Recently, I was cleaning out my email in-box and ran across contest entries, emails, and queries that I sent, way back when the world was good and pure, and the possibilities for becoming an author were endless. One thing became super clear: I didn’t have a single clue what I was doing.
Now? Still learning, but I do have a better grasp on what I am supposed to be doing and what seems to work in my little nook of the universe.
#1) Time management = everything. Especially for those of us working full-time jobs. A day or a week off is GOLD. Give me a few post-it sheets for my to-do list and I will set the world on fire. (Not literally. That would be super bad.)
#2) Let editors know your time frames. Because of my weird work schedule, I am on call for 7-10 days at a time. During that time, my writing brain pretty much shuts down and I live in on-call doctor mode. It’s not in anyone’s best interest for me to have deadlines or interviews or projects due during that period. I do my best to let folks know this information in advance, or will try to pre-emptively complete projects early when I know these blocks are coming. I’ve been caught out a few times where I didn’t give enough lead-time on my time limitations. Like many professional areas, I need to work more on time transparency.
#3) Marketing still kind of stinks. There’s no magic bullet. There’s no one thing to do that will make a book visible. And social media will eat up all of my time, if I’m not careful. Over time, I’ve cultivated some marketing sites that seem to work for me. For right now. Things change constantly.
#4) Things change constantly. This fact also stinks. In medicine, I get pretty torqued off about how outside forces keep moving the #$^&@ cheese. Turns out, this happens in writing, too. What works in marketing one month won’t work the next. Publishers and agents change, fold, merge. Some genres work better at certain times, and there may be no rhyme or reason to that shift. Nothing like having unstable footing underneath our feet.
#5) Don’t stop reading. I read at least an article and a few pages of a novel daily. Even on those crazy call blocks, I can generally get a little bit done. Like, I have a list for what I can do in little snippets of time for those blocks. Maybe it’s emailing a few reviewers or setting up a blog tour. Easy. Brief. If I get called, it won’t mess up any creative “flow”.
#6) Don’t write every day. Yes, this is a heretical statement. I get it. This is what works for me. Might not work for other folks. But sometimes when I’ve been up all night with one of my vampire babies who took their sweet time blasting into the world, I don’t have it in my tank to do much more than see patients in the office, go home, and try to get some sleep. That’s okay. I’ve stopped beating myself up about this fact and have adjusted production/creative time to fit the schedule.
#7) Don’t forget to exercise. This is me putting on the doctor hat now. It’s easy to get in the mode of sitting and writing and reading, etc. Too easy. At some point, lack of activity will catch up with each and every one of us. MOVE daily, even if it’s 10 minutes of walking. Something is better than nothing. Makes the brain work better, too. (improved blood flow!)
#8) Become okay with writing crappy stuff. When I started fastdrafting the first version of manuscripts, my OCD perfectionist tendencies got left in the dust. All that mattered was getting the ideas on paper. Once it’s on paper, it can be fixed.
#9) Try new things. Whether it’s in life or Day Job or writing – doesn’t matter. I made a promise to myself about 18 months ago that I’d push myself into writing stuff that made me uncomfortable – character types, scenarios, subject matter. Have I gone over the line of what my current publisher wants? Frankly, yes, in a few cases. But that’s what good editors are for. And I’m proud of sticking my proverbial neck out on those books as well as some other works that are in development.
#10) Never, ever, ever give up. Ever. Ever. The tallies on my first list of queries for the first awful book that shall never see the light of day? Embarrassing. Or are they? I’d like to think they show a determined author who looked at rejection as an indication to move in a different direction. And now? Things are better. More importantly, though, my skin is much thicker, and I roll with the setbacks.
#Bonus) Have friends, whether they are virtual or right down the street. Friends will give the “atta girl” or the “suck it up sunshine” that we need on any given day. They let us know that we’re not laboring in isolated oblivion. They will cheer for the good things and boo with the bad things. And above all else, make sure they are extremely biased toward you. That’s what you need them for!