Writing 101: Image of book cover, business cards, handwritten notes

Writing 101: 10 Lessons from “The Brave Knight”

Ever since the fourth grade, I’ve known two things: 

  1. I’d get counseling.
  2. I’d write a book.

Twenty-ish years ago I accomplished the first thing, and last year I finally accomplished the second. Honestly,  I never imagined my first project would be a children’s book. I always thought it would be my memoir. Or maybe a self-help book.

I also had no idea how much the writing and publishing process would teach me. So far, I’ve identified at least 10 things my journey with The Brave Knight has taught me. For instance:

#1 Never say never. 

This has been my life philosophy for a long time. 

Once upon a time I thought I didn’t want kids. then I changed my mind. There was a time I thought there was no way I’d be a stay-at-home-mom. Then I did that very thing and LOVED it. I used to believe the only way to publish was traditionally. But when I had a mere six weeks to get a book from manuscript to physical copy, I had no choice but to pick another way to publish. 

And while I never thought the thought, “I”ll never write a children’s book,” it was never, ever “on my radar.” 

All to say, keep your mind and heart open to possibilities of all kinds. 

#2 Say yes to opportunities. Writing and otherwise.

Years ago, a friend got me a job writing a lifestyle column. What a great experience that was! I got a whole lot of “by-lines” out in the world, learned to meet a deadline week in and week out, and I’m still meeting people who “know” me from the weekly column I wrote three years ago.

At the nonprofit Libera, I ran their social media for an entire year for free. Then they hired me as their communications director, and I worked for them for two years. Great connections came of that position, including Karen Haring, the executive director, utilizing my book, The Brave Knightin Libera’s LovePacks initiative. 

The nonprofit Shield Task Force didn’t ask me to be a body safety educator. I volunteered for the job. I sent a private message to Robert Peters, the executive director, giving him my credentials and volunteering my time and speaking abilities, if they ever needed someone. As a result of that action, I’ve done body safety presentations for thousands of school kids in West Virginia. 

In time, it was Robert who asked me, “Can you write a book that shows kids what “grooming” is?” Grooming being the process by which a sexual predator gains the trust of a potential victim and sometimes their family.

#3 Develop a network of connections.

I’m talking:

  • Mentors
  • People in your industry
  • Peers in positions of power
  • Friends on a similar journey but a few steps ahead of you 

Here recently, connections I’ve made in the past few years have helped make my writing dreams come true. 

Karen Haring and Robert Peters, mentioned above, are examples of connections I’ve made. I also intentionally started a conversation with female entrepreneurs Eva Steortz of Vita Creative and Laura Seybold of Shine Consulting. Both have enjoyed incredible careers and are now coaches: career and life/leadership, respectively. By sharing tips, tricks, and wins (and yes, failures) with one another, we encourage and hold one another accountable.

#4 Be on the lookout for pivot points and/or inflection moments.

As a young mother, each time I went into labor with a child, I’d think to myself:

“Today everything changes.”

When each child started kindergarten, I’d have the same thought. Then when each of my parents passed away, the same words came to mind.

I’ve had similar experiences at least twice during the past year, but in more of a business sense.

  1. While helping fill LovePacks at a volunteer event last summer, as I sliced open a box of books—a book someone else wrote—I thought to myself, “This could be my book going into the LovePacks.”
  1. A week later at my one-year review, my boss asked, “Is there anything I can do to help your writing career?” Based on my “inflection point” the week prior, I didn’t hesitate. I said, “Yes! You can make The Brave Knight one of the items going into the LovePacks.”

I’m so glad I had that first thought: “This could be my book.” And I’m so glad I then had the courage to ask for what I wanted. My whole life changed the day my boss said, “Let’s do it!”

#5 If you find yourself “out of your depth,” simply do the next right thing.

Once my illustrator, Jessie Haring, and I received the green light on producing The Brave Knight, we had a scant six weeks to get the book finished, formatted, and printed. Because we had next to no idea how to bring a book to life, I asked my friend Cole Smith, who independently published two books of her own, to hold our hand. We followed her 12-step process, personalizing it for our project, as needed.

Every time I look back at how we birthed The Brave Knight in less than 50 days, I’m amazed. Every step of the way we simply did the next right thing.

#6 Ask for what you want.

This isn’t just great advice for writing. It’s good advice for life.

My husband Tony actually taught me this concept twice in the last year.

At one point during the early days of The Brave Knight, I was too busy to drive to the printer to pick up books myself, so I hired someone to do it. When my driver arrived, the printer didn’t have the entire order printed and ready to go. 

