31 Pieces of Advice for Writers

DSC_0078I’m no author. I’ve never written a single thing – well, maybe in high school for an English class, I might have composed a short story or two.

However, I have published almost 100 books and along the way, I have had the pleasure of working with lots of great authors. I am an editor, proofreader, cover designer, bookkeeper, marketer, ebook coder, typesetter and publicist. I love some of those aspects of my job and loathe others. One of the things I have to do that I really dislike is being a cheerleader. The reason I dislike it is not because I don’t like encouraging people, but because the people I encourage often feel they need it – and without reason.

I believe that the authors I work with are all talented, they possess a gift that I lack – and I respect them greatly. So it bothers me when I hear them get down on themselves, their work or their sales. I suppose it is a curse of being creatively gifted. Don’t get me wrong, there are times that I doubt myself and what I’m doing, but I plug away and keep looking ahead and then gently remind myself of the things I’ve done right. When I remember what I’ve done wrong, I tell myself I won’t make the same mistake again.

At any rate, because I write a lot of cheerleading emails, I thought I would post some of the points here that perhaps some other authors could use. Some years back, I read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield – I strongly recommend it. Some of the things I tell authors come from him – and I thus credit his wisdom.

As NaNoWriMo gets started, perhaps the timing of this blog post is good. So here goes, the things I would tell any person who is compelled to write.

  1. You were put on this world to write. To not do so would be cheating all of us.
  2. Very few authors are overnight successes. Most write for their whole lives to achieve only a small degree of financial success.
  3. Define your vision of success. Is it to be the next Rowling, or to simply write down the words inside you on a piece of paper? Or is it something in between? Be specific.
  4. Write the stories inside you. Don’t write to the current trends – if you do, it will always come out disingenuous and poorly done.
  5. When you are in active writing mode, work every day on your writing. You might not write words, but think about your story, research or make notes.
  6. Connect with other like-minded authors and share ideas – either creative or business. I stress the word “like-minded”.
  7. If you consider yourself a professional published author, then treat your books like a small business. Be active in all aspects of the business and don’t expect instant fame and fortune. Remember that small businesses take a few years to get off the ground.
  8. Strive for organic, slow growth. To come out of the gates and sell a 100,000 copies would be great, but for most authors, it’s akin to winning the lottery. Write a book, publish it and market it. Then write another one and do the same. Then write another one. The best thing you can do is to keep writing and to have a bunch of books in your portfolio.
  9. Put yourself out there. Not just in marketing sense, but apply for grants or awards or attend writer’s festivals.
  10. Share your gift – for free: do a reading at your local library, share your stories on a blog or give away a few copies your books to a shelter.
  11. Tell others you write books but don’t force your books on your friends. If they want to know more or support you, they’ll let you know.
  12. Don’t rely on family and friends to support you in this part of your life, the support will come from other places.
  13. Acknowledge your gift to yourself and be thankful for it. Whether you think it’s one or not – it is a gift that not all of us possess.
  14. Be supportive of other authors. Offer advice, encourage writing in young people who show interest, and connect in the ways that are meaningful to you.
  15. Research what other authors do. How do they conduct their writing business? Find out what their website looks like? How do the conduct themselves online? Choose the ones you respect and mimic aspects of what they do. Learn from the mistakes of others.
  16. Never publicly respond to a review – good or bad.
  17. Don’t compare yourself to any other writer. To do so is to invite jealousy, insecurity or a false sense of superiority.
  18. Read reviews, digest the opinion, apply what’s relevant and important to you and then discard it. Don’t hold on to, quote or spend any more time thinking about them.
  19. Write. A lot. Publish it any way you want to. Get it out there into the world. Offer some things for free and sell others.
  20. Don’t be afraid of pirating. There’s very little you can do to stop it and to spend your energy on trying to thwart pirates will take it away from where it should be: creating. And often, good books that are highly pirated end up selling more anyway.
  21. Creativity can foster wallowing. Keep all this in perspective. While you are a writer, you are also many other things. Remember that writing is just one aspect of you.
  22. Did anyone buy your books? Then you are a professional author. The amount you made is irrelevant.
  23. I define a great book as having great writing, great characters and a great plot. Take the time to learn about how to make each of those three things happen. Writing is also about research and learning not just getting the book onto paper/computer.
  24. Not all your works will be good. Some might be kind of bad. That’s okay. Learn from them.
  25. Believe in yourself. I know it’s cliche, but if you don’t – then why would anyone else?
  26. Do your best to avoid feeling too high and too low. When something great happens, take it in stride. Do the same when something bad happens.
  27. There will always be haters.
  28. Disregard them.
  29. I am proud of you.
  30. So are many others.
  31. Now go and write me a story.

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