DON’T GIVE UP THE DAY JOB
Even if you get a publishing deal, an author’s life is financially precarious for all but a tiny few, so assume you will need another source of income, either from a writing-related job or a totally different career. Having another job will give you vital life experiences and inspiration – so meet people, do things, go places and get out there!
Read, read everything – popular fiction, literary fiction, classics, non-fiction, newspapers, magazines – and keep an open mind about all the things you read. Everything informs your writing life, develops your voice, helps you to see what the market is like and what you actually might like to write. Above all, write what you enjoy writing, not what you think you ‘ought’ to write.
WRITE EVERY DAY
Write. That may seem obvious but Just Do It. Write every day if you can – even if it’s only a few words – try different projects, experiment. Write even if you think your work is rubbish; all writers think that at some point. A successful writer also knows s/he’s going to rewrite. The magic happens in the rewriting/editing process.
Finishing a book is only part of the story; you need to decide how it will reach an audience. You’ll need energy, professionalism and courage to approach agents and publishers and market your work. Once you do have a book deal, don’t expect to be able to sit back and let your publisher’s PR/marketing department do all the work. Bear in mind they may have dozens, even hundreds, of other authors to support. These days, you need to engage with readers in person and online via social media. That means establishing a website or blog, a Twitter presence and/or a Facebook page. You don’t have to be online 24/7 but you do need to be aware of and respect the fact that readers will want to know more about you and your book. Remember too, that the clue is in the title and ‘social media’ means being sociable – not simply sending out a stream of ‘Buy My Book’ pleas.
NEVER GIVE UP BUT…
Develop a thick skin; learn to deal with knockbacks, and self-doubt and Keep on Writing. However Not Giving Up is not the same as Not Taking Advice i.e. thinking you have nothing to learn and blindly resubmitting the same work (and making the same mistakes.) However you need to be careful who you take advice from. Personally, I only listen to my editor, my agent and a very small group of trusted author friends who know me well enough to give honest and constructive feedback. Knowing who to listen to, and how much, if any of their advice, to take on board, is part of the process of becoming a writer and finding your own voice. You’ll always come up against conflicting advice and ‘should I or shouldn’t I?’ moments in your career but with experience, you’ll gain greater insight into what works for you and your book.
The First Time We Met – Penguin Books – Feb 2014