By A.C. James

I was thinking today about the epiphany I had when I figured out after years of writing, that writing is what I want to do. I won’t tell you how long that is because you’d ask why I didn’t figure it out a decade ago.

There were things that I learned quickly, and some that I’m still learning. Fortunately, there are a vast number of writers and authors out there with digital megaphones willing to tell you their personal take on it. Mine probably isn’t much different but for what it’s worth, I hope it helps those of you that are like me—still finding your way.

If you want to write—read.

When you figure out the type of books that are stacked next to your bed or on your Kindle the most, then you know what genre you should write. I would love to be able to write literary fiction. I’m sure my husband would be much happier if I wrote something less steamy. That’s not what I enjoy reading and it’s not what I’m good at writing.

Once you figure out what genre you like to read, you should pay attention a little bit, and study it.

Your idea is not original.

I used to be terrified that every unoriginal Tom, Dick, and Harry might try to plagiarize my writing if I didn’t register it with the U.S. Copyright Office or of course mail to myself. However, once you write it you are protected.

There’s a really long explanation listed in the Copyright Law of the United States. I think I did read it once in its entirety, yawning and with watery eyes as I made my way through its mass. Besides why pay for something that is taken care of for you by the publisher if you seek traditional publishing?

Everyone is much too busy worrying about getting their own story published to worry about yours. I’m not saying share it with the masses or to throw sound judgment out the window. What I am saying is that most people don’t care and not to lose any sleep over it.

Again, your idea is not original.

Writing is about communication. Communicating with your readers and knowing your readers. Otherwise how can you possibly write what your audience wants to read? It’s about communicating and networking with other writers.

Find beta readers and not your BFF, not your husband, your mom or your dad, or anyone whose criticism you’ll take personally or who is going to cosign your bullshit.

Join a writing group. Go to conferences.

I had a chance to hear Jane Friedman present and I swear if my sexual orientation were otherwise, I’d get down on one knee and bloody propose to her. She’s a wealth of writing knowledge.

Husband, I give you my sincere apologies if you’re reading my blog today.

My advice on writing groups is given with some pause. Not all writing groups are created equal. Critique groups that are extremely unorganized, support groups for failed writers, or social sessions with endless coffee—are not going to help you be a better writer.

Don’t approach the blank page with fear or hesitation. Write. And write daily. The only way you will get better at it is through practice. Worry about word counts and building up as you become more proficient.

Guaranteed your readers won’t be able to tell the difference between the day when you got a traffic citation on your way to your writers group, then came home to write, and the days when everything seemingly fell into place.

True story by the way, and no I wasn’t speeding.

In the end you have to find your own way, and do what works for you. Whether you write by the seat of your pants like Stephen King, edit as you go, or use the snowflake method, you have to figure it out for yourself.

There will be a ton of people that want to sell you something.

Research is the key to dealing with any contract, editor, publisher, intellectual property attorney, or literary agent. The internet makes research into each of these literary branches really easy. There is no excuse for not doing your homework—it’s just plain lazy. Not doing your research also wastes your time and the time of others.

Never pay someone to publish your work.


Most of all never let anyone tell you that you can’t or that you’re not good enough. I’m stubborn enough that the more someone tells me I can’t do something, the more it motivates me to prove them wrong.

You will face rejection.

Editor and agent tastes are very subjective. Not all editors or agents have the same taste. Same goes for readers. Not everyone is going to love what you write. Even Anne Rice had to face some particularly harsh reviews by some of her fans. It’s just not the best PR idea to write a response back, tempting though it may be.

Gone are the days of vanity presses.

If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, an ounce of courage, some technical experience, and the resources to invest in putting out a quality e-book then do it. It’s not to say you won’t ever publish traditionally. But don’t just throw something out there if your writing isn’t ready or if you’re going to give readers a broken e-book with crappy cover art.

Trust me; there are enough of them out there polluting Amazon.

If you don’t feel like doing the same thing over and over again until its right then find something other than writing. Plant a garden.

Write because you have to.

I write because it fulfills me. And I write paranormal because writing monsters has a way of writing the real monsters away. If you’re going into this to pay off a mortgage or a car, to get out of debt, or send your kids to college, then you’re writing for the wrong reasons. Those are a bonus, not a guarantee. That only happens after a lot of sweat and a lot of years.

Until next time…

You may or may not hear from me tomorrow. Husband and I are going to see Dave Matthews Band and moe. tonight 😉

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