by Saralee Rosenberg
This year marks my twenty-fifth anniversary as an author and how wonderful that the silver has not yet tarnished. Eight of my books have been published, (four novels and four non-fiction titles), and yesterday I finished HOTLINE TO HEAVEN, my first novel for younger readers.
Reinvent yourself or die!
In honor of my two and a half decades in the trenches, here are twenty- five things I know for sure about the writing life. The list is meant to remind both the emerging and the experienced writer that there may be a million other ways to make a living, but few that are as exasperating lol. I meant rewarding. And exasperating!
How do you spell rejection? A-B-S-O-L-U-T
So for what it’s worth, here is my best advice:
1. Readers, reviewers, agents and editors are idiots unless, of course, they love what you wrote. Just kidding. They may not “get” you but they know what they like so listen and learn. You just might discover your book's fatal flaw.
2. Read the how-to books and blogs, take classes and spend the summer in Iowa. But at some point just write the damn story and let your characters be your guide.
3. If you breathe life into your characters, by page 50 you'll hear the natal heart beat. And that is the point they are big and strong enough to take the story in the direction you had no idea you were going.
4. If your characters are not leading the way by page 50, you made a wrong turn.
5. When nothing is going right, go left.
6. Input and feedback matter, but not too soon. The rush for accolades and encouragement can destroy potentially great ideas before they've had time to percolate. Resist the temptation to ask for comments until you're on solid ground.
7. Input and feedback matter, but only from the right people. Those with an agenda or who like/love you too much to be brutally honest are doing you no favors. You only need a few trustworthy, gentle readers to keep you in check.
8. Admire other writers but don't aspire to be them. We don't need Richard Russo light. Aspire instead to bring yourself to the party. We'd love to hear YOUR voice.
9. Just when your story feels like it's falling apart it may actually be falling into place.
10. Have faith.
11. You can't edit what you didn't write.
12. The Internet is a time suck. You show me an author who is jumping between Facebook and a manuscript and I'll show you an author who is writing crap.
13. Yes, yes. Crap sells. That doesn't mean you have to contribute to the shlock pile. Give us your absolute best work.
14. Enjoy elation when it occurs. Whether it's finishing a book, getting an agent, an advance, a deal, a great review, an award, an interview, making the best-seller list or just hearing from a reader who sings your praises, take time to be excited. You get nothing in writing that guarantees it will ever happen again.
15. Take criticism but not disrespect. Anyone who is rude, dismissive or mean spirited is not worthy of your time and talent.
16. If someone turns you down, move on. Every door that closes brings you one step closer to the door that was meant to open.
17. Follow your instincts and trust that your ideas are coming from a higher place. A place that honors you.
18. Write daring. Your job is to disturb the Universe.
19. Care a great deal about your well being and that of your characters.
20. Don’t waste time worrying about something that has not yet happened. There is a no-refund policy on time spent dwelling on the future. Worry only when a problem has presented itself and only if fixing the problem is within your power.
21. There are no such things as problems. Only opportunities to do things differently.
22. If you are writing to dazzle and impress then you should become a speech writer. Novelists will better serve their readers by telling stories that matter.
23. Pushing to write a certain number of pages per day is like committing to driving a certain number of miles on a long road trip. You may arrive but you'll have missed the great scenery and possibly the turns that you should have taken.
24. Thank everyone you meet for whatever service, friendship or act of kindness they show you. This has nothing to do with writing, but an attitude of gratitude will lighten your load.
25. No matter what, if your blessings outweigh your burdens consider yourself among the very luckiest.
So that is it from the trenches. Happy writing. Oh and one last thing. Dream big! I did and it brought me to you.