Thursday, February 16, 2012

Guest Blogger: Hilary Davidson

Y'all have heard me sing the praises of Hilary Davidson a time or twenty (most recently, a whopping two days ago, in celebration of the release of her sure-to-be-fantastic second novel THE NEXT ONE TO FALL.

Well, today, the woman herself was gracious enough to stop by and drop some knowledge. Y'all'd do well to take heed. (Heck, I'd do well to take heed!) And for God's sake, go buy a copy of THE NEXT ONE TO FALL! (And don't forget her marvelous debut THE DAMAGE DONE, now out in paperback!) Now, without further ado...

By Hilary Davidson

Photo: Trish Snyder
When my friend Chris F. Holm graciously asked me to stop by and guest-post on his blog, I thought I’d write a list of all the things I’ve learned since publishing my first novel. I was aiming for a “Top Ten” list, but it turns out that I haven’t actually learned ten things about publishing. It’s not that I haven’t picked up anything along the way, but it’s hard to proclaim that there are hard-and-fast rules when some things work so well for some writers, and not at all for others. The publishing business is both a little crazy and rather crazy-making. No one ever really knows what’s going on, except for the doomsayers — and while they make confident pronouncements, they’re often wrong, wrong, wrong.

Still, there are a few things I’m certain about. Here are all four of them!

The Writing Is the Main Act — Always

Writers are under constant pressure to market and promote their work. It’s easy to forget that your real job is writing; everything else is an afterthought compared to that. I don’t say this lightly, and I’m not demeaning marketing in any way. I know how I felt when I was promoting my first book, while still working on the manuscript of the second. My deadline for the new book was looming, and I knew I had to choose between promoting the first and writing the second. I chose the latter, which led to situations like me “attending” NoirCon but actually locking myself in my room all day to write and basically missing the conference. It wasn’t ideal, but it was the right call. Think of it like this: all of the time you spend promoting your work is going to be wasted if people don’t fall in love with your writing.

Hedonism Is a Virtue

I’ve confessed before to being a shameless hedonist. It’s pretty much impossible to get me to do something I don’t want to do. Life is short and there’s barely enough time to fit in all the things that I love, so why would I? Ironically, being so hedonistic has helped my work. It makes me focus on the things I’m passionate about and forget about the things I’m not. I love writing. Strange as it sounds, I love re-writing, too; it’s incredibly exciting to take the confused jumble of words and ideas that make up my early drafts and shape them into books and stories. My do-what-you love ethos affects promotion, too. I also love talking to people about writing, so I consider it a huge privilege to get to go out and talk to people about my books. When things feel like a chore, it’s hard to get motivated, but you’ll always find a way to fit in the tasks you love.

Keep Reading Fiction

While I was writing THE DAMAGE DONE, I didn’t read other fiction. I was so worried that I’d unconsciously transfer the voice of another narrator into my own, or that I’d make some other giant blunder. I know I’m not alone on this, because I’ve talked to other writers who’ve mentioned the same concern. Worse, I’ve been at conferences with writers who’ve said that they’ve stopped reading fiction, or that they find less joy in reading because of focusing on the mechanics of the writing. That thought depressed the hell out of me. What was the point of living out my lifelong dream of writing if it was going to destroy my lifelong love of reading?

The timing felt ironic, given that I was meeting so many talented writers at conferences and events and my TBR pile was threatening to crush me. When I started writing THE NEXT ONE TO FALL, I gave in to my craving to read short fiction, and… nothing disastrous happened. I still had a fear of novels, but at least I had a short-fiction fix. Then, as I started writing my third novel, I decided to read a novel, and it was a very pleasant surprise to discover that I’d reached a point where I could balance the story and characters in my head with those of another author. In a way, I think what started out as a practical problem had become a superstition, and I’m glad to be rid of it. If you’re having the same problem with reading fiction, don’t give up hope.

Your Friends Will Keep You Sane

Well, mostly. Or else they’ll go crazy along with you. Either way, it’s a win!