Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Long Ago

Dude, so here's the deal. Every step I take along this publishing road teaches me something I wish someone had told me earlier. And of course there are two sides to every one of these. I'm not saying them absolutely. I'm just giving you my general experiences with things I've learned in the past 18 months since having a book published.

Here's my top three, and maybe if you're coming down the road after me, this will help you.

1. Don't be in a hurry to publish. It's one of those things that once you do, you can't ever undo. Being unpublished is full of possibilities. Being published is full of numbers, full of what you've sold before, which indicates what a publisher thinks you can sell in the future.

There is no rush to publish. Take your time getting your manuscript right. Take your time soaking in the endless possibilities.

2. Enjoy writing what you want to write. When you're unpublished, you have the option to write whatever you want, whenever you want. Published authors should have this option too, but sometimes that's not always the case. Sometimes what we want to write is already over. Or not ready to be born. Or too similar to something our publishing house already has. Or whatever.

And there's great pressure to write the next publishable thing. There's the constant worry of, "Is this good enough to be published? Is this unique enough to be published? Is this my next published book?"

And if not, then what? Do I have the time to explore other options? Time to revise it?

And what happened to the luxury of writing some terrible-awful-no-good book just because *I* like it? Did I sign it away when I printed my name on that publishing contract? Maybe. Or maybe I just don't need to sleep more than 4 hours tonight.

So enjoy every minute you have writing what you want to write. Enjoy the days, weeks, and months it takes to get that book you love in the condition it needs to be in. Or not getting it there. Whatever you want to do.

That's the beauty of being the unpublished writer.

3.  Surround yourself with those who really care. I've learned that those that really care about you don't care about your publishing status. They don't care if you have an agent, a publishing contract, the lead title marketing plan, or thousands of followers on any of the social media sites. 


They care about you because of you. The book/publishing thing is secondary, or even tertiary, or maybe not even on the map. 

Those are the people you want around you. Find them. Do what it takes to keep them. You won't have time for the other kind down the road anyway.

So there you go! A few things that, looking back on the road I've travelled, I wish someone had mentioned these things in big, bold letters. 

What do you think? Are you in a hurry to publish? Why or why not? Do you write what you want to write? Why or why not? Have you found those that really care about you? 

41 comments:

Yolanda Renee said...

Great advice. I've self-published but would love to be traditionally published, and I've made every mistake in the book -- so many I could probably write a book on it. :)
Just wanted to share my work, but like you, I wish I had known then what I know now.
Thanks for sharing -- I hope all goes as smoothly as possible -- much success!

AE Rought said...

Great advice, E. I'm struggling with #2. There's the story I *want* to write, and the book I *have* to write, and being worried with every fifth word if it's good enough.

And the friends thing is SO important! Not just in having them, I think, but in being one, too.

<3

S.P. Bowers said...

Great advice!

Linda Jackson said...

Like everyone else said: Great advice. And thank you for your honesty.

Laura Pauling said...

Whatever publishing route a writer takes, this is classic advice! :)

Miranda Hardy said...

Thanks for the advice. I'm always worried about when I should publish, but these are wise words. Waiting is often a great thing.

I've net so many wonderful people in this blogging community.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great advice Elana. Sometimes I wonder if I can handle the pressures and deadlines of getting published so I'm trying to enjoy this stage. And your advice #3 is so important. Sometimes we get too caught up in the publishing and social networking worlds.

Kim Harrington said...

Great advice, Elana! Agreed on all counts.

Angela Brown said...

I love these times when you pass long nuggets of wisdom gained from your own experience. It's kind of you to share them with us.

The advice is great and spot on. The rushing to publication one, unfortunately, is the one that will take the most time to sink in since we're and instant gratification kind of society and we want all things now :-)

But you are so right. Being unpublished, a writer can just write. The only expectations are the ones placed on them by themselves. And by not rushing to publication, that means time to write up any and all they desire.

Liza said...

I'm a tortoise...and your words today helped me know I'm on the right course. Thanks.

