In May 2015, I self-published my first novel, Anchored in the Bay. In May 2021, my latest release, Hope for the Holidays, will publish. When I first started, I heard the advice make a five-year plan on repeat. My short-term goal was simple: keep writing. Six years later, I’m still going strong. (check!)
On a walk with my dog, I started thinking about everything that has changed as I’ve continued to write and publish. Some things are easier, others are harder, and you might be surprised by what falls in each category. So I thought a self-reflective post might be interesting for any fellow author/aspiring writer.
- handling criticism
- I have learned what opinions matter. While the advice to avoid reviews is still sound if you’re sensitive, I appreciate hearing from my readers. Not every book connects with every person, but if I missed the mark for my audience, I need to understand what happened so I don’t let them down in the future. It’s also important to understand that not every person in your personal life gets to have a say. I only care about five people’s opinions and, of those five, only one reads my books.
- processing edits
- The first time I received edits on my self-published book, I was too scared to open the email for several days. As time goes on, and I’ve built a solid trusting relationship with my editors, I process the notes and changes much faster. I’ve divorced my identity as a person from my work. I love writing. It’s my passion. But whether or not Chapter 2 has to be rewritten has nothing to do with who I am. This sounds simple, but this might be the biggest area of growth.
- getting the work done
- I’ve built my process and, while it could definitely be more efficient, it works. I started outlining and plotting my first drafts to teach myself discipline. Even if I don’t want to write, I can. I know what needs to come next in the story. Sometimes, I have several hard chapters in a row, but I keep going. Eventually I’ll have an a-ha moment and the writing flows. Figuring out my time and when to get the work done is key.
- writing a first draft
- As I’ve become a better self-editor, I’m also a harsher critic of my work. See above about getting work done. Because I set goals and deadlines (or I’d never finish anything), I know I have to absolutely start typing. I can eventually give myself a break if my words aren’t perfect but not always. And that’s okay. The most important part is finishing the draft and fixing in edits. I’ve come to love those rounds when I really develop the characters. But the first draft is difficult.
My goal for the next five/six years is the same as the first: keep writing.