Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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December 27, 2017

Notes to My Unpublished Self

I sold 5 years ago. So much has happened, it seems like fifteen. With 9 books out in the world, the tenth almost complete, I decided to look back, to what it would have helped me to know, when I was on that scary road to publication.  I hope it helps those still on that road.


I learned this in motorcycling. Target fixation is a process by which the brain is focused so intently on an observed object that awareness of other obstacles or hazards can diminish. Also, the observer can become so fixated on the target that they will forget to take the necessary action to avoid it, thus colliding with the object

 I wrote three books before I sold. Add 417 rejections and 15 years. By the end, I was so fixated on getting an agent and selling, that when it finally happened and the euphoria dissipated, I realized there was another road ahead. A longer, foggier, more treacherous road. I had no idea what to do.

Lesson learnedIf you're working on a long term goal, like selling a book to New York, don't forget to look beyond it. Gather the resources and tools you're going to need to succeed after you sell. Very often, that's people who have already walked that road. They can give you pointers on where not to step.


You have worked so hard and for so long, that when it happens, it seems like it's all about you. You lose objectivity, and can make mistakes.

Lesson learnedI heard a bit of publishing info. Knowing it would help the authors of a large group I was in. I told them, and asked them not to forward the information. Of course they did, and it ended up embarrassing the person who told me, and hurting her, professionally.  If I'd have stopped and thought five minutes more, I never would have done it. Be Careful. You don't know this road as well as you think.


Unless lightning strikes, you're not going to be happy with your sales. And if you are in the beginning, once you start looking around, you won't, trust me. But the thing about lightning is, it's indiscriminate; You can't call it down. You can't control it. And neither did the person who was its target.

Whining, 'Why not ME?' and becoming bitter, is not a good look on you.

Lesson learnedDown this road lies madness. And defeat. You're not competing with anyone, except the author you were yesterday. Everyone gets pulled to the 'green side' sometimes. Make that time short.


Which leads me to my last note-to-self:

Your work of blinding brilliance is on the road ahead. Go get it.

What notes to yourself do you have buried in a drawer? Share them with us!

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BONUS INFO:  A new 'Write Stuff' Podcast about Beginnings!

Coming in July - the first in Laura's new series with Grand Central!


Carly Beauchamp fell in love with Austin Davis in first grade,when she looked across the craft table and recognized a piece of her, staring back. But her white-dress dreams always come in second to his goddamn rodeo.

Buckle in for the ride!

37 comments on “Notes to My Unpublished Self”

  1. As of today I'm still unpublished. I will save this post for things to remember. I do love your "Why not me? And becoming bitter..." Thanks for sharing!

    1. I'm sure anyone under Stephen King's sales figures is bitter, sometimes, Merissa. The goal is to only compete with the writer you were yesterday! Thanks for reading, and best of luck on publishing!

  2. Great advice, as always. Love that mug. My son gave me one a few years back, and I get it out on those days when I get so sidetracked with all the "other stuff" that goes with writing that I forget about the best marketing tool - Write the next book.'

  3. Even after I published I still didn't "think like a writer," thinking of it only as a hobby because of those sales numbers! Two novels and three shorties into this crazy journey, I'm getting better at telling people what I do. Great article, Laura. I hope your publisher friend is all right! I think that's my biggest fear, saying or doing the wrong thing that will hurt not only myself but others.

    1. Yes, Elise, I still don't forgive myself that one. Ouch. Best to your writing in the coming year!

      And YES, you are not only a writer, but a published one! (sales numbers do not count).

  4. Great post, Laura! I needed the "comparison kills" reminder! You'd think that after finally achieving my dream of publishing with the publisher I wanted in a category line that I wanted, I wouldn't fall into that comparison trap. But I did and it tainted my accomplishments and dampened my excitement. I like your lightning analogy. Thanks!!

  5. Yours is a great story, Laura. Congratulations and thanks for looking back (with humility) to share your cautions and lessons learned. We artists never "arrive" exactly. Best to enjoy the journey of learning, writing and and sharing what we produce to those that care to read and hear.

    1. Never thought of it that way, but you're right, Tom - we're never going to 'arrive' anyway, so why measure so often and so closely? Thanks for that.

  6. I think it's hardest for me when people HALF my age are burning it up, and I'm still plugging along. I'm happy for them—really—but there is a bit of "C'mon, I have less time left!" in me. However, I recently saw a meme that said, "Compete with others, become bitter. Compete with yourself, become better." Easy way to remember that, eh?

    And I love what you said about target fixation. We need to look at our writing careers as a journey, not just a destination. Thanks, Laura!

    1. Oh, I love that! bitter vs better - so true. And Hon, you're half MY age, so.... Just be happy you started when you did - you have decades yet!

    2. Julie, jumping in here because that "HALF my age" is a bit galling. I always tell myself "But I have so much MORE life experience to write about." So I know my stories are much richer than they ever would have been in my 20s. Plus, some of these "child wonders" will have their 15 minutes of fame and fade. I've seen it happen. Make yourself happy first. And I love the target focus. Ever so true when riding a motorcycle or driving a car.

  7. Thanks for sharing this part of your journey with us, Laura. You are so generous with your advice and help. Even being the "outlier" writer that I am, I worry about "wrong" steps and have ended up frozen too many times.

  8. Thank you, Laura, for yet another insightful post. I love your wit and grit! I was very fortunate this year to be (debut) published by Sugar Skull Books. 2018 I am venturing out to other publishers. Back to the scary stuff again!

  9. "You’re not competing with anyone, except the author you were yesterday." Truer words were never written...well, maybe, but you know what I mean! Thanks, Laura, for being a lighthouse in our oceans of stormy words and characters.

    1. Exactly, Chris. We keep writing and improving and putting ourselves in the way of the lightning, and it could happen - and even if it doesn't, I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing. Right?

  10. My problem is comparison - my writing to awesome published authors. How did I think I could be a publishable author to live on shelves beside the greats? Where do I get off? I'll try my best to take your great advice, Laura, and compete only with myself. I know I'm a better writer than I was five years ago, or even last year. Thanks for your insights.

    1. Oh Barb, you don't think we all do that?! I'll be Steve King reads his fave author & says, 'Man, I'm such a hack!'

      That's even worse than comparing sales! Don't go there! You can't write like them, but then, THEY can't write like YOU, either!

  11. Stephen King can always compare with Agatha Christie, whose 80 novels have sold over 2 BILLION copies so far! Meanwhile, I sometimes fear I was a better writer yesterday...So I need to repeat your good advice to myself right now.

  12. Since I'm just beginning the road to crafting a story, my expectations are not too high for publishing. So me? I'm just going to experience learning how to do it and then do it, hoping to share the results of what I've learned in a novel. It's the journey I want to experience. I challenged myself with a NaNoWriMo in 2013 -- I loved every minute of writing that story, but I don't want to go back and mend, I want to move forward using what I've learned these last four years.

    1. Good for you, Eileen - sounds like you have a recipe for success! Seasoned writers told me, before I published, to enjoy the time, wallow in the learning and the time . . . that I'd never have it again. At the time, I thought they were nuts.

      Now, I wish I'd listened.

  13. "You are not competing with anyone but the author you were yesterday" is a powerful statement.
    Thank you for the encouragement and the best of writing moments for 2018.

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