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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What I Wish I’d Known When My First Novel Came Out

By Lisa Wingate

Writing is the ultimate learn-on-the-job career. It’s challenging. It’s demanding. It’s busy. It can be unforgiving and maddening. It can also be unbelievably rewarding and filled with moments of story and human connection that are nothing short of bliss. With my twenty-third book, The Story Keeper, hitting shelves, I can honestly say that my career has been filled with surprises. That’s probably because I knew almost nothing about the business when I started out. If I could, I’d go back and tell myself a few things:

Wingate Book Signing
1. Write because you love it.  I know everyone says that, but it’s true.  If you really want to have a long career, you must figure out how to produce book, after book, while managing promotion, production edits, multiple forms of communication, and life in general. Set a manageable daily page quota or daily writing hours, and hold yourself to it.  One of the hardest things about writing is time management. 

2. Finish your first manuscript and write another.  It’s almost impossible to sell on a partial in fiction if you’re unpublished.  Polish your manuscript and send it out, because as much as we’d like them to, editors won’t come looking in your desk drawer.  While you’re waiting for news, write another book.  If the first one sells, you’ll be set for a two-book deal.  If the first one doesn’t sell, you will have eggs in another basket.  Be tenacious, be a thick-skinned as possible, keep writing while you wait for news.  

3. Rejection stinks, but it happens. Rejection isn’t anything personal; it’s just part of the business, and it’s to be expected.  Your project isn’t bad just because it gets rejected.  It may not be that editor’s (or agent’s) cup of tea, the house might not be buying right then, they may have another author under contract whose work is similar to yours, and so on.  There are so many reasons a book can be rejected, and the real trick is to look at the rejections as a tool and then move on.  Don’t make sweeping changes based on one opinion unless there’s an imminent sale involved.  Conversely, if you receive the same criticism from several editors (or agents), consider pulling out the red pen and getting to work

          
4. You probably won’t hit the NYT immediately. In fact, few writers ever reach this coveted level. Be careful how you measure success. Setting lofty goals is a good thing… right up until you feel like a failure for not achieving them. Myriad factors determine which books get the “perfect storm” of great cover, great market timing, and heavy publisher promotion. Some of it is just luck. Write the very best book you can. Do what you can to promote. Stop obsessing. Write another book.

5. Find your creative tribe. On any given road, you’re never the only traveler.  Others walk in shoes like your own and shoes that are different.  Find them. Critique one another’s work, brainstorm together, give creative criticism, take creative criticism, and learn from one another. Give back more than you get.

6. Cheer for other people. One of the best promotional avenues available to writers today, yesterday, and tomorrow remains cooperative promotion. Find authors whose work is similar to yours. Cross-promote with one another. Cheer one another’s successes, awards, and new releases. Your readers will thank you for the tips and you’ll feel good about doing something positive for someone else. You’ll also have that warm feeling when others do the same for you.

Above all, while you’re walking the writer-road, be aware, be in the moment, don’t close your eyes even for an instant.  You never know when you’re going to turn a corner and find, right in the middle of an ordinary day, the idea for a story. Wherever you go in life, there are always nuggets of story along the trail.  Sometimes you see them coming; sometimes you stumble over them.  Pause long enough to pick them up and examine them.  Your writer's mind can take it from there. A nugget can become an entire goldmine.  That's where the joy is, that's when the magic happens, and there is no magic like the magic of story.



Lisa Wingate
Selected among BOOKLIST'S Top 10 of 2012 and Top 10 of 2013, Lisa Wingate skillfully weaves lyrical writing and unforgettable Southern settings with elements of women's fiction, history, and mystery to create stories that Publisher's Weekly calls "Masterful" and ForeWord Magazine refers to as "Filled with lyrical prose, hope, and healing.” Lisa is a journalist, an inspirational speaker, a reviewer for the New York Journal of Books, and the author of over over twenty novels and countless magazine pieces. 

Tyndale, 2014
 Her books have held positions on many bestseller lists, both in the U.S. and

internationally. She is a seven-time ACFW Carol award nominee, a Christy Award nominee, an Oklahoma Book Award finalist, a Christianity Today Book Award nominee, an Inspy Award nominee, a two-time Carol Award winner, a LORIES Best Fiction Award winner, and a Utah Library Award winner. Recently, the group Americans for More Civility, a kindness watchdog organization, selected Lisa along with Bill Ford, Camille Cosby, and six others, as recipients of the National Civies Award, which celebrates public figures who work to promote greater kindness and civility in American life. Visit Lisa at her website: www.LisaWingate.com.

3 comments:

Ane Mulligan said...

I love the idea of giving a prayer box! I've given Ebeneezers (a jar with stones in it to record blessings in your life) but not a prayer box. And The Storykeeper in is my TBR pile. I'm so intrigued by it. :-)

S. Stovall said...

You encourage many. I attended a seminar you taught at at ETBU two years ago and have moved forward one page at time. I'm still unpublished but working on the third book of a series. God's timing is perfect. With each page I write, I know I'm learning and loving the journey. God's in charge of who will read the words I write to grow His kingdom.

Carrie Turansky said...

Great thoughts! Thanks for sharing, Lisa! I agree about the importance of the creative tribe. Sharing the journey with other writers has made it so much more rewarding. We understand each other and can support each other through hard times and cheer for each other in good times.