Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What's the Best Writerly Advice You'd Give Your Younger Self - Caroline Richmond

Today's guest post is by my very good buddy Caroline Richmond. We are big foodies together and have found some of the best "hole in the wall" places to eat in our neck of the woods. She's also a fabulous YA/MG author repped by the amazing Jim McCarthy of DGLM and I love the advice she has for other writers. So here's Caroline:

I've always wanted to become a writer but I didn't take it seriously until the spring of 2007. Back then, I was 24 and newly married and—whoo boy!—I had stars in my eyes.

I'd get an agent within a month of querying!
I'd get a book deal for a gazillion dollars!
I'd land on the bestsellers' list and go on a book tour in my new yacht! 

We all go through this phase, right? I mean, haven't we all dreamt about owning a book-tour yacht?

No? Only me?
Anyway… Sometimes I wish I could sit down with my former self just to save myself from a little heartache. If I had a time machine, I’d take my younger self out for some ice cream and I'd offer her some unsolicited advice.

1. Learn to deal with rejection. 
If you really want to be a writer—and I know you do—then you have to find a way to live with rejection. Right now, your way of dealing with rejection consists of crying for an hour, pulling out your hair, and researching other professions. Not only is this immature, it also gives you bald spots. (Okay, not really.) But you gotta stop this!

I'll be honest: getting rejected never gets easier. It's always gonna sting. But if you want to succeed in this field, then you have to stop letting rejection cripple you. You have to keep forging ahead—even if your heart hurts like hell.  Eventually the pain does ebb away and you'll be all the stronger for it. 

2. For the love of God, please make some writing friends! 
I know you're scared. You lurk on writing boards every day, but you're too shy to say anything. You're afraid to admit that you want to become a writer. You're afraid that people will laugh at you if you fail.

Oh, honey. Writing friends are the best! They encourage you, cheer for you, and buoy you up when times get tough. They're the only people who truly understand what you're going why are you depriving yourself from such a rich support system?!

3. Finally, yet most importantly, learn to find balance. 
Look, I know that you love to pursue things at full warp speed. When it comes to this writing thing, your mind is screaming at you to, "Get Published or Bust!" But this kind of mentality makes your emotions go haywire. For example, in December 2009, you spend over two hours crying over a rejection from an agent. Two hours! You could've spent that time watching a movie or baking cinnamon bread or, you know, revising your book.

So please find a couple hobbies outside of writing. Like painting. Or photography. Or signing up for that baking class you've always wanted to take. The key here is to balance out your life. Right now, you focus so much on writing that it blinds you from the other good things in your life. And that isn’t healthy.
Well, I really should get going—I have to get back to the future to record the newest episode of So You Think You Can Dance—but I want to wish you good luck and I hope you'll keep your chin up. There are going to be some tough times ahead but you’re going to get through them just fine. 

Oh, you might also want to invest in a company called “Twitter.” Trust me. It’ll be for your yacht fund.
Caroline Tung Richmond is a freelance writer living in the great wilds of the Washington, D.C. suburbs. Her work has been featured in the Baltimore Sun, Highlights, and Along with freelancing, Caroline also writes MG and YA fiction, mostly of the speculative sort. She’s represented by Jim McCarthy of DGLM, and she blogs regularly at


Charles Gramlich said...

Good advice. especially the "find balance." I keep trying.

Robin Lemke said...

Thanks, Caroline! I wish I could tell my past self to make writer friends, too. I guess it's better late than never. ;)

maryannjanecka said...

All fabulous advice. Thanks for sharing. It is so hard to reach out to other writers before you are published because you are afraid of seeming pushy or not being taken serious or annoying the "real writers" but you do need to find that community of support because most writers are going to experience waits and rejections before finally making it.

Franziska said...

Number two really hit home for me. Writer friends have not only helped me with critiques, they also get it when I'm ecstatic over a personalised rejection or when I cry over a nearly-there rejection.

Erin Bowman said...

Fantastic advice, Caroline, especially #2. Writing friends have kept me sane during this journey. And while family wonderful, it is so true that writer friends are the only ones to *really* understand what you're dealing with.

Jennifer said...

Excellent advice, Caroline! I'm so grateful for the writer friends I've met on the boards -- like Siski said, they not only help me improve my craft, the stand by my side for all the twists and turns of this roller coaster ride. On balance = yeah, still working that one out. :)

Unknown said...

Beautiful, good-humored advice. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

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