I came across this column and thought it was worth posting here. I originally wrote it for The Christian Communicator a couple of years back, but the information is just as valid and insightful today. Enjoy.

A few years back I was the keynote speaker at the Scholastic Young Artist and Writers Award ceremony. During the speech I remember telling the audience of young writers, artists, and glowing parents (they didn’t really glow like some phosphorescent fungus, they were just very proud) about the first piece I ever sold. It was an essay about a young man’s struggle to live a normal life despite a severe handicap.

It was also pretty bad.

During the speech I said, “I sometimes pull out that piece and read it just to remind myself where my writing career began. And I always ask the same question. ‘How drunk did the editor have to be to sign the check for that thing?’”

If I had only known then what I know now …

As I thought about that, I asked a few other writers a similar question. What one thing do you wish you had known when you started writing?

I thought you might enjoy the answers.

Brandilyn Collins

Cover of "Getting Into Character: Seven S...

Cover via Amazon

Brandilyn writes what Zondervan calls Seatbelt Suspense (don’t forget to breathe…). Her books include an excellent book on writing,

Getting Into Character, the Hidden Faces series, the Kanner Lake series, the Rayne Tour series she is writing with he daughter, and he latest novel Gone to Ground . So what would a best-selling author wish she had known in the beginning?

“I wish I’d relaxed more during the time of refining my craft until it was at the publishable level. That process took ten years—admittedly a very hard ten years. I kept thinking, ‘Once I sell, I’ve made it.’ Hah. Once I sold, the real work began.”

Mike Dellosso

Mike is the author of some pretty scary stuff, including The Hunted, Scream, Darlington Woods, Darkness Follows, and Rearview. It’s the kind of thing Frank Peretti and Stephen King might cook up together. And in the midst of making you wish you’d bought that Donald Duck nightlight at Wal-Mart, his books also make you think long and hard about some pretty serious theological issues.

So what issues keeps this suspense writer up at night?

“The thing I struggle with the most now that I’m a published author is the whole world of marketing and publicity. If there was one thing I wish I would have done more research in, more study of, and further reading on before my first book released it’s this matter of marketing, especially the grassroots approach.

“Money is always an issue when it comes to marketing so word of mouth is every author’s best friend. It would have been nice to know going into the release of my first novel, The Hunted, some powerful tools to use to jump-start that word of mouth.

“Specifically, I wish I would have learned more about developing a website, maintaining a captivating blog, creating book trailers, using social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to their fullest potential (I’m still learning about and working on this). These are things most writers don’t think about before publication but they are very important parts of the total package of “being an author.” As time goes on I’m learning more and more about this but constantly feel like I’m one step behind . . . a day late and dollar short.”

Austin Boyd

The first sentence of Austin Boyd’s bio gives you a pretty good idea that he has some interesting stories to tell: A Navy pilot and spacecraft engineer, Austin Boyd flew three thousand hours in war and peacetime operations, designed satellites, and built classified systems to track terrorists. That would explain how he could write the Mars Hill Classified Trilogy and make you believe somebody is on the International Space Station waiting for a possible invasion from the red planet. So what does he wish he had known back before he got his writing wings?

“Wow… what one thing do I wish I’d known long ago? Since my writing career began officially in third grade, I wish I’d known that I’d wait more than 40 years to publish a novel.

“Seriously, I wish I’d understood the importance of good writing over good marketing. In my day job I work a 50 hour week as a marketing manager and business developer at a major engineering firm. So … I figured that if I wrote a good book and then applied my lessons to book marketing, the novels would sell.

“I spent lots of money … a major portion of what I earned in advances … on my marketing. But before marketing comes good writing. It’s absolutely essential. First, our excellent writing sells to publishers. They are our first customers. Impeccable writing changes lives, particularly when done to bring honor and glory to the Lord.

“If we are gifted as writers by our Creator, we owe it to Him to put our best into our writing.”

John Riddle

Last, but certainly not least, is a writer it has been my privilege to work with at a couple of writers conferences. John is the founder of I Love to Write Day, and is one of those folks who lives by the credo A Writer Writes. He is a non-stop marketer, and a wealth of freelancing information. So, now that the commercial is over, what do you wish you had known, John?

“The one thing I wish I had known before I began my writing career is that ‘I can do it.’  Like many new writers, I had my doubts, fears and the wrong attitude.  When God blesses you with the gift of creative communication, they sky is the limit.  Unfortunately, I lacked the confidence which kept me from soaring like an eagle for the first few years of my writing journey.  But once I realized ‘I can do it!’ there was no holding back.

“Books, newspaper articles, magazine articles, greeting cards, white papers, radio advertisements, you name it, I have written it. It is an exciting journey, and each day I thank God for answering my prayer to work at home as a freelance writer.”

Well that should give us all something to think about.  ‘Till next time, in the words of the late Ludlow Porch, “…now go out there and find somebody to be nice to.”

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