Screw Rules and Don't Worry: Post-Publishing Advice for New Writers

My book came out eight months ago. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and certainly the culmination of many years hard work. The change from 'unpublished' to 'published' is a strange one, marked on the one hand by a definite date and time, and on the other by changes that are hard to actually notice. In the months that followed publication, as I continue to write and immerse myself in the world of Being An Author, I've become more confident, a tad more cynical, and a whole lot more secure. This post brings together a few thoughts I've been playing with - thoughts Past Simon might have appreciated, if he'd bothered listening.

He probably wouldn't have. Past Simon's such a prick.

So - what shall I call this? A Collection of Calming Thoughts for New Writers, maybe. Or how about Things I Wish I'd Known When My First Book Came Out?

Maybe I'll just call it this: Things About Writing That Might Be True.

Yes. That sounds good.

1. What whatever the hell you want. No matter how many lists of rules, trends, tips and secrets you read, the ultimate limit is your own creativity. You can't write for the market, but you can't really write for other people, either. This is so, so important. You can and should write whatever you want to. When someone else does really well, or when you feel low, you'll be tempted to change. Don't.

2. Social media really doesn't matter that much. It helps if you use it well, and it hurts if you use it badly, but if you ever get to the point where blogging / Twitter / guests posting takes up too much time or stresses you out, screw it all and step away. Writing your book (read: finishing your book) is the only thing readers ultimately care about. If being online stops being fun, stop being online.

3. Writing well is better than writing quickly. Don't put out something you're OK with if you can wait a month / year / five years and put out something you're actually proud of.

4. Cling to other writers and artists. Be proactive in finding them, sharing with them, and following what they do. Writing can be lonely even when you're surrounded by friends. Encourage others. Be kind. Love their work and share it.


5. Fight your own jealousy and stamp down the desire to compare. Others will have success when you fail. Others will be prolific when you're stumped. You can't make good things happen if your heart is on other people's work, and not your own.

6. Get out. Get out your house, our your head, our of your comfort zone (also, get your head out of your arse). Writing is a part of life. Don't be consumed. Ask others how they're doing and remember to be kinder than you need to be.

7. Read. Read for pleasure. Read new friend's new books. Read new friends' old books. Read books from your childhood. Read the big summer blockbuster best seller. Read.

8. The death of publishing  (or artists / creativity / the West / the world / hope for our generation) has been greatly exaggerated. Online journalism often prizes clicks and virality over quality, and everyone knows writers love to read about themselves. This applies to articles about the worth / value of MFAs, traditional v. self publishing, the state of advances,  'won't somebody think of the children' pieces about YA, and all articles that set genres against each other. The world's in pretty good shape.

Right. Got that? Good. Deep breaths, everyone. Time to get back to the writing.


Update: Eren! Audiobook! Moving to the UK! Harry Potter! Roadtrip!

Hello, all. Time for an update.

Various things have been happening since I was last on here. The most Eren-related of them is easily the most exciting. The audiobook - an actual audiobook of actual Eren - is now available! It's UK only at the moment - though who knows what the future will bring? I've listened, am absolutely thrilled, and still find the whole thing utterly bizarre. Still... here are some links for those who want them:

Eren also got a lovely review in The Guardian - you can read it here.

Since I last updated this blog, two other big things happened. First, I went to Universal Studios Florida, where The Wizarding World of Harry Potter blew my mind. The second was an event in Brooklyn with Neil Gaiman and Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket) - an inspiring, hilarious chat between the two that left me with lots to think about. These two things together - seeing authors get together, and seeing what can come from an author's work - had me thinking a lot about inspiration, where it comes from, and what it means.

(Side note: Harry Potter world is so bloody fantastic. It could have been so cheap and cheesey, and it really wasn't. Diagon Alley, with its hidden corners, its shops, its almost overwhelming detail, is one of the most magical and atmospheric places I've been. Hogsmeade and Hogwarts are just as entertaining, and the care and attention they've put into recreating the worlds of the book is mind blowing.)

I think seeing so many people, young and old, unashamedly loving these books was one of the best parts. There was no awkwardness, no holding back - just groups of friends and families thrilling in what they were seeing - and all of it because of seven books. It's a testament to what books can do and how they can change the world.

Displaying IMAG0998_1.jpgThe Gaiman / Handler evening was an odd, but thoroughly enjoyable, mix of free conversation, audience questions, and anecdotes. I think I took something out of it, though I'm still trying to work out what that was. The lesson that writers write, no matter what? That success isn't defined by anyone else? Probably both those things, and more.

Right now there's work going on behind-the-scenes on the paperback version of Eren, as well as my next novel, which will be published ... at some point. When there's news to share, I will share it. Until then, I need to keep on typing away.

Kat Ellis (Of Blackfin Sky fame) shared her top ten UKYA reads this week, and I was thrilled to see Eren up there. I should probably get better at keeping and sharing Eren's appearances online, but for now, I'm content. There's also more work happening on the (somewhat delayed, I know) Eren Tales. They are coming, I promise.

And ... that's it, for now. Well, almost. In June I'm going to be moving back to the UK to pursue my dream of being unemployed and confused by change. It's been seven years since I liked in the UK and, though I've visited many times, I'm still nervous. I hope it will turn out OK. I'm sure it will. Ha. Ha.

Before we leave the U.S., m'wife and I are taking an Epic West Coast Roadtrip from Las Vegas to Seattle, via the Grand Canyon, San Francisco, LA, and other places as well. I've read On The Road so I'm pretty sure I'm set. We're leaving in less than a month and it is very going to be mental.

More updates to come. Please buy my book? Yeah.