When I sold my trilogy to HarperCollins in July 2009, I was grateful for many things. But one of the clearest moments of gratitude came when I realised what a smart thing I’d done to start working professionally BEFORE I sold the books.
There are so many wonderful things about having a contract, but there’s one really bad one – DEADLINES. You can’t take as long as you want to do thing. Procrastination becomes your most sublime enemy. And you’re trying to do all this during one of the most nerve wracking times of your life.
I decided to start working professionally eighteen months beforehand. I’d been having seriously problems writing and I’d decided to change careers so I’d have more time and headspace to write.
I didn’t have deadlines from publishers to motivate me, so I used my own deadlines – and my deep driven desire to give this writing gig everything I had. If I failed, it wouldn’t be for want of trying.
So every day I wasn’t working, I was writing. I had Christmas Day off but that was it. If we went away, my computer went with me. And some days, when I had the late shift – I wrote in the mornings before I went to work (writing after work was just too hard).
I also set up a proper writing space – no more on the couch or at the dining table. We went to a local office supply company and bought a desk, and an adjustable chair. Ergonomics was important – I’ve got lots of friends with back problems from writing.
This set up was in large part responsible for me actually getting the manuscript up to scratch, and thereby being able to sell it. And when I found myself having to fix up two very scratchy follow-ups and submit them, each on a six month deadline – I had the workspace and work habits to do it with a minimum of fuss.
Don’t wait until you’ve sold the book – start working, treating yourself like a professional NOW. It will make it easier to achieve what you want, and easier to cope once you have.