The Writing Part of Being a Writer

Something happens when you publish a book: You need to promote it. I’m not going to go into what your publisher does and doesn’t do for you, what they used to do as opposed to what they do now. Other smart publishing bloggers talk all about that. Let’s just say it’s a given: You write a book and if it gets published, you need to promote it, no matter how shy you are, no matter how uncomfortable you are talking yourself up in front of people. There. Done. Deal with it. (And if you’re shy, check out Shrinking Violet Promotions.)

I’m in a bit of a reprieve until 2011, when this new novel I’m so freaking excited about is due to come out. I feel like I went through some great publicity hazing experiences, so I’ll be even better next time. I had my first group book signing at Books of Wonder. I had my first solo signing. I did my first radio interview. I did my first Barnes & Noble reading. I did blog interviews and answered letters from readers. I got my picture taken. I survived my first Kirkus review. I got my first royalty statement. I saw my Amazon ranking. I saw my book in stores and in my own branch of the public library. I laughed, I cried, and now I feel like I know what to expect next time.

My skin has gotten thicker from all of it, and I’m grateful. I learn by doing, and I grow from every experience I have, as a person, as an author, and most significantly: as a writer.

I’m in a pocket of quiet. And, right now, I need this little pocket. No book festivals. No events. No Google Alerts. No obligations.

I need to do that thing that started all of this, the reason I’m in this in the first place: write.

All so I can be better next time.

But it’s funny how the writing becomes somehow tainted from the experience of having to promote myself in the past. I’ve started a new novel—YAY!—and I am poised to work on a very exciting project while I’m away next month—YOW!—and in the past my way of starting something new was to write silently to myself in my cave for months on end and only poke my head out after I’ve rewritten myself in circles enough to see I’m ready to give it air. Now, staring at my first pages, I’m already thinking: Will he like it? Will she like it? Will they like it enough to want it? Is it good enough / distinct enough / interesting enough? Does it have a big enough hook? Does it fit a trend? If it does, do I want it to? Will it stand on its own? Hello, will it SELL? And if it does, will it keep this name or get named something else? What will the publisher call it? What’s its label? What’s its genre? Where’s its spot on the shelf? What will reviewers say about this? What will readers say about that? Will anyone want to read it at all?

Questions, questions, questions.

In the face of trying to address all those questions, you can find yourself not writing anything.

So I’m wringing out my mind. Letting those concerns wash out of me, swirl down the drain, rinse after rinse after rinse, till I’m clean.

Out go the what-ifs and will-she-likes.

Out go the what-will-he-says.

Out go the panic of future submissions.

Out go the labels.

The names.

The critiques.

The rankings.

The stars and no stars.

The yeses and the nos.

Out they go; I’ll gather them back up later. But for now—for the rest of this month, and for next month—I’m just going to be a writer. The kind who puts words down on the page and doesn’t let them see daylight till later.

I’m trying to, anyway.

It feels like I’m back to that point before I was published.

The beginning.

Where it starts and where it ends: with the writing.

Every single one of us—no matter where we are in our careers or our dark caves—can be found here at one point or another.

Writing page 16 or page 216 or page 1.

So, hey there.


I’ll be hanging here for a while.

25 responses to “The Writing Part of Being a Writer”

  1. Huh. This was a really insightful post. Thanks for sharing. As I just cleared the scoring-an-agent hurdle, I hadn’t really thought that far ahead yet, but now, thanks to you, I’m panicking about what comes after book #1! 🙂

    You have a great blog, by the way and I enjoy reading it, especially when I should be working on my manuscript! 🙂


    • Yikes, please don’t panic! I think the lesson for me is to embrace taking things one step at a time: to not look too far forward and distract myself with what-ifs, and to not look backward and distract myself with all the things I could have done differently. You’re in an exciting place with book #1. Enjoy it!

      Thanks about the blog, but I’m sorry it’s distracting you from your manuscript! Yours does the same to me, btw. 😉


  2. I definitely feel stress to score on my next novel. A few days back I was brushing my teeth when I thought, “Holy Crap. What if I can’t write anything else EVER?” 😉

    That said, I have a story to share not in a public forum regarding this topic…


    • Oooh, re: the story.

      I hope you can find a way to get rid of that stress about the next novel! I think I found the thing that works for me: switching between YA and tween, so the novel I just finished was YA and now the new novel I’m working on is tween. It was the exact thing I needed to help get away from the stress to make the next YA live up to IG, in my mind anyway. I guess that doesn’t help you, but you’ll find the way to keep it feeling fresh and new and exciting very, very soon.

      You know I have faith (or secret conversations with the universe… won’t say).


  3. Awesome post Nova! This really has been a problem for me since my first book came out (two years ago- yikes!) and I finally think I’m getting the hang of it (and all this time I thought it was just me!). It’s hard to be a learn-by-doing kind of person (I’m one too) and deal with new things as effectively as you want to. It is simply SO different to write post-published- and it’s a touchy topic because you don’t understand until you’re there, and it’s hard not to come across as whiny to the un-published. And trust me, you didn’t 🙂


    • Boni, Thank you so much!

