Last time we ended with a challenge to make sure beginning writers make writing a habit, and do so for 21 days straight. But then what?
So, You’ve Got A Book
Write another. And then another.
I’ll stop you here. If you were thinking one book is going to be the way to indie success, it’s incredibly unlikely. Indie authors are all about flexibility in release schedules, flexibility in word counts of their books, and the ability to move faster than traditional publishing counterparts. We’re about escaping the slog of finding an agent, waiting for their response, then hoping one picks us up, revising based on their feedback, waiting for the agent to contact publishers, hearing from a publisher, making more changes, and on and on. I’ve had friends who have had their book at an agent and a publisher for two to three years before finally getting rejected. That’s a long wait! Meanwhile, indie authors can put a book up to go directly to readers as soon as we think it’s done. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
I think so. But the odds of finding readers are few in a market where most consumers are bingeing. People binge watch, binge drink, binge eat, and more and more, people like to binge read. They purposefully look for series where they can plow through several volumes and still have more coming. It’s not to say the occasional Andy Weir doesn’t happen, but even then, he had been writing and producing short stories and web comics since 2011 before his The Martian hit the web, and from there it took years to become a success. Those don’t happen very often, and while it’d be great if it does for you, the best way to play the odds is to put a lot of chips down on different colors, and that means having a lot of stories.
It sounds daunting, but it isn’t. Professional writing means writing professionally, treating this whole endeavor like a job. Writing on days you don’t want to write. It starts with the habit forming above, but what about those days when you just don’t feel like it?
Moving From Hobby To Career
Those of us who have day jobs don’t always want to go to work. Most of us don’t want to work on most days, but we all do it. Why? Because it’s the only way we can feed ourselves and put a roof over our heads. It follows that those who treat writing like it’s necessary to put a roof over his or her head is going to perform better and more consistently than someone who comes at this like it’s a video game to play when they have time time or feel like it.
You need to adjust your mindset from “I would like to write” to “I have to write.” I’m an eclectic hobby kind of guy. I like to read books, play video games, play music, see friends, play board games, race cars, all sorts of things that provide for interesting experiences to funnel into my writing, but I’ve given up on most all of those all the time so I can make that time to write. While I have a day job, it’s the only way to do it. I have to spend a half hour to an hour in the morning on my blog here, and I have to spend an hour in the evening writing my fiction. There’s no option. I will give up doing other things every time because I take this seriously.
It does’t have to be two hours a day like I often do, but try half an hour or an hour. It’s doable to carve out that kind of time, even in the most hectic of lives. Cut out that TV show or video game time, or even reading time. There’s something that’s not a necessity, and writing is a necessity.
But What If I’m Not Good Enough?
I get a lot of amateur writers asking me to review their work and, in essence, bless whether it’s good enough to publish or to be worthy of gaining a following. This is a mindset that I want you to erase right now.
It doesn’t matter what other authors think of your work.
We live in an age because of Brandon Sanderson and his very popular (and good) Writing Excuses podcast, that thousands of authors have all fallen into these traps of critiquing work over and over again. While there’s some usefulness there, for the most part, you learn how to write by writing more. Once you’ve got a handle on what a structure is, what a plot is, what pacing is, what characters are, and what filler words are, you can move forward pretty confidently in your work. The thing is, you don’t have to be the most talented writer ever to gain a following, you just have to come across passionate and authentic. No amount of workshopping can teach those qualities — and in fact, I believe workshopping often dampens those qualities.
But beyond that, a bigger author isn’t going to be able to tell you much about your story. There’s basic grammar and style elements (which you should get an editor and learn there from), but overall, ideas are just ideas. What resonates with some might not resonate with others. Even if an author tells you it’s great, it might not be. It’s all subjective to a degree.
Don’t worry about it. Put yourself out there. Get an editor, finish it, write the next one.
But the asking authors to read books is a symptom of a bigger problem than anything in the writing — there’s a mindset problem present. It’s a lack of confidence. And this is where authors will separate themselves from the amateurs.
Confidence is king.
You have to be able to sell your work, and to do that, you have to believe in it. No amount of asking others will help you with that, it all comes from within. You have to tell yourself you have a great story. Say it aloud to yourself if you have to. Repeat it. Hone the quick elevator pitch for discussing it. Only speak positive about your work.
The attitude and mindset is important, because the confidence or lack thereof will come across in the writing as well. There’s a tone of a confident author that’s difficult to explain, but it’s very different from amateur efforts. I look back on my early work when I wasn’t confident in what I was writing and get a very different feel from what I’m writing now. It’s so important. Believe in yourself. There’s plenty of other people less talented than you who have made millions of dollars on their books, I’m sure you can name them. So why shouldn’t you be able to do the same?
Moreover, confidence in writing means you’re going to be willing to take more risks. Those risks will be where the creative juices are the best, where there’s the most emotion in the work. You can’t capture your full
I highly recommend a “fake it ’til you make it” approach with confidence. The writing world can be savage, and so the best way to overcome it is to have your mindset prepared not to care about what others think, and to be willing to never give up. This is your story for your to pour out on the page, unique to your experiences, and it is worth it.
I’ll reiterate: never talk badly about your work, even to other authors in private. It’s so important.
If you’re enjoying the blog, go check out my books. Even without the 118 reviews of For Steam And Country, I knew I had something special in a Steampunk fantasy, and still believe I do. Don’t believe me though, read it for yourself:
(And you can see a big confidence difference in my writing between book 1 and The Blood Of Giants, it’s an interesting comparative study on this topic right there).