7 Things I've Learned So Far, by Darien Gee

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers at any stage of their career can talk about seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning. This installment is from writer Darien Gee. Darien Gee is the author of Friendship Bread: A Novel (Ballantine; April 2011). She’s also the national bestselling author of three novels under the name Mia King (Good Things, Sweet Life, and Table Manners).
Author:
Publish date:

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,”where writers (this installment written by Darien Gee, author of FRIENDSHIP BREAD) 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.

Darien is excited to give away a free copy of her book to a random commenter. Comment within one week; 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: Larry won.)

Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title


Darien Gee is the author of Friendship Bread: A Novel
(Ballantine; April 2011). She’s also the national
bestselling author of three novels under the name
Mia King (Good Things, Sweet Life, and Table
Manners). Visit Darien in her virtual kitchen,
Friendship Bread Kitchen, or on Facebook
where she has more than 25,000 fans.

1. Understand the difference between writing and the business of writing. Writing is a creative process; the business of writing is sales and marketing. As a published author, you have a responsibility to do both. In fact, there will be times where you’ll be spending more time with the business of writing rather than writing itself, which is frustrating for many authors. But remember: without the business of writing, no one would be reading your work and you really wouldn’t be able to quit your day job. So this is actually a good thing, therefore approach your business responsibilities wholeheartedly. They are different sides of the same coin, and that coin goes into your pocket if you do it right.

2. Express gratitude for the people who said yes.
Your agent. Your editor. Your publisher. Your readers. Your spouse or significant other. Regularly express thanks to the people who have supported you and your writing by saying yes to that first novel, to that extra time you needed to write, to buying your book and giving up their own valuable time to read it.

3. Listen to the voice that matters most: yours. As writers we’re good at listening to our characters: what they want, what they need, who they really are. We need to do the same for ourselves. Should you stay with that agent? Should you make the proposed changes to a manuscript? Should you write the novel everyone is saying not to bother with? Or should you just give up? The writer’s journey pushes you to listen carefully. Remember that so much of what makes good writing also makes good living, and give yourself the same respect you give your characters.

4. Expect the best. Yes, the economy may be in a downturn. Yes, it may be harder than ever to get published. Yes, publishers may not be able to commit as many resources to a book as before. If you gather with other writers, you’ll hear a laundry list of what isn’t working. Well, those things may be true, but so is this: some booksellers are doing well. People are still buying books. People are still reading. There are new writers hitting the New York Times bestseller lists all the time. Publishers do stand behind titles they’re excited about which, given the careful consideration every manuscript is given before an offer is made, is almost their entire list. When you approach this writing and publication life as half full rather than half empty, you significantly raise your chances of being successful and (here’s a thought) happy.

5. It’s OK to take a break. I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage that to be a writer you have to write. While this is true, I know writers who spend a lot of time in front of their computer, frustrated and anxious as they spin their wheels trying to revive a manuscript or come up with a new one. I think we actually have a new phenomenon where people are overwriting. If this is you (and you’ll know if it is), my suggestion is to just stop. Save your work and go on vacation, or go to the library and check out a stack of movies (not books). Take a break and give yourself a break. I’ll go for weeks without writing. You’ll know when it’s time to sit back down again.

6. It’s not over until it’s over, Which is pretty much never. Don’t despair if your writing career isn’t taking off in the way you had expected. Don’t stress out if your sales numbers are “trending” down. Don’t look at fellow authors who seem to have everything lined up while you have “nothing.” Anything is possible, and we see it all the time in this business. The comeback, the breakout book, the movie deal. Every business goes through a cycle of ups and downs, and the business of writing is no different.

7. A business plan: Map out your writing career. If you were going to start your own business, you’d write a business plan. You’d come up with an executive summary and look at the competitive landscape to determine the best approach. You’d set goals, have objectives, run the financials. If you’re committed to building a lifetime career as a writer, then consider drafting a business plan so you are clear about where you want to go, and how you’re going to get there.

2014-childrens-writers-and-illustrators-market

Writing books/novels for kids & teens? There are hundreds 
of publishers, agents and other markets listed in the
latest Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.
Buy it online at a discount.

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

Image placeholder title

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more. 
Order the book from WD at a discount.

From Our Readers

Describe the First Time a Book Transported You to Another/Magical World: From Our Readers (Comment for a Chance at Publication)

This post announces our latest From Our Readers ask: Describe the First Time a Book Transported You to Another/Magical World. Comment for a chance at publication in a future issue of Writer's Digest.

About Us: How to Handle Your Story That Involves Other People

About Us: How to Handle Your Story That Involves Other People

Your story belongs to you but will involve other people. Where do your rights end and theirs begin?

Identifying Your Book's Target Audience

Identifying Your Book's Target Audience

Editor-in-chief Amy Jones navigates how to know your target audience, and how knowing will make your writing stronger.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 575

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 safe poem.

ryoji-iwata-QKHmi6ENAmk-unsplash

I Spy

Every writer needs a little inspiration once and a while. For today's prompt, someone is watching your narrator ... but there's a twist.

Brian Freeman: On "Rebooting" Another Writer's Legacy

Brian Freeman: On "Rebooting" Another Writer's Legacy

In this article, Brian Freeman, author of Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Treachery, discusses how he took up the mantle of a great series and made it his own.

Sole vs. Soul (Grammar Rules)

Sole vs. Soul (Grammar Rules)

Learn how to distinguish the sole from the soul with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

How to Make the Most of a Virtual Writing Workshop or Conference

How to Make the Most of a Virtual Writing Workshop or Conference

In this brave new world of virtual learning and social distance, Kristy Stevenson helps us make the most of the virtual conference.

When Is Historical Accuracy Inaccurate?

When Is Historical Accuracy Inaccurate?

Writers of historical fiction must always ride the line between factual and fictitious. Here, author Terry Roberts discusses how to navigate that line.