What Authors Wish They’d Known, Part 1

Over the past few years I’ve conducted over a hundred interviews divided between KLWagoner.com and SouthWestWriters.com. I enjoy learning how authors deal with writers block and what kinds of scenes give them the most grief—and I can’t help compare my own creative process to theirs.

In a previous post, I shared authors’ responses to, “What do beginning writers misunderstand about telling a story?

Below are answers to another of my favorite questions:
Looking back to the beginning of your writing career, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then?


Michael Backus is a creative writing instructor and an author whose fiction and nonfiction have appeared in numerous print and online publications:

How lonely writing is, how much it separates a person from life and connection. When someone young asks me about being a writer, I usually play it straight and tell them practical pros and cons. But what I want to say is, “Run away, run away. Don’t do it.” I can distinctly remember sitting in a bar in the middle 90s with another writer friend in Chicago watching an all-girl punk band. During a break we both looked at each other and said, “Why the hell didn’t we start a band? Get better on the guitar, spend nights out with people rather than sitting at home rooting around in our own heads?” I still feel pretty much that way. I’ve heard it said a few times by writers that the only thing worse than writing is not writing, and…it is true. I continue to write because I want to continue to write.

Sarah Baker, the author of 20 novels and numerous novellas and short stories, writes mystery as S.H. Baker, romance as Sarah Storme, and erotica as Lydia Parks:

Everything I know now I wish I’d known then! I had no idea what I was doing when I started my first book. Still, I think I learn best by doing, so maybe I started at the right place for me. Because I had no illusions around my level of knowledge, I was open to learning from every editor with whom I had the opportunity to work.

Irene Blea, a native New Mexican with a Ph.D. in Sociology, weaves issues of social injustice into the women’s stories in her novels:

I wish I had known to write earlier in my life. I wish I had known to start young to write what I know as my truth with no concern about whether the work is commercial or not.

Sharon Vander Meer is a poet, a retired journalist, and an author of contemporary fiction and science fiction novels:

Never apologize for your art. Mistakes happen. Correct them when you can. Move on. Persist. Learn from criticism but don’t be hampered by it.

Jonathan Miller, a graduate of both the University of Colorado School of Law and the American Film Institute, draws on his unique experience to create the Rattlesnake Lawyer series:

To have my books professionally edited more than once before I submit them.

Zachry Wheeler is the author of two ongoing science fiction series—the humorous Max and the Multiverse books and the darker Immortal Wake series:

I wish I had known that writing is the easy part. Ninety percent of authorship has little to do with writing. It’s editing, publishing, networking, marketing, all that tedious stuff. It’s much like leveling up in gaming. Once you grind it out, then the game begins.

D. E. Williams is a software trainer who writes award-winning science fiction on her off-hours:

I would have encouraged my first and second readers to be more forthright a lot sooner. I wouldn’t have waited so long before deciding to self-publish. And I would have let go of the first book about three years earlier.

Patricia Smith Wood’s Harrie McKinsey Mysteries follows an amateur sleuth and her business partner as they solve crimes across the Land of Enchantment:

I wish I’d truly known, in my bones, that I didn’t have to have all the answers before I started. I came to realize that “starting” was really the beginning of “learning” how to do it. Without ever starting, you can’t possibly learn the steps along the way. It’s so true that the only way to improve is to simply sit yourself down and start—no matter how bad you may think it is. You can only get better by actually “doing” it!

Speculative Fiction Writer

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Posted in Writing Advice
4 comments on “What Authors Wish They’d Known, Part 1
  1. Funny how I can relate to ALL of these answers. A great post, Kathy. I guess there are certain things related to writing that we only learn through experience. :-)

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