I am a self-published writer at the beginning of my career. I’m not a master passing down wisdom from on high. I’m just another traveler on the same road as everyone else, and these are some of the tips and reminders I give myself from time to time. Maybe some of them will speak to you, too.
1) You’re at the beginning of a long road. You know that old saw about enjoying the journey and not the destination? You better be ready to believe that, because the journey is the only thing you’re in control of. You can write, and polish, and publish, improving your craft with each cycle, but no matter what you do, there’s no guarantee you’ll become a bestseller or even make enough to pay your bills at the end of the road. Which brings us to point number two:
2) You gotta have faith, a-faith, a-faith-ahhh*. Trust yourself. You’re doing this for a reason. You’re passionate. You have stories fighting to escape from your mind and burrow into your readers’ imaginations. Finding those readers can be difficult at first. You might feel like you’re writing into the void. Keep going. If this is something you are passionate about, and you’re willing to keep improving your craft, it will find an audience. Someone will read your work and be transported to another world. How cool is that? Which reminds me:
3) You are awesome. And you stink. Both, really. At the same time. You have to be able to hold both of these thoughts at once, in balance, and not succumb to the dangers of excess belief in either. If you think you’re completely awesome, you might risk not getting some second opinions on your work before you publish, at which point finding out you are not the next Stephen King can come as a tremendous blow to your ego. If you think your writing stinks worse than last week’s beef and broccoli, you’ll paralyze yourself before you can bring a story to completion.
Remember, you are awesome, but you’re not perfect. Some of what you write will be downright horrible. Allow yourself to stink the place up in your first draft. Polish it. Share your writing with some trusted fellow writers or complete strangers and get some feedback. Polish it again. Try to have an objective eye for your work and, if you think it’s ready, put it out there.
4) Write, publish, repeat. No, I haven’t read the book of the same name, although I think I bought it in a bundle a while back. But I digress. I don’t need to have read the book to agree with its mantra. I know too many writers who have never pulled the trigger on publishing their work. They have so many unfinished projects, but for whatever reason, they won’t actually release any. If your goal is to grow as a writer, I suggest that you finish what you started and publish it. It feels good to have accomplished something, you’ll have proven to yourself you can do it, and most importantly, you can move on to the next project. And the next one, and the next one.
5) There’s a lot about selling books that is out of your hands, so for the things you can control, make them as excellent as you can. Note the italics on “as you can.” I’ll come back to that in a second.
The biggest item you can control is your writing, but don’t make the mistake of striving for the perfection of some ideal Book or Story. Write the best work you can. Get it edited if you can. Get beta readers if you can. Have it proofread by a professional if you can. Get an awesome cover if you can.
If you can. Notice I’m not saying you must or you should. I think we all, given the choice, would have a team of experts assisting us with every aspect of our book. Many of us aren’t at the point where this makes financial sense, however. We can afford some experts, maybe. Or we can’t afford any but we have some trusted associates we can trade with. Or we can trade beta reads, or find a writing group, or an online community.
Produce a work you’re proud of and accept that there will always be those who will tell you what you must do and what you should do, but in the end, do what you can do. Keep doing what you can do for long enough, and maybe you’ll be able to afford all the things you must and should do.
Bottom line: if you believe you have created the best work possible for you at this point in time, publish it. Then listen to reviews and pick out the constructive criticism. Use it to improve your next work.
Whatever road you’re on, I wish you the best of luck along the way.
*If you don’t get this reference, you’re probably starting on the road to self-publishing much earlier in life than I am.
Photo Credit: Begin One Way by Andy Arthur.