I find myself suddenly in this weird position where I’m being asked for writing/publishing advice and it both thrills and baffles me every time. Never in my life did I think I would be someone people came to seeking advice, unless that advice was about some weird, hillbilly/hippy home remedy. Or maybe something IEP related. Those are always my areas of expertise and I wouldn’t so much say expertise as I’d say something I kinda sorta know about and there’s no one more knowledgeable to ask at that exact moment.
Usually, when someone asks me “what’s your advice” now and it pertains to writing/publishing, I’m so caught off guard I end up coming back with something off the wall, like pizza. Intentionally, of course. Totally intentional. I’m being clever and charming and not omg painfully awkward. Okay. I’m awkward. I’m being awkward. I’m good at awkward.
But I’ve been thinking about it lately, really trying to come up with a good answer so I’m ready next time I get it. I want to do that. I want to be that. I want to be that girl that inspires others because, dammit, I never thought I would get to be her. And the truth of it is there are so many, highly more qualified and exceedingly less awkward people to seek out. Really. Seriously. Chuck Wendig for example. His blog is basically my writing bible and I will forever recommend that everyone stop what they’re doing and go check it out. In the meantime, here’s what I came up with it:
1.) Tell a story. Don’t sell one.
This is coming from the reader, not the writer. Well, maybe a little from the writer. It’s hard, sometimes, to tell where one ends and the other begins. But it’s the most important piece of advice I can give. Sometimes you get lucky and the story you need to tell is one that has elements that happen to be selling. Such as with the case of Wild Ones. When my Bri started shouting at me, she was fully formed, crazy, and dragging her brooding boxer boy behind her. When I was done transferring them from my head to paper and was wiping the sweat from my brow, I saw that there was a market for it. Better than just a market, a demanding market. Jamie McGuire, whilst I’d been working oblivious, had made fighter boys A Thing. New Adult, the age bracket my Bri is in, was flying off the shelves. I’d told a story that could sell but I didn’t tell a story to sell and there’s a difference. It’s a fine difference, the line between the two is so thin that it’s almost blurry. There’s writers out there that study trends and pinpoint sure things and then they play connect the dots with popular tropes. And they do good with that. They make money and as someone who’s easing into the business of making money writing, I respect that. I respect finding a game and besting it. But as a reader? I don’t remember those stories. Oh, they’re enjoyable while I’m reading them. But they don’t stick. So that’s my first bit of advice. Tell a story. The best damn story you can possibly tell. Aim to stick. Not to sell.*
*I recognize that I, and Bri, may very well fall into the category of Not Sticking. Again, this is why this advice comes from Kristine the Reader. Kristine the Writer agrees with The Reader, however. And they both hope that acknowledging each other doesn’t mean they I have multiple personality disorder.
2.) Make time.
That’s a no brainer, right? But it’s so much easier said than done. I had people, in the beginning, when the news first broke that OMG I GOT A BOOK DEAL, ask where I found the time to write between every day life and being a mom. And I never really had a good answer because the truth was, I didn’t find it, I made it. It wasn’t always pretty. I, for one reason or another, had to usually sacrifice sleep, which often led to sacrificing sanity. But it was important to me. I had to do it. So I didn’t wait around, hoping that time would present itself. I made it happen. I approach anything that’s important to me with that mindset. If it’s important, if it’s crucial to your life, to your very existence, you make the time. You rearrange. You shove other things over. You bloody your damn hands carving out those hours.
And that’s not just advice about writing. That doubles as life advice. Here at Wyllys Industries, we offer a little of everything.
3.) Believe in your story.
For some people, it’s a lot easier than believing in yourself. Me, for example. I have absolutely horrible, horrible self-esteem. It was Sylvia Plath that said, “how I ricochet between certainties and doubt” and that is me to a T. But Bri? I never doubted her. And, again, while I got insanely lucky and was picked up on my first(ish) try, I honestly don’t think that would have changed had it had gone differently. It’s what drives every writer, I think, when they venture out of their cave and start looking at the publishing sea. They wade out into the waters, face down the waves, because they believe in their story. So believe. Believe hard. And if you don’t believe? Find a story that you do believe in. Otherwise it’s all for nothing.
4.) Get a support group.
