Five lessons learned from writing five novels – Sally Kilpatrick

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By Sally Kilpatrick

Time flies when you’re having fun, but these are five things I would go back and tell my former self to make this journey a little easier.♥

Your goals should only be the things you can control.

When I was fresh out of college, I made the rather ridiculous goal of being published by the time I was thirty. A better goal would’ve been how many words I would write in a day, how many queries I would send out in a month, how many classes I would take, or even how many manuscripts I would finish. In this day and age, I could simply put a book up myself, but then I would miss out on all of the lessons I learned from finishing manuscripts, reading rejections, and absorbing critiques.

Story trumps writing prowess.

Ah, as a baby English major, I was a little too in love with how well I could turn a phrase in my fancy essays. I loved big words and would get indignant at the suggestion that a more easily understood word would do. Five books in, I can tell you that having a solid story with well-motivated characters is far more important than using all of your SAT words.

It’s a small world — be nice.

Before I was published — and ever since, really — I have seen authors melt down over some of the silliest things. I’m so grateful that I hung around a bit and got to witness how others handled their bumps in the road. While I’m far from perfect, I do my best to roll with it. Just remember, that volunteer you chewed out yesterday could be tomorrow’s bestseller.

All things in good time.

Writer Beverly Jenkins has said that we shouldn’t try to steal each others’ blessings, and her words really resonated with me. We need to lift each other up where we can and to remember there’s room at the table for everyone. The only thing you’ll ever accomplish with professional jealousy is an ulcer.

Just keep writing.

The only constant in publishing is that everything changes. Trends come and go. Methods of publishing change. The one thing we writers have control over is our stories and how we write them. Write fearlessly come what may.

Sally Kilpatrick is an award-winning author of five novels, including her latest Oh My Stars. A graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, she lives in Marietta, Georgia with her husband, two kids, and two cats.

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