juggling with social media…obsess over one platform, automate two platforms, then forget the rest.
4. You will get your feelings hurt
This one is a killer. At some point in your journey you will get hurt. Whether it’s a harsh critique, a bad review or your 100th rejection, something is going to sting.
Sometimes it helps to realize that you’re not the only one, and sometimes there’s nothing you can do to feel better except ride out the storm. I do, however, have suggestions to help handle criticism and tips for how to handle a bad critique. Just realize that getting your feelings hurt is universal to writers.
This is one boat we all row together.
5. You need to make a budget
When you’re at the beginning stages of your writing journey, chances are you’re not pulling in a lot of money. That said, it might be hard to fathom spending money on your writing.
But there are legitimate expenses involved with writing from classes to conferences, to office supplies and website expenses. When you’re just starting out, it’s tempting to skimp on everything—ask me how I know! However, make sure that you set aside some money for your writing, and don’t feel guilty when that money gets spent.
6. Resist the comparison game
You must—MUST—resist the urge to compare yourself to other writers. This is much easier said than done, but following this advice will save your sanity.
Every writer’s journey is different and there is no singular path to publication. That’s why comparing your progress to anyone else is completely pointless and can sap the creative energy you need in order to produce your best work.
Instead, rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. And if you’re a good writing buddy, your friends will do the same for you.
7. Maintain other interests
This is the #1 thing I wish I’d done sooner. If you’re anything like me, you’re all in or you’re all out. That usually means that I attack everything I do with gusto and focus.
The problem is when you become hyper-focused the way I did. It made the highs and lows more pronounced and unhealthy. There was a time in my life where I couldn’t imagine what else in life could be interesting besides writing, and I literally couldn’t understand why someone wouldn’t want to be a writer.
The solution to that is to maintain other interests and try new things. Have other hobbies or side gigs that matter…maybe even things that have more of a guaranteed outcome of satisfaction. When the writing journey gets tough, it’s good to have a go-to fun thing to relieve the frustration.
These are the tidbits I wish I’d have known at the start of my writing journey. It would have saved me some angst! If you’re a seasoned writer, hopefully you learned this much more quickly than I did.
If you’re at the beginning of your writing journey, yay! This may be the most exciting time of your life. There’s nothing like taking a story that’s in your head and heart and writing it down. Always remember to do it for love!
What do you think every new writer needs to know? Or what do you wish you’d known from the start?