I’ve written a lot. If you add up all the words I’ve blogged over the past decade, it would be in the millions. Published works in the non-fiction world are also many:

A coffee table book – Being A Bride
Studio Without Walls – contracted with a publisher
3 books ghost written in childcare genre
8 business books in photography genre
3 books in marketing a small business

But it’s my novels that have made me feel something I’ve never felt before.

Years ago, what made us very successful photographers was the art of telling a story. We weren’t your average photographers. We didn’t let the client choose their favorite pictures and stuff them into an album. Instead, we photographed a wedding as if we were designing a storybook. Then we used those photographs to pre-design their wedding albums. Our packages contained three and four volume sets, 200 to 300 pages in length, 500 to 1500 images in all. And what I enjoyed the most was being able to capture every mood, every detail, and putting it together in such a way that our clients could go back and relive that moment again and again. We sold storybooks, not just books of pictures.

That’s what pushed me into becoming a novelist. That’s why I’m in love with my life right now. Because I get to tell the stories of two people coming together and falling in love. What could be better than that?

But I’ve learned a lot over this past year.

1. You have to enjoy having a story living inside of you

It takes a while to write a novel. Days, weeks, months, depending on your commitment. And while you’re writing it, those characters become your friends. Nope, you don’t hear voices or have conversations with make-believe people. But you do start playing out different scenarios in your mind. I walk, and I use the time to think about improving their conflict. I hike, and I work out a detail that will make the story better. I drive, and I think about making the storyline even better, to make it more enjoyable for the reader.

2. Goals are everything

A writer’s life is filled with goals and deadlines, even if you’re the only one who knows. As an indie publisher, most of your goals are self-written. But that doesn’t mean they’re any less important than if you’re one of the best authors in the world. The only way I complete something is if I set goals. I will finish this book by Friday. I will send it to my editor on the 30th. And I do everything within my power to complete them.

3. I write faster today than I did a year ago

It’s all about practice. No matter what you do, the only way to get better is with practice. So I write every day to become a better writer. And I’ll be writing every day for the rest of my life.

4. I know book number four is better than book number one

Like everything in life, we get better over time. I see that when I compare a blog post from today to one I wrote ten years ago. And I see that in the book I just finished compared to the very first one I published.

5. I’m more focused on the details

I’ve learned how to describe things in better ways. I’ve learned to see things differently than ever before. While you may look at a dress and see it as red, I’m regularly challenging myself to see it in many ways. It may be a lightweight frock that has no style and will unnoticeably float to the back of the closet. I might see it as sexy, beaded gown that’s guaranteed to turn his insides into mush, leaving him like putty in her hands. Red? Maybe. But I’m willing to bet it’s the deepest, richest shade of ruby red you ever did see.

6. Give yourself a break from time to time

Sometimes you don’t finish all you had on your plate. Sometimes life gets in the way. An unexpected snow day comes your way. A call comes in that has you scrambling in a new direction. You can beat yourself up over it. Or you can tell yourself you’re human and there is always another day.

7. Looks matter

Let’s face it, we all judge a book by its cover. When I first started designing my non-fiction books years ago, we created generic covers. They were Kindle books; what did it matter? As I began researching my fiction books, I took a different strategy. I wanted my books to stand out. I wanted them to be professional. Even as an indie publisher, I knew the importance of the cover. So I hired a designer and invested money in getting the best possible. And I’ve had nothing but rave reviews for the work she’s given me.

8. Thinking long term is everything

Some people have a book in them. I have a platform. I see multiple series of novels, all centered around common themes. I want my books to be about midlife. I want my books to have strong women who are reinventing themselves in their careers, their lives, and of course their love life. I want all my books to tie together, to create an audience that can learn and grow with my interests too. To even cross my interests and have multiple sites and multiple platforms to talk about what interest me most.

9. My iPhone is my best friend

Okay, maybe not my best friend. But I can imagine life without it. Whether I’m driving in my car or hiking in the woods, the most amazing ideas come my way when I least expect them. Thanks to my iPhone and several different apps, I can jot down my ideas at a moment’s notice, capturing every idea I have in rich detail.

10. Every writer has a different approach

I’ve taken quite a few novel writing classes to date. I’ve worked with a coach to improve my process. And while I find value in the way other people outline and research and find the time to dive into the creative process, ultimately it comes down to me. I have my ways, and they work for me. And that’s okay.

11. You can never have enough editing

I edit. And I edit. And then I send it to my editor. She edits. I rewrite. I edit. I edit again. My editor has a second pass. I edit. I edit some more. Yep, my books have a lot of eyes going through it before I release it. But it never fails, no matter how many times the editing process is performed, it only takes a short amount of time before I get the email that says, “I found an error on page …” It’ll never be perfect. You’ll make changes every single time you look at something. But sometimes you just have to release it to the world and say, I’m done.

12. Only writing makes me a better writer

I have ideas for a dozen books or more. I leave sticky pads all over the house to write down ideas. My phone has several apps to help me take notes. I journal in the morning. I write hours each day. And still, I know what I write today is better than what I wrote yesterday, but not quite as good as what I’ll write tomorrow. Experience is what gives us more to say. Experience is what gives us the ability to say it in unique and impressive ways. Yep, I’ll be practicing today, tomorrow, and so on.

Have you read The Writer, my first in a series of Creative Standalones about women reinventing their lives and their love interests one day at a time? Read it today. Book two – The Artist – is soon on its way.