Monday, October 7, 2013

5 Things I Would Say To My Unpublished Self

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.

I have a new book coming out in a few weeks! The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet is the second Ellie Sweet book, and it's about a teen writer.


Writing in Ellie's voice feels as natural to me as breathing because I was a teen writer, and like Ellie, it was never a casual hobby. I didn't view my future in terms of "if I get published" but "when I get published."

Being published was my goal from first grade on, and as a kid, I frequently daydreamed about it. About sitting in my apartment in New York City and sending my stories off to my editor when I finished them. I thought that's pretty much what my life would be (when I wasn't on book tours or the Today show, that is) and I was fine with that.

When I signed my first contract, I had a brief moment of, "I did it! I achieved my goal!" My family had a party for me, my parents brought champagne so we could toast, and my new critique partner (Roseanna, who I had known for only a few months) sent me flowers.

And then reality set in, and I discovered that getting published is like hiking up a steep mountain and thinking you're at the summit...only to find there's still a lot of mountain to climb.

I had been trying to get published for years. I knew all about query letters and conferences and agents and proposals. But I didn't know a thing about successfully launching a book. It's like if you spent all your time reading about pregnancy - what to eat, what to not eat, how to sleep, how to exercise. But the baby came and you hadn't bothered to learn anything about how to take care it.

Here are five things that I wish I could tell my desperate-to-be-published self:

1. It won't matter like you think it will. Even if I was having a conversation with my future self, I'm not sure I would have believed this. How could being published not change everything? If I were a published writer, how could I not wake up with energy and vigor each morning? How could I ever feel insecure as a writer when I had reached that level?

This isn't the best comparison, but for me, it was similar to getting my car and driver's license. Life certainly changed when I was able to drive myself places, but I was still me. I still woke up grumpy sometimes, and I still drove around with all those insecurities I had when I was just a passenger. Life changed. But it wasn't the total life makeover that I thought the license and freedom would bring.

Same goes for the book contract. Yes things changed, and yes I really enjoyed it, but I was still the same writer and person.

2. Enjoy being able to work on whatever you want. Because that changed big time once I got published. By the time I was contracted, I had conditioned myself to write full books rather than to hop from project to project, but it was still difficult to not go chasing that fun new idea that didn't at all fit my author brand.

Being able to write whatever you feel like should be savored because it doesn't last forever.

3. Stop measuring your self-worth by your writing. This is something I continue to struggle with, honestly. It's why I avoid reading my reviews, if I can, because I make it all very personal. You are a writer whether you're published or not. You're a writer because you write. You don't need to have your hand stamped by a literary agent or traditional publishing house to be a "real" writer.

4. You will become a small business. I had always been very focused on writing novels. I had never written articles or blog posts. I didn't teach or do anything with social media. Nor did I care to. All I wanted to do was write novels.

Well, those days were over. And I was not pleased. I did a lot of grumbling along the way (I don't want to market, I want to write. I don't want to blog, I want to write.) I wish I could have prepared myself for that better. I would have majored in marketing and taken a public speaking class. Learning how to track business expenses would have been a good idea too.

And after I explained the small business thing to myself, I would have said:

5. But don't worry about that. You will love it anyway. How could I not? My job is to write books! What could be better?

There are things that I wish I didn't have to do - like my business tax spreadsheet or look up competitive titles. Or one line blurbs. I could do without those. But every job comes with parts you don't like, and overall this gig is pretty sweet.

Even things that I would have thought sounded impossible (I'll have to blog three days a week? Sometimes more? But that's so much time that I could be writing books!) have become a part of my writing life that I love.

What do you most look forward to about being published? What seems like the worst part?


45 comments:

  1. Cant wait for your new novel to come out!!!!!!! **squeals** The thing I look forward to most is having fun with more and more ideas. It isn't as hard as your first novel. Worst part....I'm on a deadline. Ive got to get it done in ...weeks/months. Ill be so freaked out!!!! :P Great post! :D
    I was wondering if you have ever done the snowflake method...

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    1. Thanks TW! I'm excited about it :)

      And yes, I have. It was a little too much for me, but I think it taught me some good skills, and I think it's worth trying out.

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    2. I'm trying the Snowflake Method and thus far (step 3) I love it! I was wondering do u have to stay with one genre or can you do more than one?

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  2. The biggest thing I'm looking forward to is the feeling like people have read my story. I've written so much, but it's hard to find even family and friends who want to read a "hobby" book. I feel like nonwriters don't think of a book as a book until it's published.
    The worst thing would be someone reading my book and not getting it. I challenge people to think in my stories, and I'm a little afraid some readers won't put the effort and then blame me for a bad book. Does that make sense?

