Here’s what selling two million books taught me about writing.

Caroline Mitchell
4 min readMar 29, 2024

I didn’t start writing until I was in my forties. It was trial and error to begin with, but I never lost faith. I’ve published twenty bestselling books over the last ten years. I started from nothing and worked my way up. Now I’m grateful every single day that I get to write for a living. It’s time to pay it forward. Here are the top ten things that I’ve learned.

Author Caroline Mitchell writing

Don’t wait for inspiration. It comes while working. — Henri Matisse.

1. Don’t expect to be an amazing writer in the beginning. Most author’s first drafts really are awful to begin with. Writing is a skill that needs to be learned and the only way to improve is to keep writing. ‘Only bad writers think they’re great,’ as the saying goes. Often I’ll share on my socials just how much I’ve loved writing a book, but the first draft of that publication probably had me pulling out my hair from the roots.

2. Play the long game. You need patience and resilience. Bucket loads. In the publishing world, everything moves sooooooo slooooooowly. Come to terms with it. If you are in employment, then make writing your side hustle. Lots of writers give up just when they’re on the brink of something. Don’t let that be you.

If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere. — Frank A. Clark.

Author Caroline Mitchell holding her book, The Islanders

3. Make writing your life. Be nosy, listen in to conversations, make notes. Analyse not just people but the weather, the atmosphere in a room, buildings, situations. Then you’ll have that distant look that I have when I’m ‘away with the fairies’. It’s great for strengthening the creative side of your brain.

4. Feck imposter syndrome. You will feel like an imposter. Everyone does. Feck it. Keep writing. We’re all in the same boat. (Feck: not quite an Irish swearword.)

5. Consistency. Consistency. Consistency. It’s everything. Write every day if you can, even if you’re only squeezing in a paragraph. It’s the only way to build that writing habit that will see you through a whole book. Protect your writing time. When my kids were young, I used to write in the car while my husband minded them. (I tried the bathroom but they kept knocking on the door.)

People do not decide their futures. They decide their habits and their habits decide their futures. — F. M. Alexander.

6. Keep learning. Keep reading. Keep going. I love writing courses, even after all these years I’m still learning. Grow and evolve.

7. Be inspired. Hang out with people who have positive energy. If you don’t know any, then there are plenty online (waving!). Follow their accounts. Immerse yourself in positivity. I listened to snippets of motivational talks (and still do) every single day. I ensure my inner voice stays positive, too. Distance yourself from negative people as much as you can.

8. Grow your author voice. Infuse your writing with your unique life experiences. You are not a robot. Your writing should come from the heart. Become your characters. Pour your emotions into every page. Being vulnerable and honest beats AI driven writing every day of the week.

The mind is everything. What you think, you become. — Buddah.

Author Caroline Mitchell posing with books at London Book Fair

9. Treat writing like a business. Take it seriously. If you want to earn money then it’s not a hobby. Create your personal brand. (I recommend Canva. It’s fast and easy to use. Or Fiverr for cheap freelancers.) Grow an author platform on social media long before the book is written. Join online book clubs, meet readers, but in the name of all that is good and holy, don’t spam.

10. Have fun. Stress is a creativity killer. Enjoy getting immersed in your story. Love and nurture your dream. My dream of being a full time author kept me going through the hardest of times. Close the door on doubts and negative thoughts, they aren’t going to serve you. If you want this enough, you’ll make it work.

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Caroline Mitchell

NYT, USA Today, Washington Post and international #1 bestselling thriller author with 2M books sold. Ex-police. Writing course provider.