Skip to main content
Publish date:

Top 10 Ways to Stay True to Yourself in Publishing

Memoirist Wade Rouse (At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream) shares a practical—and funny—list of ways to stay true to yourself while writing and trying to get published. by Wade Rouse
Author:

Wade Rouse (waderouse.com) is the acclaimed memoirist of, most recently, At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream. A humor columnist and essayist, his new memoir It’s All Relative and humorous dog anthology I’m Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship! are forthcoming in 2011.

Here he shares his top 10 ways to stay true to yourself in publishing. This special uncut version of Rouse’s list is an online-exclusive component to WD’s “WD Interview Takes 10” feature in the September “Big 10 Issue”. Be sure to check out the complete issue for more inspiring and informative Top 10s from Sherman Alexie, Mary Higgins Clark, Jodi Picoult and other bestselling authors.

10) Do Not Try to Write Mary Potter & The Half-Price Rinse & Set, or Twilight: But with Zombies!
Listen closely to this, if nothing else: Write what you know, what you feel, what you believe, what needs to come out, not what you think you should write, or what you feel might sell. Writing anything other than what you have a passion for, anything other than that story that burns to be told, and you’ll be a sellout. And you’ll know it. And everyone will know it. And you’ll feel hollow, because what you’ve written is hollow. Follow your heart. Don’t let the market dictate your art.

9) Install a Lithium Drip in Your Home
OK, just kidding. Pills are way easier. Seriously, a balanced life is vital for success in publishing and staying on track. So, exercise. Cook. Run. Garden. Walk your dog on the beach. Turn off your laptop and spend time with the ones you love. You won’t short-circuit, and you will stay whole and true.

8) Realize Upfront That Publishing Isn’t Art, It’s BART
That’s business and art, which is way better than finance and art. Being true to oneself also requires being true to what publishing requires today. A writer needs to realize he can’t just sit at home and write. He must market, promote, blog, Twitter, travel, call, cajole, shake hands, interpretive dance, whatever it takes to build a platform and sell books. I happen to love that aspect; many authors do not. But to stay true to yourself in publishing, you must acknowledge the business aspect and embrace it wholly, because it lets you continue to do what you love: Write.

7) Be Like Dolly the Sheep: Clone Yourself
Whenever possible, choose an agent, editor, publisher, publicist and Web developer who are extensions of your souls (Damn you, Oprah!) and who believe in your work as much as you do. But also realize your weaknesses, and work with those who bring different strengths.

6) Fuggetabout Fear!
Most of us, especially writers, are defined by our fears. They strangle us, prevent us from finding our voices, pursuing our passions, writing what calls to us. So, turn “FEAR” into Free Every Artistic Response. When you do, your true voice will be unleashed, and fear will no longer steer you into a ditch and off your true path.

5) Write Is Always Might
The best way to stay true to yourself in publishing is to dance with the one who brought you to the ball: Write. As much as humanly possible. (I realize, by the way, I’ve officially become my father with my analogies. If I begin to say, “Can you drive me to Walmart to pick up my prescriptions?” feel free to slap me.)

4) Be Funny, Honey!
I used to worry (and read) that humor writing was too subjective to be successful in publishing. But I quickly realized, after ignoring my funny bone, that – besides great hair, a wicked arch and a penchant for spending my Roth IRA on lip shimmer – humor was really the only thing I had going for me. Don’t ever doubt your voice – whatever it may be. If it’s funny, honey, shout it to the world. That’s how you stay true to yourself.

3) If You Look in the Mirror and See Mariah, RUN!
There’s no (more) room in publishing for divas. If Mariah were an author, she should sing, “It’s A Small World, After All,” because publishing is. Everyone knows each other, and word quickly spreads. If four people show up for an event early in your career, be grateful and knock ‘em dead. Booksellers, agents, editors and publishers are like elephants: They have very long memories. But fans have the longest. Treat every single person you meet the way you’d like to be treated.

2) Look Like Your Author Shot
Seriously. If you have to crop out LBJ or Photoshop in a full collar on that Nehru jacket, it’s time for a new photo. Because when you show up looking nothing like you did when you were 25, your readers and fans will consider you a sellout. You’re not being true to yourself, much less the public. I’ve met authors who looked like Raquel Welch on the back cover of their books and Dame Edna in person. Just invest in good lighting. And bronzer.

1) Heed the Advice of My Mentors, My Mom and Erma Bombeck
I once sang “Delta Dawn” in a rural middle school talent contest to a gym filled with Conway Twitty/Loretta Lynn look-alikes who all laughed into their cowboy hats. My mom told me after it was over, “You were true to yourself. And that can only lead to happiness.” She bought me a journal, told me to write, and introduced me to Erma’s column, “At Wit’s End.” Though both are gone now, I will forever have two Midwestern moms who taught me, as Erma once said, that “Laughter rises out of tragedy, when you need it most, and rewards you for your courage.” So laugh. Write. Be true to yourself. Happiness will follow and reward you for your courage.

Want to write funny? Consider:
And Here's The Kicker (Print Edition)
And Here's The Kicker (Download it Now)

Image placeholder title

Become a WD VIP and Save 10%:
Get a 1-year pass to WritersMarket.com, a 1-year subscription to Writer's Digest magazine and 10% off all WritersDigestShop.com orders! Click here to join.


Also check out these items from the Writer's Digest's collection:
Comedy Writing Secrets
The Little Red Book of Very Dirty Words
The Perfect Insult for Every Occasion
Grammar Sucks: What to Do to Make Your Writing Much More Better
Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript
Writer's Digest How to Land a Literary Agent (On-Demand Webinar)

3 Things Being a Broadway Wig Master Taught Me About Storytelling

3 Things Being a Broadway Wig Master Taught Me About Storytelling

A career behind the curtain helped Amy Neswald in creating her own stories. Here, the author shares 3 things being a broadway wig master taught her about storytelling.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Out of Control

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Out of Control

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let things get a little out of control.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2021 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Next Steps

Here are the final steps for the 14th annual November PAD Chapbook Challenge! Use December and the beginning of January to revise and collect your poems into a chapbook manuscript. Here are some tips and guidelines.

NaNoWriMo’s Over … Now What?

NaNoWriMo’s Over … Now What?

After an intense writing challenge, you might feel a little lost. Here are some tips from Managing Editor and fellow Wrimo Moriah Richard for capitalizing on your momentum.

Ian Douglas: On Telling the Truth in Science Fiction

Ian Douglas: On Telling the Truth in Science Fiction

New York Times bestselling author Ian Douglas discusses how he incorporated implausible conspiracy theories to uncover the truth in his new science fiction novel, Alien Hostiles.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 589

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a yesterday poem.

Revenge

Revenge

Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, write about revenge.

Peter Fiennes: On Finding Hope in the Writing Process

Peter Fiennes: On Finding Hope in the Writing Process

Critically acclaimed author Peter Fiennes discusses his quest to find hope in his new travel/Greek mythology book, A Thing of Beauty.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2021 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 30

For the 2021 November PAD Chapbook Challenge, poets are tasked with writing a poem a day in the month of November before assembling a chapbook manuscript in the month of December. Today's prompt is to write a The End and/or The Beginning poem.