A few weeks ago I wrote a piece for a guest blog piece on Monique Mulligan’s blog. It is part of a feature of guest blogs she’s doing titled, ‘Letter to My Unpublished Self’. I think it’s pretty self-explanatory what it is supposed to be about. I wrote a lovely letter and then had to shorten it up somewhat for the guest blog, but then thought, what the hell, why not share the longer version here.
So, here goes – the original letter to my unpublished self.
Dear Unpublished Leisl Leighton,
So, what do you need to know about the journey ahead? I don’t know that there’s anything I can tell you that will make it not hard, but I can tell you 10 things that will make it easier:
- Get some writing peeps. Family and friends are amazing but they can never really understand the insanity that is the need to write, the drive to have the stories and characters in your head out there in the world. They can’t understand the lonely, thankless, soul destroying part of it that makes it more than a hobby or some funny thing Leisl does to while away the time – it is a calling. Writers write. You are a writer and you need to surround yourself with other writers. Join writing groups. Join a writing organisation (Romance Writers of Australia – RWA – is a wonderful fit for us, and believe it or not, you will eventually become the president of that amazing organisation for 3 wild, difficult years). Get critique partners and swap work. Take the plunge and do the 5DI (5 day intensive) program RWA offered because you will meet one of your best writing friends there and will lead to you, her and another writing friend you can’t do without meeting up for annual writing retreats that are necessary on so many levels.
2. Join RWA. Join RWA. Join RWA.
3. Go to the conferences RWA holds every year. I know it will be hard – the idea of walking into a room full of mostly women you don’t know is as appealing as a punch in the head – but it will be so worth it you will fall down on your knees and thank me for insisting you go do that.
4. Learn. Keep learning. Don’t stop learning. Read books and more books. Think about why you enjoyed or didn’t enjoy them. Read blogs and books on writing. Do workshops. Talk to other writers on social media. Be in a writing group with writers who write in different genres and have different contacts and POV and learn from them as you share with them. Learn from every book you write. Even the shit ones that will never see the light of day will teach you something important. Keep on writing and learning.
5. Finish the book. Then, understand that first draft is word vomit on a page and it’s simply there to help you understand what it is you truly want to write about. Then go back and write that. Then redraft and polish and get feedback and polish and then submit. Don’t keep hanging on to it trying to make it perfect. Just make it as good as you can and move on.
6. Learn that writing pitches and synopsis aren’t something to be afraid of, but are a great way of figuring out what might be lacking in your novel. If you can’t articulate the themes and GMCs of your novel in a few sentences, or half a page, then you most definitely have a problem and need to work on that. Oh, and GMC is one of those things like POV and ‘Show don’t Tell’ and the many other multitude of craft stuff you are going to have to learn about – but don’t be afraid of those things either. You will get a full understanding of what they are and how to use them on your journey.
7. Back yourself. Put your work out there. In contests to get feedback and in front of judges both here and in the US (the US will be where you will have the most success, winning and placing in many contests). Pitch at conferences and if anyone asks you to send them your work, send it to them – about 75% of people who submit at conference never send what has been requested, so don’t ever waste an opportunity. Read submission guidelines, follow them then press send. Backing yourself will also help you to get your amazing agent, Alex Adsett, who is an incredible advocate and an all round wonderful person to business plan with and have on your side.
8. Persist. Nobody is ever going to hand anything to you on a silver platter in this business – you have to work for it. So, if it’s what you want (and believe me, you want it) keep writing and getting better and trying different things until you figure out what way is your way then write that way and keep going. Don’t stop. This is what we want and it will happen, in spits and spurts at times, but it will happen. When your books are out there and others are reading and enjoying them, it is glorious.
9. Know that life happens and things get in the way and that’s okay. Give yourself room to breathe and stop putting so much pressure on yourself to always do that perfect amount of writing. Don’t expect to write in school holidays and weekends – you may get time and that’s great, but don’t put that pressure on yourself, because it will only make you miserable. Enjoy the writing – it’s important – but so is family and friends and life. You can’t write about it if you aren’t living it.
10. Say yes. Even when you think you can’t, that it’s impossible, that’s when you should say yes the most. Saying yes leads to some of the most amazing experiences including being RWA President for three years, singing at the 25th anniversary RWA conference for Harlequin Australia at the cocktail party and working with an amazing group of writers on an incredible series that has been one of the best selling books you’ve written to date.
So dear unpublished me, as you start on this wild, amazing journey, know that all the above is true and that if you trust in that, you will be okay. More than okay. You will be multiply published in the paranormal and romantic suspense genres, be starting up a manuscript assessing and mentoring business and thoroughly enjoying every moment – even the hard pushing shit-up-hill moments when the novel just doesn’t seem to work, because you have your writing peeps to help clear your thoughts and get you back on track, not to mention everything else you’ve learned to help you figure the best way forward.
Have fun and may the muse be with you.
Currently the author of the Pack Bound series – Pack Bound, Moon Bound, Shifter Bound and Wolf Bound – available on AmazonHere, iBooks Here, Google Play Here, Kobo Here and at all other good ebook sellers.
Also the author of Dangerous Echoes, Book 1 in the Echo Springs Series is available as an ebook at: iBooks, Google Play, Kobo, Amazon AU or in print in the four book series, Echo Springs, at Big W, Kmart and online at Angus&Robertson, Booktopia, The Nile, Boomerang Books, Dymocks
And author of Climbing Fear, Book 1 of the CoalCliff Stud Series, available for pre-order at: iTunes, Amazon Aus, Amazon US, Kobo, Google Play and Blazing Fear, Book 2 of the CoalCliff Stud Series will be out early 2020.