If you follow me on social media, then you’ve likely heard me say often about how 2018-2019 was a whirlwind! Not only did I rewrite, refine, and edit The Harvest (Call of the Sirens Book One), but I drafted outlines, wrote the rough drafts, rewrote, revised, rewrote, revised, rewrote, and revised the manuscripts for The Hunt (Call of the Sirens Book Two) and The Harrowing (Call of the Sirens Book Three). And each book ended up being over 90,000 words after cutting all the fluff.
I can’t tell you how many times my number one brainstormer stayed up late with me to talk through plot holes or surprise twists each book could take. Or how much time I spent scrapping ideas and deleting pages and pages worth of story so I could take it another direction. Or how many beta readers got to read advance drafts. Or the number of times I wanted to give up completely after getting feedback from betas (actually, that was only once). Or how many times I was so tired and the last thing I wanted to do was write 2,000 words before bed.
The experience, though fun, was really hard. I learned a lot about myself as a writer and as a person… in particular, that I can do really hard things. I love that lesson 🙂
I learned a lot of other really important skills and steps that I’m hoping (fingers crossed) will help smooth my writing process over as I get to work on my new project. (Surprise! Yes, there is a NEW project in the works! I can’t say much yet since I’m still outlining BUT just think fantasy, kick-butt action, and magic!). Anyway, without any further delays, here are the 8 lessons I learned by writing two books in a year.
8 Lessons I Learned Writing Two Books in a Year
1. Understand your characters, character arcs, and plot points BEFORE you start writing.
When I first wrote The Harvest (ahem, six years before publishing), I just pantsed the entire story. Not literally. What I mean is that I just started writing with no real idea of where I was going or what characters were going to join in the story or when. It was a fun way to explore the world but it took me six years. Even if you aren’t a plotter (which I am now a huge advocate of!), knowing these basics will help lessen the number of rewrites, dumped pages and chapters, and give you a stronger story right from the beginning.
2. Be prepared to settle in for the long run. Writing a book is not easy.
I briefly mentioned this above, but writing a story or a book is not easy. Or, I should say, writing a good book is not easy. There is a lot to learn at every stage of writing. I’ve now published four books (including the free novella you can get for joining my newsletter – yeah, I know… shameless plug :)) and I still feel like a novice. Because I am. Authors who have been pushing out books for decades still have more to learn. Make sure you’re prepared to invest the time it takes to learn it. Learn about the parts of “Story”, if you don’t already know them (character, plot, climax, resolutions, etc). Read up on how to outline effectively. One of my new favorite books on this is Take Off Your Pants! by Libbie Hawker.
When I got serious about writing to publish, I made a lot of sacrifices to be able to reach my goal. For nine months, my husband and I unplugged the TV. No TV. No Netflix. No movies. Nothing. We spent a lot of time sitting side by side on our bed as I typed away at my stories. Every one of my Baby Girl’s naps was full of the clicking of my keyboard and the moment she lied down for bed, I was back at my computer.
3. Work within your own capabilities.
When I first started writing The Hunt, my goal was to hit 4,000 words a day. I was on fire, and I totally did it even surpassing my word count goal some days. It only took a week, though, for me to totally burn out. Suddenly writing was pure drudgery, and I didn’t look forward to working on it at all. I took a step back and slowed my pace. The long jaunt immediately became much more enjoyable because I worked within the frame I was capable of writing. This leads right into the next lesson…
4. Don’t compare your writing speed and process to another writer’s.
There are a lot of full-time authors out there who are able to write best-selling books and publish them monthly. Yep, every month. If you have the time and skill to do that, power to you! I think that is amazing and I am awestruck by those individuals. And, one day, I hope to be able to draft, write, and revise that fast. So far, I’m not one of them. And a lot of authors aren’t. That is OKAY! Experiment with your process. Set your priorities (maybe writing isn’t at the top of your list). And learn everything you can to become the best writer YOU can be.
5. Let others read your writing.
It can be daunting to send your work out to people for feedback. You’ve invested time, energy, your creative soul, and sometimes tears into your writing. And now you’re willingly going to let other people read it to pick it apart? Absolutely, yes.
The only way we can grow in our writing is from learning outside of what we already know. Sure, you could read a dozen “How-to” books, or listen to countless podcasts on the art of writing; but nothing will help you learn as quickly or pointedly as having others read your writing. They can catch things that you miss like if you tend to overuse exclamation points, dialogue tags, or adverbs. They can tell you if a particular scene had them in tears or if it dragged the story so much the struggled continuing. Those are things you need to know so you can learn to fix them.
Start with a small group you feel comfortable with. This could be family and friends or even a writing workshop/critique group. Before you publish, however, you’ll want to expand and get professional feedback. The more feedback, the better (in my opinion).
6. Expect discouraging feedback, but take it with your head high.
Remember how I mentioned wanting to give up? That happened after the first round of beta readers on The Hunt. Thoughts literally swarmed my brain saying: “You’re a fraud!”, “Why are you even attempting to do this?”, “Just give up now.” And boy, did I want to. It took me a good week to absorb the feedback and brainstorm how I could possibly fix those issues I knew needed fixing, before ever sitting down to get to work.
Let the feedback sink in, then get to work. Always remember, though, that it is YOUR writing and YOUR story. You get the final say on what changes and what doesn’t.
7. Don’t push yourself too hard that you stop loving what you’re doing.
I actually burned out a number of times while writing Call of the Sirens because that’s all I did. And I was moving too fast. Make sure you take time to take care of you. Give yourself time to recharge your creative juices. Take a break. Take a nap. And when you feel refreshed, sit down and keep going.
8. Don’t read reviews.
Okay, so this isn’t really writing related… but I’ve had a number of authors tell me to avoid reading reviews. I haven’t been able to stunt my curiosity yet, but I do get why they recommend it. I’m grateful to anyone who wants to review my books and I absolutely love to know what worked for my readers and what didn’t. Sometimes, though, reviews can be needlessly harsh. So, if you do choose to read reviews after publishing, learn what you can from them and move on. It’s hard to do, but you can’t take reviews personally.
There you have it! Eight lessons I learned writing Call of the Sirens within a year. It’s a little insane, as I start my new project, I’ve already learned so much more than I knew while writing Call of the Sirens. I’m excited to see where it all takes me and this new series!
Never stop learning!