It’s a pleasure to be here with you all at the Contemporary Romance Café. When I was asked to talk about the worst writing advice I’d ever gotten, it was a tough call. Not because I’ve had a lot of bad advice along the way, but to the contrary, I’ve had mostly great advice! Writers are some of the smartest, kindest, most generous people I’ve ever met. In addition, I’ve had support from friends and family right from the start. I know how fortunate I am, believe me. I’ve heard the horror stories of writers having their dreams dashed by naysayers.
Not that I’ve ever shied away from stumbling blindly through a tough learning curve. Like many writers starting with little or no “writing credentials”, I had a LOT to learn when I started out. I appreciated constructive criticism from contest judges, various critique partners, and mentors over the years, even if I didn’t always agree with them. My pride was bruised a few times, but it forced me to be more objective about my writing. Artists especially, and people in general, need to learn not to take anything personally. I decided to take the feedback that made me a better writer.
I think too, that the idea of “bad advice” is up to the receiver. By that I mean, it’s only “bad” if you take the advice and it doesn’t work for you. Otherwise, it’s just someone else’s opinion. Following your gut and not allowing the opinions of others to sway you in what you know is right and true for you takes courage, but it will make you a happier writer.
When I take advice that doesn’t pan out or refuse to take advice that doesn’t resonate with me, it doesn’t mean I’ve made a mistake. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. I consider it a consequence of choosing my own path—one of the greatest gifts of being an Indie author. I had a couple of well-respected authors tell me a few years ago that SAVAGE CINDERELLA wasn’t the right title for a Contemporary YA Romantic Suspense I’d written. I didn’t listen, and I’m glad I didn’t. Once I adopted that title, the book started winning all kinds of contests. The story now has two million reads on WATTPAD and I get tons of feedback from readers who say they read it on title alone. I think my risk is working out, LOL.
I also had several people tell me that my second novel, ON THIN ICE, had too many subplots. If I’d listened to the very good advice I’d gotten from some writer pals to break up the story and make it a series, giving other characters some of the issues my protagonist was dealing with, I could have written four or five books in the series. And yes, series books are selling like hotcakes these days. What did I know? I was a newbie and stubborn. Do I regret it? Not really. I’m proud of that book, I loved writing Penny’s amazing journey, and I know that readers who loved it are the readers I wrote it for. It’s not all about the money. If it were, most of us wouldn’t be doing this.
It’s that way too, with the whole self-publishing choice. Back in 2011, when hoards of writers were flooding the market, and I saw it as the best fit for me, I had several people tell me “don’t do it.” I even had a NYT bestselling author say to me, “You deserve to be traditionally published.” I took that to mean that I was a really good writer, rather than that Indies were somehow inferior—a myth the top 100 on Amazon dispels nicely.
Upon the advice from several writer pals who convinced me that PIECES of LOVE, my Contemporary YA Romance, “fit the market perfectly”, and now was the right time for me to try the “hybrid” route, I decided to give traditional publishing another shot. I sent out my truck load of queries and waited…and waited. But every time I received a rejection letter telling me they “liked my writing” but weren’t “passionate about the story,” or told me to change some major component of my plot, I knew in my heart that I was destined to remain an Indie. A few months’ time was all I could commit to the effort before losing patience with the process.
Frankly, I didn’t have time to wait for NY to decide my story was worthy, and the only person I want to work for these days, is me.
That way, I get to decide what makes for good advice, and what doesn’t.
Have you ever had good advice you haven’t taken? Or bad advice you did? How’d that work out for you?
PJ Sharon is the award winning author of contemporary young adult novels, including PIECES of LOVE, HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES, ON THIN ICE, and SAVAGE CINDERELLA, winner of the 2013 HOLT Medallion Award and the 2013 National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award. She is excitedly working on The Chronicles of Lily Carmichael, a YA Dystopian trilogy. WANING MOON, Book One in the trilogy, was a finalist in both the 2013 National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence, and a HOLT Medallion Award of Merit recipient. Book Two, Western Desert released in June of 2013 and was a finalist in both the Winter Rose contest and Write Touch Readers contest. Watch for Book Three in the fall of 2014.
Writing young adult fiction since 2007 and following her destiny to write romantic and hopeful stories for teens, PJ is a member of Romance Writers of America, CTRWA, and YARWA. She is mother to two grown sons and lives with her husband in the Berkshire Hills of Western MA.
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow PJ on Twitter: @pjsharon
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Purchase Links: Available June 15th for June 21st release
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