A Muse Winner & Some Observations From the Trenches

First, Veronica helped me pull a name out of a rabbit hat and the winner of Kaliopi the Muse is:
Congratulations Katherine! Kaliopi is looking forward to bombarding you with brilliant notions.
And now on to the topic of Pushing Through…

I’m almost finished revising a book that feels like it could be “the one.” But this is a subjective business and there’s really no way of knowing when you’ll finally push through that final barrier and realize the dream of becoming a published author. 

I know there are plenty of other writers out there who share my dream (not to mention several writer friends who have been “this close” for years) so I thought I’d offer some observations from the trenches and invite those of you toiling beside me to share yours.

* There’s no such thing as a day off when you’re a writer. Go ahead and try to turn your writer brain off. It's always paying attention.

* Reading slush/interning at a literary agency provides an excellent education on the subjectivity of the business. And how not to write a query letter (under no circumstances should glitter ever be involved).

* Treat writing like a start-up business, not a hobby. Expect to invest a great deal of time in your business. Time you might rather spend eating Haagen Dazs and watching reality TV. 

* Develop a terminal case of the “what ifs.” As a writer, “What if?” is one of the best questions you can ask.

* Nothing is ever wasted. Whether you’re stuck in line at the DMV, or preparing to fly “hock style” on a trapeze, it’s all fodder for a future writing project.
"Hock style" as in “ham hock” not “hawk.” Which I didn't realize until after I'd started picturing myself swooping through the air like a bird of prey.
* As a writer, you can justify time spent learning about any subject that interests you, whether it’s Tudor castles or Goliath bird-eating spiders.
Not a Goliath bird-eating spider.
* Eavesdropping is totally acceptable when you call it “improving your ear for dialogue.”

* Don’t go to writers’ conferences expecting to get discovered. 

* Go to conferences and workshops to learn how to better your craft, make connections and revel in the opportunity to be surrounded by people who love books.  

* Don’t write what you think will sell.

* Write what excites you, or challenges you, or won’t let you be until you get it down on the page.

* Don’t put do-or-die financial pressure on yourself. That way madness lies.

* Go to as many author events as you can. It makes the dream feel real.
My mom with Neil Gaiman. I took her to meet him for her birthday. She now has very high expectations for book events.
* Support authors in every stage of the journey, not just the rockstars. You just might discover the next rockstar. And you’ll have every right to be smug about it.

* Don’t compare yourself to other writers. Just don’t.

* Beware the green-eyed monster. There will always be someone better/more successful than you can ever hope to be.

* Don’t expect your career to be like anyone else’s. There is no prescribed set of steps that will guarantee you success, however you define “success.”

* Find critique partners who get your work. They are worth their weight in hardcovers.

* You absolutely need critical feedback on your work, but how you get it is up to you. Meet with a critique group every week? Every two weeks? Write a rough draft and then send it to beta readers? Meet in person? Online? You’ve got options.

* Don’t be afraid to move on/try something else if it’s not working- your critique group, your WIP, your POV, etc. Sometimes you have to do what’s best for your business.

* Be aware of what’s already out there, but don’t obsess over being derivative. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

* Read, read, read. And read widely.

* Pay attention to ergonomics and develop good work habits now. Repetitive stress injuries suck.

* Don’t believe people who claim you’re not a real writer unless you write every day, or who claim you can’t write a quality novel unless you do it their way.

* Keep an idea file. In whatever way works for you, i.e. an actual file with physical scraps of paper, entries in a notebook, a file on your computer, a board on Pinterest, etc.

* Don’t expect to ever figure out the secret of writing a novel. Every single one will be different and challenging in its own way.

* Don’t give up. 

How about you? Have any observations to share from your time in the trenches?


Oh good luck Kristen - I think I'm in the sma eplace as you - hoping novel no. 3 will eb the one - at least I know it's my best so far :) Love your conference advice too. I think the best thing about conferences is meeting friends old and new and catching up and for me being open minded, sure the agents and editors have great information but for me it's the writers and illustrators who can really tell you something that will raise your game.

Fingers crossed for both of us, Keely! I've been to some great conferences and events that you had a hand in creating :).

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