7 Things I've Learned So Far, by Imogen Robertson

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 Imogen Robertson. Imogen Robertson is the author of Instruments of Darkness (Feb. 2011), a debut novel the AP called "a thrilling tale." The book is the first in a series of 18th century detective novels featuring the willful Harriet Westerman and anatomist Gabriel Crowther.
Author:
Publish date:

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,”where writers (this installment written by Imogen Robertson, author of INSTRUMENTS OF DARKNESS) 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.

Imogen is excited to give away a free book to one random commenter. Comment within one week. You can win a blog contest even if you've won before. (Update: Stacie won.)

Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title

Imogen Robertson is the author of Instruments of Darkness
(Feb. 2011), a debut novel the AP called "a thrilling tale."
The book is the first in a series of 18th century detective
novels featuring the willful Harriet Westerman and
anatomist Gabriel Crowther. Imogen lives in London
and runs a blog. She was a TV, film and radio director
before becoming a full-time writer.

1. Being nice works. I have always sneakingly envied those people who storm about demanding things. It’s not my way. I want to help; I want to get on with people, and I want to be polite. It turns out this doesn’t make me a wimp after all. It makes me someone people want to work with. Author tantrums just make everybody’s jobs harder.

2. Take advice. You may have a deal, but there is still work to be done on the manuscript. Now you’ve probably sweated over every word of it, so that idea can be hard to take but remember you are now getting advice and suggestions from an expert. Pre-magic-phone-call you’d have had to pay thousands of dollars for this sort of feedback. Now you are getting it for free. Be thoughtful and even if you don’t think the suggestion is helpful, don’t just throw it out. Consider it. Sometimes one of my editor’s comments will make me rethink a whole scene or a whole character. Now there’s no need to e-mail or call your editor with every thought in your head, but if you don’t want to make a change he or she suggests, remember to explain why. You are just getting to know each other, so it’s all about dialogue.

3. It’s not just the book that is on sale. It’s you. I know it wont come as a surprise to people who read this blog, but it is a tough market out there and you have to be willing to go out and sell your book. And yourself. I found this quite tough at first as I’m actually a rather private person, but I thought of all the work other people were putting in to making the book a success and put on a smile. I’ve met some very lovely people as a result too.

4. But be careful. One way to get some publicity for your work is to write for magazines, and a good way to increase your chances of publication is to write about the intimate details of your private life. I’ve been tempted, I’ve even half-promised to write an article of that sort but then I backed out. Even if you feel comfortable discussing intimate subjects publicly, how will your partner feel? Or your family? Through all the weirdness of being published you are going to really need the people you love, so I’d advise against alienating them. Now I don’t even half-promise. Write for classy blogs instead.

5. Remember what your job is. It is to write good books, talk about them and be nice to people. The marketing plan, the cover design, sales, distribution: These things are not your job. If you are lucky enough to be published by a major company then rest assured there are plenty of people to worry about all that, and they are experts. Ask questions, be interested and be grateful but don’t try and do their jobs for them. You have your own work waiting for you.

6. Being published can be oddly upsetting. That came as a surprise to me, but it makes sense really. Suddenly that book that has been gathering dust under your bed is out there. Now it’s your own personal Schrodinger’s cat moment. When the book is unread, it might be brilliant. When you are published you are going to find out just how good it is. I felt incredibly vulnerable. Also be prepared for the weird transition from ordinary person bumbling along through life to "Published Author." People will find you more interesting at parties. Some friends may disappear from your life. You will be introduced with your full name. One phone call and although you haven’t changed a jot, life has. That takes some getting used to.

7. Learn to enjoy the ride. It is the most wonderful stroke of luck to find yourself published. You will find a whole new set of challenges in front of you, but remember to look back from time to time and see how far you have come. Then get back to work.

Image placeholder title

Are you a subscriber to Writer's Digest magazine
yet? If not, get a discounted one-year sub here.

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.