Getting Started: A Little Unadvice
by Stephanie Stiles, the New York-based author of Take It Like a Mom, out in July
Let’s face it: getting advice sucks. I would rather listen to a sentence starting with “We need to talk” or “Honey, while you’re up…” than have to sit through what follows a “Hey, you know what you could use?” or a “Just follow these easy steps”. Seriously, have you ever actually taken the advice you’ve been given – even if you asked for it yourself? Did you start that fitness program? Implement the seven ways to make your man feel special? Prepare the snappy, wholesome dinners that Your Kids Will Love? Um. I didn’t. Am I alone here?
Well, sorry to say it, but writing a book is no different. All along the way, I received (un)helpful hints and how-(not)-tos meant to guide me on the road to publishing. And my guess is that you have, too. Because if there’s one commodity people enjoy sharing, it’s their opinion on things. So, what follows here is a list of the advice that was bestowed upon me during the (very) long process of becoming an author. And although some of what’s contained here may have actual merit, well, I couldn’t say for sure, as I never followed any of it. So, really? Consider this unadvice of sorts – and then get back to making up your own mind, which we all do anyway, right?
• Write about what you know! People loved telling me this, and it never ceased to terrify and depress me. Because, I mean, come on; my life hasn’t been exactly worthy of any made-for-TV movie, brought to you by the Lifetime Network, Sunday at 9, Eastern Standard Time. If I was going to write something with even a remote chance at getting published, I was going to have write pure fiction, pulled from, among other bodily cavities, my imagination.
• Schedule time for writing every day! If I had that kind of control over space and time, trust me: I wouldn’t be using it to carve out a few minutes at the keyboard.
• Rent a studio! I heard this one surprisingly often. Apparently, it’s a lot easier to suggest paying for private workspace than it is to actually pay for private workspace – especially for the one suggesting it.
• Keep a journal! Um. Here’s the thing. Assuming I’ve finally scrounged up enough time to write anything whatsoever, I would like it to be something that didn’t make people ridicule and/or hate me come the day it’s ever in print. Read me?
• Don’t let rejection letters get you down! I was dumped in a Friendly’s while eating a Jim Dandy Sundae. So, take it from me. Rejection always hurts. And no amount of dessert is going to change that.
• Don’t quit your day job! Look around: people rarely need an excuse to quit their day jobs – book or no book. My old freshman roommate once quit her job because her boss wore white shoes. And, by the way, have you Googled J.K. Rowling?
And these are just the “words of wisdom” I received about writing; the list goes on from here: how to fold my bathroom towels, how to look ten pounds lighter, how to itemize federal deductions. The way I see it, if you’re a woman, then you’ve probably been adviced nearly to death. I’ll spare you having to suffer through yet another voice weighing in on whether your pants make you look fat (they don’t). So, instead, I’ll just say that, for me, getting Take It Like a Mom published had less to do with following rules, guidelines, and – yuck – advice, than it did with finding a story I thought was funny and filling it with characters I liked. The rest? A lot of luck. Oh, and jeans made with lycra. So, rather than imparting to you any more unsought-after advice that leaves you staring over your shoulder in a three-way mirror, let me just say that I wish you the very best of luck in finding a pair of pants that makes your ass look perfect.