I can’t believe I’m writing this. Just over a year ago, I never thought I’d ever be able to give anyone advice on anything — let alone writing.
In 2016, I self-published two books without doing any research. I thought that marketing meant creating a “writer” Facebook page and sharing a link to my books. I didn’t realize that Amazon’s “marketing” services cost hundreds of dollars (um, hello? If I had an extra $400 lying around, I wouldn’t need help selling books)! And I had no idea what a beta reader was.
I’ve spent the last thirteen months working my way back into the writing world, and there have definitely been some ups and downs. I’ve cried over page numbers and their formatting, felt hideously inadequate about my technological skills, and still haven’t gotten my “big break.”
But I’ve also accumulated almost 600 Facebook likes, I’ve connected with readers and writers on the other side of the world, and had an article published by the The Mighty. I even finished the first draft of my next manuscript, which I’m hoping to traditionally publish.
So I’m taking some time to pass along the things I’ve learned over this past year, in hopes that it will help and encourage other writers:
- Create a Facebook writer page (or Twitter handle or Instagram account): It’s the best way to connect with other writers and potential readers. Make sure you post regularly and reply to any comments you receive. Share your writing triumphs and difficulties as well as excerpts, blog posts, funny anecdotes, etc.
- Follow/join writer groups on social media: I favor Facebook and some of my favorite groups for writers include Women Writers, Women’s Books, 10 Minute Novelists, Writers Helping Writers, The Write Life, & Submittable. (subscribe to Submittable’s newsletters – you’ll get emails about open calls for submissions and contests)! I’m also a big fan of the website Published to Death.
- Not every group/page/website will strike your fancy: When I first started networking, I felt the need to join EVERY writing-related group, sign up for EVERY entrepreneur’s newsletter, and create an account on EVERY marketing site. But then I felt like I was spending more time maintaining those accounts and learning to navigate their sites instead of writing. And although many self-published writers swear by sites like Goodreads and Bookworks, to be honest . . . I haven’t gotten much out of them. Maybe I’m not market savvy enough or maybe I just don’t have the time to invest in what they have to offer. If you do, great. If not, it’s not the end of the world if you hit the “unsubscribe” button for a newsletter that doesn’t jive with your current writing style or skill level. You can always file it in your “resources” folder and come back to it later.
- When networking, don’t be afraid to like/comment/submit: At first, I was nervous that if I commented or liked an author’s or blogger’s posts too much, they might think I was some creepy stalker. I also worried about asking questions that others may have thought were dumb. But then I realized that commenting/liking posts from other writers (especially ones who write similar genres to yours) is the BEST way to make connections. And there really are no stupid questions. In the groups I mentioned above, there are very few trolls and many writers of every skill and experience level.
- When writing (or networking), it’s okay to do it in small chunks: I work two jobs. I volunteer sometimes. I have a house, a husband, friends, family, and a dog. My time is precious. And a little over a year ago, I swore up and down that I had “no time” for writing. But . . . I made time. I stopped turning on the TV as soon as I got home from work, which has been one of the best changes I’ve ever made. So now after working and making/eating dinner, I write for half an hour. Then I walk the dog or clean the bathroom. Then I write for another half hour. Then I’ll do the dishes or call a friend. Then I write for another half hour. Then I read and go to bed (or some variation of these and other writing/life activities every day). Some days I only get in thirty minutes of writing. Other times I spend 4-5 hours hunched over my laptop. So it is possible to accomplish your writing goals even if you only have small chunks of time! (I quite literally set timers on days where my “to do” list is extensive).
- Take time with your submissions: This is probably the newest piece of advice I’ve acquired, learned just a few weeks ago at my very first writers’ conference. One of the speakers, whose seminar was about submitting to literary magazines, explained how important it is to wait for the right publication to submit your work to, whether it be fiction or non, essay, or poem.
When I first started submitting my work, I felt like I had to enter EVERY contest and submit to EVERY magazine who was publishing something remotely relative to my genre. But I wasted precious time agonizing over an idea, the subject matter, and deadlines. If there’s a contest or open call that speaks to your heart and you have the perfect piece saved (in your head or on your computer), definitely submit. But don’t feel obligated to conjure up an elaborate story for a contest whose deadline is 48 hours away just because you might have an inkling of an idea. Make sure that any work you’re submitting is your absolute best, especially if you’re paying an entry/reading fee.
- STOP CALLING YOURSELF AN “ASPIRING” WRITER: Just because you haven’t landed an agent or made it to the bestseller list yet doesn’t mean you’re not a “real” writer. If you keep a notebook in your purse or on your nightstand, if you have a dozen ideas floating around in your brain 24/7, and if you spend most of your spare time tapping your heart and soul away on a keyboard, YOU. ARE. ALREADY. A. WRITER. Once you start believing it, others will too.