Writing’s like living: you continue to learn
for as long as you do it.
I’ve set out here my thoughts about writing, what I know now and what I might do differently if I were starting out today. In no way am I suggesting that I know everything there is to know about writing, or that there is a one size fits all approach. What is right for one writer may be totally wrong for another.
With that caveat in mind, here’s in a nutshell what I’ve learned so far on my writing journey.
There’s a very big difference between writing purely for your own pleasure or needs and writing for publication. It pays to determine early on why you are writing and what you want to achieve and to review your goals every so often.
One form of writing isn’t superior to the other and both have their place, but you will probably go about things very differently if you are writing as a hobby as opposed to writing for publication and vice versa.
Writing for pleasure
Writing as a hobby or to satisfy your own needs is a lot of fun and can be very liberating. It costs next to nothing, has the potential to make you a great deal happier and has very few drawbacks. You certainly won’t break a bone doing it!
I wrote purely for pleasure for many years and I believe every writer should set aside some time to write for themselves simply because it brings so much joy. If you find you end up with something publishable, great! You can try it out there.
If you’re like me you’ll reach a stage where you want to make writing your life and you’ll aim for publication, but the power of writing purely for yourself should never be underestimated. It might be just the thing to keep you sane at the end of a long day when the kids have been screaming non-stop, the dog has messed up the carpet and the tradesman you were expecting didn’t turn up.
Writing for publication
Be prepared for the rollercoaster life! Rejection is part of the writer’s life and I don’t mean once or twice. Try hundreds or even thousands of rejections.
If you keep at it and hone your craft, you will get to a point when your writing is of publishable standard. That doesn’t mean your work will be accepted by the first publisher who reads it once it’s reached that standard. You still need to have the right story at the right time and find a publisher who recognises that and is willing and able to take a chance on you as a newcomer wanting to break into a competitive industry. If you're ready to give it a shot, start sending out those query letters. You'll find lots of resources online. A simple search for publishers will bring up lots of names and contact details. Or if you're looking for a publisher in Australia you could start here: www.startlocal.com.au/business/bookpublisher/.
There is no doubt you will go through heartache, trials and tribulations. You may have read about that rare author whose first book is accepted by the first publisher it was sent to: well, that’s like winning lotto - your odds might even be better with lotto.
More often than not if you look closely enough you’ll find that the overnight success had been working away quietly for a very long time before publication. It’s nearly always an overnight sensation ten years in the making.
I don’t say any of this to discourage you, but to arm you with the resilience to weather the storm. Realistic expectations mean less heartbreak, and less heartbreak results in holding onto your dreams.
One of the quickest paths to publication today, aside from self-publishing, is to aim for the digital-first market. Digital-first publishers are more likely to take a chance on a new author because of the lesser cost involved. Personally, I love the fact that they are less risk-averse and consequently more willing to let you experiment a little more within set genres.
Which brings me to genres. Finding out which are in demand and sell better at any given time is, I believe, an excellent move if you are seeking to shorten your path to publication.
I’m not suggesting that you write something you don’t feel like writing simply because you’ve heard that it sells, because you could end up bitterly disappointed. People can generally sense it when your heart isn’t in your work. But if you are hesitating between say, contemporary romance and historical romance, and contemporary romance is hot right now, perhaps knowing that fact will help you make a wise decision.
And what’s a great way to figure out what’s hot and what’s not? Writing organisations such as RWA as well as critique groups. I’ve been in a fabulous critique group since 2006 and I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful it is to be with like-minded people who understand what you mean by POV, what it is to throw stones at your heroine, or how that last rejection really was a good one.
What I will say in closing is that despite all the rejections and heartbreak, the occasional staring at a blank page and frustration that inevitably builds, I love writing. It’s who I am and I can’t imagine ever giving it up. I love finding that one sentence that I feel is perfect, or that twist in the story that surprises. More than anything, I love the thought of connecting with my readers and bringing them a sometimes much-needed escape from the ordinary.
So to you who’ve just read this, and to anyone out there reading my stories, a huge THANK YOU. I wish you every success in your journey, always.