7 Things I've Learned So Far, by Francesca Zappia

Author:
Publish date:

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers (this installment written by Francesca Zappia, author of MADE YOU UP) 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.

made-you-up-book-cover
Francesca-zappia-author-writer

Column by Francesca Zappia, author of MADE YOU UP
(May 2015, Greenwillow Books). Francesca spends her days
working in computer support and her nights writing stories.
You can also find her reading, drawing, watching anime, or
playing way too much Pokémon. You can find her on Twitter,
Tumblr, Instagram, and on her website.

1. Slow down. I mean this in more ways than one. The first way—publishing is a slow business. Anyone will tell you this, and I knew it when I got into it, but there’s a difference between knowing it and accepting it. The sooner I accepted it, the happier I was. I had to learn to take it easy and appreciate the downtime, because when the excitement hits, it hits hard.

The second way is a more small-scale. I had to slow down a lot of the things I did. Drafting. Editing. Speaking in front of groups of people. Signing books, even. (Apparently I sign books too fast. Before Made You Up was released, I didn’t even know you could sign books too fast.)

2. Breathe. People forget how great breathing is. Stuck on an idea? Breathe. Edits just came back and the main character sounds all wrong? Breathe. Social media feeling a little claustrophobic? Breathe.

We forget to breathe. I forgot to breathe.

3. It’s kind of a competition. Some people will tell you it is, some will tell you it isn’t. Personally, I’ve found it’s somewhere in between. It is a competition, but for me, it’s a competition only with myself. Motivating myself to write has always been easy, but the social side of publishing—being online, hearing about others’ successes and failures, hearing snippets of what people think of my work, doing school visits, doing interviews, putting myself out there for publicity—has not. It’s a constant struggle to reply to one more email, one more tweet, one more comment. I have to psych myself up before I even accept an invitation to an event and school visit, so let’s not even talk about actually going to them. Every day I remind myself not to look at reviews, because what I find may not be the best thing for me to read, whether or not it’s good or bad. I’m in a competition with myself to succeed as an author, and I plan to win.

 4. Don’t get complacent. It’s good to like the work you’ve done, but I never want to get to a place where I say, “Okay, that’s enough. I don’t need to learn any more. I don’t need to experiment with plot, characters, or style. What I’m doing now works well enough.” Well enough is not my endgame. After meeting and talking to fans of Made You Up, I’ve realized that I don’t want to stagnate—I want to keep delivering newer, better stories for them. I want to take them places they’ve never been, and that’s not going to happen if I stay at the same level.

 5. You’re allowed to have fun. I think I actually knew this before, but I didn’t realize how many people don’t have fun until after I was published. And I don’t mean have fun with your life, I mean have fun with your writing. That’s the great thing about being a creator: you can do whatever you want! With your plot, your characters, your setting. You have a million cans of paint in a room with white walls. MAKE SOMETHING COOL.

 6. Keep your day job. At least until the responsibilities of being a published author take up too much time. Or unless you hate your day job, and it’s economically feasible for you to quit. For me, I need the distraction of doing something during the day to give me the fuel I need for writing at night. That used to be school, but since I’ve graduated, my day job has done the trick nicely. This also helps with numbers 1 and 2—when I’m at my job, I don’t worry about my writing life. It’s a very nice reprieve.

7. Writing isn’t everything. There’s a lot more to life than what you’re working on, and how well you books are doing. When you spend most of your time immersed in the online publishing world, it’s easy to forget that and lose perspective. You are more than your work. I’ve been writing since I was eight years old, and every year it took over a little bit more of my life. Now that it’s something I do professionally, I have to be very careful that I don’t lose sight of the big picture.

---------------------

Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers' Conferences:

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.

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 3.39.23 PM

Your new complete and updated instructional guide
to finding an agent is finally here: The 2015 book
GET A LITERARY AGENT shares advice from more 
than 110 literary agents who share advice on querying, 
craft, the submission process, researching agents, and
much more. Filled with all the advice you'll ever need to
find an agent, this resource makes a great partner book to
the agent database, Guide to Literary Agents.

Pair vs. Pare vs. Pear (Grammar Rules)

Pair vs. Pare vs. Pear (Grammar Rules)

Prepare yourself for comparing the differences of pair, pare, and pear on with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

6 Lessons of Writing for Novelists

6 Lessons of Writing for Novelists

As the author of 16 novels, Wendy Wax shares her top 6 tips for novelists to help their writing journey go as smoothly as possible.

Elyssa Friedland: On Letting Setting Guide You

Elyssa Friedland: On Letting Setting Guide You

When author Elyssa Friedland settled on the setting for her latest novel, Last Summer at the Golden Hotel, the characters and plot came to her. Here, she discusses the importance of setting.

Alyson Gerber: On Writing Difficult Topics for Young Readers

Alyson Gerber: On Writing Difficult Topics for Young Readers

Critically acclaimed author Alyson Gerber discusses how she tackled the topic of disordered eating in her latest middle-grade novel, Taking Up Space.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Annual Writing Competition, Submission Guidelines, and More!

This week, we’re excited to announce the extended Annual Writing Competition deadline for 2021, details on how to submit your writing to Writer’s Digest, and more!

Amorak Huey: On Stalling Out After Publication

Amorak Huey: On Stalling Out After Publication

Poet Amorak Huey hit a creative roadblock after publishing his latest poetry collection Dad Jokes From Late in the Patriarchy. He shares his cure (and more!) in this article.

From Script

New Original Podcasts, Videos, and Understanding Data as a Screenwriter (From Script)

In this week’s round-up brought to us by ScriptMag.com, Script releases brand new audible and visual content!

Summer Writing Activities for Writers

8 Summer Writing Activities for Writers

Summer is upon us, so here are 8 summer writing activities for writers to consider as the temperature rises.

Books and Authors to Check Out in 2021

71 Books and Authors to Check Out in 2021!

Need a book to read in 2021? Want to find a new author to check out? Then, explore this list of 71 books and authors featured in our author spotlight series in a variety of genres.