It’s my pleasure to welcome Kensington editor Hilary Sares to Writeminded. Hilary is my editor and she made my dream come true. I can vouch that her advice is golden (and timely).
Got talent? Great. Work it to the max but don’t forget that determination and patience count just as much in the long run. Once you’ve sold and the long wait to see your work in print is over—yay!—it may seem that fame and fortune are just over the horizon. Um, no (except in a few rare instances). So let’s say you took two years to write that first book. What made that happen? Lots of hard work on plot and character development, plus tons of polishing and maybe some critiquing if your ego could take it, and random semi-insane noodling in the wee hours of the night that produced some of your most original scenes and memorable lines…anyway, eventually you finished the damn thing and an editor liked or loved it and bought it.
You took your time with it and that loving attention showed upon nearly every page of the finished manuscript. Time, time, time! Add that word to talent for a winning combination and a nutty little mantra. Time-talent-time-talent-time! Mumble it often (but not on public transportation). You need both to succeed and they are inextricably linked. Keep in mind that it will most likely take another two years and sometimes longer to establish your name with readers, reviewers and publishers, and also to establish your personal brand—that means the kind of books you are known for. (Some writers like to explore different genres during their careers and they usually use more than one name, because they are essentially creating more than one brand.)
Anyway, your first baby is on bookstore shelves and you visit it shyly, like a new parent in a hospital nursery. You grow bolder and turn your book face out on the shelves when the staff isn’t looking, the bookstore equivalent of parading your offspring in a frilly bonnet or mini-slugger micro-sweats. Then…you get complacent. Baby is doing just fine, thank you. Or you get crazy busy. Life happens and you got stuck with the consequences of all that happening life. Time vanishes. Hoping to coast for a while? You can’t if you want your second and third books to do well.
They are just as important as the first: a new writer is not likely to garner sales numbers that will boost her reputation with booksellers. And if she or he hasn’t put in the time to make each subsequent book compelling and interesting…hello, returns and remainders. It takes time to write well, that’s all there is to it. Which brings me to the point of this post: if you are putting far too many hours into blogging and hanging out in chat rooms and joining discussion groups and boinging around on YouTube and so on, you are really not making the most of your available time—and you don’t get time back. Yes, writers have to market their work and yes, writers need to communicate with each other and with readers. All of the above are effective and wonderful ways to do that, but when they become more important than the actual writing…well, the books suffer.
Editors know that. We’re in this business for the long haul and we’re always looking for writers who can maintain the intensity and rich complexity that made their first book such a grabber. Takes talent and time. And now you get to talk back…