If I knew then what I know now . . .
I would never read a book review, good or bad. What other people think just doesn't matter. Write what you want to read. Make yourself laugh/cry/whatever. Then send it in. Move on.
I would never fight my editor over a plot point. Contrary to what I just said, there is one person whose opinion you should listen too. Editors have to prove their commercial instincts in order to get the job in the first place. If your editor tells you that your hero isn't sexy, then he probably isn't. Kill him and replace him.
I would never believe my own press, good or bad. If you sell yourself short, you'll get paid that way, too. If you bank too much on your success, that can also bite you in the assets. Nobody wants to work with a diva. This author gets lots of attention, but not the good kind. As long as the books sell well, that's fine. If one day they don't, this person gets dumped a lot sooner than someone who is a joy to work with.
I would carve out an office space for myself, even unpublished, because my work is important, too. A corner of the kitchen doesn't cut it. A disorganized workspace slows you down. You could have written three more pages in the time you spent searching for that double-faced tape!
I would never stress about housework, yard work, or bake sales. Somehow the dishes got washed, the grass got cut and somebody baked some cookies. It wasn't always me and the world somehow survived it.
I would take better care of my health. Writing two or three books a year is hard on your body and that piper will someday pass your name on to a collection agency. The time and money you didn't spend on workouts and nutrition will now be taken up by chiropractors and MRIs.
I would trust myself more. So many hours, weeks, months were wasted on "how should I write this part?" and "I think I might have to cut that part and it's really good but . . . ". Just write it. Just cut it. Deep down you know you're going to have to. Do it and move on.
I would work consistently and steadily, with daily goals, weekly goals and monthly goals. Booorinng. Do it anyway. Deadline drama might be fun for a few books, but if you still want to be in the game 17 books later it isn't worth it.
I would save more money. It's tempting to think that the advances are your paycheck and the royalties are gravy. Or that your spouse's income is what you live on and your writing money is for fun. Put away 10% of every penny that crosses your mailbox. Every single time.
I would prepay my taxes. Pay them after you bank your 10% and before you pay a single bill or splurge on a single sweater. If you put 15% of every check into your IRS account, there will be no nasty surprises come April.
I would ignore all the rules of writing and publishing and I would submit my work anywhere and anywhen I pleased. Simultaneous submissions are fine! Go ahead! Remember, you don't work for them yet! Worst case scenario, you'll have two houses interested at once. Play dumb, apologize and let your agent do the talking! (Okay, I'll admit it. I submitted all over the place. The submission police did not roll in, sirens blaring. I got published in one year.)
I would pay attention to how my agent makes me feel. Just like any other relationship, a good one makes you feel good, a bad one makes you feel bad. If an agent ever makes you feel stupid or annoying because you had a question or a problem, then DROP THEM. This is a partnership, as in "you are an equal member!"
Some things I did right, without realizing it . . .
I paid attention to how I felt reading my work. If at any point I was bored, I cut it. If I didn't still like it after I'd read it fifteen times, I rewrote it. If it still made me laugh after fifteen times, I kept it in at all cost.
I worked hard. I wrote hard. 17 single-title novels in 9 years. Four different series. I used all my best ideas up front, never saving anything back, trusting that I would have more great ideas in the future. I did.
I never stopped working. I wrote a book and then put it behind me and wrote another one. In the year that it took for my first book to be published, I had written another one and was halfway through a third.
I never said no. I never turned down an offer. Maybe it isn't skillful time management but I still never turn down a chance to write a novel, write a novella, write an article, review a book, write a guest-blog, share a pizza. An invitation to dinner garnered an introduction to my current editor, where I had the chance to pitch my first series. If opportunity is knocking, answer the dang door! You can figure out where it's going to sleep later on.
I believed in my own taste. I wrote what I wanted to read. I love genre fiction. I love fast-paced, adventurous, sexy, honest books. I threw a party in my own head, then wrote it down for everyone else to read.
I never bothered to be jealous of anyone else's success. It has nothing to do with me. If anything, another romance author's success means that the market is hopping and readers are reading! Go Team Romance! A bigger advance than mine? No worries, because I have faith in the longevity of my work. Everything I've ever written is still in print, still sending money home to Mama.
I wrote series. It was a smart decision, but to be truthful, I can't help it. I think in series. Trilogies, quartets, open-ended series. As a reader, if I like something I want MORE. As a writer, if I like a world or a group of characters, I want to tell more stories about them.
I didn't join a critique group. Yes, I know, it isn't the usual gospel, but please refer back to earlier in the list. Other people's opinions just don't matter. Other writers have serious opinions. They can't help it. I read a lot of unpublished work and I can always tell if a story has been muddled by group thinking. I have readers, but none of them are writers. They are actual readers. All they can tell me is if they are confused, or bored, or having a great time. That is all I need to know.
So. . .trust yourself. Save your money. Pay your taxes. Spend your ideas like play money and trust you'll have more where those came from. Have fun. If you write fun, it will read fun!
All the best,
Celeste Bradley (who still delegates the dishes whenever possible!)