1. The opening line is NOT the most important sentence in my book.
Some people would have you believe that your entire story hinges on that first line. Um, no. If you excel at the clever first line, fantastic! I sure hope you also excel at the thousands of words to follow, because that’s what builds loyal readers: storytelling. Do I want to hook my reader straight off? Sure. However, readers aren’t going to throw the book down in disgust because that first line isn’t the most intriguing group of words they’ve seen strung together in the last day, week, month, year…whatever. I’m a reader. I know. We’re looking for books, not one liners.
2. I don’t have to apologize for my journey in publishing, the paths I’ve taken, or not taken.
There’s always so much advice out there telling us how to succeed as authors, but the problem with that advice is twofold. First, we don’t all measure success the same way. Second, even when we do, the same path followed by two different people will have two different outcomes. Accept it and follow your path, whatever it may be.
3. I don’t have to justify the stories I have chosen to write.
I’ll defend romance always, but I don’t *have* to do it. My stories and the readers who love them are what matter to me. I am proud of what I have achieved with my stories and the people I have connected to through them. If someone else has a problem with what I write, that is absolutely, 100% their problem.
4. Living my dream does not require walking through a mystical doorway that will only appear once in my lifetime.
There’s this great fear that if we don’t say yes to all the things, our dreams will pass us by. Writers especially seem to suffer from project FOMO (fear of missing out). I heard something on a show I was watching the other day that I loved. The commentator said she had JOMO (joy of missing out). I like the idea of living in joy rather than fear so much! I’m old enough to know that opportunities come around again, if in different guises.
5. The quirk of fate is not the author of my dreams, I am.
Yes, there is some serendipity involved with certain types of success, but that doesn’t dictate the stories I write, or whether I believe in myself and my dreams.
6. A story has to have heart to touch a reader’s.
Plot twists are awesome. A strong plot is essential. Characters should definitely be multidimensional. But all of this will still fall flat if your story doesn’t have heart, and that is something I honestly do not think can be taught.
7. People who don’t like my writing or my genre don’t get to tell me how, or what, to write.
That is it. That is the learning.
8. Ego may need everyone to like my stories, I do not.
Not every reader, not other authors, not even every reader who usually loves my books. Every book is unique and has its own purpose and place in this world, but that place will never sit on top of a foundation of universal approval. It’s not even about being a perfect story. It’s about appealing to individual readers and they all bring their own life experiences and lenses through which they will see the story you are trying to tell.
9. Hooks draw readers in, but it is the story that keeps them reading.
We see a lot of focus on hooks and popular tropes in genre fiction (especially romance) and that’s great, but if the story isn’t strong, if the characters are flat, those hooks aren’t going to save the book from ignominy.
10. Writing is important, but it is not and never will be the only thing in my life.
I love what I do, but it isn’t the only thing I love. Maintaining balance in my life means saying no to some things, but it also means saying yes to others. To important things like time with my husband, or a trip to OMSI with my grandchildren, or time to read, or watch shows I enjoy. My life is full and I want to keep it that way, so writing must hold a place, not the whole thing.