I’ve shared tons of writing advice over the years, both in craft and lifestyle, and it’s always been a pleasure to pass along the things I’ve learned from others (or figured out the hard way). But I’ve done only one list of cohesive advice before, called “My Advice to My Newbie Writer Self: 20 Things I Wish I’d Known 7 Years Ago,” and now somehow that post itself is five years old? (Shh.)
I guess that’s why I feel the call to share again a list of things I’ve learned along the way—five years is a lot of experience to mine. So what do I mean by writers who are “in it,” and what do I mean by “advice”?
By “in it,” I mean deeply submerged in the journey of publication—not just starting out. (There is, of course, nothing wrong with being new to the game; that’s just not who I’m really talking to this time.) For you, that might look like ten years querying and still not finding an agent. It might mean you’re on your fifth book deal. Or it might mean you’ve chosen to self-publish, get into academia, or what have you. I’m really just referring to a level of commitment and longevity that means you’re no spring chicken when it comes to this crazy field we work in.
And by “advice,” I mean advice to myself, reminders to others, suggestions for anyone who ends up finding them helpful. I truly believe that no advice is universal, and I certainly don’t have any claim on being right or having figured everything out. These are just the realizations and philosophies that I’ve found most useful over the years. Please take them as you will. ♥ Let’s go!
No, not more. Not longer. Not faster. Harder. No one is tallying your total hours spent (probably), nor do you get any points for being a fast typist or a workaholic. What matters is that you do your best work as often as you can without burning out. When you’re mid-project, you need to be deep, deep in your high-effort zone every work day for a good chunk of time. It’s not about what other people are doing or can do; it’s about what you can do. Work hard, and you’ll feel good about it.
Yes, more. You should be embarrassed by how many rejections you get. They should outnumber your acceptances at least 10 to 1. Even if you’re deep in the game and have a name for yourself and get solicited to send in work. There are always more markets, and you can break them. (Or you can try, because how will you know if they’ll say yes if you don’t send something in?) So submit more, and don’t quit until everything you’re proud of has been placed somewhere. And then write more stuff.
Exploit Your Strengths
You’re probably really good at certain things, right? You might even be “known for” something—even if it’s just among your writing partners and peers. I can’t tell you how many writers I’ve heard express a fear that they’re overusing that very strength they’re best at. Nope, not a problem. If you have a thing, run with it. Embrace it. Make it your trademark. It doesn’t mean you can’t branch out and try other things; I’m just saying there’s nothing to gain from avoiding the things you’re already great at.