Lesson Number One: Writing is WorkYes, it might seem like an easy job, but on the contrary it is very hard work. Since writing is usually a solitary career, you must learn to structure your time so you can meet deadlines and do research. You also must keep up to date on blogs and social networking sites. You must stay abreast of trends and what the readers want. And last but not least, you must make time for family and other obligations. This can be tricky, but it can be done.
Lesson Number Two: Get a Second OpinionSo you've finally done it! You've typed The End on your first novel. Now, all you need to do is sit back and watch the world rave over your latest masterpiece. After all, you've struggled with it for months, possibly even years, so it has to be fabulous. Right? Halt! Not so fast. Before you send your manuscript out into the world to be judged, you'd better get a second opinion. And a third...and a fourth... It is always a good idea to have someone else read your book with a critical eye to help catch problem areas you might not notice. As the writer, it is easy to become so engrossed in your novel that you miss possible plot holes, confusing points of view or even a better conflict or two. A fresh pair of eyes can be the difference between an okay book and a great book. Enlist the help of a critique partner or two. Thankfully, I work with a great group of writer's here at Steel Magnolia Press who are always willing to brainstorm with me.
Lesson Number Three: Grow Thick SkinWhether it is your critique partners or your readers, someone at some point is going to tell you what you have done wrong with your story and how to make it better. Since we are in the business of building a readership, it is best if the faux pas is pointed out by your critique partners. Now, it might sting a bit when someone takes your hard work and scours it with a fine tooth comb, but really, it is for the best. Your novel will sizzle rather than fizzle if you take the advice, mull over it and try to see it from a reader's point of view. Of course, nothing is written in stone so if you don't agree with the critique, then you still have the final say in how your novel plays out. Just remember, a critique is not criticism. Grow some thick skin and deal with it.
Lesson Number Four: It's A Matter of PerspectiveSpeaking of criticism, we now come to lesson number four. This one took me a while to learn, but now that I've put it into perspective I'm good. Reader reviews can make or break you. Mentally that is. As a writer, of course we want our readers to enjoy our books and really become a part of the story as they read. But, let's face it, you can't please everybody all the time. When I first received a less than stellar review on a novel, I just naturally assumed that I wasn't cut out to be a writer after all. Yes, I beat myself up over it and tried to figure out what went wrong, but all I could come with is that I just couldn't do it. I wasn't good enough. My writing wasn't up to par. At least not like some of the most popular authors. But, then a couple of things happened that really put reader reviews into perspective. First, I noticed that some of the most popular big name writers sometimes also get unfavorable reviews. Second, I found out that what one person might really dislike another might really love. This happened with my novella, A Dragon's Seduction. I had a range of reviews over period of time. Some readers really didn't like the story at all and some readers absolutely loved it and wanted to read the next one in the series. (Which by the way hopefully will be out soon if all goes as planned.) Slowly, the light began to come on and I realized that maybe I was cut out to be a writer after all. It's just the matter of finding the right audience for the story. Now, I have a completely different outlook on reader reviews. I read them, appreciate them, glean any advice or opinions which might have a grain of truth embedded in them and then I use the suggestions to help plan and write future stories.
Lesson Number Five: You're Not Finished Yet!Well, you've learned a few lessons during your writing journey and you've had a few books published so that must mean that you are through. You know all there is to know about the writing craft and can crank out a new story at lightening speed. So no more worries, right? Not necessarily. As with any job, the key to success is learning and trying new things. Just because you can now write a decent story doesn't mean its time to quit studying the craft. There is always something new to learn or something new to try. As an author you are always growing.
Hopefully, if any of you are taking the writing journey, then you have learned some of these important life lessons as well. If not, then you will. And then some. Have fun with it and enjoy!