Today Olivia Newport joins the Inkwell. She will be posting every 3rd Wednesday.
Admit it. Whether published or not, you’ve engaged in some of these nervous author behaviors.
__ You read a renowned book and asked, “What’s the big deal?” because you could do sooo much better.
__ You compared your Amazon ranking with someone else’s.
__ You checked your Amazon ranking multiple times a day.
__ You read every reader or blogger review of your book within minutes after it appeared.
__ You ranted about the injustices of traditional publishing that make it so hard to get an agent or editor’s attention.
__ You started reading a book with your mind made up not to like it because you thought the author did not have to work hard enough at success.
__ You daydreamed about how a big advance could change your life.
I raise my hand in true confession.
And then repentance.
Here’s my advice for myself as I go forward in my noveling career. Maybe it will be helpful to you as well.
Respect the hard work of other writers. Think of their writing styles as being on a spectrum that lies horizontally rather than a ladder that climbs upward. Other writing is different than yours, rather than better or worse. Yes, I know, some published books really are poorly written in terms of craft. But they may have heart-stopping plot or gut-wrenching themes. If they are commercially successful, there is a reason why.
Respecting the hard work of other writers does not automatically mean you like their books. Everybody’s reading tastes differ. I’m in a book group with some very smart people who read a lot of books, and every month somebody loves the book we read, and somebody hates it. (Except when we read The Hunger Games. We all caught that bug.) We have rich discussions about why we feel the way we do. If you like an author’s writing, articulate what you can learn from it for your own work. If you don’t like it, be specific about what disappointed.
From every reading experience, find the takeaway that will make your own writing stronger. Does a book have effective dialogue that moves the plot forward, even if you did not care for the plot? Does it create a sense of setting or time that you can admire even if you found the characters flat? How can these observations enrich your own writing?
Admire, analyze, and adjust, but don’t compare. Whether you land an agent, sign a contract, complete a manuscript, or sign a million books, the work is not over. Don’t let your head swell so that your hats don’t fit. Maintain a consistent hat size and keep putting one foot in front of the other on the writing journey.
Olivia Newport is the author of The Pursuit of Lucy Banning (Revell, May 2012) and the forthcoming Accidentally Amish (Barbour, October 2012). Her novels twist through time to find where faith and passions meet. She lives in Colorado with her husband and two twenty-something children.