7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Melanie Gideon

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers (this installment written by Melanie Gideon, author of WIFE 22) at any stage of their career can talk about writing advice and instruction as well as how they possibly got their book agent — by sharing seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning.

GIVEAWAY: Melanie is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Heather won.)




Melanie Gideon is the author of the memoir The Slippery Year:
A Meditation on Happily Ever After, an NPR and
San Francisco
Chronicle Best Book of 2009, and a New York Times bestseller,
as well as three young adult novels. Her latest novel, WIFE 22
(sold in 30 countries and currently in development with Working
Title Films) is forthcoming from Ballantine in June 2012. She has
written for the
New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle,
More, Shape, Marie Claire, the London Times, the Daily Mail
and other publications. She was born and raised in Rhode Island
and now lives in the Bay Area with her husband and son. 


1. Don’t Google yourself. It can only lead to heartbreak. If you simply must know what’s being said about you and your work in the blogosphere, get a friend or spouse or sibling to do periodic Google searches for you. But, and this is very important, insist they curate. Suggest they say things like “Gosh, I don’t see anything but five star reviews. Okay, maybe a few four stars sprinkled in.” Suggest they don’t say things like “Why does @gogirlcrunchy hate you so much?” Tip: don’t be in the same room when said loved one is doing Google searches. And if you are in the same room, do not, I repeat do not look at the expression on their face as they scan the results.

(Can writers query multiple agents at the same agency?)

2. Don’t compare yourself to other writers. Somebody will always be getting more. More promotion, better reviews, better ads (any ads!) in magazines, more cities (any cities!) on their book tour. And somebody will always be getting less than you. Schadenfreude. It’s a difficult word to both spell (I just had to Google it) and pronounce (I usually just refer to it as “that S thing when you feel really good about somebody else’s misfortune”) for a reason. Don’t indulge in it.

3. Celebrate other writer’s successes. A win for one of us is a win for all of us. It means people are reading, loving and buying books. Other writers are not others—they are your kin.

4. Support your local bookstore and buy books from your local bookstore. Booksellers are the most wonderful, passionate, smartest people in the world and you need to be on their side and if you’re lucky maybe someday they’ll be on yours.

5. Don’t expect everybody will love your work. Rule of thumb is 35% will love it. 35% will hate it. And 35% will be indifferent. I know that adds up to 105% but I’m a writer precisely because I’m so bad at math. My point is this: your job is to write for the 35% who love your work. Period. Forget about the rest.

(Which writers’ conference is the BEST to attend?)

6. Write something you’re passionate about. Something that you’re willing to work on for the next three years because at a minimum that’s how long you’ll be living inside that story.

7. Writing is a long apprenticeship. I wish I had known this when I started out. I’ve written five books and have been at this for twenty years now. Some people have success right out of the gate. But for most of us it’s a steady uphill climb, filled with reversals, switchbacks and white-outs. But occasionally a supermoon will appear that is so bright and otherworldly it will make you gasp for breath and remember why you began this journey in the first place. Because. You love. To write.

GIVEAWAY: Melanie is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Heather won.)



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14 thoughts on “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Melanie Gideon

  1. madnessandme

    Excellent points, especially hoping everyone will enjoy your work, since we all have different tastes. Look at the Twilight series of books – they sold millions and made millions, but I couldn’t even get past a few pages, I thought they were so poorly written.

    Again, not to put anyone down – we all enjoy different things, and I do celebrate the author’s success – great for her (it just wasn’t my cup of tea).

    On the other hand I LOVED “Eat Pray Love” and my mom couldn’t get through it. Oh well, no sense in pleasing the whole world, just be true to yourself and CARRY ON on as they say in London.

    So, I’ll just keep on telling my zany family’s stories and not worry about my critics. 🙂

    The “ME” in the Madness
    ~ MadnessMomandme ~

    1. Storylady

      I especially liked #7. It took me 20 years to write my first novel, three to write the second, and now I’m working on a trilogy with ideas for other books germinating. The problem is confusion, but I’m getting through it with the help of lots of advice like yours. Thank you.

  2. Heather

    Excellent advice, and much of it is applicable to life in general. Celebrating the success of others is a great thing to do, and googling yourself is generally a very bad idea. 😉

  3. Sierra Donovan

    Excellent thoughts! I especially love #3. It feels so much better to celebrate a peer’s success than to fight the battle of sour grapes.

  4. bfornauf

    Well said and very funny…
    These are great things to keep in mind when writer’s anxiety creeps up – and it always does!
    Thanks for the tips,

  5. Alexandra001

    I think the hardest thing is to not LOSE THE DREAM.

    After working and trying and entering contests, it begins to sound like this in your brain: “You just don’t hve it.”

    That right there. THAT RIGHT THERE: the enemy.

  6. HuffmanHanni

    I like 2, 5,6, and 7 best. Good reminders to myself as I start this process out. It feels like every week, I have at least one day where I start comparing myself to others and wondering if I’ll ever get good at this. I know I’m way too hard on myself and becoming a writer, especially for a career change, probably is one of the worse things to do. LOL. However, I cannot shake the energy I get as I write nor can I shake the joy and happiness I feel when I come up with an idea for a story. Nothing else gives me that euophoric feeling.

    I get bogged down, though, in all the time it would take to actually write everything down and I don’t have it. Not yet, anyway.

    The reminder about write something you are passionate about rings true. If you write about something that doesn’t excite you, I imagine it will show through in the work and it will lack soul. Plus, I think it would make it harder to actual work on a project.

  7. msproulx

    Great advice! It’s always nice to hear from someone who has been there. Writing is a craft that takes many years of learning before mastering. The road to publishing can sometime be discouraging. Thanks for taking the time to share with us.

  8. Lina Moder

    Great advice! Especially about focusing on readers who love your book and about supporting other writers and all these great booksellers:)

    Thanks so much:)

    linamoder at gmail dot com

  9. Tony Conaway

    To point #5, I’d add that a sale is a sale and a reader is a reader. Don’t get upset if someone likes/buys/reads your book for the wrong reason. If someone at a signing says they bought your they bought your coming-of-age opus “because it has ponies in it, and I love books with ponies,” just sign the book, smile, and direct your attention to the next person.


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