BLOGGER: LISA WINGATE
Instructor for Supercharge Your Fiction and Your Writing Career, a Major Morning Track, Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 2016
What I Wish I’d Known When My First Novel Was Published
No matter what trajectory your particular writing career may take or what point you’re at in your quest, you can safely assume that, if you’ve chosen this profession, you’re in for a roller coaster ride. A writing career is challenging. It’s demanding. It’s busy. It can be unforgiving and maddening. It can also be unbelievably rewarding and filled with moments of story and human connection that are nothing short of bliss. With my twenty-fifth book, The Sea Keeper’s Daughters, hitting shelves in September, I can honestly say that my career has been filled with things I didn’t expect. That’s probably because I knew next to nothing about the business when I started.
If I could go back to the moment I sold my first mainstream novel, Tending Roses, to (then) Penguin Putnam, I’d tell myself a few things:
- Write because you love it. I know everyone says that, but it’s true. If you really want a long career, you must figure out how to produce book, after book, while managing promotion, production edits, multiple forms of communication, and life in general. Set a manageable daily page quota or daily writing hours, and hold yourself to it. One of the hardest things about writing is time management.
- Finish your first manuscript and write another. It’s almost impossible to sell on a partial in fiction if you’re unpublished. Polish your manuscript and send it out, because as much as we’d like them to, editors won’t come looking in your desk drawer. While you’re waiting for news, write another book. If the first one sells, you’ll be set for a two-book deal. If the first one doesn’t sell, you will have eggs in another basket. Be tenacious, be as thick-skinned as possible, keep writing while you wait for news.
- Rejection stinks, but it happens. Rejection isn’t anything personal; it’s just part of the business, and it’s to be expected. Your project isn’t bad just because it gets rejected. It may not be that editor’s (or agent’s) cup of tea, the house might not be buying right then, they may have another author under contract whose work is similar to yours, and so on. There are so many reasons a book can be rejected, and the real trick is to look at the rejections as a tool and then move on. Don’t make sweeping changes based on one opinion unless there’s an imminent sale involved. Conversely, if you receive the same criticism from several editors (or agents), consider pulling out the red pen and getting to work
- You probably won’t hit the NYT immediately. In fact, few writers ever reach this coveted level. Be careful how you measure success. Setting lofty goals is a good thing… right up until you feel like a failure for not achieving them. Myriad factors determine which books get the “perfect storm” of great cover, great market timing, and heavy publisher promotion. Some of it is just luck. Write the very best book you can. Do what you can to promote. Stop obsessing. Write another book.
- Find your creative tribe. On any given road, you’re never the only traveler. Others walk in shoes like your own and shoes that are different. Find them. Critique one another’s work, brainstorm together, give creative criticism, take creative criticism, and learn from one another. Give back more than you get.
- Cheer for other people. One of the best promotional avenues available to writers today, yesterday, and tomorrow remains cooperative promotion. Find authors whose work is similar to yours. Shout out for one another’s successes, awards, and new releases. Your readers will thank you for the tips and you’ll feel good about doing something positive for someone else. You’ll also have that warm feeling when others do the same for you.
Above all, while you’re walking the writer-road, be aware, be in the moment, don’t close your eyes even for an instant. Wherever you go in life, there are nuggets of story along the trail. Sometimes you’ll see them coming; sometimes you’ll stumble over them. Pause long enough to pick them up and examine them. Your writer’s mind can take it from there.
Come meet Lisa Wingate at Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016, where she will teach a Major Morning Track for fiction writers. In the meantime, here’s where you can connect with Lisa on the Internet.