tips for the debut author & happy release day to Zachary Jernigan

Happy release day to Zachary Jernigan, author of No Return!

Over the weekend, Zachary wrote a post about his own hard truth about being a writer. His post made me realize, once again, that while everyone online has tons of advice about how to write a good story, get an agent, publish a book, etc., etc., etc., but you rarely see blog posts with advice for what happens AFTER you become published.

So here are my tips for the debut author (from one slow writer to another):

#1 -- You are a good writer. Otherwise, you wouldn't be published. Remind yourself of that at all times. You worked just as hard as any other writer to get where you are today. You deserve your success. Period.

#2 -- Don't compare your book to anyone else's book. Your novel is what it is, but more than anything else, it is a part of you. If you compare your work to works by George RR Martin, Octavia Butler, Madeleine L’Engle, or any other author, you will always find ways in which your work is lacking. When you engage in this behavior, you are cheating yourself, because you do not, will not, cannot write like them. You write like you, and you are unique. Be proud of your accomplishment. Not many people make it as far as you have.

#3 -- Lasting success takes time. Lasting success comes from building goodwill and trust with your readers. You accomplish this by continuing to write the absolute best possible novel that you can write. Some people write very quickly, others do not. If you, like me, fall into the latter category, remind yourself that to throw shabby work at your readers betrays their trust in your ability to entertain them.

#4 -- Deadlines are inevitable. However, you can sometimes negotiate those deadlines. Most publishers are very understanding, especially when you are dealing with circumstances beyond your control. Don't allow someone to pressure you into releasing a work that is not ready, because when doing so, you hurt yourself, the publisher, and, worst of all, your readers.

#5 -- Don't feel pressured to accept every, single blogging invitation immediately. When you don't have time for an interview or blog post, be honest. Book bloggers are wonderful and they will work with you. There have been times when they have asked me for interviews or blog posts and I had to tell them that I would love to, but that I couldn't do it immediately, and they worked around my schedule. On those occasions when they had a scheduled series and couldn't negotiate the timetable, I bowed out and they quite often asked me back again for a different series.

#6 -- Whenever possible, go to cons. Cons are where you will find other writers, publishers, and editors who totally understand what you're going through. And trust me, you need their wisdom, I know I do.

#7 -- There is nothing wrong with writing slow. I write every evening between 7pm through 11 or 12pm. I edit on weekends. I work 40 hours a week, have a family, and a social life--sometimes I get sick. I need all these things (except getting sick--I could happily forego getting sick), and I devote a great deal of time to writing. Given all of the things in my life, I write pretty freaking fast. So the next time you think of yourself as a slow writer, take an inventory of the things you've done that week. You might be surprised that your time was spent more productively than you think.

#8 -- Thinking about the storyline counts as writing. Plotting and daydreaming count too. Sometimes I don't think we do enough of either.

#9 -- Don't feel pressured to read everyone else's novels. There are only so many hours in the day. Read when and what you can. If you don't get to read a colleague's novel immediately, trust me: we understand. We all have been where you are now.

#10 -- Follow your heart and enjoy life. That is where the stories are.