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Mincemeat: on writing
  Shannon the new-ish writer offers some friendly, unsolicited, and perhaps unnecessary advice to newly published writers

The first thing you think of will be the first thing the reader thinks of. One reason why you need to rewrite.

Avoid googling your book titles to see what people are saying about them. When a book comes out, you yearn for reviews, you want so much to hear what the reaction is, if it found an audience, how your baby is doing out there in the world. Try to resist! The positive stuff (and some negative as well) will find you on its own. The rest will only break your heart and your confidence.

Don't forget to rewrite.

Don't write nasty things about other people's books on your blog or review them under your real name on amazon, or rant about them publically (someone will hear you and blog about it). Publishing is a small business. You'll meet those authors some day, and do you really need that awkward tension? Besides, there are so many good books. There's no need to rant about what you hated--rant about what you loved! That's much more helpful to other readers and won't come back to bite you. Remember, those authors are people like you who did their very best with a book and yearn to find readers who love it. You may not be their ideal reader, but at the very least it's bad karma to discourage other readers from reading their books.

If you think your next book is pretty darn good, why not do a few more rewrites?

Be happy that other writers are doing well, even if you didn't care for their books. It means there are readers out there, that stories are spreading like wildfire, and that's good for everyone. And be happy for other writers you don't know who get big advances for their first book, even though you didn't. It means publishing is alive and thriving! Hating them for having initial success will only canker your own vulnerable little soul.

Rewrite as if your life depended on it. That sentence that's been kind of bugging you but you're ignoring because it's not that big of a deal? Cut it. That character that's not quite as fleshed out as you'd like? Sit down and deal with her. That scene that sorta works but is just a touch flimsy? Change it. Do all your work now, get all the feedback you can now, take it all seriously, spend another year on it if you have to, but do it. This is the only way you'll be able to face those negative reviews and difficult readers with confidence. Rewriting is buying insurance for your heart against any post-publication bad times.

You won't have any idea how your book is doing for a long, long time. You'll only get royalty reports once every six months, so you'll be tempted to look at the Amazon sales rank for an indication. The sales rank lies. The truth is--you'll have no idea how your book is doing. I don't have any helpful advice about this. I still don't know myself.

Your friends and family who don't know better will ask you awkward questions like, "So, are you going to be the next J.K. Rowling?" and "How much did you sell your book for--a million bucks?" Your elation at finally getting published will be somewhat deflated as you feel pressure to measure up to impossible expectations. Know that this happens to all of us. Try not to get defensive or feel hurt--eventually hearing those same questions again and again will be hysterically funny! Educate them about how publishing works and hold onto that new author glow. You did it! Who cares about getting a small advance? Who cares that your first book didn't win the National Book Award? There will never be another Harry Potter. No one gets a million dollars. Go pick up your bound baby again and smell that new book smell--mmm, delicious.

How about another rewrite?

As L.E. Modesitt told me when I was newly published, "Your frontlist drives your backlist." You have to keep writing new books in order to keep your old books in print and selling. By the same token, it's a good idea to keep all your books of similar genre and type at the same publisher. There are many good reasons for leaving one publisher for another--but if at all possible, stay at one place. If you're writing new stuff for a publisher, they're more likely to keep in print and keep promoting your old stuff.

It takes awhile for children's books especially to catch on, years to establish a fan base. Don't expect instant success and fame with one book. Don't ever expect success and fame (highly subjective ideas anyhow). Keep doing good work, be a generous person, and see where your career takes you.

Never let yourself settle on a book that's "good enough for publishing." It should be tremendous! The only way to get there is to keep rewriting.

There's a surprising amount of business that happens along with getting published--emails, websites, blogs, publicity, interviews, chats, tours. And people will want you to be a public figure, support local events, speak at conferences, give advice to upcoming writers, answer fanmail, etc. They don't understand all the constraints on your time--only you can manage it. It's so good to get out and meet people, be a writer beyond just your laptop. But when it gets to be too much, you have permission to say no. You have to guard your writing time--viciously. Don't let anything interfere with your writing time. Hang onto that as if to the last rung of the ladder.

There are lots and lots of books out there. Don't feel bad if a bookstore doesn't stock yours. Keep writing, keep creating better books, and you'll find your shelf space.

Don't expect your publisher to send you on tour or make t-shirts advertising your book or do anything. There's no way they can do that sort of stuff for every book. And getting bitter because your publisher seems to be doing more to promote one book than yours won't help. Just be grateful to be where you are and keep creating.

Don't be public in your disapproval of how a bookstore ran your event or didn't stock your book or anything that disappointed you. You are not a superstar--you are a working author, and nothing sinks a career like criticizing those who keep you afloat, besides just being ungracious and rude. You owe a lot to readers, booksellers, librarians, reviewers. When they disappoint you, rant in private if you must, then just smile and nod. Don't expect anything. Thank them and be gracious. You're new. Just be happy to be around and keep working on the next book.

So, when a reviewer hates your book or just didn't get it, your job, sadly, is to sit and take it. Many the writer has tried to defend herself or explain or rant (myself included) and it always ends badly. In reviewer vs. writer, the reviewer always wins. With so many books and limited review space, the truth is, any review is good news. Even negative ones help drive your sales. Grit your teeth and smile! You're a published author, and you got reviewed.

That new book you wrote is pretty good, but you might be missing one more layer of depth. How about another rewrite?

Decide now to never stop being a reader. You'll be tempted to stop reading--you'll say you don't have time, that your time is better spent doing research and writing. You'll say you're worried that other writers' styles will muddle your own, that their stories will take up the brain space you need to create your own. Don't do it! Reading, falling in love with stories, that's why you're in this business. Find time. Love books. Cherish words. Great stories will inspire your own all the more, and you'll be able to recommend other books to your own readers, and the love of books will spread and spread, and you'll be a part of that wonderful reading organism that will take over the world! Seriously.

And try not to feel guilty about your frustrations and disappointment--even though you finally achieved what you thought you wanted all these years, it's not all a picnic. There's a surprising amount of pressure to keep producing, to see your book make those lists and get those awards. Give yourself permission to feel down every so often--just do it privately. Remember, you're living the dream, and there's no reason to rub it in those hopeful writers' faces by complaining about getting published! Try to focus on what you can control, like writing the next book. By the way, shouldn't you be on that new rewrite right now?




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