The Importance of Knowing Yourself

[Ed. note: Today we have a special treat for you, as fellow EMLA author Corinne Duyvis stops by for a guest post feature to celebrate the launch of her own debut, OTHERBOUND!]

Whether you’re searching for an agent, hoping to snag a publisher, or going it alone with self-publishing, writing is often a difficult and stressful job. Add the complications of having a day job, a family, and/or a disability, and it becomes even more difficult to keep up your spirits and your productivity.

My first novel only just released, so I’m in the early stages of being a professional author. I’ve still had my share of publishing heartbreak: the novels I’ve had to shelve, the agent that didn’t work out, the negative reviews, the rejections—both before and after the book deal–and I’m sure that list will only grow.

(Though, um, I’d rather it doesn’t.)

The most important thing I’ve had to learn throughout all this is me.

In order to survive this business, no matter which route of publishing you choose, it’s so, so important to learn your own desires and reactions, your strengths and weaknesses.

What are you looking for? If you’re querying or interviewing agents, it can be tempting to either stick to the huge names you see in the Twittersphere or to contact any agent who takes your genre. This can work out perfectly. It can also work out terribly.

To protect yourself from heartbreak and ending up in no-win situations, figure out what you want, and do it early. Do you value lightning-quick communication? One-day turnarounds on manuscripts? In-depth editing? Massive deals? Perfect author-editor, book-publisher fits? Do you want to have your hand held, or to be whacked on the back of the head when you’re not writing quickly enough? Or do you want to be left to your own devices as much as possible?

Know what you want, look for just that, and communicate your needs clearly.

It also applies to later stages of publishing. Some authors can’t handle feedback at an early stage; make sure to explain that so you can come to a mutual agreement about when to submit your work.

Conversely, if you’re constantly worrying about which project to work on next, you’ll want to find an agent who will help you decide, or you’ll want to ask your editor which of your pitches she thinks is most interesting. It isn’t a guarantee of a book deal, but it might set your mind at ease knowing there’s interest.

I’m one of the latter. I need feedback to stay motivated.

Not everyone will need this. Decide whether you do.

So far, this has been about communication, about navigating your publishing partnerships, but it works at any level.

If you know yourself, you know how you cope with deadlines.

Whether you struggle to write while waiting for feedback.

Whether you work better in mornings or evenings.

Whether feedback at an early stage will invigorate you or crush your creativity.

Whether keeping track of your word count helps you or hurts you.

Whether the magic happens in the drafting stage, or when you’re tweaking sentences later down the line.

Whether editing or drafting requires more focus.

Whether bad news can throw you off your game, and how long for.

And if you know all these things, you can guard yourself appropriately. It seems obvious, but it surprised me just how much of this I didn’t know about myself—or how much I thought I knew, and was wrong about.

Even better, it surprised just how much of it can be worked around with some foresight, flexibility, and planning.

Publishing is hard enough already. It’s OK to look around and figure out how to make it a little easier on yourself. Guard against your weaknesses, capitalize on your strengths, and tweak your habits and partnerships accordingly.

(And when you need it, don’t hesitate to break out the hot chocolate.)


Corinne DuyvisA lifelong Amsterdammer, Corinne Duyvis spends her days writing speculative young adult and middle grade novels. She enjoys brutal martial arts and gets her geek on whenever possible.

Otherbound, her YA fantasy debut, released this week from Amulet Books/ABRAMS. It has received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and BCCB. Kirkus called it “original and compelling; a stunning debut,” while BCCB called it “a brilliantly paced edge-of-your seat adventure” and praised its “subtle, nuanced examinations of power dynamics and privilege.”

Find Corinne at her Twitter or Tumblr.

OTHERBOUND cover

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4 Comments

Filed under Advice, Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Happiness, Helpful or Otherwise, Launch, rejection and success, Writing and Life

4 responses to “The Importance of Knowing Yourself

  1. Wonderful advice, Corinne. And congratulations on all the glowing reviews of OTHERBOUND! I can’t wait to read it.

    Like

  2. Excellent, Corinne! This will be a great tool for all writers.

    Like

  3. Corrine, thanks so much for guest posting! Excellent advice that I will take to heart.

    Like

  4. Such an important piece, because knowing yourself is fundamental to making good decisions in a field with little room for error. Looking forward to reading Otherbound too!

    Like

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