What I’ve Learned as a Self-Published Author

As I wrap up the editing process of Royal Power (Young Power Series Book #3) and began venturing into the publishing stage (round 3), I’ve been doing a lot of thinking regarding what has worked in my writing career, what I can improve on, and what’s been successful.

I hope the below helps anyone pursuing creative writing. And I welcome tips in the comments section!

A photo of my best writing friend.

Writing isn’t a hobby, it’s a part-time job.
I once learned in an acting class that for every minute of performance, there’s at minimum 10 hours of practice (insane, right?). Then I quickly realized the same concept goes with writing. For every drafted page, it can take (for me) up to 30 minutes to write. For revising a chapter, it can take up to two hours. For reading a final manuscript, 50+ hours (depending on the length).

You have to look at it as a job and dedicate a substantial amount of your spare time to it. Pre-pandemic, it was an 90 minutes commuting to/from work. Now it’s 1-2 hours in the evening after my “9 to 5” and even more time on the weekend. And it’s hard. I often have to deliberate how to spend my spare time, either socializing or working on my WIP (work in progress / manuscript) and/or marketing my series. A dinner with friends takes away from a night I could have worked on my writing endeavors, watching a television show or movie takes away from time I could be reading other works and learning from the author’s style and their stories. It’s a never-ending balancing act, to which you always wish there was more time. Even now, I could be sleeping – but alas, I’ve chosen to write a blog post about writing.

You have to be confident in the work you do and be willing to put yourself out there.
I distinctly remember the feeling I had when my friend read my first draft of Young Power – anxiety, worry, nervousness (I mean, I had spent a year on a project, if she hated it I totally would feel like I wasted a year). I was fortunate that she was the right target audience, liked it and was kind with her feedback and questions. Sometimes that is not the case, especially when you’re reviewing your own work. As a writer, you will always be your harshest critic, but there are still some tough ones out there, too. So you have to remember the reason why you started writing in the first place and focus on that.

Another area is marketing and promoting your work. I also remember reading an article that said as soon as you write a book, to no longer consider yourself a “writer” but an author – and tell everyone that it’s your profession (easier said than done). As a full-time publicist, I thought it would be easy. It turns out promoting a brand is much easier than promoting yourself. For Royal Power, I’m challenging myself to put myself out there more, pitch my story to more editors and expand my communications reach for the Young Power Series. So, for those who like me – get excited. For those who are tired of me – I apologize in advance.

If you have a great story – your readers will work for you.
I am continuously grateful for those who have read the Young Power Series and give me validity and reason for the crazy writing journey I’ve ventured into. It started during a consulting call about book marketing when I learned the term, “Bookstagram.” I often wonder where I would be if I didn’t have that call. From that insight, I created a bookstagram account (@YoungPowerSeries, follow me!) and started blindly pitching strangers whose photos I liked and taste in books felt similar to mine. From Norway to Canada, Texas to Serbia, I’m so happy that readers have become friends and quotes and characters in my mind have become mugs and sweatshirts. I truly don’t deserve the Bookstagram community but am so glad to be apart of it.

Additionally, WOM (Word of Mouth) is incredibly important, so getting your book in front of readers to review and (hopefully) enjoy it enough to recommend to others is super helpful.

And on those days when you wonder if you should give up, or just feel overwhelmed, that’s where the support and purpose can help drive you forward and through. There have been multiple times where I have wondered “what am I doing!?” and miraculously, as if someone heard my pleading cry because more often than not, I get some message from a reader that unintentionally inspires me and gives me the strength to keep going.

Write tipsy, edit sober.
All jokes aside, cultivating a creative space is equally as important for successful writing. I don’t have to be drinking alcohol to write – but I need to be in the right head space. For me, that means I need a clean/tidy area, mood-appropriate music, uninterrupted time and manicured nails (if not, I tear them apart from stress and get distracted by them when I’m thinking). If it’s after 4pm, I’ll add a whisky or White Claw. And I will say, when I revise my work – I can tell which parts I wrote with a cocktail at my desk, and it’s usually my better writing (mind the misspelled words and sometimes inaccurate thoughts). The point is, you need to find out how to get your creative juices flowing and what works best for you.

Pinterest, Notes, Tabs, Outline, e-Books, Text
I shouldn’t give advice on how to organize the details in plot, character or story. I use all of the above. My ultimate advice is do whatever works best for you. With that said, this is what works for me:

With the Young Power Series, I knew I wanted it to be grounded in greek mythology. So, I read a lot of greek mythology and took notes on everything that could be of use. These notes remain at the end of every WIP. But, by Royal Power – I barely deferred to them.

To create characters and scenery and general ideas, I scoured Pinterest and made a Young Power Mood Board. Now Pinterest is even more organized where you can create sub-boards, so I’m looking forward to that extra organization for Eternal Power. Usually, I try to imagine a celebrity as my character (it helps me play out scenes in my head), and to that point – I play imaginary scenes in my head like I’m watching a movie in my mind. (Still curious if other people are able to do this? It’s how I fall asleep every night).

Since Young Power, I’ve also build a general plot outline that has also carried over from WIP to WIP, along with the notes. Before diving into the actual writing, I organize the plot and then work through that to guide each scene. Sometimes following it is easier than other times, usually I need to develop a scene as a segue to get from point A to B. It’s a process. Don’t ever consider your ‘outline’ concrete.

And, while I’m dreaming at night or driving in the car and playing through scenes or discovering a character’s voice/quote that needs to be in the book – I text myself. (Siri helps if I’m ‘handsfree’, of course.) Non book-related, if I ever need to remember a fact or to do something later, I text myself. My phone is always with me. My notebook, laptop, iPad… you name it, are oh-so-conveniently never with me or nearby when inspiration strikes.

Finally, after writing three books, I realized I really don’t have definitive characteristics of my characters, settings, world-building, facts etc. organized in one place. A little after the fact, I’m re-reading Young Power (Book #1) and doing that now. In all honesty, I have digital files of the books and the search function is truly my best friend. If I need to remember a fact about someone or something, I can usually find it pretty quickly in the existing materials and go from there. On the other hand, this is probably why I find myself re-reading my books constantly.

So net-net, I do everything. Because everything works for me.

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