~ By Tiffany N. York
Me 20 years ago: An idea for a novel hit me. I spent 3 years gathering the necessary information I needed to write it, and then another 4 years writing it in dribs and drabs. After collecting enough rejections to wallpaper my dining room, I cried, cried some more, declared myself a failed writer, and proceeded to bury my manuscript in the backyard next to one of my dead cats. Another one wasn’t attempted for 7 years.
20 years ago, I could have written a book called “What not to do if you want a writing career.” I’m somewhat wiser now, having read a gazillion articles and books on how to become a better writer. Here’s the advice that has stuck with me.
1. Set Goals. Inspiration is a fickle thing. When it strikes, it can feel like falling in love for the first time. The endorphins, the euphoria, the unpredictability! Revel in it, but don’t count on it. Inspiration is akin to your spouse showing you their sensitive side only when they’re drunk-it’s great when it happens, but don’t expect to see it every day.
“Ass in the Chair,” to quote Nora Roberts, the writing machine who puts out 5 books a year. It’s as simple as that. Writing is a muscle that needs to be exercised. The more you do it, the better you become. If you want a career as a successful writer you need to treat writing as a job, not a hobby. It’s okay if you can’t devote 8 hours every day to it, but decide on a goal and stick to it. “I will devote 2 hours a day to writing” or “I will write 500 words a day” or “I will produce 5 pages each time I sit down to write.” And do not deviate from that goal. (Unless of course you have 104-degree fever, are hallucinating, and the only words showing up on the page are “I think I’m dying.”)
2. Don’t Censor Yourself. I understand about not wanting the PTA or your church choir to know you write erotica. Heck, I’m not crazy about my family reading the sex scenes in my novels. My aunt left a review for me on Amazon saying my book was “racy.” I can barely look her in the face now whenever I see her. But since I’m not willing to have sex behind closed doors, I need to get over my embarrassment. Sex is perfectly natural. Many people on websites similar to twinkpornvideos regularly enjoy shoot sexy scenes so why can’t I enjoy writing them? As an author, you need to write passionately and freely. It’s what forms your distinct voice, your style. Write the kind of book you’d like to read, because as Katherine Hepburn said, “If you always do what interests you, at least one person is pleased.”
3. Don’t Take Reviews Too Seriously. Here’s the irony of reviews: If you believe the good ones, then you also have to believe the bad ones, right? Don’t put much weight on either. If I had to sum up the publishing business in one word, it would be subjective. What floats one’s boat sinks another’s. There’s no accounting for taste. Just because a reader leaves you a poor review does not mean you’re a terrible writer. It simply means they didn’t “get” your book. There are plenty of readers out there who will. And for the love of all things Microsoft, never, ever respond to a negative review. It’s like asking the cop who pulled you over if you can borrow his uniform for a Halloween party-it’ll only make the situation worse.
4. Never compare yourself to others. Everyone has a different path to success. E.L. James originally wrote fan fiction, which led to her Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. John Grisham sold his first book out of the trunk of his car. Jennifer Weiner was rejected by 23 agents, before finding one who believed in her first novel, Good in Bed. Jonathan Kellerman wrote 8 or 9 unpublished novels before selling his first book.
5. Social Media Is the Devil’s Candy. 20 years ago, there were no social media sites beckoning me with their seductive ways. Nowadays there are numerous time sucks, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and others, destined to be the downfall of procrastinators everywhere. Social media for great for promoting your work; Social media is bad if the only time you’re not on it is when you’re sleeping. Limit your usage daily. Think of it as dessert, rather than the main meal.
What writerly tips have stuck with you the most?
Tiffany N. York lives in Southern CA with her spirited son, diva Chihuahua, 4 ½ cats, and 2 tone-deaf parakeets. She writes funny, passionate contemporary romance to escape reality. You can find her at http://www.tiffanynyorkauthor.com