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How I Found The Write Path

This post is a special letter to the Me of 2011 as part of Carrie A. Butler's project, HOW I FOUND THE WRITE PATH. You can find this letter among 60 others in the FREE ebook, HOW I FOUND THE WRITE PATH on Amazon.


Dear Stephanie of 2011,

Hi! It's me, Stephanie of 2014. I know, I know. Don't freak out. Time travel is still not possible, but with the wonders of the internet, I am able to look back in time and see what these last three years have done to you. Remember that day when you decided to write for real? And then you went on Twitter and told everyone you were going to write FOR REAL? Yeah? That was a good decision. Really. I'm super proud of you for finally hiking up your big girl pants and doing the thing you wanted to do for over a decade. You struggled for months over whether to go back to work or not. Being a full-time mom was fulfilling, but it just wasn't enough.

Getting back to writing was the best decision you ever made. Sure, you sucked in the beginning. And your first three or four (maybe even five) drafts of REMOVED were awful. But you stuck with it. You learned how to revise. You learned over the course of three books how to take criticism, how to show not tell, how ditch passive voice, and how to actually publish books. You published your own books instead of waiting around for agents and editors to do it for you! Congratulations!

You know what was really hard to learn? You will not be an overnight sensation. Nope. Three years later, you can't even call yourself a best seller… or even a good seller… barely a decent seller (let's come back to this in three years again, okay? There's room for improvement). You had ideas of making it big like most people do, and that's still possible, but it's going to take a really long time. What you can say for yourself is that you're a hard worker with lots of great ideas. There are LOTS of books in you. More than the one idea you started off with! And ALL of those books are going to carry you far.

One thing you didn't know in the beginning about the publishing industry is that your backlist is everything. Sure some lucky authors do well on the first book, but for you, you'll start selling more books when you write and publish more books. In 2014, you're starting to feel the momentum, and this is typical of mid-list authors, which is where you are comfortable. By the end of 2014, things could be really good. Keep your fingers crossed.

Guess what? You hated all those writing resources, but it turns out you really only need the EMOTION THESAURUS. God, that book is great. Don't leave home without it. And thank your lucky stars you found WRITE. PUBLISH. REPEAT. because it completely changed your life. Completely. This was THE BOOK that turned things around for you and made you incredibly glad to be a self-publisher. Because, look, you never regretted self-publishing. Not once. Not ever. You never looked at your friends struggling to find an agent and thought, “I wish I had done that.” You never once looked at your friends fumbling over contracts or waking up one day to find their publisher out of business and thought, “I wish I had done that.” Nope. It's hard doing it all by yourself, but you can count on being responsible. You're smart. You're strong. You can keep going when others can not.

Oh, one last thing. Next time you want to write a series, write it all ahead of time, okay? Getting three books written out of four was really good. A valiant effort. All four books would have been epic. Then you could have released them all in quick succession while working on other projects. If I could tell this to all writers, I would. Otherwise, you're doing a great job. Keep up the good work.

xoxo, Stephanie of 2014.

P.S. A year ago today you finished the first draft of FACE TIME, and it's already in readers' hands getting great reviews. See? Hard work = Success.

50 thoughts on “How I Found The Write Path”

  1. Congratulations on all your hard work and success over the last three years! I’ve just found my way over to you via #amwriting so this is the first post of yours I have read but I find it really inspirational. I’m just setting out on my novel-writing journey as a ‘mostly stay-at-home-mum who also does a bit of other work’ and am sometimes daunted by the huge mountain ahead of me. I’m excited too though, so it’s great to read that you have found success through self publishing and that your hard work and determination paid off. I hope it works for me too. I’ll be reading more of your posts now.

    1. Welcome, Maddy! And I’m also a SAHM (or WrAHM) so I know how difficult it is to juggle all the balls with kids running around at your feet. But I’ve also never regretted showing my kids that mommy has ambition and drive, and that I make my own way as well. I like setting that example for them, that hard work is a vital component to being a fully functional member of society. And yes, it’s a lot of work, but it’s fun too! It has stressed me out on a number of occasions (Lol) but I’ve had a great time as well :)

  2. I love it!! A toast is def in order! It always amazed me that SP could have such a neg stigma sometimes when those who do it are some of the most motivated, creative, talented people around. You have to be. And I think that’s why that neg stigma is finally shriveling up. I’ve never regretted it.
    Thanks so much for participating Steph!!

