The first time I knew I could move people with my writing was when I cold-pitched an opinion article to a big Portuguese magazine.
It took me way too long to write that article. It took my husband and my critique partner even longer to help me carve out the simple, powerful message from my messy (and angry) first draft.
We got there mostly because they decided not to give up on me.
When we all agreed the article wasn’t half as bad as it was in the beginning (won’t tell you how many drafts it took me to get there). I wrote a pitch and sent the first paragraph of the piece to an editor I’ve met through LinkedIn.
A few days later, I got an email. They were interested in publishing my story!
I think ecstatic doesn’t quite describe what I felt at that moment.
No one had ever wanted to read my writing, let alone publish it!
And then things got even better.
My article wasn’t an astounding success (I wasn’t expecting it to, anyway!). But it got some eyeballs, shares, and comments and, most of all, it got some of my friends saying: “damn girl, you can write!”
They published the article in 2016!
And this experience taught me three things:
- I needed to get my writing out there as much as possible
- I needed to work with beta-readers and editors to improve my writing
- And, more importantly, I needed to be bold – because, I would never know which doors would open for me if I didn’t dare to ask
What I learned since then
I left my writing on standby since then, but that’s a story for another time.
In 2019 I freed myself from life-sucking commitments and finally, for the first time in a very long, long time, I could look at my life and wonder: what the hell am I going to do next?
I’m being dramatic here.
After so many years of purposefully running away from my dream of writing professionally, I knew the answer to that question all along. I was just too much of a chicken to admit it.
But then incredible things started happening!
I started a bookstagram account (mostly because I wanted to be an influencer with a glamourous and easy life, yes, I know, I’m ashamed of admitting that… but nobody ever feels remotely motivated to work after finishing a Ph.D., ask your scientist friends if you don’t believe me!).
During my misguided attempts at insta-fame, I discovered a flowering and active community openly sharing their love for books.
It blew me away.
It made me read more books by different authors than ever before. The more I read and wrote about those wonderful books, the more tormented I became. Every day, I would wake up wondering:
What if I write and publish my terrible stuff for 1 year and see what happens?
What if I dare to keep writing even if my first draft sucks?
What if I stop taking myself so seriously and just let myself write miserably until I write well?
I didn’t make big plans for 2019.
Ok, I didn’t make any plans at all!
Instead, driven and tormented by those questions, I opened myself to opportunities by making a small change: I would treat my writing time like I would any other important commitment!
I would dare to write even when I didn’t feel like it. I would dare to publish articles regularly, even (and especially) if I thought they sucked.
Yes, I still cringe every time I reread all my past articles. I’ll cringe after I’ve published this one too!
But it doesn’t matter, because even cringing and dwelling in self-doubt, I stumbled upon interesting opportunities. I didn’t suddenly become a prolific writer, but I learned and failed a lot, and today I want to share those lessons with you!
Decisions that kick-started my writing in 2019
· Getting a professional-looking blog
Every writer should have a blog!
Just kidding. I hate when “experts” say that. Many authors are doing incredibly fine without a blog. If you don’t want one, don’t get one. Simple as that. There are other ways to keep in touch with your readers (even if there’s just 1 or 4 of them, you can still call them your readers!).
For me, getting a blog made perfect sense. I wanted a platform where I could have total control over absolutely EVERYTHING (control freak alert here). Plus, I didn’t want to depend on Facebook and Instagram to connect with my 4 regular readers (I love you guys!!).
Plus, I love blogs.
Ok, I don’t have a rational explanation for my decision. But I’ll tell you the consequences of that decision: I paid to have this blog up and running, so, naturally, I feel incredibly motivated to keep writing. Because I need to justify my investment (meaning, I need to be able to tell my to husband: you see, other people like my blog too, I’m not wasting any money after all!).
I have many crazy plans for my writing in the future, but this blog is my home base, it’s the place where I connect all my networks and all my readers. I couldn’t imagine my writing life without it.
· Writing for Medium
I started writing on Medium during an interlude. I had just got married, escaped my life as a lab rat and had too much free time on my hands.
On one of those lazy afternoons, when I was actively avoiding preparing my thesis defense, I found Medium and subscribed instantly, because… how the hell was there a platform like this out there and it was my first time hearing about it?
I had been living under a very heavy rock for a very long time…
I wrote a few articles and nothing interesting happened. And then one day, I got an email from The Startup (one of the biggest publications on Medium) saying that they loved my article and wanted to publish it.
Mind-blown me said YES! Thank God they didn’t call me, I would surely have had a heart attack if they did.
Once again, this took my tiny lab rat brain to the brink of an important discovery: wait, people actually care about what I have to say?
Wait, me, a non-native speaker who got trashed by coworkers because of her poor English writing skills, has been published by a huge publication?
I haven’t quite recovered from that!
That is why I will continue to write on the platform. Not only can I earn enough money to cover my subscription fee, but I’m also on my way of being able to afford a Pumpkin Spice Latte on Starbucks, every month (uh-uh, the luxury!).
