Thursday, January 5, 2012

The How-To How-To

As an indie author, I read a lot of articles that give tips for writers on how to get published or even just how to write a book from start to finish. I also talk to other authors, and we share helpful hints and suggestions with each other. There is no definitive checklist for how to successfully manage the writing, promotion, and minutiae of indie publication, so swapping notes and sharing experiences with each other is a huge benefit to the entire community.


It is also difficult to know with any certainty exactly how much weight to place on these gems of wisdom. Do I take the advice of this blogger with a pinch of salt, or do I rely on it and model my own efforts after it? Am I doing this wrong because I failed to follow the steps laid out in this article? How crucial are these things?

One question pretty much every writer hates is, “Where do you get your ideas?” This may truly be the only subject upon which authors, indie or otherwise, can agree.  When it comes to any other aspect of the writing profession, I have read articles that contradict each other, I have talked to authors who have conflicting opinions about the role of social media in promoting books, and I have read books that try to create a step-by-step instruction manual for writers to follow that inevitably disagree with each other.

So if you take all this advice and squoosh it all together, what do you end up with? I have taken all the grapes of wisdom I’ve encountered and distilled them here:

1)      It’s okay to write at your own pace. If you compare your creative process to anyone else’s, you are guaranteed to feel inferior at some point. If you have taken a year to write your novel and another writer took one month, does it necessarily follow that you are a talentless hack? No – it just means that you spent more time crafting your story and characters. Writers are notorious for talking about how long the first draft took – you rarely hear about the fifty-eight revisions that followed. Every time I hear an author talking about how he or she wrote a book in a week while taking care of five children, learning to play the accordion, and curing cancer, I feel like an underachiever. I never actually stop and read these books to see if they’re any good – I just immediately question my own talent. It’s a very human response, but it’s counterproductive and irrational. Don’t fall into that trap.

2)      Social media is a necessary evil. Writers want to write. Unfortunately, to succeed in this modern world, you will have to embrace at least some social media. This is how you promote your book; this is the way to reach the largest potential audience. Suck it up, sweetheart – it must be done. Bare minimum for the unwilling? Facebook fan page, Twitter account, and a blog. Even better? LinkedIn profile, Goodreads author page, and a nice website of your very own are all excellent ideas. Yes, it’s going to take a big chunk of your free time. No, a note from your mother won’t get you excused.

3)      Your greatest asset is other writers. Facebook. Blogs. Goodreads. Twitter. LinkedIn. Novel Publicity. Writing circles. Go forth and find your people. Don’t be shy. Talk to them. Ask your questions. Promote their books. Participate in blog hops. Remember that the authors who participate in these forums are looking for the same support that you are. Your comrades will provide you with endless wisdom, support, and sympathy. They’ll share stories of success and failure. They’ll let you know about scams, crooked dealings, and other pitfalls. They’ll direct you to online and print resources to answer your more detailed questions. They’ll show you that there are an infinite number of paths leading to publication and success as an author. Most importantly, they will understand your challenges, your fears, and your hopes in a way no one else can. That kind of community and understanding more than justifies the time investment.

The only advice I would add to this amalgam of all the other advice I’ve heard is that you need to respect your writing. As I mentioned above, the creative process is different for everyone, but you will achieve nothing if you do not believe in yourself. Take yourself seriously. Take your writing seriously. Don’t look to other people to validate the time you spend writing your novel – you must find that validation within yourself. Once you say to yourself “I am an author” and start acting like one, you are a thousand miles closer to achieving your dream.


Shah Wharton said...

Fabulous post! I so needed this pep-talk right about now. I do so feel like such an amateur at times :( But i will never know my potential unless I take hold of myself, and get on with it!

I totally agree with the final point too - the 1.5 years I've spent promoting other authors (and continue to do so), will hopefully have been well spent and bring good karma to my path.

Shah. X

jmrinaldo said...

Awesome post, and so true! Funny, too, and that's always good. Thanks.
Joe Rinaldo