They say patience is a virtue, but waiting for your dream to come true can feel neverending. Angelina M. Lopez knows this truth all too well. She spent nearly 20 years working towards becoming an author, but admits it was worth it to see her debut romance Lush Money on shelves. Here, Lopez shares what she learned on her journey from aspiring writer to published author and the importance of taking advantage of the time in between.
In my mid-20s, I decided I was going to take my secret love for romance novels out of the closet and begin writing them. I joined my local chapter of Romance Writers of America and went to my first RWA conference in 2000.
My debut book, Lush Money, came out last month.
I understand that sounds like a horror show for most, a tale of dejection and woe. And yes, while there were moments of that in this almost 20-year journey, the one piece of advice I’ve been sharing most often with aspiring writers is: Let the writing journey take its time. That’s probably easier for me to say and swallow because I began writing when traditional publishing was the only option; my mindset was that it was a slow process. In the era of self-publishing and Twitter pitches, we expect quick results.
But as arduous as waiting is–and I know many of you feel like you’ve been waiting forever–I believe there are tremendous advantages when the journey from aspiring writer to published writer takes some time.
You build up a network of writer and industry friends who will support and promote you
During those 20 years, I was an active member of my national and local writing chapters. I met aspiring writers, published writers, and industry folks, and learned so much from every single one of them. I wouldn’t be a debut author with a book reviewed in some really amazing places without those contacts. Really. Use this time to meet, support, and engage with the hard-working writers in the trenches beside you. I can’t stress how important this has been to my career.
You write enough to feel confident in your writing abilities and routine when facing the daunting pressure of a publisher’s deadline and expectations
Those 20 years gave me lots of time to practice the craft and discipline of writing without anyone breathing down my neck. When I suddenly had a three-book contract, I felt like I could rise to the challenge without freaking out. Freaking out is bad when you’ve got deadlines. Practice the craft, understand your voice, and learn the art of ass-in-chair now before an agent and publisher–people whose paychecks depend on your words–are looking over your shoulder.
You learn the online marketing skills all authors need before the chaos of a publishing schedule
The cold hard truth: All authors need to know how to update their website. All authors need to understand how to post to social media and engage with an audience. And life is a ton easier if you also know how to create graphics and use a scheduler and put out a newsletter. You will not be the two percent of authors with a huge promotional budget from your publisher. You just won’t. So learn those skills now, when you have the time and patience for the learning curve.
You practice taking care of your physical and mental health so you can sustain a long writing career
Publishing is overwhelming physically. You’re sitting for hours on end, forgoing exercise and sleep to write and market, and eating what’s easy instead of what’s healthy. And it’s daunting mentally: When your life’s dream comes true, it also creates something you can screw up. So implement those self-care habits now–exercise, meditation, work-life balance, a good sleep schedule–that will help you withstand the physical and mental pressures of publishing and enjoy a long career.
You enjoy the journey
I know how obnoxious this is. It’s like when parents of older children tell parents of young children, “Enjoy it. It goes by so fast.” Yeah, not fast enough. But right now, you have the opportunity to explore what’s important to you, to write your bliss, to find your voice and words. You have the space and the freedom to create your own special brand of magic on the page. Embracing that space, that freedom, is what will get you a publishing contract or a breakthrough indie book. Embracing this waiting time is what will bring the wait to an end.
Angelina M. Lopez wrote “arthur” when her kindergarten teacher asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. In the years since she learned to spell the word correctly, she’s been a journalist for an acclaimed city newspaper, a freelance magazine writer, and a content marketer for small businesses. At long last, she found her way back to “author.” Angelina writes sexy, contemporary stories about strong women and the confident men lucky enough to fall in love with them. The fact that her parents own a vineyard in California’s Russian River Valley might imply a certain hedonism about her; it’s not true. She’s a wife and a mom who lives in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. She makes to-do lists with perfectly drawn check boxes. She checks them with glee. Her first book, Lush Money, will be available Oct. 14 from Carina Press. You can find more about her at her website, AngelinaMLopez.com.