Best Advice This Year

I don’t think it’s any big secret that I love my agent. She is a woman who has put a ton of herself into the publishing industry. She knows the people, she’s been around long enough to know that fads come and go, but that a few things remain the same.

Sometime in January of this year (that horrible month when resolutions are pecking away at our sanity), I had a few ideas spinning around in my head, and I tried to sort them out and I sent them off to her. As always when my emails come across like I’m on the edge of a cliff/panic attack, Jane writes back to ask if she can call.

We have this conversation where I learned several crucially important things:

She asks the people in her office to sit down and make quarterly goals. She very often asks me – What are your longterm goals with your writing? (my answer changes, a little, but the basics are the same – I WANT A CAREER TELLING STORIES) So that big goal is my starting place for figuring out what I need to do with the next few months of my writerly life.

This seems pretty simple, right? But when I started to write down all the things I included in my email, I realized that very few humans could accomplish what I was trying to accomplish in such a short amount of time. And that was just my WRITING life, not to mention all of the things that come along with being the stay at home, working mom. The wife of a husband with an incredibly demanding job. The hobbies I don’t want to leave by the wayside. I had a lot of prioritizing and sorting to do to keep my life balanced, which I couldn’t do until her next piece of advice,

Slow. Down.

  • What? Slow down goes against EVERYTHING in my body. I don’t do slow. I don’t. And when you’ve spent some time writing in the world of self-published romance or ebook romance, slowing down kills careers. It’s happened to me. It’s happened to people I know. (Ok, KILL is an overstatement, let’s call it a massive shift…)
  • BUT again, a few very important things were laid out for me. My goal is to have YA books in bookstores (and maybe MG). For my books about (and for) teens and youth, to make it into the hands of teens and youth. I write the books I wish I’d had in high school. I write the books I have to write.
  • Most readers (not romance readers, not people who read exclusively ebooks) read 6-20 books a year. They are not going to read 6 books from the same author in one year. The longer I write, and the more I learn, the more I know there is no way I could put out 6 quality novels in a year. I can’t do it without several of those books being already written and at the editing stage only. The more I learn, the longer it takes me to write.

So. Do I really need TWO YA releases in a year? Um. I do not. Big name authors who do two books a year… I don’t know… I feel like I’ve just recovered from their last release, when they’re putting out something new. At a certain point, I figure, I don’t need ALL their books, just some, and I may end up even buying less. Unless it’s a series that totally kicks ass. Then please, feel free to crank those babies out 😉

3. This isn’t from Jane, but from me thinking on our conversation over the months that followed – Do I want to try something new? Really new. Do I dare? Now that I’ve decided to slow down, I actually might have time to really craft something new.

  • I had to let go of some ideas I’d written COMPLETE ROUGH DRAFTS OF because that’s not the direction I want my career to go right now, it just isn’t. I love the inspiration I get from the cases my husband brings home as a prosecutor, but I don’t want to spend the next few years of my writing life in a world I also live in every day. Maybe when Mike retires, or decides he’d rather teach people how to be prosecutors than be one himself, then I’ll go back and re-work some of those ideas.
  • I choose fun. I’m working hard on 4 projects right now for traditional publishing that I LOVE. One is a collab w/ Allie Brennan (AJ BROOKS) and the other three are all me. I’m pushing myself in a way that I never would have if I hadn’t stepped back, and slowed down.

4. If I think my writing is good enough, I’m wrong. If I think that I have enough books under my belt, that I don’t actively need to be learning how to be a better writer. I don’t… I just… I CAN’T EVEN 😉

  • I hope I never reach a point where I feel like. Well! This is it! I’m good now! I don’t need to read articles on writing. I don’t need to take classes at conferences. I’m all set.
  • This might not be a popular opinion with some of my other writer friends, but reading really good fiction isn’t enough. It’s awesome. And I cringe and fume a little when writers say they don’t read, but just reading good books isn’t enough to help us push our writing. There is more competition in the market every day. I want to keep up.

I’m not completely sure what the point of my post is today, but sometimes when you feel like you’ve finally learned something, instead of just knowing it, you have to share.

So. There you are. Figure out what you want and how hard you’re willing to work to get there. What should you do now. What should you do over the next few years. Be humble enough to be teachable, no matter how many books you have in the world.

But most important, figure out what works for YOU. My path isn’t your path, isn’t the next person’s path. Go find your journey, and ENJOY THE RIDE people. It’s what we have.

~ Jo

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