      It really is hard to go into this as a learn-by-doing kind of person, but I guess this means we’ll both be way better (and in my case, I hope, way calmer) once the second time comes around. The worst part for me was the anxiety, but now that I know what to expect and that I can survive all those hurdles, including standing up and talking about myself in front of people, I’m much more relaxed. Oh, if only I knew beforehand! 😉

      It really is different to write post-published. I’m lucky in that my second novel was already sold before DANI NOIR came out… I can’t imagine how I would have sabotaged myself if I had been starting from scratch after the first book came out. But I’m in the midst of learning the lesson now, with book #3, I guess!

      Thank you so much for saying I didn’t sound whiny. I really hope not!


  4. For somebody who is shy, you are so unflinching honest, Nova. And that’s so refreshing. I don’t blame you for getting rid of the doubt. Ray Bradbury described writing as “first you jump off cliffs and build your wings on the way down.” seems you are doing that to a t.

    And re the star on goodreads – I hate star ratings, they’re so subjective.


    • Thanks, Bri. It’s easier to say the things you want to say in a blog, I guess. If I’m ever being *too* honest, I do hope someone will pull me aside and tell me though!

      As for that quote, I feel like that’s my life right now. I recently jumped off a cliff… and I’m still—STILL—scrambling to build my wings. I won’t give up though. I sort of can’t!

      Thanks for saying that about GoodReads… maybe you saw my recent admission on L.K. Madigan’s blog. Sigh. Oh, the fun of being a hyper-sensitive writer! 🙂


  5. I’m right there with you, Nova. Minus the first book part, of course. I’ve already had to rinse and repeat even though my first book is still out on subs. But I’ve been stalling on my current WIP for these exact reasons. I guess another rinse cycle is in order.

    Mind if I join you as just a writer?


    • Rinse and repeat: I love that, Elissa!

      Also, I would LOVE it if you joined me as just a writer. It’s pretty wonderful and freeing to be in this state of mind right now, I have to say.


  6. Oh so true.
    Many never write their follow-ups because of not being able to throw that stuff out. Many more of us (including me!) nearly don’t but have awesome agents to talk us through it. 🙂


    • Sara, thank you. It’s hard to push all that stuff away… but I’m making my way through it at last!

      I honestly don’t know how I’d survive all this publishing stuff without a certain awesome agent. 🙂


  7. It is so helpful for published authors like you to share this sort of worry; it helps unpublished writers like myself keep things in perspective. Writing is the career of my dreams, but I want to go into it with my eyes open.


  8. Good post, Nova. I can readily identify. As I work on my novel, I get a little flustered with all of the Things a Writer Needs to Keep in Mind. It distracts from the actual process of writing. As a writer, I feel you need to be able to kill all that noise in order to bring the story to life the way it’s supposed to be. Yes, all that other stuff is important, but if you keep it in mind as you’re writing, then you’re not creating a single organic story. You’re patchworking a Frankennovel.

    This is my first ever blog response, btw. 🙂



    • Daniel, I’m so honored that your first-ever blog response is to this post! Thank you!

      And I know just what you mean about the Things a Writer Needs to Keep in Mind and getting flustered by them. And, yes, you’re right, we do need to keep them in mind, at least if we want to make a career out of this, but as Sara Z. said above, this is one reason to get an agent. (A good agent.) Before that though, it’s such a difficult balance, but the most important thing is to have a novel to show for all our angst and frustrations, right? So I wish you all the luck in killing that noise. I’m going to work hard at doing just that for the rest of this month and next… I sure do not want a Frankennovel, haha!


  9. Hi Nova,
    I came here from the blueboards MG blog thread. I love your voice here! I wish I could find that pocket of silence you talk about. I’m struggling to work on my second novel without thinking (and stressing) about all that needs to be done on my first, which hasn’t even come out yet. And I have that voice in my head asking the same kind of questions about my second book!



    • Thanks so much, Sheela! (Fingers crossed that MG blog gets going, I’m excited about it!) I hope you find a way to silence the voices so you can finish your second book… and if you find a quick-and-easy secret on how to do so? Please, please let me know! My head’s been a little too loud today.


  10. Promoting a book seems to me as scary and intense as it gets. I’ve never published a book, but I really do hope that one day I will (if I ever finish any of my stories). It’s great to see a post like this, though. Hearing about the real deal and how everything goes in the great world of publishing & promoting.


    • Dom, I love stories. I hope you finish your stories and turn them into a book!

      Doing promotion after spending all that time alone with yourself writing really is an adjustment, but it’s part of the deal now… Even so, it’s not something to worry about just yet. Now is the fun part: the writing!


  11. Nova, this post was just what I needed. I’m struggling with book 2 at the moment (and by ‘struggling’ I mean ‘not actually writing’). I hope I can follow your example.


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