Well, it’s the start of a bright and shiny new year. And with a new year, comes the perfect excuse to make some resolutions. While we here at DGLM brace ourselves for the busy month ahead with all its post-holiday urgency, we’ll be making resolutions to read our slush faster, find the next big something or other, and perfect our mind reading techniques so we can pick the best possible editors for our clients’ projects.
It’s not just a good time for our resolutions. What better time for writers to motivate themselves to really get going and take their careers in bigger and better directions?
With that in mind, here are 10 Things Every Aspiring Author Should Try This Year:
- Write an amazing query letter. Really work hard on getting this new project out the door and putting your best face forward. Miriam’s got some advice on how you can do just that.
Head down to a bookstore or surf over to one online and check out what’s going on in your category. Know your category, know how your book will fit into the marketplace, and figure out why a reader might buy your book instead of the others on the shelf. It can’t just be the words themselves, because something has to get ‘em reading in the first place. If you can’t find a reason why, then you’re going to have a hard time convincing an agent that your book is the one that’s worth his/her efforts.
Attend a writers’ conference. Do some research into the many, many conferences that happen every year, and keep looking till you find one that works for you. You might learn more about a side of the publishing business you’d never given any thought to. You might make some new writer friends who can act as your support group and sounding board. You might even meet your future agent and/or editor in a pitch session. If you don’t have the time or means to get to an actual conference, look into writers’ groups in your area.
Stop over thinking. This seems like a popular one among my clients. One has decided to stop worrying about writing what he thinks he should write. Another plans to stop going over and over her ideas and just get something on the page. It’s important to really think things through, but don’t let yourself get bogged down in it at the expense of making progress.
Write something, anything—daily or weekly or whenever you can fit it in your schedule. Set a word limit or a time limit, but give yourself a goal and stick to it. As one of my clients pointed out, it doesn’t matter if it’s useless—in fact, most of it probably will be. But you never know when idle thoughts on a page will set you off down a path you wouldn’t have expected.
Be honest with yourself. If you know in your heart of hearts that your book isn’t working and isn’t going to, don’t be afraid to admit it to yourself. Research the (perhaps a bit demoralizing) statistics on what sort of advances are typically out there, how many books earn out their advance, and how many copies an average book actually sells. If you can face the reality of this business and still want to be a part of it, more power to you! But until you face the realities, you’re going to have a hard time getting anywhere. If you really want to succeed, you have to know the odds are stacked against you and feel compelled to try it anyway.
Calm down. A tough one certainly for the naturally high strung among us, but critical to peace of mind in the often difficult world of publishing. Resolve to take things in stride. If your manuscript isn’t working, or you can’t find an agent or publisher, you can and will keep going. Just try not to be disheartened when that time comes—you have to have faith that if this isn’t the one, the next one will be. As one of my clients put it, “I should resolve to stop valuing myself on whether my novel has found a publisher. I'm a decent person whether it does or not and I need to remember that.”
Find your place to write. Buy a really comfortable chair. Stake out a favorite corner at the local coffee shop. Buy soft throw pillows to prop up against the wall. Rearrange some space in your home to make an office. Wherever you do it, find a corner of the world that’s all about writing.
Read. It sounds so simple, right? Curl up on the couch with some hot cocoa, shove something in your bag for the subway, get in bed just that little bit earlier with the book you bought three months ago but haven’t taken out of the bag, or carve out a couple hours on your weekend to hide yourself away from the world. Just do it. Reading is why we’re all in this business together. It may even help you to check off a few of the resolutions above!
What about all of you? Any great resolutions to share from years past that really got things moving for you? What are you planning to tackle this year?