October 18, 2021

Things I Learned the Hard Way So You Don’t Have To

Suzanne Woods Fisher

Small ponds are a great place to start. I volunteered a lot of time as a writer before I ever became published. One of my first writing assignments was to write a newsletter for a diaper service and, in exchange, I received free diapers. Yes, diapers. I had so much to learn. For example, one time, someone mentioned casually that my verb tenses weren’t lining up. She was right! (They’ve lined up ever since.)

Say yes to as many writing opportunities as you can. And seek out feedback on your work, guidance, suggestions, editing. It’ll reap endless benefits.

Rejection isn’t so bad, once you get used to it. Toughen up. Learning how to take criticism is part of the author gig. When my first book came out, it was reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly (which was good) and promptly skewered (which was bad). I thought my writing career was over, before it even began.

Here’s what I learned from that experience:

-Critics have a bias.

-Critics can be wrong. That book, The Choice, has sold over 200,000 copies.

You only get one chance to debut. Don’t blow it. Not long ago, I was asked to judge first pages at a Masters’ Writing Class. In about twenty-five entries, most had so many grammatical errors and typos in those first pages that they interfered with reading the story. So unnecessary! So fixable.

Oy yeh! I should have majored in marketing. Marketing and promotion are half my job. Literally, half. They are entirely different skill sets, yet just as important as the skills of writing a good book

The Twenty Mile March. You’re probably familiar with the story of the 1911 teams that set out to reach the South Pole. They were led by two experienced explorers: Norwegian named Roald Amundsen and Englishman named Robert Falcott Scott.

Both teams departed within days of each other. Amundsen committed to traveling no more than 20 miles per day regardless of conditions. Scott stopped when conditions were bad and made up for lost time when the weather improved.

Stop for a moment. Which team do you see yourself on? Most writers would jump to Scott’s team, preferring to wait until inspiration strikes before they finish that book.

Tragically, Scott and every member of his team perished, only eleven miles from a cache of food. Amundsen and his team made it to the South Pole first, and returned back again.

The 20 Mile March is a great illustration of how consistent, disciplined action wins out over waiting for conditions to be right—because they never will be. I have written three books a year for over a decade by hitting a word count every single day but Sunday. It works!

Set reasonable writing goals for yourself. And then stick to your plan. You’ll be amazed at what can happen when you do.

Carol award winner Suzanne Woods Fisher writes stories that take you to places you’ve never visited—one with characters that seem like old friends. But most of all, her books give you something to think about long after you’ve finished reading it. With over one million copies of her books sold worldwide, Suzanne is the best-selling author of more than thirty books, ranging from non-fiction books, to children’s books, to novels. She lives with her very big family in northern California.

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