Someone asked me yesterday, what would you tell your younger self about writing? I had never planned on being an author. Yes I wrote with a lot of people in online communities and yes I spent a ridiculous amount of time in worlds that weren’t real. But was I going to publish books?
No probably not. That simply hadn’t been in the plans. I was going to be an artist and go directly to the film industry.
Long story short, I didn’t do any of that. Life takes interesting turns that we can’t control. Anyways, what would I tell my younger self? Would I say take the leap? Would I say be an English major and don’t waste your time? Here are the things I thought of.
Writing is hard.
Like really hard.
I have so many people who tell me all the time, it can’t be that hard to write! You have a creative brain and I don’t know how you think, but Emma can’t you just sit down and do it?
If life was like that, I would have a lot easier time writing these books and cranking them out faster. The reality is that writing novels is a bit like arguing with your spouse and beating your head off a wall at the same time. Sometimes you’re winning and that wall is crumbling to dust. Other times, you have a headache and no matter what you say you’re losing.
That’s how I spend most of my life. Staring at a computer or hunched over it with my hand on my forehead. Writing sometimes IS very easy. But the times when inspiration strikes is usually when I’m in the shower or in the car. Can’t really whip out my computer and start writing in the middle of the road.
By the time I rush home and plop myself down at the computer, the ideas are gone. So yeah, writing is hard and don’t let anyone tell you different.
It is in no way a waste of time.
You might hear some people say “Why don’t you focus on doing something more productive?” You might hear a lot of people tease you for spending too much time on the computer and not outside.
Here’s something that every author and every aspiring author needs to remember.
There are people out there who rely on authors to create worlds they can escape into. I know that’s what I did when I went through panic attacks, anxiety problems, growing pains. No matter what problem happened in my life a book could fix it. Books were my best friends, my companions, and my partners. They opened up new worlds that were infinitely better than the boring one I spent my time in.
Never give up writing because you never know who you might be offering an escape from reality.
Don’t worry about the major
Newsflash, college doesn’t teach you a hell of a lot. Not unless you’re going to be an engineer or a doctor or one of those jobs that require special skills that you shouldn’t be learning from anyone other than an expert.
Writing? You should just do it. Taking courses is always a fantastic thing to do because it broadens your horizon and gives you opportunities to learn. I am in no way saying you shouldn’t learn how to write. You should. But to spend four years in English course after English course is only going to make you just that. A English course major.
The best writers are not “only” writers. And I mean this in the kindest way possible. Those people that can take you into other dimensions or make you fall in love with the first page are usually people who have experienced these things. They are travelers, psychologists, theorists, doctors, all the people that have spent years developing skills in other areas as well as being an author.
The more you know about the world, the better the writer you will be.
So don’t worry about spending thousands of dollars to be able to know a synonym of love. Learn how to love first. That’s better than school.
It takes up a lot of your time
I am never not tired.
The reality of a writer’s life is that most of us have a full time job on top of this. If you’re trying to break into this world, the likelihood is that you’re going to be in the same boat. Money has to be made and bills have to get paid.
If you choose to be a writer your reality is also that you have to get shit done. You have to come home from work, clean, cook dinner, find some you time, write to your goal (and yes every night) and then maybe sleep. Try tossing kids into that mix and figure out how bad you are at managing your time.
The good news is that writing isn’t like a job or even worse, school. There aren’t grades that will make you nervous or bosses telling you to get a move on. But it’s good to set goals and deadlines for yourself.
A little bit of self control can go a long way.
It’s fun. Like… A lot of fun.
Writing is a little bit like a party where you are the most interesting person in the room. Everyone wants to talk to you, everyone wants to listen to your stories, and everyone wants to see the way you see.
In reality, it’s most likely just you sitting alone in a room giggling over what you just wrote down. But that’s the beauty of it! You’re enjoying yourself and you know damn well you’re going to make a few people burst out laughing in real life. That’s the best part of all the work you’re putting in.
Not to mention that you get to spend a lot of your time in a completely different world with characters you know and love. Why wouldn’t you want to do that as often as possible?
This is a very personal choice and you should take my opinions with a grain of salt. That’s what I tell everyone when they ask me how I publish my books. There are a lot of people out there that have more experience than me and may have highly different opinions. But here’s the deal.
Self Publishing is the future.
There, I said it. It’s the future and you should most definitely jump on the wagon.
Publishing companies are a way to go for some people, but certainly not for me. The reality is that you spend 6 months to years sending in manuscript after manuscript hoping that someone someday says, “This is good stuff. We should publish this.” You may have that happen quickly. But chances are you’re not going to.
And even when you get published, there’s always the fine print. It’s not unheard of to have your first chunk of books (I.E. 250 books) not bring back any money to you. You also have to handle high royalty rates which mean you actually get paid LESS for your book than I do.
Being completely candid, with Amazon I make 70% of my royalties. My books are $2.99. That means for every book sold I get $2.09. I have control over what countries my book gets sent to, how much I want to charge, what I want my cover to look like, if I want a paperback edition. I have control over everything that makes my book and my brand me.
I don’t have a marketing team behind me. I don’t have anyone asking for more books to be cranked out when I have a full time job. That can be scary for some who don’t know how to get themselves out there. Hell, I still don’t really know everything there is to know about marketing.
You’ll hear a lot of people say, “Why don’t you send your books to a publisher? They’re so good!”
Yeah, I know. They are awesome. But I’m making more money right now than I would if I gave it to a publisher who probably is an indie publisher anyways because I’m not a New York Times bestseller author. That’s up the person to decide how they want to spend their time.
It’s just not for me.
Find a good Editor
You see that right there?
That’s a real life image of what I’m doing right now. Editing.
It’s the bane of every writer’s existence. We all spend countless hours writing these books that when they’re done we think “This is my little gold nugget. I love this nugget.” And then as soon as we start to read it over for the flaws, all hell breaks loose.
There are suddenly tentacles coming out from between the covers and teeth that chomp at our fingers when we try to cut things out that shouldn’t be there. We read things in our own voice that when other people read it they think, “No seriously. What were you thinking here? That sounds awful.”
Not to mention that the story line could, actually, be a complete piece of crap like that nasty little voice in your head kept saying.
Don’t worry, that little gold nugget can be smelted by an Editor. Note the capitalization. Editors are amazing people who will spend a silly amount of hours hand polishing your nugget into a shiny piece of gold that you can buy almost anything with. Even better? They’ll tell you your nugget is good after all.
Hey all you Editors out there. We appreciate you.
Also I’m looking for one so, you know. Contact me if you’ve got some space in your cues and somehow managed to find my wonky little blog in the great ether of the interwebs.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Real talk peeps.
You’re going to get bad reviews. You’re going to get people who think that your work is not very good and they will hide behind keyboard courage to say that no one should read it. I have been told my books were boring. That they were predictable. That they were just plain ol’ terrible characters.
It’s okay. Not everyone is going to like what you write.
The real end goal is to finish the book. A majority of people have a story in their head, but never write it down. Some never finish. Others finish but never publish. Some publish but never publish again because it didn’t sell or because of poor reviews.
You do you tiny cactus. I believe in you.