    1. PK, this was such a great exercise, and it really reminded me how far I’ve come in three years. I think, sometimes, I sit and wallow, and not really see all that I’ve accomplished. Writing this letter really brought it home that I made a great decision. I’m really happy I self-published and I took the initiative. It’s been a wonderful experience. Yay SP!

  3. Stephanie, this actually brings tears to my eyes. You have re-inspired me and made me realize, at this moment, what it’s all about. You are so awesome :)

    1. Tracy, writing this letter and looking back on these last three years has given me new life. I woke up this morning raring to go! And next time I feel down, I’m going to give myself that moment to feel it, and then I’m coming right back here to read this letter again.

    1. Catherine, that EMOTION THESAURUS is the bomb! Highly recommend. It has really helped with “Show, don’t tell” and brought a new visceral level to my work. I loves it so.

  4. That is wonderful news to hear all of your hard work and dedication is slowly beginning to pay off. There is so much to take away from your letter, S.J. Most of us will not become overnight sensations but if we truly stick to our passion, we might get there someday. Even if it takes three, four, five or up to ten books later… we will eventually see the success in all of our endeavors.

    1. Gina, I feel really fortunate today. And honestly I didn’t feel this way two months ago before I read WRITE PUBLISH REPEAT. Now I can look back with the knowledge that book gave me and see the slow build… As long as I keep writing! Creating unique content at a steady stream is the key

  5. Congrats Stephanie! You are an inspiration to many, I am sure. The multiple book idea is one most of us miss, thinking we’ll have time to catch up. Not always so easy! Wishing you continued success.

  6. Great advice! Don’t know if it’s the same for everyone, but when I started out I was so set on that first book and it had to be a huge success. With hindsight, I see that those early attempts were just markers along the road to being a great writer.

    1. Carrie, that book changed my whole viewpoint on having a career with writing. It gives you good advice for sticking it out for the long haul. Highly recommend!

  7. You DO get to tell other writers all of this – isn’t that awesome?? :D Congratulations on all of your success these past three years! I love that you put in a little note about coming back in another three years, and room for growth, because that’s always so true – and such a positive way to look at it. I’m glad to meet you on this hop!

    1. Liz, I certainly plan on being in this business for the long haul so three years will hopefully feel like a blip on the radar :) There’s room for growth in everything, and I look forward to seeing what new and exciting things the years ahead will hold.

  8. Tyrean Martinson

    Ah, yes. If I had just known I should write the whole series ahead of time . . . why didn’t I tell my younger writer self that? Agh! This is a wonderful letter, and I love the whole backlist idea (I’m hoping it’s true for me too).

    1. Tyrean, I think it’s true for everyone, and if you can build a product funnel, it’s even more so. If you don’t know what a product funnel is, then definitely read WRITE. PUBLISH. REPEAT. That’s how you grab readers and send them along all your offerings.

  9. LOVED this! I’ve found immense joy in watching your progress as a published writer and I think you’re spot on with your advice. Glad to be “virtual” friends with you through our various groups :)

    1. Thank you, Jade! It’s been quite a journey and I have been trying to share as much of it (positive and negative) with people as possible. I’m glad we’re friends as well :)

  10. Excellent letter. Loved the personality.

    I relate to the series. I still have to write 3 out of my 4… >_<

  11. I’ve just hit “Publish” on my first novel, and I’m taking to heart the “don’t expect overnight success” message. Trying to keep expectations in check is hard, but luckily I’m starting to get excited about revising novel #2 and getting it out there. Hope the cumulative effort pays off in the end.

    1. I’ll admit that the instant success one was the hardest to learn. I see so many other authors do REALLY well that it’s hard not to expect the same for myself. But I’m on my own path, and it will take a lot longer :) just gotta keep writing and publishing!

  12. I love your letter. When I, and countless other writers, first started out I had the dream that I would be like another JK Rowling and have instant success. Hasn’t happened. But I’m happy with the success I have. :) And it’s very true that having a backlist helps. We all think we’ll have amazing sales with our first book, but it takes time to get readers. I wish I had your letter to read when I first started out. Cheers! ;)

  13. Stephanie, I have yet to finish a novel and have it anywhere near close to being publishable, so my hat’s off to you. I truly admire your dedication, persistence, and all your hard work! You should be VERY proud of yourself. Oh, and YES on the Emotion Thesaurus. It is FABULOUS! :)

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