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    1. That definitely makes sense. And it's hard when you can tell people didn't quite click with your book, but you get used to it. And the readers who loved your book make up for it :)

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  3. I love this post, Stephanie. It's good to have things put in perspective right now.
    ~Sarah Faulkner

    www.inklinedwriters.blogspot.com

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    1. Hey Sarah, I know you said last week you needed help with your book. I was super busy and not able to send you an email. Do you still need help?

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  4. Ha! Seems like majoring in marketing was a good decision then for me ;) Love the post Stephanie. It's always great to see a perspective like that, looking back from when you'v eachieved it.

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  5. I can't wait to get my books out to the public. I guess I'm afraid of all the deadlines, contracts, searching for agents, convincing editors stuff. :)

    Thanks for the post!

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    1. You get used to those things pretty quickly :) You'll do great!

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    2. Well, hopefully when I get used to it I'll be published, not still hoping to find someone to publish my book. :)

      Thanks!

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  6. I look forward to, obviously, being published, seeing my stories as actual books and sharing them with anyone willing to read them. What I don't look forward to is deadlines. :S

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    1. Deadlines can be very intimidating but many writers find they work better with them than without. It's certainly an adjustment, though.

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    2. I feel the exact same way, Michaela. I don't know if I'd like to have deadlines and all the other stuff. What I DO know is that I'd like to see my book in print and have it sitting on my bookshelf. Pretty big accomplishment, I think. But requires a lot of though and prayer...

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  7. Thanks for this. As I've said before, I'm thinking about whether I really want to be published or not. While I'd love to share my stories with people and have them be that special story that means a lot to someone, I'm not sure I want it to turn into a business. I'm not sure I want to deal with number 2 up there, with not having time to work on what I want to write. And I'm not sure I want it to be my job, with how unpredictable it is. So I'm still kind of in the middle right now. Probably will be for a while, but that's okay--I've got a lot of writing and revising and polishing to do before I'd be ready for publishing, anyhow. ;) I'm taking this slowly.

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    1. I love that you're taking it slowly, Amanda! So smart :)

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    2. P.S. I love the cover, like everyone else...;)

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  8. Cute cover, Stephanie!
    What I look forward to most is readers saying that my book was there for them--whether they found the characters to be friends when they didn't have any, the setting a second home... That's what I look forward to having published. I want my books to places my readers find comfort spending time in.

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    1. Thank you, Allison! And that's a wonderful thing to look forward to. A dream like that will help keep you motivated on difficult writing days!

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  9. Oh, I can't wait for your book! :D The cover is so cute, too. :)

    What I look forward to most: The signings (if that ever happens). I'd love to talk with people who have read my book. It'd make it so . . . real, I guess. What I'm looking forward to the least: The rest of the edits I'm going to have to go through (editing is my least favorite part of the process). I'd say really harsh reviews on Amazon ('cause there are bound to be both kinds no matter how great I think the book is), but I've heard enough authors/singers/actors say to never google yourself or do anything that will set you up to feel awful about yourself. :)

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    1. Thank you!

      Yes, it can be very tempting to peek at reviews, but it's just a bad idea. I'm glad you already know that!

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  10. ~Congratulations on the new book! :D
    ~Thanks for sharing this too :) I really hope to be a published author some day as well, and NaNo is on its way soon! :D

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  11. What I look forward to, is inspiring teenagers to think and learn about God.
    What I'm afraid of is that readers might get confused over my books and not understand the message I'm sending out and instead focusing on something that goes against Christianity.
    Most of my books involve some dark things, including murders, theft, vandalism, etc. that changes my MC's and they learn from all of it (good learning, I mean).
    Plus, all this business with edits and agents, deadlines and whatnot. Gosh I never thought about that stuff, just thinking things would work out the way I wanted. It's definitely more complicated than I thought, like Amanda Fischer I'm kind of in between it all, debating whether I want to pursue publishing or not.

    (MJ)

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    1. MJ, I've found that the important things worked out the way I wanted. That my agent and editor understood me and understood my dream. And that they're smart people, so if they have a concern about something, it's worth pausing to consider. That's one of the reasons why it's so important to make a smart choice with an agent. You want someone who will support you :)

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    2. Thanks, Stephanie (or should I call you something more proper, Mrs. Morrill, maybe) I think I have plenty of time to contemplate my decision and I'll probably publish anyway, no matter how overwhelmed I might get.

      (MJ)

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  12. First: ELLIE'S COVER!!! Stephanie, I love it!
    As I work on revising my novel with an actual deadline enforced by someone other than myself, I'm starting to get a taste of all of the other stuff that comes with the territory. Like meeting deadlines and focusing on one project and pressing forward even when you've got 1,500 other things to do. And yet, somehow, I love it.
    I'm not a business major, but that sounds like it would be really helpful. I'd also recommend exploring a major or minor in Communications studies. That's my minor, so I get to take classes ranging from marketing to public speaking to dealing with other people in professional settings (as a natural introvert, that's awesome).
    I enjoyed this post, Stephanie!

