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 N. A. Nelson:
The most important lesson I learned about my craft came during my revision process. I didn’t know what type of a reviser I was—meaning “Did I need specific comments or general?”
My editor at the time said something to the affect of, “It’s always interesting working with a new author because you have to figure out how to get through to them in a way they can relate to and be motivated by.”
Through trial and error (and tears), I learned I’m a: Give me the specifics type of reviser; tell me what page (and sometimes even what paragraph) I need to add something to because “develop this character more” is not something (at that point anyway) I knew what to do with.
The most important lessons I learned about the writing life were that I needed to continue to have fun—to continue to play, to continue to allow myself to make mistakes.
Just because my first book got published didn’t mean I was supposed to know everything and get it right the first time. To expect that from myself was self-imposed torture. I had to realize that there is no magic formula to writing; there’s only what works for me on this book, on this day, at this time.
The most important lessons I learned about publishing was not to compare myself and my book to others. As hard as it is in this numbers driven world—I learned not to get caught up in: the blog hits, the website hits, the Amazon ranking, the Goodreads ranking, the Barnes & Noble ranking, the Worldcat numbers, aaaaaaaah!
It was an insane roller-coaster of “Yay, I’m third in Central/South America Books on Amazon,” to “Ugh, someone just gave me three out of five stars on Goodreads.”
Get involved, be involved, but don’t let the numbers define you. I’m doing the best I can to get Bringing the Boy Home (HarperCollins, 2008) out there and the rest of it is just stuff I need to let happen and not judge myself—poorly or glorily (no, that’s not a real word)—by.