So you’ve written a novel, or a story, or a comic, and you want to turn that into a career. What do you do now?
First, you need to assess your mental state. Are you strong enough to handle people seeing it? Commenting upon it? Critiquing it?
If not, don’t worry. Fear is a normal reaction. Listen to it, query it, figure out what you’re afraid of. You might need professional help here, or just a good friend that won’t hurt you.
But let’s assume that you have built up a thick skin. You can handle it. What then?
I’d immediately start sharing the first 1/4 of my novel in genre-appropriate groups on all social media that I’m active in.
Basically, I’d start to connect with readers and writers.
This will accomplish two things:
- It builds interest in your work = it gets you fans who’ll be willing to purchase the thing once it’s done.
- It builds your tribe.
Do not underestimate the importance of the second one. You need people like you around you. Creators who share your likes and your visions. People who’ll cheer you on when things get rough. People who’ll celebrate when things go swell. People who’ll understand.
You might have the luck of having a supportive family and a solid friends network. That’s great. They’ll cheer you on. But they won’t understand.
An example from my own life: when I say I got a rejection from X magazine for one of my short stories, I might get a “oh, too bad” from family, or a “oh, I’m sorry, you’ll get there some day” from supportive family. But if I share it with someone in my writing tribe, they understand. They grokk what it means.
They know the “#¤% pinnacle of trying to get your story into Clarkesworld (99.96% rejection rate according to Duotrope). They know the feeling of having your favorite baby rejected, the disconnect between the sorrow and the business-side shrug you need to do in the face of it. They know.
You need that. I need that. Everyone needs that. You need someone to share it with. You need a tribe.
Sharing your work, spending time talking to others who share their work, or their dreams, or their disasters is what gets you through your own. It’s building friendships. It’s building support. It’s “networking”, that vaunted buzzword of business-gurus everywhere.
It takes time. That’s why you need to do it from the beginning. Even when you’re scared that your precious little baby story isn’t up to handling the big, wide, nasty world. Even when you’re scared that you’re not up to handling the big, wide, nasty world. If you don’t, spend time listening and throwing on you agreement and support before you throw in your story and dreams. It will help accustom you to the whole “rapport with people you’ve never met” thing.
It will help you find your tribe.
Because it’s out there, and your job is to create a system around yourself stocked with tribespeople. It’s also to remove any toxic or negative parts that would latch on to your tribe. They’re out there, too, and they’ll try to get you by anger, by negativity, by smiling and smiling and smiling until you trust them and then stabbing you in your emotions at the worst possible moment.
It happens. Pick yourself up and get going.
You need your tribe. If you don’t realize it consciously, you’ll build a tribe that’s almost a good fit for you, but includes people who aren’t. That can hurt and it can derail your career.
But not having a tribe will derail it a lot more.