I’m worlds apart from the kick-butt heroine that explodes off the page in my soon-to-be-released novel, The Blood She Betrayed. Shahkara is a fugitive princess on a mission to save her people. I’m an emerging author hoping to notch up a couple of thousand words by lunch-time.
Yes, she wields a sword and her goals are more epic than mine, but there’s a lot Shahkara can teach me about my Author Journey. After all, we both fight our demons, just different types. If my goal is to become a successful author, what can I learn from her?
1. You need a concrete goal. Wielding a sword for no reason (translation: just thinking about your writing) doesn’t cut it. Both heroines and authors need tangible goals, and to be answerable to those goals. If we don’t learn to master our lives, someone else will master us – and they won’t be mastering us to write books!
2. There’s going to be conflict. The more demanding the quest (and the more wicked the villains), the better the story. It won’t feel like that as sweat slicks our brows as we slay that demon (translation: receive yet another rejection letter) but the tougher the journey, the more satisfying the ending. Suck it up and accept that your quest is pebbled with pitfalls. Savour the bumps and bruises. That’s what makes your journey distinct.
3. Practise, practise, practise. You won’t beat the demons until you can wield a sword competently (translation: Glue your bum to that chair and write daily). The greatest demon we face is our own lack of self-esteem – we need to fight daily against this fellow. To quote Henry Ford, Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right!
4. Re-evaluate your weaknesses. Every character has flaws, but these can often be their greatest strengths as well. Shahkara hates her half-demon self, but those razor-sharp talons eventually save the world – but only once she accepts them as part of her. I’m an emotional person and, for a long time, that hampered my goals, but I’m learning to channel those fears and doubts into my writing. Now, all my weaknesses are strengths – and even if they aren’t, I don’t let them get in the way of my goals. I don’t care if I have to walk 10,000 miles more than any other writer, I’ll keep walking because this is my journey.
5. Know the layout of the land. Shahkara enlists the help of Max to navigate the foreign streets of Brisbane. Likewise, I connect with people and information critical to my career map. I read books. I attend conferences. I’m a member of the QWC. I learn from others who have more knowledge than me. I no longer waste time making stupid mistakes like sending a manuscript to the wrong publisher or sending it off before it’s cooked.
6. Make strong allies. Allies share important information and help you win your battles. Most importantly, they’re there when the chips are down and you need a friendly shoulder to cry on. Demons are never as powerful when we face them together – and don’t forget the power of social media. I treasure some of the friendships I’ve made on Facebook and Twitter and they often bring a smile to my face after a tough day.
7. Prepare to be transformed. Who doesn’t love the transformation scene? Whether it’s the apprentice becoming the mage (or warrior) in an epic fantasy or the misfit becoming the sexy chick in a feel-good flick, the transformation is core to our journey. We can’t change our lives until we change things in our lives. To become a successful author, you need to think and act like one. Change your thoughts and habits. It’s comfortable to watch sitcoms or chat on the phone, but a professional author writes the next chapter of her book first.
8. Accept the black moments. No one drowns because they fall in water, but because they fail to get out. When you hit rock bottom physically and emotionally, there’s nowhere else to go but wallow or push upwards. Like our plots, everything becomes harder and darker in the real world as we inch closer to success. By accepting and fighting through our black moments, and refusing to give up, we reach our goals. Knowing about other author’s incredible journeys always inspires me when the chips are down.
9. There’s no treasure until you slay the demons. Don’t let fear immobilise your actions. You have to slay the demons so you may as well get out there and do it now, then you can come back and enjoy the post-battle party. In the writing world, our demons vary from editors and critics; friends and bystanders (those who judge but know nothing about us or our industry); and, this is worth repeating, own inner demons of fear and lack of confidence. We will face tough times but we just have to get out there and get the work done. At least, at the end of the day, we have friends and rewards in place to help cheer our spirits until we reach our next goal.
10. Have a theme song. Or multiple theme songs. Every hero has one. I have a music playlist that peps me up when I’m feeling down. I have another playlist for my book – songs that draw me back into my storybook world (soft themes for romance, dramatic chords for battles). Every writer is special. We all deserve at least one theme song – and if that helps us achieve our writing dreams more swiftly, with a smile on our face, all the better!
The first novel in my Heart Hunters series, The Blood She Betrayed, will be released next month. For the chance to win great prizes (including free books, swag, a manuscript assessment and lunch with the author), sign up to my mailing list via cheryse (at) quietdawn (dot) org – and don’t forget to Like my Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/CheryseDurrant, for regular snippets from me about my life, stories and the manic writing process…
This article was first written for the Bundaberg Writers’ Club’s Accents newsletter, May, 2013.