Recently, Michelle Glogovac interviewed Jennie Nash for our May/June issue (On Book Coaching: A Conversation with Jennie Nash). Nash is the founder and CEO of Author Accelerator and the author of 11 books in 3 genres, including Blueprint for a Book: Build Your Novel from the Inside Out and Blueprint for a Book: Plan and Pitch Your Big Idea. During that interview, Jennie shared a fantastic list of advice for mama writers. Nash encourages writers to ask themselves the following questions when embarking on a new project or feeling stuck in an ongoing one.
Are you feeling called to write a book?
If you feel that tug, honor it. It’s not going to go away, and waiting until the kids go to college might be harmful to your creative soul.
What is your goal?
The first step is to ask yourself: Why do I want to write this book? Think about external motivators as well as internal motivators. Writing a novel to learn how to write a novel is a very different goal than writing a novel for publication. So why are you doing it? Knowing what you want from your writing will help you make a plan to get it.
What will you give up?
Be honest about this! Can you give up an hour of sleep in the morning in order to write? Can you give up exercise one day? What about cooking dinner one night a week? Lunch out with friends? You have to give up something to make room for writing; the time is not going to magically appear.
Will you keep your writing a secret?
I hope not! Share your desire to write with your family. You might be surprised at how much your kids will support you. Explain what you are doing and why it matters. For older kids, make a doorknob hanger that says, “I’m writing!” and grab 30 minutes of peace to do your work. Talk with them at dinner about what went well with your work or what was frustrating. This will demonstrate that commitment to a goal sometimes means enduring tough days.
Do you want to be published?
Learn the industry ropes. Put yourself in the company of other writers who are also seeking publication. That can mean listening to podcasts like #amwriting or The Shit No One Tells You About Writing. It can mean hanging out on Twitter where a lot of agents and published writers hang out. It can mean attending a writing conference or workshop. And, of course, it means reading in the genre you want to write (and yes, audiobooks while riding the stationary bike, walking the neighborhood, or taking a bath absolutely count!).
Who should you show your work in progress to?
Be careful about showing your work to your partner or your parents. It’s better to find a writing pal to share your work with. You need someone who understands what it is like to create, that it takes time to write a book, and that sometimes we have to write dozens of pages that are no good in order to write one that is great. You can find a critique partner through matching programs like this one. Or consider joining a writing group. The best groups provide accountability and support for the journey and don’t try to workshop the pages. Wine and cookies can be good, too. I recommend using the suggestions from Ed Catmull’s book, Creativity, Inc., about giving good notes.
How do you know when it’s ready to pitch?
First, you have to please yourself. You have to love what you have made and believe it is the best work you can do. Next, it is smart to seek feedback from readers or professionals who read the kind of book you have written. Ask for their honest feedback and be open to hearing it. Implement any changes that resonate with you. Once those two criteria have been met, you can create a strategy for approaching agents.
Do new writers really get book deals?
Sometimes they do, absolutely. In 2021, I had three moms of young kids land book deals for their first books. Demand for books is high right now, and a lot of books are being published. There is no reason that it can’t be you.