At one point I thought I would never be an author. It was my dream, but I doubted I’d ever achieve it. But then I got serious. I turned my dream into a plan, and my plan into a goal, and now I’ve written five novels. You can do this – just believe in yourself, and never give up.
Natalia Leigh almost gave up writing after a crushing rejection from her writing professor. Her determination severely tested, she persevered eventually publishing her first YA novel. She swings by WildMind Creative today to talk about overcoming rejection, establishing a writing routine that works for you and making book marketing fun.
Please give us a brief overview of yourself and your work.
My name is Natalia, and I’m the author of the YA novels High Born and Way of Spears. I’m currently working on my third novel, Song of the Dryad, which I can’t wait to share with readers!
What made you want to be a writer?
I had always enjoyed writing. Even as an elementary school student, I remember getting excited every time we were assigned a creative writing prompt. I felt most comfortable in my fictional worlds, though I never took them seriously until about 8th grade. In middle school, I started something called text-based roleplay. I joined forums and would develop unique characters and create stories with other writers, and it was honestly the best time. I spent every summer glued to the computer screen, writing long posts and outlining stories with my friends. My mom used to make me take ten-minute breaks, and I would literally set a timer and then sit grumpily outside until it went off and I could return to my fictional worlds. I even started my own roleplaying forum when I was sixteen, and I managed it until I was twenty-two years old. To this day, giving it up was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. It meant so, so much to me, and truly taught me the joy in creative writing.
What inspires you to write?
All types of media inspire me, as well as the natural world. When I’m feeling stuck, I like to go on long hikes or watch movies that I enjoy. I try to consume story-telling in as many different forms as I can, and these stories often inspire me to get creative and work on my own.
Is there any particular incident that has happened along your writing journey that you’d like to share?
I will always remember the day I took the first chapter of Way of Spears into my creative writing class for critique and received horrible feedback from my professor. My peers truly enjoyed it, and many of them offered to be critique partners, but receiving harsh criticism from the professor that I admired was extremely painful. I left class and immediately called my parents, and I talked to my dad the entire drive home just to keep from crying. That professor had unknowingly damaged my creative confidence, and I didn’t work on my novel for three months after that. It took a lot of self-reflection for me to decide that what she said couldn’t control me, and that despite her criticisms, I had to continue working on my novel. And I did.
I think this happens to all of us. At one time or another, we’ll receive harsh feedback that completely knocks us down. But what’s important is standing back up, putting your fingers back on the keyboard, and not allowing anyone to keep you from your craft.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
My number one writing tip is to set a writing schedule for yourself, and stick to it. Finishing a novel is extremely difficult, and I know that I wouldn’t finish anything if I didn’t set a strict schedule for myself. Even when you don’t feel like it, you have to show up and work on your novel, even if that’s only 100 words a day. Once you finish your first novel, you’ll have proved to yourself that it is possible, and you’ll be unstoppable after that.
What do you think is the biggest marketing challenge for new authors?
I think learning how to market effectively can be a huge challenge for new authors. It’s something that takes time to learn, and I recommend that you have fun with it. It can be hard to put yourself out there and own your creative work, but it’s necessary to do so. Build your brand, be proud of your work, and try to learn something new every day.
What methods of book marketing do you find the most effective?
My most successful marketing platform has been YouTube. By making videos and connecting with other writers in the community, I’ve been able to find my audience. YouTube won’t be the best platform for everybody, so I recommend that authors take their time to find the platform that they enjoy the most. Instagram is a wonderful option, and having a Twitter presence is important as well.
How do you make time for your book marketing?
Honestly, I’ve developed into a bit of a workaholic. I don’t even take weekends off. I wake up early, and the first thing that crosses my mind is: What can I accomplish today? Maybe that means taking a new Instagram post, filming a new video, or talking to other members of this amazing writing community. It helps to make marketing into something that’s fun and you enjoy doing. For example, you could have a photoshoot with your new book and then have a collection of photos to share across social media in the upcoming weeks. Make marketing fun, and it won’t have to feel like work.
Any advice for approaching publishers?
Be professional – always. And not just when approaching publishers. Be professional on your social media, as well. Remember, you’re building a brand! If you ever want to complain or rant about something, especially in the publishing world, take it off social media!
How do you handle rejection as a writer?
By knowing that rejection isn’t personal. I’ve been rejected, lost contests and received harsh criticism. However, I’ve tried to change my mindset by seeing this as a step in the right direction. If you’re putting yourself out there to be rejected, then that means you’re working toward something. You can grow and learn from these rejections, and turn them into a positive learning experience.
How do you deal with isolation, as writing is an inherently private exercise?
I’ve found an amazing community online through YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter. I enjoy filming videos, doing livestreams, and participating in word sprints with other writers. As someone who has social anxiety, this has been a wonderful way for me to interact with other people while also staying somewhat inside my comfort zone. Writing doesn’t have to be isolating – you just have to find your community!
Is there anything else you’d like to share with aspiring writers?
I just want to say that at one point, I thought I would never be an author. It was my dream, but I doubted I’d ever achieve it. But then I got serious. I turned my dream into a plan, and my plan into a goal, and now I’ve written five novels. You can do this – just believe in yourself, and never give up.