Writing is hard.
Let’s just get that out of the way, shall we?
Whether you’re new to writing or you’ve been doing it for years now, that fact never changes. It’s hard to sit down, day after day or night after night, and write words that make sentences that form stories. It takes patience, research, talent, and more to make it all come to life.
Ever since I started publishing in 2013, I’ve been approached by new writers asking for advice. I almost always start out by pointing them to this blog post I wrote, but ever since the release of Weightless, I’ve started to get even more requests – and I want to help. I may not have all the answers (hell, I learn more every single day), but what I do know, I’d love to share.
So, here’s the thing – this post has nothing to do with actually writing. It doesn’t. I do have some advice when it comes to that, but this isn’t the time I’m choosing to share it. Instead, I want to talk about a few things that have nothing to do with writing, but are important as a new author. Let’s hit it.
I know they say to leave the best for last, but to that I say life’s too short. So, let’s just start here – nothing is more important as a writer than to just be yourself. You can quote me on that. What I have learned in my long life as a writer and short time as a published author is that until you are yourself, no one cares. If you write the same book that’s been written ten times before you, or if you try to “copy/paste” something you see working for another author, or if you work really hard to write a book that doesn’t tell the story you want to tell – people will see right through it.
I get it, okay? I know what it feels like to see books in the same genre as you shooting up to the top of the charts and wondering what the hell you’re doing wrong and why you can’t do the same. But in the end, it comes down to three very simple things:
- Write a damn good book.
- Edit it until your hands bleed and you want to cry forever.
- Market it well – by being yourself and being smart.
What I’m trying to say is that you are your brand. So, with that in mind, don’t be someone you’re not.
Let me give you an example. One of the biggest things that took off for my brand was doing live videos on Facebook. Why? Because I was being myself – and for some crazy reason people seemed to enjoy hanging out with me in my living room. Now, if you’re not the kind of person who can talk in front of a camera – this isn’t the right move for you. It’s the same with how some authors have made their husbands part of their brand and their fans love it. If you’re not married or your husband isn’t super charismatic – that isn’t the right move for you, either. Some authors write books that make you cry, and feel, and want to throw your eReader – but if you’re more of a romantic comedy writer, that isn’t going to work for you.
Do you see the theme here?
Just because Regina George did it and it worked doesn’t mean you should do it, too.
Not if it isn’t true to who you are.
It seems simple, and these examples are just small ones to illustrate, but it all comes back to finding out who you are – as a writer, as a person, as a brand – and sticking to that. I’ve seen the copy/paste method used by a lot of authors, and people – readers – see right through it. Even if it doesn’t work at first, even if it takes time to build that audience – be yourself.
Make the Commitment
Just in case you forgot or skipped over the introduction to this post – writing is hard. So make the commitment to it. If writing or becoming a published author is important to you, realize that you’re going to have to make some sacrifices. Say goodbye to Netflix binges and spending every weekend with family and friends. Once you start writing, if you want to make a career out of it, you have to keep going. You have to write on the days the words pour out of you like a fountain and you have to write on the days when not even one word comes easy. You have to write on the days after a long day at your regular job and you have to write on the nights after the kids go to bed.
Writing is a relationship – and it’s the most involved marriage you will ever enter into.
Your craft will only grow if you have the commitment to help it. So, give it your time, give it your effort, bake that bitch some cookies and show it how much you care about it. Do your research, read other books in your genre, network, market, be yourself, and commit to the relationship.
Find Your Tribe
If you read my Letter to Aspiring Writers, then you already know that when you start writing – not everyone in your life is going to care, nor are they going to support you. GASP! I know, crazy right? But here’s the thing – to most people, even the ones who love you, writing is weird. Not everyone is really into reading, not everyone understands how self-publishing works, and not everyone understands what a huge deal it is to sit down and write a book.
But, don’t stress – because there are people out there who want you to succeed. Some of them you won’t have to look hard to find – maybe it’s your spouse, your best friend, your mom. Some of them, though, you’ll find along the way. These will come in the form of die-hard reader fans, the ones who one-click everything you release and pay hundreds of dollars to see you at a signing for three hours (be on the lookout for a future post from me about why you should treat your readers like your BFF).
They’ll also come in the form of other authors – some who are struggling right along with you, some who maybe take you under their wing and help you out – both are important. Network, find friends, be yourself. NOTE: What you don’t want to do is be “that guy” who only messages an author because you want something from them. If you’re not out for genuine friendship above all else, don’t even bother. Authors are people, too – and they will see right through your shady intentions if they’re present.
Over time, you’ll start to develop this little band of people. It will be a village of those who love you, who want you to succeed for no other reason than that they want you to, and they will be loyal AF.
Your vibe attracts your tribe – and once you find them, fight like hell to keep them.
Nothing is more important (other than being yourself) because here’s the thing – when times get rough, when you feel like giving up, when you’re two seconds away from deleting your entire manuscript – you will need your tribe. So round them up, cuddle them hard, and build that village.
One of the best lessons I learned from taking hot yoga is this: focus on the four corners of your mat and everything within them.
Comparison is the thief of joy. You’ve probably heard that a million times in life, but let me assure you – it’s a lesson that never dies. And when you start writing, that human urge to compare yourself to others rears its ugly head like a fire-breathing dragon who hasn’t eaten in decades. But the absolute worst thing you can do as a writer is try to copy another writer – whether that be their writing style, their marketing techiniques, or something in-between. Be yourself, remember? This goes back to that.
But it also goes a little further.
Looking inward doesn’t only mean not comparing yourself to others, it means looking deep -really, really deep – and telling the story that’s hard to tell. Ernest Hemingway once said, “Write the truest sentence that you know.” I live by those words, because if you really peel back the layers of your heart and look inward for the story that matters to you, what transfers to ink on the page is magical. It’s unique, it’s fresh, and it’s real. That’s what matters, people.
Live a Little – Or a Lot
You cannot be a writer if you do not go out and live a little. You just can’t. It’s impossible. Fall in love, and fall out of it, too. Break hearts and let yours be broken in return. Travel – as much as you can. Talk to people – all kinds of people – people like you and people who live a life you would never understand. Read, watch television, explore your city. Take a different route to work every day. And through all of this, no matter what you do, be yourself. Live your life unapologetically and write the words that your soul sings – even if they hurt.
Writing is hard, but it’s also one of the most rewarding experiences we are blessed with in this world. So, take this advice or don’t. Either way, I wish you nothing but luck in your writing journey. Just in case it didn’t sink in, I want to leave you with one last thought…