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  • "If I Knew Then What I Know Now..."

    Last weekend, I went to Legendary ConFusion, and attempted to sit in on as many writing-oriented panels as I could. I'm working through my notes and trying to share some of what I learned. Enjoy!

    This panel featured authors Lucy A. Snyder, Ron Collins, Jacqueline Carey, Tobias Buckell, C. C. Finlay and Ian Tregillis talking about the things that they wished they had known prior to becoming published, as well as some general writing advice.

    - How much writing time would be spent in the business and self-promotion side of things.

    As a writer, you are your own business. (Definitely for tax purposes) Treat yourself as one. We tend to think that when we get that book deal, we're golden. But the truth is, you are your own best advocate. Take the initiative and look for events and ways to get your name out. Learn to set up and interact on social media. Publishers may want your book to succeed, but you'll need to help.

    Along the lines of social media, specialize in the marketing that makes you happy and brings you results.

    - How important a community of other writers is.

    A good community of writers can help you grow creatively, and if you're at different places in your careers, you can benefit from their experience. While writing itself might be a solitary thing, having a community is really under-rated.

    - Love the craft of writing, and don't focus so much on just selling your work.

    If you don't love the art of writing, it's just going to be another day job when you have to do it full time. It's not a career with guarantees, and you'll end up pouring more of yourself into it than most day jobs. So make sure you love the writing process, the art of it, or consider keeping writing as a hobby.

    If you worry too much about 'getting things sold' and don't work on actively improving your craft, you'll hit a wall. Focus on the art and your work in order to improve.

    Challenge yourself. Write in different tenses, try different styles to keep your writing fresh, to give yourself new tools, and hone your voice.

    - If you take care of yourself, you will be able to produce good work.

    Watch your energy levels and make sure you refill your well. If you're constantly running yourself ragged, it will be a lot more difficult to sustain creativity, and you will burn out. Take care of yourself.

    - Learn how to give and receive feedback as part of your toolset.

    Feedback is generally good for telling you that there is a problem, not necessarily what that problem is. Learn how to take feedback from others and discern what really needs to be fixed. One of the best ways to build up this skill is to practice. Find a trusted community, and give feedback of your own.

    - There is no formula for success, and it is not a race.

    Take your time and soak up information. Learn about the business, about editing, about the craft. Learn from other people. If you are very good, your work will find a home. It may take a while, and it may not be the first path you try, but it will happen. Keep working. Keep honing your craft. Make sure your work is actually improving in quality. Go back and read samples of your writing from six months, a year ago. If you're not perfectly happy with it, it's likely a sign that you're still learning and growing, which is good.