For the past few years, I’ve written a post in late December about my year of reading, reflecting on books that have had an impact on me and patterns I’ve noticed in what I’ve read. I’d love to find time to do that again for this year, but for now I’m more motivated to reflect on my year as a writer and an author…which I don’t think are synonymous terms.
As a writer, I have continued to work hard on my craft, drafting and editing projects, and I’ve had some rewarding moments and some disappointing ones. And as a first-time published author, I’ve had thrilling high points and vulnerable, anxiety-producing low points. I know I have a lot left to figure out, but I’ve learned quite a bit about where I want to put my energy and where I don’t. So in this post, I’ll share a breakdown of what I’ve been up to this year, writing- and publishing-wise, and what I’ve discovered.
First off, some stats from my year in writing/”author”-ing:
- 1 novel (Every Shiny Thing) published!
- 19 book events (school visits, bookstore events, and conferences) completed.
- 1 new novel (Up for Air…which comes out 5/7/19 and can be preordered now, just in case you were wondering!) revised, edited, and now circulating in advance reader copy form.
- Countless signed bookmarks and bookplates mailed to readers and educators (let me know if you want any!).
- 1 mindfulness immersion for writers class (which I can’t recommend enough) taken.
- 1 amazing, energizing online book club and newsletter group (Middle Grade at Heart) joined.
- 1 novel-in-progress set aside (but not abandoned fully, because I am determined to write this character’s story some day in some way).
- 1 picture book manuscript set aside (until I figure out how to revise the ending at least).
- 1 exciting novel-in-progress well underway (after setting it aside twice before pieces clicked into place).
And now for some of the lessons I’ve learned:
As a writer, I re-learned the lesson that no writing is wasted, and sometimes ideas need time to marinate. I re-learned that I must dive into each project with an open heart and my full commitment even if I might end up setting aside pages and pages. Those pages (and that time and energy) still serve a crucial purpose. The book I’m currently working on, which I found the heart of this year after two false starts, incorporates two elements I really loved from past projects I had to shelve. I feel sure that the book that didn’t pan out this year will give life to something special in the future because I wrote my way to a character I need to explore further.
As a first-time author, I’ve learned, first and foremost, that one of the best things I can do for my own career and my emotional well-being is to spread positivity about other books I love. Recently on Twitter, an author named Adalyn Grace, whose debut novel will come out in early 2020, asked authors what one piece of advice they would give to upcoming debuts. This was mine, and I’m standing by it!
Another big lesson that’s been reinforced over and over this year is that comparison truly is the thief of joy. As a debut author, you can see the awards and opportunities other debut authors get and feel envious or somehow less-than. But what’s been so striking to me is that everyone struggles with comparison and envy—even people who seem to be getting so much attention and so many accolades. I’ve found that spreading genuine positivity counteracts a lot of the envy for me. If I love a book that gets praise I would have liked to get, then sure, I can have a moment of feeling like, “Ugh, that sure would be nice to have.” But if I then focus on the reasons why I love that book and am happy for that author, I feel much better and take back a bit of power in a business that can make you feel like a lot is outside your control. Reacting that way also lets me continue to be an enthusiastic reader and a fan of books, which is how I started out anyway!
I’ve also learned that this is an amazing time to be a middle grade author because Twitter, Instagram, ARC sharing groups, Middle Grade at Heart, and awesome sites like MG Book Village make it possible for authors to make authentic connections with inspiring educators who champion middle grade literature. There are so many passionate teachers and librarians who work tirelessly to connect kids with books, and it’s an honor to get to partner with them. I feel sure that the connections I’ve made with educators have helped Every Shiny Thing‘s sales and visibility in some way, but even more importantly, those connections have energized me and helped me stay rooted in the reasons I write middle grade novels.
On a related note, I’ve learned to follow my joy and my strengths when I think about where to put my time, energy, and money. As a former teacher, I love doing any kind of event or project that lets me meet kids, network with teachers and librarians, or engage with questions about curricula. Those things make me happy and play to my strengths. That means I love being part of the Middle Grade at Heart team and I love making educators’ guides for my books. It also means I prioritized doing school visits last spring (some of which made financial sense and yielded lots of book sales and some of which didn’t), I’ve spent a decent amount of money on postage to send bookmarks and bookplates to classes of kids, and I’ve attended two nErDcamp events and a library conference that were logistically very challenging to get to. It’s impossible to know what kind of “payoff” any kind of event or book-related swag or resource you create will have, so I think it’s important to know what your priorities are and what will make you happy and go from there.
And finally, I’ve learned that not everyone will “get” my books or love them. That’s really hard because I’m a people pleaser and a perfectionist, and, honestly, I want everyone to approve of everything I do at all times. But as an author, that definitely isn’t possible. Reading is such a personal and subjective experience, and that has to be okay…but I also don’t need to seek out reviews, especially on Goodreads, because the joy of reading good reviews isn’t worth the hurt feelings and anxiety of reading not-so-good ones.
So those are my top takeaways! I hope some of the things I’ve learned this year might be interesting or useful to others. I’m very grateful that, after many years of writing and improving my craft, I get to keep publishing novels in 2019 and beyond. And I am also certain that there is no magic switch that makes a person suddenly creatively fulfilled and completely confident just because their dream of being published comes true!