Words from an Author

Originally posted 06/10/11 upon hearing Ms Catherynne Valente’s book reached the NY Times Bestseller’s list 

In honor of Ms Catherynne M. Valente’s book The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, I decided to re-post the advice she had given me almost two years ago about being a writer. Congratulations Cat! As I said before, where you are now, is where I want to be in the near future:

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making


Some of this story is in my FAQ on my website. Some of it is on my blog. 

I started blogging in 2001. I’ve been at it a long time. I started publishing professionally in 2004, when I was 25. The two feed each other. I worked hard to create an online presence long before I ever wrote a book–I joined communities on LJ, I made friends and linked to them, I posted about topics people wanted to read. It’s always hard to predict what will and will not hit with a blog–but the key is not having it just be a showcase for your writing if you’re not already known for your writing. You have to build a readership who feel like you’re interesting and fun, not just someone selling you something. It’s very hard to build a site just based on fiction without a corresponding publishing career. The Fairyland project is successful because I’ve been publishing for five years with big presses, my books have won awards, I’ve toured nationally, I go to conventions and appear on panels. I’ve made friends in the industry. It’s all a lot of hard work–but if I hadn’t been publishing, no one would care about my free online novel, I promise. Certainly Boingboing and such wouldn’t have picked it up.

So my advice is to keep writing–and do all those things, too. Build a blog based on non fiction and social networking, and then ease your fiction into it. (this is much easier on LJ where you can join communities and be part of a big conversation.)

I’ve preservered because I love writing and believe in my work, and because at times it’s all I’ve had. But in the end, my career has been easier than a lot of people’s–I’m 30, I’ve published a dozen books. That’s not normal. It doesn’t always work like that–in fact it almost never does. 

The other thing I did was write so differently than everyone else out there that people had to notice it. I made myself indispensable, by being the only one offering my kind of books. Don’t lose faith. just think outside the box of posting fiction online and waiting for people to notice. Instead, do something noticeable, then post your fiction. Online books are a dime a dozen–you have to make yourself an interesting draw, and then people will come. You might also consider Clarion or Viable Paradise, and workshop your stories with some top authors. 

I hope this has helped,

I’ve read the book and it’s quite charming. I intend on keeping in my library and giving it to my sister’s children when they get older…so they can know that good fiction still exists for them. Hopefully one day they will be able to read something their aunt wrote, just for them. *sigh*