To be perfectly honest, I don’t care about earning a decent living from Medium. I just want to keep writing there because I enjoy the competition. I’m playing with the big guys, and that thought alone makes me stronger every day.
Another important thing Medium taught me, is that human beings suck at predicting their future.
By far, my most popular article on Medium is this one:
If I told you I wrote it on my phone while my husband and I were stuck at the airport, would you believe me? Would you also believe that I wrote that article without an outline and that I had zero expectations it would be accepted by the Writing Cooperative?
More than 1,000 claps later, I still have to pinch myself every time I log into my account.
You know that article you keep in your trash folder? Give it a chance, put it out there, you’ll never know what might happen if you do!
· Publishing a short story
I wrote far less fiction than I would have liked this year. And you know why? Because it’s painful.
Only writers will understand what I’m talking about here (yes, and you’re still a writer even if you keep your drafts hidden in a drawer).
I had teachers mock my stories. I had friends laugh at my face when I confided that I wanted to be a novelist. I had other friends take my first draft from my hands, read it aloud so my classmates could laugh at my blush-ridden face.
There is so much pain inside me that every time I try to write fiction, I get overwhelmed by doubts and sadness, and I just want to retreat to a corner and forget I ever wanted to write.
That’s why I published – Nobody tricks the trickster!
I need to start, finish and publish things. I need to get past my pain point. That point that prevents me from writing more stories.
Publishing that short story wasn’t easy.
It still isn’t. Sometimes I feel anxious when I log in on Goodreads, I fear the day I might have a 1- or 2-star review. I fear what people will think of me: she’s a worthless mediocre writer after all!
I’m just starting to make my peace with that. It’ll be hard for anybody to beat what’s already been said to me. Don’t worry, I know I’m mediocre, but do you want to see what’ll happen if I don’t give up? I do.
On the plus side, I got many more awesome reviews than I deserved.
I’ll keep writing and publishing for you guys. Even if it still hurts.
Plans for 2020
This concludes the writing lessons for today.
Fueled by them, I made a serious plan for my writing in 2020.
The first two parts of my plan are obvious: I’ll keep writing on my blog and Medium. Duh!
As for my fiction writing, I just want to finish more stories. Here are a few I’m planning to finish writing and editing in 2020:
· Heirs of the Void [short story]
Approaching the 8k words threshold, Heirs of the Void tells the story of Oliver, an orphan who watched his family die during the Void.
He grew up alone in a world ridden by dying magic. Until the day he makes a mistake, and Helen, the Head of the magical Corps gives him a choice: go to prison or became her assistant!
Unsure what to expect, Oliver takes her offer and becomes the assistant of one of the most powerful witches in history!
But he’s still intrigued! Why are the Corps still operating in a world where magic is fading more and more, every day?
Status: still trapped on the revisions! My brother wasn’t happy (ok, he was really upset) with the way I handled the magical system. And, to be honest, I have to admit I did a lousy job, so I’m trying to correct that!
· Talla and the Crossing [short story]
Talla and her brother are outcasts in a village trapped by deadly fog. The fog hides dangerous creatures and the villagers only dare to challenge the Mistgods during the season of the Red Rains.
But Talla doesn’t believe in the old myths and, when it’s her turn to join the Crossing, she will try her best to prove to the villagers and herself that whatever is out there, doesn’t deserve their adoration.
Status: I’ve written approximately half of the first draft. I just want to be able to finish it during January! Because I’m seriously connecting with my characters, I want to see Talla kicking some Mistgod’s ass.
· Witchmaker [novella]
I’m not sure if or when I’ll continue writing this novella. At some point, a romance started developing between two of my main characters and I got scared!
These things tend to happen in a story. I didn’t want to write anything remotely romantic, but the guy was just too mysterious and charismatic for my protagonist to ignore.
And now she’s falling in love with him and I have no idea how to handle this!
· ? [novel]
This is the one story I don’t want to reveal yet.
I have a rough outline and I’ve written a couple of terrible scenes. I stopped when I realized I was not ready to write this story. Why? Because I love the premise and I’m terrified of screwing up.
It’s an urban fantasy YA novel. All I can say is that it’s a story about loss, acceptance, and rebirth.
I know exactly how I want it to start. I know exactly how it must end. I’ve been dreaming about this story for a very long time. I can see the protagonist’s face so clearly in my head, it’s almost painful.
There are countless notes about this story spread all over my notebooks.
2020 will finally be the year to write it [fingers crossed – and, by all means, do send me hate mail if you realize that I’m not writing this story during 2020].
I’m giving myself 4 months from April to August to write my first draft (but even if it taken me 9 months, I don’t care, as long as I write it)! I’ll be sharing my progress with you. If you’re interested, don’t forget to subscribe!
Thank you so much for reading this humongous article.
I hope it entertained you or brought you some wonderful insight. If it did, don’t forget to leave your comment down below!