It takes guts to begin a project and see it through to the end. You don't know how your work will be received. You don't know how well it will sell...and no matter what you may tell yourself, you secretly hope that you hit lightning in a bottle and somehow propel yourself into the realm of novel-writing royalty.
Realty has a tendency to wrap you in it's cool embrace when you start to realize that the Kathryn Stockett's of the world are far and few between...that indeed, the fame that was obtained by the author mentioned previously is the exception and not the norm.
I like reading the works of my fellow authors. It helps me keep my finger on the pulse of what is going on in the literary industry; and while I understand that the viewpoints expressed in my reviews is exclusively mine, I try to be as fair and objective as possible. In the course of writing a review, I send out a listing of the Pros and Cons of their work; something that most people in my position don't have to do.
The problem comes when author's only want to hear the "good" but not the "bad." Or more succinctly put, they want the praise, but don't want the constructive criticism that comes with being an author.
With that being said, here is something that I wrote in September, 2013. In some cases and with some authors, it really is worth repeating:
Ten Things I Wish I Knew Before Entering The Writing Industry!
1. No matter how good you think you work is, everyone will not like what you've written...and they aren't supposed to.
Writing is driven by perspective, and everyone will not share yours. No matter how many nods of approval you get, there will always be someone that will look at your book and not give it the approval that you feel it deserves. Take it for what it's worth. Don't let it discourage you and move on.
2. Read the works of others...constantly!
Don't become so involved with your own storyline that you don't have the time or patience to read the works of others. Overall, it will make you a better writer and it will help you keep your finger on the pulse of the works of your constituents in the industry.
3. Don't do business with friends.
This sounds cold, but it really isn't. I've lost a great deal of money and had friendships tainted because we decided to go into business together. Oftentimes, it was because the person that I went into business with couldn't deliver what they promised...so instead of giving me what I paid for, they gave me something and then hoped that for the sake of friendship, I wouldn't be too upset over the loss. The problem is, they aren't willing to give you even a portion of your money back because in their mind, they gave you "something." Save your time and preserve your friendship...unless you are absolutely sure that they can live up to your expectations, don't do business with friends.
4. Make sure that whomever you decide to do business with have verifiable references and examples of their work.
People are funny. Many times, people that go into business for themselves are always looking for new clients. In doing so, they may see a need in you that they believe wholeheartedly that they can fill, even if they can't. Save yourself some time, money and aggravation by asking two important questions: 1. Do you have examples of your work? 2. Do you have verifiable references? If they don't have those two things, keep it moving. I could have saved myself so much money if I had asked those two questions before forming business relationships.
5. Have your work proofread...and then hire a reputable editor.
I don't have to elaborate on this...do I?
6. Listen to constructive criticism.
I released the second half of my book recently. It is currently on Amazon right now for sale. During the upload process, I lost all of my quotation marks. Another author pointed it out to me. And even though I already knew it, he was bringing it to my attention not to be mean or callous, but to advise me of something that he may have thought I overlooked. Bottom line is that he was right. Learn to accept the criticism as well as the compliments.
7. Promote your own work, but don't alienate your audience.
This is hard because while you want people to know about your work, you don't want to bombard them to the point where they have no interest in it. For instance, if you have a Facebook account and you drop people into conversations to tell them about your work, some people don't like being included in conversations that they haven't elected to participate in. I see it all the time. Know who your audience is and play up to them in such a way that you don't appear like the only thing of interest to you is your work...even if it's true for the moment.
8. Be prepared to take your knocks!
Things very rarely go as planned. Many times, you will encounter obstacle after obstacle that will hinder you from getting you to where you are trying to get to. It can be maddening, but it is part of the process. For instance, when I uploaded the second installment of my book, I thought to myself, "That's it. I'm done." And then I took a deep breath only to find out that the my quotations marks were eliminated during the upload process and that I had to do more work to give my readership a better reading experience. It's crazy, but I wasn't prepared for so many obstacles to block me from reaching my goal. But they're there. Just be ready for them.
9. Write when your mind is clear.
Have you ever had a bad day at work or had something personal going on but you wanted to work on your book anyway just for the sake of getting another chapter done? I am a "mood" writer. I can't write when I'm upset or worked up about something. Others can. But the ones that can find that they don't do their best work when their mind is otherwise preoccupied. Clear your head. Or better yet, deal with what pissed you off as best as you can before you start putting fingers to keyboard.
10. Set aside time in this industry to write for you and only you.
I blog and have two columns in two publications. Most of the time, I'm writing to showcase someone elses work. I thought by paying it forward, I could shed some light on another author that could use it and at the same time, shed some light on myself. It doesn't always work out that way; yet I wouldn't change the way I do things...except for this: Make sure you set aside time to write for you! Work on your book, your poetry, your letters...anything that you can call exclusively yours. Because sometimes at the end of the day, you are all you have.
~ J.L. Whitehead