7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Celeste Holloway

5. Don’t put a time limit on your dreams. Like an idiot, I thought I’d write my book, do a few edits, and get published. In my mind, this would all go down in a year. Four years later, I signed my contract. I could’ve saved myself a lot of heartache with a more realistic goal. You should do what I didn’t do. GIVEAWAY: Celeste is excited to give away 2 free copies 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: kstjshin won.)
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This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,”where writers (this installment written by Celeste Holloway, author of SEBASTIAN FALLS) 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: Celeste is excited to give away 2 free copies 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: kstjshin won.)

celeste-holloway-sebastian-falls
celeste-hollaway-author-writer

Celeste Holloway is the author of SEBASTIAN FALLS, a YA
urban fantasy published by World Castle. Mother to the best kid
on the planet and Master to the fluffiest cat, Celeste lives a quiet
life in Arkansas, but dreams of world travel. To learn more about
Celeste and Sebastian Falls, visit her blog. She also loves
connecting with writers & readers on Twitter.

1. Beta readers don’t hate you. I’m not sure how it happened, but somewhere between draft one and three, I quit making voodoo dolls to replicate my betas and removed the pins from their eyes because I wanted them to see my mistakes. In the early stages, I viewed my greatest assets as enemies. Today, if a beta fails to find fault in my stories, I question their mental state and look for someone to replace them. To improve, we need honest readers, who aren’t afraid to point out our flaws.

2. You need somebody to share your burden. Friends are an important part of life, but for the kind of journey we’re on, no ordinary BFF will do. Only writer-friends understand the lingering sting of rejection, the importance of a stellar query letter, and how easy it is to fall in love with your protagonist’s boyfriend/girlfriend. They’re also the best sympathizers/drill sergeants during those, “I give up!” moments. So, if you don’t have a local writer’s group, find one on line. That’s where I met my best writer buddy, and she’s crawled through the depths of writer’s hell with me and back.

(Literary terms defined -- the uncommon and common.)

3. Stop beating yourself up. By the time I reached my seventh draft of Sebastian Falls, I was a hair butchering maniac. I owned a beauty salon—a life-sucking pit that I viewed as the obstacle keeping me from publication. Either my husband grew tired of the permanent snarl on my face, or he was afraid I’d end up like Sweeney Todd, (joking, no need to alert the FBI) so he took down my sign and told me to write. I did, but for a while, I struggled with what I thought people were saying or thinking about me. Did they think I was lazy? Were they laughing at me? This sort of negativity is addictive and gets out of hand quick. Eventually, I decided people probably didn’t have time to worry about me, and if they did, so what? If somebody wants me to fail, that’s all the more reason to succeed. Same goes for anyone reading this. Your life belongs to you. Regardless of what anybody else thinks, you have a right to choose your path.

4. There’s no right way. I wish there was, but there isn’t. What works for one writer, may or may not work for another. I’ve tried the whole outline thing, but my brain goes nuts, starts threatening seizures if I don’t cease and desist. Still, once upon a time, I wanted to be more writer-like—have some sort of method to discuss with artsy type people. So, I tried character sketching. Ha! Not a good plan for somebody that can only draw stick figures. What matters is what gets the story out. For me, it’s not having a plan. I let the characters hold my brain hostage. Then I force them out. Find your system. Stick to it.

5. Don’t put a time limit on your dreams. Like an idiot, I thought I’d write my book, do a few edits, and get published. In my mind, this would all go down in a year. Four years later, I signed my contract. I could’ve saved myself a lot of heartache with a more realistic goal. You should do what I didn’t do.

6. Believe the impossible. While I said to be realistic about time frames, I didn’t say we have to settle for mediocrity. No dream ever came true without someone believing in it first. So, I say, let’s put in the work to become the best we can be. Then, let’s cheer as we watch each other climb to the top! The moon is the limit! Don’t Stop!

(See a list of writers conferences where agents will be.)

7. Arrogance isn’t cool. Confidence is great. As writers, we need it. We also need humility. Nobody wants to work with a know-it-all. I don’t care how awesome a writer is, there’s always room for improvement and ways we can help each other. I used to see an author on a lot of different blogs, and she had a habit of griping at unpublished writers for asking how she arrived in her successful position. Keep in mind, these were also her fans. It didn’t take long for the public to tire of her abuse. Her sales dropped, and she disappeared. Kindness goes a long way, especially to fans and followers, so be sweet.

GIVEAWAY: Celeste is excited to give away 2 free copies 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: kstjshin won.)

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