Melissa Sarno said...

I'm the most impatient person on the planet. Lately, a lot of advice like this has been finding me. I'll take it as a sign to slow down and enjoy the ride. Thanks for sharing this Elana :)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I like #3. :D

While my ultimate goal is to be published, I'm still enjoying the ride of being unpublished. I don't have to worry about bad reviews or trying to balance promotion and writing my next book.

Martha Ramirez said...

You are so right, Elana! All of it. It is so easy to get caught up in writing that the real world drifts away. I learned to make time for my loved ones and try not to make it all about writing. Writing can be very addicting lol.

Right now I write what I want to write and it feels great! This is excellent advice. Thank you.

Carolyn V said...

These are really good things to think about. I've worried about them from time to time, but I feel like I'm in a hurry. I should slow down a little. ;)

ali cross said...

Ooh. "Tertiary". Great word. :)

And great post, too, Elana.

Patti said...

That's the best advice ever. Don't be in a hurry to be published, because then you have a whole lot of other things to worry about other than just writing a book.

Marsha Sigman said...

So true. I want to be published but I know that once that happens I sort of give up some freedoms.

As for the people around me, they love me no matter what. And that makes me a success even if I never publish a single word.

Kristin Lenz said...

Thank you for your honesty - it was just what I needed to be reminded of right now. It's hard to be patient when you've been working toward a publishing goal for many years, but I'm seeing from my published friends that there are many new challenges down the road.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Love this post, Elana. Now I'm scared!

Jenny Lundquist said...

This is some of the best advice I've ever heard. And I wish I'd known a lot of this too before I published. I actually decided to wait on writing my next option MG book, b/c there was a YA that *I* just wanted to write, regardless if anyone wanted to put it under contract. It's been really freeing to rediscover the joy of writing simply b/c there's a story I really want to tell, w/o worrying if it's in a genre that's currently selling well.

Kelly Polark said...

Yes patience, padawan. :)

I made the mistake of submitting too early in my VERY early days of writing. WHoopsie. Live and learn.

L.T. Elliot said...

#3? Too true. #3? The only kind of people I let myself be myself with.

I've never been concerned with how long my journey takes. Yes, sometimes it stings to see people I started out with SO much farther ahead in terms of "publishing." Yes, sometimes I'm dismayed by how long my road is. But always I come back to the fact that this journey is MINE and I need to take it at a pace that I'll be happy with. There's no one to compete against except for me. And even then, it's a partnership.

Great post, Elana.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Totally agree! Don't rush. Once you've crossed that line, there is no going back, and whole new set of pressures.

Cathy Keaton said...

I've been taking my time with my writing, letting myself develop into a better writer and storyteller. Good to know I'm doing the right thing by being so slow. People will still be buying books long after I die, so what's the rush?

Julie Daines said...

I love when post stuff like this. I'm definitely the kind of person who believes in learning from those who have gone before.

And you're so right about not hurrying to get published. My book hasn't even come out yet and I'm stressing because I know what I HAVE to write next, even though it's not what I WANT to write next. Once you sign the contract, everything changes.

Angie said...

I think I'm always going to write what I want because I can't imagine doing anything else. Of course, I don't have to support a family, either so that might play into it. I think that's one reason I have no desire to find an agent. And #3 is the truest and most important of all!

Sara B. Larson said...

I love this post -- mostly because it hits so close to home. It's very hard sometimes to have friend after friend "pass me by" and to still not be published, but it's so true. I need to enjoy where I'm at. I need to relish the freedom. But I still want to get published sooner than later... ;)

Nichole Giles said...

*Sobs* Thanks for being one of those people for me. And thanks for reminding me that every first only comes once. *giant hugs*

June G said...

It's posts like this that makes me love you so much, Elana. This is a complete confirmation of what I've been feeling.

Every time I think I'm ready to query, a critique from a writer or agent will point out things I still need to learn and perfect. I can't say they're wrong, but I was a bit discouraged. Then I realized, indeed, I do have more work to do to craft a publishable story.