Knowing I was super frustrated at the thought of arranging another pickup, Tony suggested I ask the printer for a “make-good.” Such as:

  • A check to cover the cost of my driver.
  • A discount on a future order. 
  • Shipping the missing books to me for free.

With trembling hands, I emailed the printer. What do you know? Within the hour they emailed back volunteering to ship my books to me at their cost. 

This spring, when I placed a much larger order, Tony recommended I ask the printer for their “best price.” Personally, I thought they’d given me their best price, but I followed his advice and asked if they might give me a better deal. Bam! They extended a significant discount on my order. “You’re a great customer and we love working with you!” they said. I was stunned and thrilled. 

Not only that, but in the past six months I’ve found:

I don’t die if someone says no.

Example: Just last week I asked a local retailer to carry my books. The store owner kindly told me she doesn’t carry books. And then she suggested two other stores to try.

Want another pro-tip? Repeat after me:

#7 “Better done than perfect.”

Who knows who originally coined this phrase? Seth Godin, maybe? Whoever it was, this is solid advice. If you dawdle too long, spend too much time trying to get your project perfect, chances are, you may never birth your baby—writing, or otherwise—into the world. 

Believing our book would go to press more than once, my illustrator Jessie and I were content to accept our first, second, and third formatted iterations of the book. Even though they were far from perfect. Thankfully though, when we finally made it to press, we were on something like our fourth formatting  of The Brave Knight, and man-oh-man, was it better than the first! I think this was our reward for “Trusting the process.”

#8 Listen to your gut, the (Holy) Spirit, women’s intuition, etc..

All throughout my Brave Knight journey, I’ve been listening to my gut. Recently, it’s been speaking louder. And more often. 

Almost every morning for the past few weeks, I’ve gotten a memo from my gut, Spirit, intuition—whatever you want to call it—to accomplish a certain task that particular day. 

  • Send an email.
  • Text a friend who works in “high places.” 
  • Pitch a podcast.

My recent rate of success for these actions is pretty spectacular! I believe it’s because:

“Fortune favors the bold.”  

A related benefit to all the yesses I’m getting is I’m way less scared of asking. 

Here’s a specific example of paying attention to my instincts. Often people ask if I’m working on my next book yet. Though I know what my next project is with Jessie (at least, I think I do), I feel my job right now is to promote The Brave Knight enthusiastically. 

Recently I heard this confirmation:

A new book is like a loaf of bread. It will never smell and taste as good as it does right after it comes out of the oven.

That’s why I’m doing all I can to promote my book baby for at least a year. I may rough-draft a few chapters here and there on project two, but my main focus is getting The Brave Knight into the hands of as many children and child-serving organizations as possible. 

Another way I listened to my gut is by literally “quitting my day job.” Granted, I only worked there part-time, but I knew with my high level of distractibility, I could only focus on one thing at a time. Thankfully, my boss was very gracious. “I am absolutely going to miss you,” she said, “but how can I be sad?”

“Launching women to become who they were meant to be is what we do at Libera.”

There’s another thing I’ve been doing a lot of lately.

#9 Visualizing, manifesting, praying…Oh, my!

Whatever you want to call it, you should give this process a try. All you need is a stack of index cards (or scratch paper) and a pen. 

On each index card, write down something you want to happen. Except word it as if it’s already come to pass. Things like:

  • My book is in the world.
  • I have four paid speaking engagements this year.
  • My book has 50+ book reviews on Amazon. 

Each day, take out your stack of visualization/prayer cards and read them out loud. Like you 100% believe they all have happened. 

If you think this sounds way too “woo-woo,” check out these two episodes on Jenna Kutcher’s podcast:

Once a manifested item has happened, I highlight the words on that card and move it to the back of the stack. My manifested stack is now impressive. It includes:

  • The West Virginia Library Commission selecting The Brave Knight as the 2023 “summer read” for every library in the state.
  • Being asked to present (and sell books) at a prestigious conference later this year.
  • Tamarack saying they want to carry The Brave Knight.

Since manifesting-prayer is working so well for me, I keep creating more accomplishments to believe into being. 

#10 Action yields results.

This lesson—deeply impressed upon me since last December—may encompass all the others. Time after time, I’ve seen initiative be rewarded. That’s not to say it’s easy. Action requires energy and often courage, but what is the alternative? No books sold.

Reality check: The average independently published author will sell around 250 books. 

Hustle culture is frowned on by some these days, but the truth of the matter is, if you want to sell books, you’re going to have to take action on a regular basis.

I’m pretty sure I’ll learn more lessons during the lifetime of The Brave Knight, but this is a great start for now.

If you’re interested in writing, email me here to sign up for my email list. As a “signing bonus,” I’ll send you my document: “So You Want to Be a Writer.”

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