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5 Lessons Learned from Writing and Indie Publishing 4 Books

In the past three years, I have written and published four queer contemporary romances in my Juniper Creek Golden Years series, and I’ve had to shift my author career slightly multiple times since I started.


I always find it helpful to hear about other people’s experiences with publishing and how they’ve grown, so I thought I’d share the top five lessons (in no particular order) I learned from writing and independently publishing these four books in such a (relatively) short amount of time. I hope these lessons can help you on your writing and publishing journey!


1. Get other eyes on your work.

Since I’m an editor, I knew from the get-go that I’d want other people working with me on my stories. While writing can be a mostly solitary activity, publishing doesn’t have to be (and in my opinion, it shouldn’t be). I knew I wanted to work with at least two beta readers and an editor, and my team has expanded to include many more people.


My process of drafting and revising looks roughly like this: As I’m planning my story, I talk out the plot and characters with my spouse. He’s huge into TTRPGs and he knows what he’s doing when it comes to storytelling, so he helps me make sure my premise works before I start putting words on the page.


With Of Love and Libraries, I made the mistake of not sharing my ideas before I started, and that ended up costing me a ton of time because my core idea had a glaring flaw that I somehow didn’t see until my alpha readers pointed it out—and they truly saved my butt with their feedback. I could have avoided that problem by sharing my idea before writing it.


Back to the process: Once I’ve got a solid idea, I write my first draft and I edit it until I’m satisfied. Then the draft gets at least five other pairs of eyes on it (between alpha readers, beta readers, authenticity readers, and my book coach) before it goes to my copyeditor.


That might seem excessive, and I know not everyone will have the network I have, but the point remains: get other eyes on your work. Some people prefer receiving less feedback so they don’t feel overwhelmed by other people’s opinions, and that’s completely valid, but you won’t be able to gauge how others perceive your work until you ask.


Maybe one day I’ll pare down the number of people I work with on each book, but right now I find it invaluable to get different perspectives on my stories. I don’t agree with everyone’s feedback and I certainly don’t apply it all, but it helps me see my strengths and weaknesses, and my writing has grown so much because of it.


2. Do what works for you.


This was implied in my first point and will be implied in the rest, but it’s a lesson that deserves its own spot in the list: Do what works for you.


Every author will have a slightly different writing schedule, a different way of publishing, a different way of marketing, and none of those are right or wrong. We all have unique strengths and weaknesses, and we need to work with those to create a tailored writing and publishing life.


One of my top CliftonStrengths is Input, which means I absorb a ton of info all the time. It’s how I fill my creative well, and how I prepare to do pretty much anything. But at the start of my career, I was inputting so much and trying to figure out which authors to follow and which ways were the best, and that led to burnout and stalled my writing process.


There is so much info and advice out there, and not all of it will work for you. That is completely normal. Good, even! Learning about yourself and discovering what works for you will help you sift through the huge pile of knowledge and pull out the pieces that are relevant.


On that note, I highly recommend Becca Syme’s books. Becca is a success coach extraordinaire. She helps authors realize what works/doesn’t work for them and why. Her work continues to transform my life, and her idea of questioning the premise (QTP) is a solid concept for life in general.


If you like the Enneagram framework, I also recommend Claire Taylor’s books Reclaim Your Author Career and Sustain Your Author Career, which can help you learn more about yourself and what you want your career to look like.


One more thing to keep in mind here: What works for you won’t stay the same forever, so this is something you’ll have to continuously evaluate. Your writing process will change. The amount of work you can do will change. We change as humans and our life circumstances change too, so we have to work with that change and embrace it.


3. Be flexible.


Speaking of change . . .


I love this quotation from Katherine May’s book Enchanted: “Certainties harden us, and eventually we come to defend them as if the world can’t contain a multiplicity of views. We are better off staying soft. It gives us room to grow and absorb, to make space for all the other glorious notions that will keep coming at us across a lifetime.”


May is talking about flexibility and openness here. Not much in life is certain, so we need to “[stay] soft,” to “grow and absorb,” and this is true for author life as much as for anything else.


When I started writing A Tale of Two Florists, I had a plan. I would write the book and have it ready for publication in advance, then I would start the second book and do the same, then the third book and do the same, etc. so I could release the entire series quickly and build my backlist.


That plan kind of worked. I managed to release the first three books on schedule, but in that time period I wrote a version of Of Love and Libraries and a version of Wishing on Winter that didn’t work. Let me say that a different way: I wrote two entire books that I couldn’t publish. I had to rewrite them, and that changed my schedule.


Changing my schedule meant that I didn’t have Forever in Flowers ready to publish in February 2024 like I wanted. I had to shift my entire production schedule, resulting in a May 2024 release date.


My process for writing each book also changed. I stuck close to an outline for A Tale of Two Florists and most of Of Love and Libraries, but I discovery wrote most of Wishing on Winter. Then for Forever in Flowers, I used a mix of plotting and discovery writing.


If I try to force myself into using an outline, I get stuck. Going with the flow is a much better option for me.


Ultimately, I’ve realized that I have to be flexible and willing to change my schedule or my process when things don’t go how I think they will. One perk of being an indie author is that you are your own boss, so you have the freedom to work that flexibility into your business model.


4. Give yourself more time than you think you’ll need.


I’m sure you can see how that last point—being flexible—leads into this one.


We can’t predict what our lives will look like at any given time. We can make an educated guess, but we can’t be certain of it. We can’t predict sick days, bad mental health days, a death of a loved one, a natural disaster, a huge shift in the market, or a pandemic. What we can do is give ourselves extra time so that when the unexpected arises, it’s slightly easier for us to manage.


When I made my original publishing schedule for the Juniper Creek Golden Years series, I didn’t work in extra time for things like my depression (which makes it hard to write) or vacation time (which, for me, means no writing). I also didn’t work in the possibility that I’d write books that didn’t work and would have to rewrite them or write new ones.


Thus, I ended up here with a delayed release on my fourth and final book in the series.


I’m not upset about my oversight because it has taught me to be generous with myself when I’m planning, and not just in my author career. I’ll be slowing down with publishing in the future to reduce my stress and increase the quality of my work.


Wiggle room never hurts, but you will hurt without it.


5. Rest!


One of the things you absolutely need to plan for is rest time. I will shout this from the rooftops until everyone is sick of me and starts throwing rotten tomatoes at my face, and even then, I will parade around covered in tomato juice, still shouting about the importance of rest.


When most people think of rest, they think of watching TV or sitting around doing nothing, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about active, intentional rest. The kind that fuels your mind, body, and soul and recharges your creative spirit.


This type of rest can look like going for a walk, reading a book, painting, baking, biking, kayaking, spending time with friends, traveling, or trying new foods. Even doing chores can be restful in this way.


The idea is to free up parts of you that are tired by doing an activity that stimulates a different part of you. For example, if my brain is tired, rest will probably be something physical and mindless like going for a walk. I swear, almost every time I’ve hit a wall with my writing, a walk will solve the problem.


The point is, we aren’t serving anyone—especially not ourselves—if we burn out. And creativity requires rest to flourish. More on this in my blog post “How Pre-Writing Jumpstarts Creativity.”


So do yourself a favor, and plan to rest.


Plan to get eyes on your work, to do what works for you, to be flexible, and to give yourself more time than you need. And take breaks! Lots of breaks.


Let me know if any of these lessons resonate with you.


Happy writing!


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1 Comment

These are beautiful, wise lessons, my friend. Thank you so much for sharing these! I'm so glad to see how your process is changing to allow you the things you need as a writer and as a person. Hugs!

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