A friend’s social media post recently observed that the abundance of writing advice online (and at convention panels, and in writing workshops) focuses on New Writers. Writers who are working on their first book. Writers wholly unfamiliar with publishing. There isn’t much for writers who are working on their third book, or their eighth.
And the question was posed: what advice would you (where you means writers of multiple books) offer to writers who have gotten beyond their first. The thoughts I had were bigger than a comment, so they’re here!
First, why is this so? Welp. My cynical take: the money is in pushing products & resources to those who haven’t made any personal connections or located professional mentors or tracked down their own resources. Less-cynical me is willing to acknowledge that there are a lot more New Writers than ones who are typing away at book 4 or 5. And most writers who’ve stuck it out that long have collected colleagues and bookmarked resources and developed a lot of tricks they like.
And my answer to the questiion was this: my words of wisdom to writers seeking guidance wouldn’t change between book 1 and book 8.
- There is no One True Way To Write Your Book
- There is no One True Path to successfully publishing a book.
- There is no One True Definition Of Success
I can break down that a bit more, though, and right now that feels like a good reflection post to share while I await the release of book 8 and work on book 1 in a new series.
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Ahem. Back to writing advice for writers who’ve already written that First Book all the Internet Advice Experts focus on.
One. The tricks you taught yourself to remain motived through writing FirstBookEver won’t necessarily help you get through Book 2. Or book 5. Motivation is a fickle thing, and the creation of art is an ever-changing pursuit of an ever-changing goal.
Two. There is no International Agency of Writer Certification. No one will ever send you an official Writer Diploma, not when you graduate from writing to having a book published, not after three books, not after seventeen thousand short story sales. Once your words have been read by an audience–even if that audience is you and you alone–you are a writer. All other levels of accreditation, legitimacy, and worldly success are just additional layers. And remember–we inhabit a late-stage capitalist hellscape. It’s a tough fight to define legitimacy and professionalism in non-financial terms, but it’s a battle worth fighting. Professional writing associations set their membership bars based on economics, period.
Two point five. Success isn’t a set of moving goal posts. That’s bullshit. Every damned goal achieved is success. Period. Setting new goals after achieving a goal is one form of growth. So is shifting focus and working on something else. Which brings us to the next point.
Three. You are allowed to change your mind. You’re allowed to stop writing a first book or a fifth one. You’re allowed to stop writing a series. You’re allowed to stop writing at all–for a day, for a month, for years, forever. You’re allowed to turn your back on publishing after querying one book, or self-publishing three, or selling seventeen thousand short stories to magazines. You’re still a writer even you never pursue publication at all & only write in your private notebooks or on fanfic sites, or in letters to your besties. But that’s a different post.)
The point is, you decide what to write, how to write it, when to write it, and what to do with it when you’re done. YOU AND ONLY YOU.
(CAVEAT: the above paragraph is true unless you have signed a contract obligating you to write a given thing within a given time frame for financial remuneration. I mean, that’s a legal commitment.)
Four. The feeling that the next piece of writing isn’t “good enough” won’t ever go away. Wrestling with insecurity is a popular hobby for many creatives. Impostor syndrome is a popular term with gigantic amounts of advice written on overcoming it, but it’s not one-size-fits-all. The classic form is fear of being exposed as a fraud–feeling like you’ll be kicked out of the cool-kids club as soon as people realize you don’t belong. I rarely feel like that. Okay, never. I just don’t feel like a fraud, ever. But! I often feel un-respected in the company of experienced, talented, and business-focused professionals. That’s a VERY different kind of insecurity, but it’s rooted in the same fear of not-good-enough. (It’s an insecurity rooted in and fueled by the pro-club’s finance-focused membership requirements, but that’s another different post.) My defiant answer, even when my on insecurity whispers “not-goodenough” is this: “FFS, WHAT DOES GOOD ENOUGH EVEN MEAN? Good enough for whom?”
Five: You should never expect the publishing landscape for the next book to look the way it did for the last one. Publishing is still in a state of massive flux fifteen (or so) years after electronic self-publishing began disrupting it. Marketing strategies and social media change even faster. One year, email newsletters are The Route To Commercial Success. The next year, it’s Twitter followers. The year after that, it’s all about Bookstagram. The one thing that never changes: everything changes.
Six: Everything except writing the next book is a distraction from writing the next book. BUT ALSO. Some non-writing distractions are IMPORTANT, and some will remind you why you’re putting all the effort into writing that next book. Never underestimate the power of connecting with other people who get excited about the worlds and people you write.
I think that’s all the rambling thoughts I have for now. Remember, there’s a new book for you waiting for you to pre-order it right now! Moms with superpowers, potential apocalypse, and gardening tips!