There are many things I wish I knew when I started writing: how to write, what to write, genre rules, what in tf a query letter was. But apart from everything I wish I’d known to be better at the process, I wish I’d know both the lift and the blow writing would take to my mental health, and how to avoid it.
...pinpoint what you love about other stories and fold them into your own writing...
Not comparing yourself to other authors is one of those “easier said than done” type of things. Trust me, I know. But it’s important to get the hang of, quick, or you’re going to find yourself very alone in an already lonely industry.
Comparisons aren’t just for actual writing ability, either. It’s also in seeing other writers’ accomplishments. You find yourself stuck between envying other peoples’ writing and thinking you don’t deserve anything, and envying other people’s accomplishments because you deserve them too...and that’s just not a great place to find yourself. Don’t get me wrong, envy is a human emotion. We all feel it. Denying its existence and simply saying “don’t be jealous” isn’t realistic. It just isn’t. But learning how to deal with those feelings isn’t as hard as it may seem.
First, you have to understand why you feel it. If you’re reading someone else’s work, and you feel envious of the way they put words together on the page...don’t feel bad about yourself, figure out what it is you have those feelings about. The prose? The themes? The character voices? Study them. Learn from them. Apply it to your own craft. That’s literally the best way to learn: pinpoint what you love about other stories and fold them into your own writing. (Note: I’m not saying STEAL their work, or their style. But find the elements that work and make it YOUR style). That is pretty much entirely how I learned to write...and I am not someone who writing came easily to.
Second, you have to understand how the writing industry works. People seem to have this mindset that if one person is signed by an agent, or gets a book deal, or whatever, that’s somehow taking up a limited number of reserved slots that limits your chances of ever being published. Like the industry is going to hit 5 billion novel’s published and suddenly just be like “Okay, we are done now.” And that’s not how anything works and not a reason to be upset (the exception being non-marginalized authors taking space in marginalized communities, particularly BIPOC. But there are more qualified people than me who speak on that. Listen to them).
If someone close to you who takes the next step forward, it is great for you too. They have unlocked the knowledge of the querying world, and if they are actually a friend and a decent person, they can help you take that step forward too. Your friends moving forward is a good thing, for them and for you, and if you keep that in mind, it makes dealing with the whole process a lot easier.
L. Jo King is a LGBTQIA+ positive SFF and humor writer and freelance editor with a love for all things silly, weird, or bittersweet. But their biggest passion is exploring the harsh realities through the guise of comedy and magic. They are rep'd by Aida Z. Lilly of KT Literary.
chasing that creative spark that sets everything in motion...