As a published author, I want to believe I've made it and I know everything I need to succeed going forward. The truth is, there's a lot I don't know. Besides that, my definition of success keeps changing, and every time it does I realize I need to learn more to move forward in my career.
I've published two fantasy novels and two short stories in anthologies. My next goal is to self-publish an entire trilogy by the end of 2019. I aim to increase my writing income tenfold, and, as expected, that's not coming easy. Here are a few things I am striving to learn right now to reach that level of success as a writer:
How to (Intentionally) Write a Series
My first two books are technically a series, but I didn't plan them that way! When I published Woven I had no idea Bound would ever exist. Once it was published, I got the idea for the sequel. (I don't recommend that, by the way.)
Now I'm attempting to plot and write an entire trilogy before any of them are published. To be totally honest, it kind of sucks. I'm getting a perfect sense of the quote, “Writers are people for whom words come harder to than most people.”
Why would that be? Well, because we want to succeed so darn bad! As for me, I find myself acutely aware of every time my writing doesn't measure up to the incredible published books I'm reading. It makes it so much harder to write. I wish I could magically obtain the knowledge as some rite of passage for having already published, but it doesn't work that way.
What am I doing about it? I'm taking a course called “Publishing Mastermind” from USA Today Bestselling author Rebecca Mckernan, for starters. In her course, she leads you through a series of highly valuable lessons on craft, publishing, and marketing. Any author would benefit from her courses. Publishing Mastermind is the big one, but she also has several smaller courses, including “Plotting the Breakout Bestseller” and “The Secret to Series that Sell”. Most of her courses are included in the Publishing Mastermind course I mentioned.
I'm also using a tool called Plottr to get my outlines straight, as I mentioned in my post, “Hanging up Your Writing Pants”. It's turning me into a plotter, rather than a pantser, one outline at a time. They have an app now, too!
I'm also getting help from my writing group. They're learning right along with me, and their advice always seems to be just what I need, no matter the issue I'm facing.
By the time this trilogy is done, I'm determined to be a plotting, series-writing MASTER.
(The Pokemon theme song is playing in my head right now…anyone else?)
Okay, after that inspiring bit, let's move on.
Why I Write What I Write
This is not something I planned to learn, or something I realized I needed to learn. A friend recently called my writing “literary”. I write fantasy, so I was confused at what she meant at first. As I've explored the concept of “literary fantasy”, I've discovered that it does exist, and it’s a good thing. It means that my writing goes deeper, it explores meaningful themes readers can connect with, and it's something other writers strive to achieve.
Knowing that I do it unconsciously was a nice confidence booster, but it also made me immediately aware of so many ways my writing could improve. I want to be able to do it on purpose. I'm gaining “conscious competence”, as a mentor of mine calls it.
What am I doing about it? Mostly, I'm reading good books as a way to understand good writing better. I'm soaking in other authors’ talent and hoping something sticks, in other words.
The fact that my writing is naturally literary also makes me want to learn more about what makes something genre vs. literary. It might explain, too, why my trilogy is giving me trouble since most examples of written-to-market paranormal fantasy are very much genre. I'm not so sure “literary paranormal” is a thing, but I guess there's probably room for it on someone's shelf!
To Write for Myself First
I've been asking myself and God a lot lately, “Does anyone care that I do this? Are my books making any sort of valuable difference in their lives?”
Every author faces this at some point in their career, but I think it's especially difficult in between book launches. My last short story was published in December, and before that Bound was published in September. Right before, during, and immediately after launch all of my friends, family, and fans from Woven came out of the woodwork and bought my book, talked about my book, and reviewed my book, etc. But, being a small fish in the ocean of publishing, a few months later I mostly had static. It seemed like no one was reading and no one cared, and I started to wonder, “Why am I writing, again?”
I’ve been learning that in times like these when the royalty checks are small and my Amazon rank is lower than I’d like, I have to buckle down and just write. For a while, I go back to “pre-published me”, the one whose only fans were her writing group and a handful of friends. I remind myself that the first draft is for me. The revision is for me. The published book, well, that's for me too. The readers are a bonus. Meanwhile, as long as I'm writing, I'm living the dream. It can't be about anyone else if I want to keep doing it, because it's too hard to justify all that work and growth unless I'm doing it for myself.
What am I doing about this? I'm continuing to write and do my best to have fun doing it, despite the difficulties and the oft-unmet expectations.
At every point on my writing journey, there will be new things to learn. Coming up, mastering Amazon and Facebook ads and Rapid-Release as a publishing strategy. I invite you to continue learning with me, despite the setbacks and hurdles, despite the hard days and the insecurities. It's all worthwhile when you're able to push through, meet your goals, and finally experience what's on the other side.
What are you learning in your writing right now?
We're all writers, we're all moms, writing our way through the "brambles" of life and our stories.