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?