1. Reach for your Dreams and Do It. No one is stopping you but your own fears and doubts. I self-published three books in 2012 and finished the first draft on the fourth. Putting Michal's Window out to the public was a big step. I had worked on the novel for almost two years, ground through more than twenty revisions (I lost count) and wore out multiple critique partners and my editor with questions and changes. I knew I was ready, but I felt like I was elbowing my way into a realm I didn't belong, side by side with novels from great writers. But I went ahead and did it, and my dream of being an author came true. Tens of thousands have downloaded my books, and I have readers from around the globe. To think that I've touched so many lives is humbling, and way beyond what I could have done without publishing.
2. Not Everyone Will Like What You Do. There are seven billion people on this planet, and guess what? At least a few of them will hate you, right? So it follows that some will hate your book, your characters, your plot, or just everything about you. I've had my fair share of one-star reviews, and some days it seems that is all I get. But look on the bright side. At least I'm not Salman Rushdie who had a fatwa issued against him. While the one-stars sting, they also steer other readers who would not like your book away. So they are actually doing you a service. They also make the positive reviews so much sweeter.
3. Write True to Yourself. There is always a temptation to tailor your message to your perceived market, especially after receiving negative reviews. There have been times I wondered if I put too much sex in my book, or whether I portrayed a certain church in a negative light. I even asked my crit partners whether I should change the location of the rape in my work in progress to a country club or somewhere more cliched, like a bar or back alley. But most of them supported me. The stakes were higher where I had it, and it definitely set up the rising tension, even if some readers might be upset. After all, this is fiction, and I'm not making a sweeping generalization, just telling the story of a particular set of people at a particular setting. At the end, it is you, the author, and your story.
4. Never Respond to Reviews. I learned this firsthand as a reviewer, not as an author. I had no idea what a reviewer would feel until I was contacted by an author. I had given her book a 4-star review because I was disappointed that my favorite character was sidelined. I also didn't like her main characters because they were too selfish and cruel to the woman she portrayed as the villain. Boy was I shocked when she e-mailed me that she didn't agree and requested that I mark the review with a spoiler warning. Feelings of shock, being bullied, being disrespected, of anger and indignation ran through me. Is this how you want to make your readers feel?
5. Take Time out Away from Your Stories. As an author you are so invested in their stories that sometimes that is all you think about. You might get so caught up in your characters that an attack on your characters is an attack on you. Walk away. You are not your story. You have family and friends and a real life. My latest work in progress is about a very upsetting situation. A woman is raped at a party while drugged and gets pregnant. The story revolves around her decision to abort the child and how it affects the lives of the people around her. The first draft took me almost three months. After that, I needed a one month break away from the story, and then when I started revision in December, there were days I would wake up depressed. But when the holidays hit, I stopped thinking about the story. I have family and friends and real people to relate to. These characters can hibernate and come back when I'm ready to deal with them. So I went traveling, saw The Hobbit, did Christmas decorations and tree trimming and started a new hobby of photography. Most of all, I'm grateful that my real life is calm and smooth, unlike my story world.
Taking time out also means giving back. All my books are still FREE today. Happy New Year! [click here]
So, what did you learn? Are their any lessons you'd like to share?