In celebration of the ten-year anniversary of www.cynthialeitichsmith.com, I asked some first-time authors the following question:
As a debut author, what are the most important lessons you've learned about your craft, the writing life, and/or publishing, and why?
Here's the latest reply, this one from author P.J. Hoover:
How fun to talk about craft, the writing life, and publishing. Three important aspects of being an author!
Regarding craft, wait as much time between revisions as possible. Just close the document. Resist that urge to open it and read your wonderful opening page just one more time. Seriously. Resist it.
Do anything else you can think of. Draft another story. Read a book. Mop the floor. Clean the toilets. (Note: a manuscript and a toilet are not the same. Do not wait as long as possible between cleaning the toilet.)
The fact is this: the longer you wait, the more fresh the manuscript will appear, the more objective you will be, and the better a writer you will become.
If you can, wait a year. If you start to wear the polyurethane off your floor, at least give it a month. Okay, maybe a couple weeks. Just get away from it for some amount of time measurable on something besides a wall clock.
As for the writing life, treat yourself as a professional. Go get those publicity photos taken. Have a website designed. Print up some real business cards. The more professionally you treat yourself, the more professionally others will treat you.
Think of your writing life as your own personal business with you in charge. How do you want people to view your business? What kind of businesses do you support? The one where the manager is rude, the fries are burned, and the counter is covered in ketchup? Or the one where you're given a full refund, no questions asked, and told to have a nice day.
Give people a reason to support your business.
For publishing, keep in mind no one's story will be the same. Everyone who reaches publication will have done so differently. Each writer has ups and downs, successes and failures, good days and bad days. I wouldn't trade my life for anyone's in the world. And as such, I wouldn't trade my publishing career with anyone else, either. Because everything goes hand in hand. Writing and life. Life and writing.
So stop comparing yourself to others, and start creating your own future.