Hello folks! Today’s author is Mindee Arnett, author of the Avalon duology and the Arkwell Academy. Mindee is a fabulous lady and she has come to us today with a guest post about Writing Success. Read on…
Writing Success: What I Know Now (and What I Didn’t Then)
by Mindee Arnett
My first published novel came out three years ago. Since that time, I’ve had a total of five books hit shelves, the culmination of two separate series—my YA contemporary fantasy series The Arkwell Academy and the sci-fi thriller series Avalon. Five books in three years sounds like a lot, and it was. My publishing career started full throttle and stayed that way until I turned in the last book I had on contract around October of 2014. Then all of a sudden I went from full throttle to full stop.
So now what?
At least, that was what I found myself asking. The obvious answer was “write more books.” I mean, duh. But the reality is that it wasn’t that simple. For nearly two years I’d been writing books on, knowing with near absolute certainty that those books would indeed be published. Then all of once, the contracts were fulfilled, the deadlines met, and I was back at square one. But really, square one felt more like square negative five. I mean, I should’ve been ready to go with my next book. I should’ve been on contract already like so many of my friends. And I wasn’t. For more than a year, I wasn’t. During that time (well long before it, actually) I went down the depression rabbit hole. For those of you with some experience with depression then you already know how hard it is to be creative when under that weight. In fact, for me, it’s nearly impossible. Coming out of it was like try to climb a vertical shaft with nothing but my fingernails and teeth.
I did come out of it, eventually. But by the time I did, I was at negative eighty. So what went wrong? How did I get here after so much success? The answer to that is multifaceted, and some of it was beyond my control. Much in publishing is. After turning in my last book on contract, I soon submitted a few proposals, all of which were either rejected or turned down with a request to make some changes (which, to me, still felt like a rejection and given my emotional state, was utterly devastating).
It sucked. Totally. But afterward, once I got my emotional state ironed out, I came to understand that a lot of the reason I ended up so far behind was my own fault. A few weeks ago, my pastor said in one of his sermons how “faith that moves forward triumphs.” Although he was talking about spiritual faith, it spoke to my creative life, too. Anyone who writes knows that it’s an act of faith from start to finish. You don’t know if anyone will ever want to read what you’ve written. You can’t be sure you’re writing a story worthy of publication. You can’t be sure that the book will come together into a coherent, readable thing. You can’t be sure that you’re not completely wasting your time. In fact, most days you’ll struggle with doubt and uncertainty and the pressure to just quit already and save yourself the heartache.
But writers, real writers, move forward anyway. We finish the book, despite the doubt and uncertainty. But during my two years of nonstop sequel writing, I’d forgotten the trick of writing by faith. Even worse, the doubt monsters were so much bigger and stronger now that I had been published. What if it never happened again? What if those first two series were a total fluke? I know some of you might be eye-rolling right about now, but trust me, the pressure to publish post-debut is high. Once your first book comes out, its performance now matters. It’s like having a work history on your resume. Only, instead of the marketing team judging you as an individual, they’re judging how the company did as a whole during the time period that you worked for them. Like it or not, the publishing house plays a huge part in your sales numbers, but once the chips fall (read: fail), the writer is responsible.
Even more than writing by faith, I let myself hesitate and wait. I wasted valuable days, whole months, when I could’ve been working on something new. And that, more than anything, was the biggest mistake I made after my debut. I didn’t move forward. I spent time waiting for the edit letter to come in, worried that it would impact the sequel, when instead I should’ve been writing the sequel—or some new book. Anything but holding still. Then afterward, once the contracts were fulfilled I spent time writing proposals for books I thought the publishers would want rather than books I wanted to write, which is another example of not moving forward.
I’ve learned better since then. You’ve got to move forward, always, always, always. And you’ve got to write the books that speak to you and nothing less. Here’s the thing, before you find an agent and land a book deal, there’s no one to give you approval on what you write. Afterward, there is. That can be a good and a bad thing. The bad thing is that needing approval can be stifling. It can make you start writing toward that approval, instead of toward what your heart is telling you to write. You shouldn’t write toward approval, and honestly, you really can’t. That’s not what writing is, what art is. Writing comes from inside you, not without.
So yes. What I know now, and I didn’t know then is twofold. Firstly, have writing faith that moves forward. Get the new book written, the new ideas down. Don’t wait for approval or guidance. And secondly, write what speaks to your heart and nothing less. That’s the path to try writing success, and the only way to stay in the publishing game.
Thanks Mindee! Great to have you on again. Mindee is offering a prize as a part of our massive giveaway, click here to enter.
From our shelves to yours,
Erin & Mindee