Guest Post by Laire McKinney:
Best and Worst Things About Being a Writer, and Ten Things I Wish Every Aspiring Writer Knew
The best things about being a writer are seeing my name in print, fulfilling a childhood fantasy, and letting my mind run wild, knowing it will only make a story better.
The worst things about being a writer are the slow pace of publishing, the uncertainty of any outcome, and the at-times debilitating self-doubt.
Ten Things I Wish Every Aspiring Writer Knew:
1. Your first attempt at a novel will not likely be the one. (There are always exceptions, but I know several authors who did not snag the publishing contract until book #2…or #3…or #4…). As for me, I was offered a contract on the second full-length novel I wrote, but that was already two years into the writing experience. One year was spent writing the novel that will never been seen. The second year was writing the one that got published. It is not a quick-turnaround business so reevaluate if that’s what you seek.
2. Community matters. I am as introverted and socially-awkward as they come, but I do venture out to writers’ groups and conferences, and am active on online forums. Having a peer group is essential to survival. I use them to bounce off plot ideas, to beta read, to cheer me on when I’ve been given good news, to cheer me up when I’ve been given bad news.
3. And there is a lot of bad news, so thicken that skin. Rejections. Rejections. Rejections. Then if you do land the contract and sail your way (via tumultuous seas) to the published novel, then there are the reviews—hopefully good, sometimes bad, occasionally downright mean. Then, if you’re one of the few, you’ll sell a lot of copies and make a lot of money. Most of us are somewhere in the middle, and this can vary month to month. Sometimes you might very well find yourself at the bottom and that sucks but it’s reality.
4. Do not be competitive with your peers. My writer friends have been some of the most supportive and encouraging and non-competitive people I could hope to know. A perfect example: I was at a workshop and the speaker wanted those in attendance to create a story together. Her disclaimer: do not worry that someone will steal the idea you’ve thrown out. Even if they started with that idea, their story will be vastly different from yours. Not to say there isn’t plagiarism and piracy, but among the writers you choose to call friends, be supportive and encouraging. You’ll appreciate that when it’s reflected back to you.
5. Be fearless. There is something to be said for writing for the masses. Agents and publishers know what’s trending, what has sold in the past, what is expected to sale in the future. But there is always the break-out novel that’s just different. In a cookie-cutter world, be a free-styling carver and you’ll land on your mark. (I hope that last statement makes sense!)
6. Enjoy the writing. I know from personal experience if I get bogged down in the business of writing (which you must learn), then I lose the creativity. It’s a balance. You can’t have one without the other, and if you no longer find you enjoy it, take a step back and write something for your pleasure only. There is a chance it might very well be your best yet.
7. You will have to spend money marketing, even if you have a publishing contract with a big agency. You need a website, social media, head shot, etc. It helps to join one or more organizations. I’m a member of Romance Writers of America (an excellent place to begin), as well as Women’s Fiction Writers. If you write YA, there is Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
8. If you want to write a genre but are embarrassed or afraid of how it’ll impact your day job or your image, use a pen name. It’s all good, but it’s best to decide that before you get published. If you want to write erotica, it’ll be hard to turn around and write YA under the same name. Not impossible, but tricky.
9. Understand there will be times when the words do not flow, the mind will not concentrate, and the writing timeline falls by the wayside. This happens to me all the time. I have three children, a dog, a hubs, a job, and sometimes it’s just not happening. What do I do? I don’t stress about it. It could be a day, a week, sometimes a month. That recharging period will help you come back renewed.
10. Writers are often introverts. I know I am, and I love to live in my head, to watch tv alone. I love to be in my house when it’s as quiet as an early morning in snowy December. But living your life is essential to good writing. We need experiences to draw from, ideas that simmer and stew and eventually become plot…we need to live life so we can retreat and create.
If you’ve already stepped onto the writerly path, what suggestions would you give to a new writer?
Many thanks for hosting me today. Cheers, Laire.