Yesterday, I deposited my first ever advance check and it got me thinking about my journey up to this point. I’ve been seriously pursuing my writing for about five and half years now. I’ve been a newbie, an intern, a “publishing professional,” a blogger, a vlogger – and now I’m a paid author. It’s a weird place. Some see me as an “expert” and others still see me as a newbie. Some people seek out my advice and others dismiss it.
But here are some things I know for sure about this crazy process of trying to become an author:
1) You will doubt yourself.
Whether it’s about which publishing path you’re pursuing, or wondering if you should completely throw in the towel because you might not be cut out for it, or making a specific decision about a specific element of your work, you will doubt yourself.
The only thing you can do is know what you want and know what you’re willing to go through to get it. Stop when you cross that line, but not before.
2) Not everyone is on your side.
There are jealous, petty, egotistical people out there, even in our wonderful industry. There are people who think there’s not enough room in the industry for both of you to be successful. This is, of course, bullshit. Please don’t waste your time or emotions on these people.
On the professional side, there are scam artists out there looking to take advantage of eager, unwitting writers. There are even those who mean well who simply don’t have the experience and knowledge necessary to do what they promise. Educate yourself.
3) Not everyone is out to see you fail.
In fact, there are thousands of people in the industry willing to share their knowledge, to cheer you on, to encourage and inspire you. There are agents who want to help writers have successful careers. There are editors who want to see their authors’ books hit bestseller lists. There are bloggers who will be your fans before your book even comes out. There are self-publishing advocates who truly want to help authors take this path. There are industry professionals who write blogs and answer writers’ questions in their spare time when they are not being paid for it.
4) You will never know everything.
You can’t. You have to accept this right now. “Type-A”s, I’m talking to you.
5) You need to know everything.
And it never stops. When you’re writing, you need to learn as much about the craft as possible. It also doesn’t hurt to know the market. When you’re querying, you need to know which agents/editors are picking up what you’re putting down and and you need to figure out how to convince them to read your work. If you self-publish, there is an infinite list of things you need to know about. And when you’ve published? That’s where the real fun begins. Because creative types are generally not natural marketers and, to top it all off….
6) Nobody knows why some books go mega-blockbuster and others languish in the remainder bin.
If they tell you they know, they’re trying to sell you something. There are a lot of guesses. There are even some guesses that turn out to be true. There are some things publishers can do to try to tip the scales, but they sometimes fail spectacularly anyway. Sometimes, a book that’s thrown up on amazon with a cover slapped together in Paint hits the NYT.
The initial print run on Harry Potter was 500 books. Authors can get upper six figure advances for books you’ll never hear about.
7) There is a good chance you will “fail.”
Even if you learn everything. Even if you bust your ass and sacrifice dutifully. Even if you’re an incredible writer. Even if you do everything right.
Your commercial publishing goals may not come true. But…
8) It’s all worth it.
No matter what happens, there is nothing in the world like writing.
“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”
― Anaïs Nin
“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing
“Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters.”
― Neil Gaiman
“let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences”
― Sylvia Plath
“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of. ”
― Joss Whedon
“A word after a word after a word is power.”
― Margaret Atwood