Instead of 'what I learned about publishing after _____', I decided to focus on what comes before. The struggle. The sweet poison fog of self-doubt and small triumphs.
All my eloquence goes into my books. So I'm just going to come out and say it straight.
I'm not one of those authors who just wrote what she was obsessed with and got published because of it. You know the type. The fairy tale stories of 'first book' or 'second book' homerun hits.
In sports talk, my journey was more like a bunch of bunting.
And I loved every second of it.
But that doesn't matter. I'm not going to talk about **~~~my journey~~~**, because that's something that's boring and you should experience for yourself. It's best understood when experienced firsthand. If I typed 'journey', and you read it and visualized a flood of pains and efforts and elation, then we're on the same page. The same journey.
I wrote six books in the span of two years.
This isn't to say 'oh look I'm so productive'. I just want you guys to know. I realized I was the only one in control of my writing career. I could make or break myself. So I wrote. Anything and everything. I tried lots of genres and every Main Character type. Conflicts. Villains. I tried everything because I didn't know what exactly would get me somewhere. I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I couldn't visualize of what genre, exactly. At first I was sure I would never write something not-fantasy/scifi. But that changed as I learned to love my books for the characters instead of the magic/cyborgs/witches/cool fights. For the story instead of the baubles.
All I knew was I wanted to write.
Publishing is an amazing, intricate world full of possibilities. And everyone has their own way of writing. Stick to your way. Stick to what your heart knows.
But. But if you want to get to that magic part of the journey, go outside what you know.
That's what I learned. That success is luck, and hard work, and talent. But more than that, it's you challenging yourself. Trying new things constantly. Go for one book a year instead of writing one every three years. Put just a little more into writing. Sacrifice that one movie night to really delve into your characters and world. Sacrifice. Everything and anything short of your health and family. Dive into the deep end and come out the other side. Don't constrain yourself with what you know and love. Explore. Sacrifice your security and comfort, and find something new and invigorating.
That's what we do as writers. Sacrifice.
I learned, after writing six books, that writing is a living thing. It breathes, it demands so much of you, but most of all, it demands you become a better you. Quicker typist. Quicker wit. Tighter describer. More abstract thinker. If something isn't working, try something else. Go outside yourself. Push yourself to try a new genre, a totally new voice, free yourself from restraints of 'Don't do this POV' or 'don't make your character unlikable'.
MAKE YOUR CHARACTER UNLIKABLE.
DO THE POV.
Do anything and everything you want in writing, because in this life, we can't do anything and everything we want.
But on paper, we can do anything.
Go nuts. And if going nuts doesn't work, go bananas. Apples. Figs. SOMETHING DIFFERENT.
Try something new with your writing, everyday. I know it's a lot to ask, when just 'trying' is a chore in itself. When you're tired and worn down and even typing seems a horrible task all you want to do is settle into the rut you've previously outlined for yourself as a writer. The comfortable writing. The easier writing.
But if you really want to get better, faster, quicker - explore the scary blackness of 'what if'. What if I write a space opera today? What if I make a main character who's nice for once? What if I make her a chocolatier? What if I make him a criminal? What if I make a world of ice and mammoths, or casinos and mob bosses? What if I take all the magic spells out of this book? What if I put a bunch of magic spells in the book?
What if I push myself out of my comfort zone?
What if I become a better writer for it?
It took me three years to learn that.
Geez, I'm slow.