It’s the end of 2011, and it’s been a bloody busy year for me.
I had two books come out this year, signed a contract for a third, switched day jobs, experienced some medical madness, fought hard to get back into some semblance of fitness, and am just about done with a draft of aforementioned third book.
Along the way, I learned some things about the skills I needed to be a better writer – both on the business side of things and the personal side of things.
1) I need to learn to write faster. Maybe some of this is knowing the demands of the marketplace. Maybe some of it is just being very aware of my health, and how it may be that I have a few years less to knock out books than maybe some other people do. Whatever the reason, I need to stop being happy to squeeze out 200 or 500 words a day and start actually… writing books like a professional. That means no longer pecking at the keys like this is a fun hobby, but sitting down, planning out my scenes, and knocking them out like a professional, the same way I do at my day job. Fiction writing may be more fun, but that’s no excuse to treat it like an idle pastime. I treat my night-job writing a lot more seriously now, and the simple act of planning a scene before I open my manuscript has worked wonders.
2) I need to stop making excuses. I had all sorts of excuses this year for being tired and cranky and not writing enough. I had a couple surgeries. I switched day jobs. I had two books come out back-to-back (trust me, six months apart feels like thirty days in writer time). I read too many reviews. But at the end of the day, the world doesn’t care about your excuses. It cares about results. You only have so much life, and the clock is ticking. As with fitness, writing is something you need to build into your schedule according to what your deadlines/goals are. You should build everything around the work, instead of trying to shoehorn it in.
3) Some fights are worth fighting. Every time I got a draft cover from my publisher, my whole body tensed up and my stomach sank. I hate conflict, believe it or not. I hate being “a problem.” But I also know that if something is important to me, I need to say so, even if it’s uncomfortable or difficult. I worked with my publisher and the cover artist until we got the covers right, even though some of the discussions left me sleepless and anxious. As writers, we’re responsible for the images we put onto the page, and if your publisher values your opinion at all, it’s also your responsibility to do what you can to ensure your cover is right. Luckily, I had a great publisher and a fantastic cover artist, and in the end, it all turned out great.
4) Negotiation will get you everywhere. I had a girlfriend once who taught business negotiations to MBA students. Living with her for four years, I was privy to a lot of discussions about how to negotiate for things that you wanted. I learned about BATNA, but most importantly, I learned that women were far less likely to negotiate than men were – whether it be the price of a car or a job offer or a book contract. There are all sorts of reasons for this, and I know that for me, much of that had to do with aforementioned aversion to conflict. You’re supposed to be happy and thankful to get anything for your work. But when you look at the numbers, and how a mere 2% negotiation in your pay rate can add up over time, you have to realize that nobody is just going to give that to you. You have to ask for it. And, if necessary, fight for it. Even if you can only ask for 2% or even 10% – do it. A job offer, or a book offer, is just that – an offer. Figure out what you want/need, talk it over with your spouse or agent as the case may be, and just bloody ask for it. Generally, this gets easier the more you do it.
5) Write what you love – because nobody else is going to. This is actually a really important thing to hang onto in the “everybody needs to write YA vampire fiction to be successful” age. I read a lot of “reviews” from people who either couldn’t make sense of my books at all or who just despised anything dark and morally ambiguous with a lot of violence and swear words. These were not my target readers. But when I started writing my blog back in 2004, originally titled Brutal Women, I found a whole lot of other people like me. Women who wanted to be strong – who *were* strong – physically and emotionally. Who liked morally ambiguous fiction. Who were tired of Urban Fantasy that was 90% romance and 10% action, with the usual pat plot formulas. I knew these folks were out there. I just needed to find them. If you think these books are a love letter just for you – I can tell you that yes, they are. I wanted the same kind of books, and because I didn’t find them on the shelves, I went and wrote them myself. There are other people like you out there. They will love what you write. Have some confidence in your story, and your own unique voice. At the end of the day, anybody can write any knockoff of anything. There’s no shame in it – money is money, afterall – but you’re far more likely to get attention writing something only you can write than writing something anybody could write.Read More...