16 Things I Would Tell My Younger Writing Self

Writer ComparisonsWhen I was starting out, I learned some of my expectations were myth instead of facts. For me, it’s another reminder that there are things in life I don’t know I don’t know, until I experience for myself. Can you relate? In hindsight, there are several things I would tell my younger writing self.

Sixteen Things That Surprised Me As a New Writer

  1. Book signings rarely spur big sales — they’re more hype than help. But good speaking events still consistently drive buyers to your book tables.
  2. Once you succeed as a published author, at least 25% of the people you meet will want you to help them write the book they’ve always dreamed of writing. For free.
  3. You will need to protect your writing time fiercely. The more you achieve, the more other things will try to impede.
  4. Publishing success is not always fair. A good book can struggle to find an audience, while a poorly written book can go viral.
  5. You will probably never feel like your book is truly good enough. But there does come a time you must say, “It’s good and it’s enough.” Otherwise, you’ll never publish anything.
  6. Once you learn the essentials of the writing craft, you will never read someone else’s book in quite the same way.
  7. Some people simply won’t like what you write, no matter how well you’ve penned it. A small percentage will even make their criticism a personal attack, but you must decide in advance to rise above the opinions of others, otherwise, they can crush you. Remember, there are as many varying perspectives as there are various personalities.
  8. There are a lot more givers than takers in the publishing industry — resolve to fall into the giving category, and you won’t have to struggle as much to get.
  9. When you succeed as a writer, a small group of trusted family and friends may accuse you of changing, when in reality, they’ve simply changed their way of looking at you.
  10. Real WritersIt’s often harder to sell books than to write them, until you publish enough titles. The more you write, the more your followers tell their friends, who tell their friends, and so on, and so on. Many writers don’t stick it out that long.
  11. Best sellers are often on the market for two years or more before they catch fire.
  12. Not all retailers that move books are bookstores or coffee shops. A lot of niche shops and online organizational groups can sell plenty of books if the content fits their interests.
  13. No one will care about your book as much as you — not even your publisher. You must take on the role of book advocate for every title you write.
  14. Writing provides the most daunting and thrilling roller coaster of emotions you will ever ride.
  15. You will need to involve yourself with a writer’s community, otherwise you may feel very lonely. Unless someone has experienced this crazy world with the intense interest of a passionate wordsmith, they won’t get it. Don’t hold this against your family and friends.
  16. The average overnight success takes about ten years. But the reward is worth the effort. It’s important not to give up!

What would you teach your younger writing self about the industry or craft?

Thoughts on Publishing: What Would the Wright Brothers Do?

“If we worked on the assumption that

what is accepted as true really is true,

then there would be little hope for advance.”

~Orville Wright

A lot of hoopla surrounds the publishing industry, these days more than ever. In the midst of the business, it’s easy to forget the original dream and heart of the artist.

This is not a new phenomenon.

Nor is it unique to the publishing industry.

Take the Wright brothers, for example. I wonder if Orville and Wilbur had today’s airplane industry in mind when they first sketched out their dream to fly. I assume they were two wildly imaginative, brilliant brothers who had a knack for ingenuity, and who simply wanted to feel their feet leave the ground. Who simply wanted to fill their lungs with air free from the heavy, constant pull of gravity.

Sure, they must’ve been pleased to see the initial progress of their invention, how flight began to morph into bigger, stronger vehicles which allowed others to feel weightless freedom, too.

But what would they think now?

Of the pushing and shoving and security detail in airports? Of gunfire, like rain pouring from silver wings? Of hijackings? Of crashes? Of bankrupt airlines? Of their beautiful, wooden machine used as weapons of mass destruction on 9/11 nearly a century after liftoff?

Of course, modern-day airplanes are still a marvel. Their massive engines bring orphans into the arms of adoptive parents; soldiers into the embrace of waiting wives and newborns; food to the starving; medicine to the dying; peace to the war-torn; relief to the hopeless.

All of these things–the good and the bad–began with a dream which lolled around the hearts of two gangly boys for years, and which eventually tamed the winds on a lonely, sandy beach.

And so it is with the publishing business. A single page of script begins as it did with the Wright brothers, with a small dream in a great, big heart. From there, the dream takes flight. And after that, it becomes a part of the industry–an industry which carries words to distant places.

Some stories give life and hope.

Others tear down and destroy.

Much ado is made over the various branches of publishing: self, electronic, traditional, mainstream, Christian, small press, large press, and on and on and on. I suppose this is not new. But the industry is merely a vehicle for syntax to take flight.

Our job as authors is to keep the original dream alive, despite commercialism, competition, money, and what all the writing blogs say.

If you’re an author (like me) who follows Jesus, our job carries the even weightier responsibilities of strengthening, encouraging, and comforting. As Christ-followers, we must choose building up over being edgy for the sake of being edgy. We must choose loving accurately over nosediving into the murky waters of what itching ears would have us say.

Write brave, yes.

After all, neither flying nor faith are safe.

But write with prayer, precision, and while feeling the weight of the cross on our wrist.


“The desire to fly is an idea handed down to us by our ancestors who, in their grueling travels across trackless lands in prehistoric times, looked enviously on the birds soaring freely through space, at full speed, above all obstacles, on the infinite highway of the air.”

~Orville Wright


What about you?

How do you stay true to your dreams and the truth you long to pen upon blank pages?

How have the Wright brothers (re)impacted you today?