A decade after I decided I needed to “get serious” about my writing career. I already had a master's degree in writing popular fiction and had been writing since I was a teenager. I'd managed to get a couple stories published and enjoyed my first professional sale. At the time, I thought I'd start making a living from my writing within five years.
That didn't happen. I watched other writers, newer writers, achieve the sort of success that I wanted. I kept at it and sold more stories. I made my first forays into indie publishing and it didn't take off the way I wanted. Since I also have a satisfying career as a librarian, I shifted my focus to my library career. I kept a few things going with my writing, but mostly I let it rest for about three years. Now I'm rebuilding, revitalizing my writing career. In this post I'll share four strategies I've found helpful in starting over.
Let Go of Envy and Focus on Your Writing Career—Not Another Writer's Career
It's normal enough to envy another person's success, particularly when their success is in your own field. You may see someone who started after you enjoying the success that you desire. Envy can quickly turn poisonous.
- “They got lucky…”
- “It's terrible writing…”
- “They only got attention because they are [blank]…”
None of that is positive or helpful in your own writing career. I've heard people (all too often) denounce a writer and their work because it is ‘too popular,' a condemnation based on classist views that equate popularity with lesser quality. Maybe that writer's books aren't to your taste, but clearly there are aspects to their writing that people enjoy.
Rather than envying another writer's career, learn from them. Don't focus on what you think they've done wrong, or what you think are their weaknesses. Focus instead on their strengths. Maybe they're strong in an area where you can improve. Put aside your envy of their success and learn instead.
Reframe Your Expectations
Do you see what I did years ago? I decided that I needed to “get serious.” For me that meant giving my writing career more attention, focus, and study. It meant increasing my production. And I expected that the work I was doing would result in making a living from my writing in a fairly short time frame.
Realistic? Not particularly. It wasn't based on any concrete reasons. I wanted a certain result, and expected that result to materialize simply because I worked hard. Whether or not that happened, my expectation wasn't reality-based. It was based on hopes and dreams rather than anything concrete, or anything within my control.
Set realistic and fair expectations for yourself. Can you control sales? No. Can you practice writing copy? Yes. Can you test different ads? Yes. Can you study how other writers create engaging openings? Yes. Is it realistic to expect to write 10,000 words per day? I don't know, it depends on you and your circumstances. It isn't a realistic expectation for me.
Figure out realistic expectations for yourself, based on what you control, and you'll see more success with your writing career.
Refresh (or Release) Your Titles
One way I aim to revitalize my career is by refreshing existing titles with new editions and by releasing titles that I haven't previously published.
Maybe you have titles that haven't performed the way you desired. You're not stuck with that experience. You can change anything you want. Maybe your book needs a new title? Cover? Design? Everything? Many writers find improved success by relaunching and refreshing their backlist.
If (like me) you have unpublished titles sitting in your files, why not get them out? I took my break from my writing career to focus on my librarian career after a year in which I wrote several books. I have the first two books in one series, and several other books that I haven't released yet. The first new book, Stowaway to Eternity, will come out soon.
Focus on Fun
Finally, don't do what I did and “get serious.” I'm not suggesting that you don't do the best you can. I don't believe that it's a great idea to take your writing career so seriously that it strips away the fun. I've written stories for decades whether they sold or not.
One of the best ways to revitalize your writing career, gain new enthusiasm and excitement, is focusing on fun. Write the story that you want. After you're done you can figure out what you've written. Give yourself the freedom to experiment and try new things. Take risks. Challenge yourself without making the book too important. The more importance and stress you put on yourself to write the book, the harder you'll find it to stick with the book.
I'm excited about relaunching my writing career. I'm trying out new things and having fun. Over the rest of the year I plan to have many more books available. I hope you'll check back to see how it goes, and share your own progress with your writing career.