I had to ask myself: what's the rush? It's not like I have to kill myself writing a book to earn a living. I already have a well paying job. I started this journey because I enjoyed writing. The goal to get published was destroying that joy. I had to back up and reassess my goals.

I've concluded, if I get published, fine. If I don't, that's okay too. I just want to enjoy my life. I have the freedom to write just because I like it and I'm not pressured to fulfill someone's expectations beyond my own.

I'd better enjoy that and luxuriate in that while I can.

Thanks for a wonderfully, helpful post. I know I can always depend on that from you...take care...

Heather said...

I couldn't agree more. Finding those who truly care and support us is the key. There are many false supporters out there.

I write what I love for the love of writing. It's the only way to go! :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Awesome advice as usual Elana! Finding those people who care about YOU is sooooo important. The rest of it is minor. :)

I'm a definite dawdler. I've played around with a variety of genres and age categories trying to find the voice & niche that work for me & that I know I'll want to write a LOT of stories in.

Kristin Rae said...

That's something I wonder if I can handle if I sign a publishing contract and have to write on deadline. I'm SO slow. I'm a perfectionist. Besides my critique partners, no one sees it until I'm happy with it, and that polishing process takes me a long time. Thanks for the reminder to SOAK it up and enjoy the opportunity I have now to be lazy about it when I want to be. :)

Kathryn Purdie said...

Thanks for this post, Elana. I'm trying to find the joy in the now and not be too anxious for the green grass on the other side.

Nicole said...

This is a wonderful and uplifting post! I'm bookmarking it for whenever I need a reminder.

J. B. Chicoine said...

Such a thought provoking post and something I've considered a lot, lately.

I have to admit, there was something special in the naivety of all the unknowns of publishing. When I started my journey. I didn't think much about rules or genre or public opinion--I just wrote and it was so freeing! Now that I'm on the cusp of a published novel, I'd love to get that feeling back.

Now I worry about story structure, character development--all that necessary stuff; whether or not my publisher will want my next novel, will I hold up under the pressure of marketing, of meeting reader's expectations?

I can't wait to go back to writing just for me and not worry one way or the other.

Lo said...

I sure hope your advice applies to me one day and I will actually be published! Sometimes it's hard not to want to hurry and get published. Revisions, revisions, revisions...here I go. Now I'm on to looking for more critiquers out there! Thanks for the advice, Elana.

Ghenet Myrthil said...

I love this, especially #1. Lately I've been trying not to feel so rushed to be publishing, and to just enjoy the journey. I'm still working on my first book, and I'm young. I have time! I certainly appreciate being able to write whatever I want right now. :)

Tasha Seegmiller said...

Sometimes I think you are my Obi Wan - I SOOOO needed to hear this. Thanks!

Adventures in YA Publishing said...

As usual, you speak truth with capitol letters. There's a temptation to think that publication will change your life or suddenly validate your writing. But ultimately, the biggest satisfaction comes from doing the work and having it connect with readers. That can't happen unless we first connect with people in our actaul lives. Thanks for sharing this! I love how honest you always are in your posts.

Martina

Kaye M. said...

Thanks, Elana. I've just turned twenty to a chorus of "BUT I THOUGHT YOU WERE GOING TO BE A PUBLISHED TEEN AUTHOR!" from various supposedly supportive family/friends. Today, I was wondering if it was even worth it to keep writing if I don't get ready soon to query. Thanks for underlining the fact that you only publish once for the first time.

Rachel K. Johnson said...

I agree completely. I think stressing over what hasn't happened yet only makes writing a chore. At that point, it becomes so easy to get discouraged!

I look back at when I was younger and was so positive that my book was ready for the printers and I have to laugh. I have learned SO much since then that I'd be embarrassed if there had been a publisher that had taken it. Immersing myself into the writing process and going to a million classes has taught me more than I ever would have known if I'd given up back then.

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