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    1. Thank you, Anna!

      And what a good recommendation. I hadn't thought about Communications, but I see how that would be very valuable!

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  13. Oh, loved this!! (And, Anna, I'm a COMM major, and I so agree with you. :) )

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  14. I look forward to the traveling involved. :D I don't like the idea of writing a good book that someone wants to sell, but not being able to match that or do better. I found out the other day that my mom, whom I thought loved my story, really thought it was terrible. I dread the idea of putting my story out there for people to criticize and hate on.

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    1. And that IS terrifying, Tiffanie. I've heard some established authors talk about how that fear has faded...but honestly I think it only fades when you experience it and find you can survive it. It's one of those situations where the only way to get over it is to go through it.

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  15. Although I have never completed a novel (YET), I look forward to spark other's imagination, pull on their emotions, and leave their hearts tied in a satisfying conclusion that will not only answer questions, but leave them with new ones. The one thing I'm afraid of is not only people not getting my writing, but missing the point of the story. God gave us stories to tell as he writes our own stories. Why not use novels to point to Him?

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    1. I think that if you feel God is using you to reach people through novels, then people won't miss the point very easily. :) Prayer helps. Pray for your readers.

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  16. Love the cover, Stephanie!

    I'm looking forward to sharing my writing with others and hearing from readers. I'm least looking forward to the deadlines, though...although they'll probably be good for me :)

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  17. Nice cover! I can't wait for it to come out. I've read the first book three or four times already. :)

    Anyways, about being published: I look forward to other people reading my stories, but I cannot imagine having to stick to one genre. Most of my ideas are fantasy or sci-fi, but I also have a historical I really want to write, and I like contemporary, too. Sigh.

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  18. I'm kind of rethinking getting published right now. I mean, I've always wanted to show the world my stories and ideas, but the reality of it, from what I've heard, isn't as romantic as what I thought it had been. The idea of doing it for a job, of having other peoples' expectations and demands and deadlines on top of whatI want, is kind of scary. But I really, really want other people to read my stuff and I want to feel like a real writer. Your thoughts?

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  19. The worst thing about publishing. . .ugh, rejections. Work and work and work some more just to get query letters, synopses, pitches, and so much more together. Getting up and speaking in front of people to promote your book.

    The best thing about publishing. . .you know you finally really accomplished something!

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  20. Excellent post, Stephanie! I very much want to be published...but I'm terrified of deadlines and public speaking. I can take rejection, but having a time limit to write my book?! I can't even thinking about it.

    The best part will be holding my book in my hands, flipping through it and seeing the words I wrote. I've imagined that moment since I was a little girl.

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  21. Love this post! Publishing kind of scares me . . . a little. The writing world is so competitive, something that can totally bring down your confidence in your work - it would be like always standing and waiting to run your school level race. Those are the times I feel most nervous, crouching and wanting the start gun to blow. Although sending off my work to business people seems like a world away, almost unreachable, once that gun does blow, I really wish I run fast. It isn't the money I want out of publishing my books, I want people to enjoy my stories and the journey I've encountered while writing them just as much as I did. Writing isn't a hobby, I'd say it is a great aspect of my life. The best thing about publishing, for me, would be the feel of your own book in your hands with the brilliant cover with your name printed in silver letters, sitting on that perfect shelf in the bookstore. The feel of someone believing in you and the work you've produced (agent, publisher, editor) would also give me a great amount of faith. That is what motivates me :)

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  22. I love number 3, I think it's really powerful and I understand where you're coming from. I am someone who tends to take criticism really personally, and I tend to forget that these people do not know the real me at all, and they are just judging my writing. I think it's important to separate your writing from your personality, but they are so linked in my mind that I often forget to do that. Great post!

    www.alicekouzmenkowriting.blogspot.com

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  23. First, great article and great advice! To answer the question, I look forward to discovering my story clicked with someone and that it impacted them in a positive way. That will be something. The worst part is definitely people not getting it/ and or liking my story. But, if I get published (God willing) I will be taking advice from you, my friend Shannon Dittemore, & others to NOT READ REVIEWS!

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  24. Hello! I was researching how to publish a book and also how to take rejection when your book does not get published. During my google searches and mindless minutes of looking for an article to calm my young-writer jitters, I came across your blog site. I am a teen writer who hopes to publish a book for my graduation project. Your articles (I have read a few by this time) are really inspiring. Thanks for writing to teens who want to be future writers. It means a lot to us (at least to me it does)! Maybe, If you have a chance you could get in contact with me? In the meantime, I think I will just read some more of your blogs (since they are awesome and helpful). Any advice you could give me would be great!

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