I’m talking betas, critiquing partners, Wednesday Wine Circles, whatever. It is a crazy, weird road and you can’t travel it alone. I’m not saying you’re not strong enough to travel it alone. I’m saying you do not want to travel it alone. You need people. Find your people. Find your people and do not let your people go. Hold them hostage if you have to. Just make sure to feed them.
5.) Get a hobby.
Is writing your hobby? It’s not anymore. Get another one. It doesn’t matter what it is. Knitting, pottery throwing, dinosaur hunting, aggressive chicken dancing. Listen to me, you need something, anything, to fill in the time spent waiting. Because you’re gonna wait. You’re gonna send your manuscript out and you’re gonna be filled with fire. You’re gonna want to shout from the rooftops and start a 20-book series because, dude, you’re gonna need it for your agent because you’re gonna be a best selling author. But then a week’s gonna go by. Then two weeks. And that fire is gonna flicker and you can’t concentrate to even write a word. You’re gonna be filled with anxiety and terror and you might even throw up. You’re gonna want to hunt a dinosaur. Teach a dragon the Macarena. Get a hobby. Love that hobby. Know that that hobby will save you.
6.) Shit is gonna get weird.
Make peace with that. You’re gonna learn things about yourself. You’re gonna find yourself in a closet one day, wrapped in a quilt, screaming at everyone who walks by the door that you are a burrito and burritos don’t have deadlines to meet or taxes to do. They have no responsibilities because they are Mexican food and Mexican food exists purely to be delicious. This is normal and acceptable behavior. I don’t care what your mom says. She needs to respect your life choices because Harry lived in a closet and you know what? He beat Voldemort so clearly it worked out okay for him. Hunker in that closet, look for Narnia while you’re there and know that weirdness is just part of the package.
7.) Figure out your platform ahead of time.
This is also important because you need to be heard. You need to have a place and a brand and you need to be ready to throw out the welcome mat at a moment’s notice. You’re gonna be mostly talking to yourself in the beginning. That’s okay. I’m still talking to myself. But you need to put down roots somewhere, figure out who you’re gonna be, and you need to be listed in the Yellow Pages so people can find you when that time comes. You need to remember that your public face needs to always be on. Whether or not people have found you yet, they will one day, hopefully, and you don’t want them peeking into your house, seeing you falling down drunk with your dress tucked into the back of your pantyhose. Company’s coming. Keep the cobwebs out of the corners and your hair in place.
8.) Get comfortable with the idea of marketing and promoting yourself.
You’re gonna have to talk to people. You’re gonna have to put yourself out there and join in the group gathered around the water cooler. If you’re like me, that idea is terrifying but, dude, it’s part of the game. So gird your loins, slap on that winning smile, and tell yourself that you have nothing in your teeth. Then while you’re there, keep an eye on what the pros are doing. Watch how they walk the line of promotion. It’s a fine line between successful and spamming. You do not want to be that writer on Twitter spamming their followers with self-promotion. Watch the pros and when in doubt, have a dick joke handy.
9.) Sign up for Goodreads then back the hell away from it.
This, too, comes from the reader rather than the writer. Goodreads is a wonderful, magical place. For readers. Writers, you have no place there. I know it’s tempting because, my God. An entire space dedicated to readers? The possibilities are endless! But very, very few authors have managed to use Goodreads successfully. Even if you’re not in the comment section fighting with reviewers (please don’t do that. No one looks good doing that. It’s painful to watch) it’s still weird for you to be there. I have, as a reader, not had a single uninvited interaction with an author on there without walking away feeling kinda weird. Like, question my review and the words I used and agonize over them weird. So sign up, link your blog, and pretend the Doctor just grabbed your hand and told you to run for your life, Rose Tyler.
10.) Keep your expectations low and never, ever take yourself too seriously.
Again, this is also life advice, and it’s damn good, in my humble opinion. Laugh at yourself. Poke fun. Don’t expect everyone to love, or even understand, what you’re doing. Don’t get caught up in the daydreams that you’re going to be the Next Big Thing. It’s okay to dream it. It’s okay to have that tiny little spark of hope inside of you that you will be. But at the end of the day, laugh, shuck your pants, and know that even if you never, ever see a best sellers list, your words are out there for others to read. You’re living a dream, maybe not The Dream, but it’s still a dream. Then eat a whole pizza by yourself because why the hell not?