I've been writing for over thirty years and publishing for about as long. I started out small, with short stories, magazine articles, newspaper pieces, and then novels. It took ten long years of work to sell my first novel in 1996. I've learned a few things over the years.
Just starting out with your writing career? Here are five things I wish someone had told me thirty years ago.
There are no overnight successes.
This writing journey is a process made up of processes, and it takes time. Learn your craft, hone your craft. Writing gets better with each project you tackle. Learn from your editors and critique partners. Become savvy about what advice to keep and what to throw away. Writing needs fermentation! The best stories are written in layers and not in one sitting. Give your writing and your career the time it deserves to succeed.
Be a rule-breaker.
When someone tells you there is a right way to do something, and you are doing it wrong, run away from that person. Fast! Of course, you need to know and understand the rules before you can bend or break them. Bending the rules unintentionally or out of ignorance is not a good thing or a defendable practice. But when you break them with confidence because you know what you are doing, and that you are doing it intentionally, there is power there.
Nothing stays the same.
The industry will change. Accept it. Roll with it. Change your game plan. Pivot. The "rules" and trends that applied ten years ago, or last year, will/may not apply today. Be on top of your business and treat your writing as a business. After all, it is. Learn when to drop back and punt, when to speak out, and when to lie low and say nothing. Know when to burn bridges and when to mend fences. Change is inevitable. Change is good. Just know how to manage it in a way that is beneficial for you.
Read in your genre. Read outside of your genre. Take workshops and classes. Attend conferences. Talk with your fellow authors. Lurk on writer lists. Listen to podcasts. Read blogs. Soak it all up, educate yourself, and listen, listen, listen, and then apply to your work. Make educated and informed decisions. If you have done your homework, you can trust your educated instincts.
This is your writing path, your journey.
No one else's. Drive it the way you want to drive it. If you do your due diligence, educate and prepare yourself to make wise decisions for your career, then you will be fine.
I'll add a sixth piece of advice, for what it is worth. Don't compare yourself with other authors, their careers, or their fame. Don't measure your self-worth as a writer next to someone you admire or want to be like—measure your success against what you do each and every day to meet the goals you have set for yourself and your career. Be in competition with no one. Judge no one for the choices they make. Write and enjoy the ride.