Elizabeth is one of my new favorite authors - and, no, I'm not just saying that because she's making three stops here on The Gal for her Raising Chaos Tour (for more stops on the tour, click here and make sure to come back tomorrow for my interview with her :D). She has quite a lot of talent and her books are fun, well-researched and riveting. She also has really good advice, so Elizabeth, these are my peeps. My peeps, this is Elizabeth. :)
Every day I ask myself one question: What do I want to get out of my writing?
In some ways, my answer never changes. I want the same thing as every author who writes: To achieve JK Rowling level of fame. I want to have the bestselling book series of all time, which is then made into an extended number of blockbuster movies and an international theme park. I would like to make so much money that I can donate $1 billion to charity and still have enough left to be independently wealthy. I want to have to write under a pen name so that people will dissociate my books from my old stuff and then still be critically acclaimed.
But. I must accept that this is not going to happen. Because it's less likely than winning the lottery, and a lot more work. Even to settle for being a "lesser" Dan Brown or Suzanne Collins or Charlaine Harris is not something I can realistically aspire to. Hope for it? Sure. Work hard on every book so that if it happens critics will be kinder to me than they are to Stephenie Meyer? Absolutely. But I probably shouldn't bet my life's happiness on it.
So, fellow writers of the world, I challenge you to ask yourself the same thing. Short of everlasting fame and fortune, what do you hope to get out of writing? Do you want a publisher or to self-publish? Do you want to be able to quit your job and live off of your writing? Or just to do well enough that your publisher picks up your next book, or that you make back your investment in self-pubbing costs? Want a small following of people desperate for your next book to come out? Or maybe you just want to write for yourself?
The most important thing to remember is that there is nothing wrong with any of these goals. I think a lot of times in the writing world, you will hear "Real writers do x." And, as in so many things in life, such absolute statements are rarely accurate. People write in all kinds of ways for all kinds of reasons, and there is nothing wrong with any of them. Unless maybe they're writing to incite wide-scale death and/or riots. But I'm going to assume that you're not doing that and say that whether you're writing for money, fame, or yourself, you are writing for the right reason.
In general, if you want to be a huge success, or even a moderate success, it's going to take some work. To get a publisher or an agent, you're going to need to get your query and manuscript in top condition. To sell a lot of copies, or even to get a small following, you'll need to dedicate a lot of time to social media, and you'll probably want to get books out at a relatively fast pace. And if you're self-publishing and want a product you can be proud of, you'll need to invest the money in editing and a good cover.
Two books into my writing career, I still struggle with figuring out what I want. Some days I want to go up, up, up! And other times I realize that I need a lot of time to write and edit, and that I don't have the social wherewithal to spend hours meeting people on Twitter. So I try to focus on why it is that I write: I make up stories in my head, and I want to communicate them to the world. I would love to have a large audience, but I am happy to write for the few people who do read and enjoy them. I want to be proud of my books, and I know that means extensive editing, even when it makes me cry. At the same time, I have to put my own well-being ahead of my books', so if doing any of these things becomes too much for me, I have every right to re-evaluate my priorities.
So that is my #1 writing lesson: Think about why you write and don't be afraid to re-evaluate your goals as you learn more about the costs and benefits of doing so. And in case you want a bit more advice from someone who knows a lot more than she did when she started, I offer the following:
- Take a writing class or work with a professional editor to learn all the writing rules. You will be judged on how well you adhere to them, even if you don't agree with them.
- Read all the Query Shark archives before you write your queries. Even when she makes you cringe.
- Don't publish with a subsidy publisher or any publisher that makes you pay for part of your production costs.
- Don't compare yourself to other writers. Everyone has different goals, limitations, and motivations. When you learn to do this, tell me how.
- Never let anyone, for any reason, tell you that you aren't a real writer.
Until next time, y'all :) ..........