The Most Important Thing A Writer Must Do To Succeed
Getting started in the self-publishing game isn’t as easy as some make it out to be. If you don’t like writing, a LOT, then the climb to an appreciable number of sales is long. But how do you start producing more work, faster?
Today’s guest post (The first for the year! If you’re keen to write one go here) is from the amusing Dylan White, an author who I’ve know for several years and who has finally started to gain traction with his work. He’s a great writer, and works hard, and deserves every bit of success! He’s here to tell you why his self-publishing journey is starting to lift off…
I’m fairly new to the self-publishing scene and I’ve read my share of author blogs. I want to share with you the one thing I’ve taken away from all of them. The most important thing a writer must do to succeed…
Write. A lot.
It’s that simple — but it’s not that easy.
All the marketing, networking, blogging, tweeting, posting, and pinning doesn’t mean anything unless I write. And while I will likely be spending eighty percent of my time networking, the twenty percent spent writing is the most important.
Here’s why …
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
I’m an okay writer. Sometimes, I’m a good writer. I’m certainly not a great writer. But I’m working towards that. By writing. Every time I sit down to write, I’m not just writing. I’m practicing writing. The more I write, the better I’ll get. Hopefully. The better I get, the more likely I am to attract and keep readers. Also, the more I write, the more I have to offer readers. More on that in a bit…
I don’t remember where I heard about the “ten thousand hour rule,” but it says you have to put in ten thousand hours before you become an expert at something. I don’t imagine I will ever be an “expert” at writing. I’ll be experienced, yes, and I might even get better, but I just can’t see a day when I will ever have the confidence in the quality of my writing to call myself an expert. But if someone else wants to call me an expert, well, far be it from me to argue.
It’s simple math. The less I write, the less I publish, the less I sell. The more I write, the more I publish, the more I sell. So I have to keep producing content. I am in the business of being a writer. That doesn’t mean I just write anything and throw it up on Amazon. I try to write something good. One, because if it’s good, readers will buy it. Two, I want to be proud of it.
Amanda Hocking (yeah, I’m playing the Hocking card) had eight books under her belt before she self-published. Not one. Eight. And we all know what happened to her. It may not happen to me. It probably won’t. But she keeps writing and now she has nineteen titles on Amazon.
John Locke is part of the very small Kindle Million Club because he writes a lot of books. Currently, he has about twenty-five titles. He just released another in early February of this year and, according to his email, will be releasing another by the end of the month! They’re not world-changing and they’re not outstanding pieces of literature, but they’re fun reads in a targeted niche. That’s a big thing — knowing your niche. But that’s another post.
Again, here’s where we see why writing is the key. If I only have one book and someone buys it and likes it, I have nothing else to offer them. I’ve lost them. But if I have other titles available, readers are more likely to buy them. So I have to constantly and consistently produce content. Because if I have four or eight or fifteen titles, readers who liked one will likely will buy most, if not all, of my others. And they’ll follow me on Twitter and “Like” me on Facebook and, hopefully, subscribe to my mailing list. That way they’ll be first in line when I release something else.
LIKE THAT SONG FROM “FROZEN” — LET IT GO
When it comes to my writing, I detach myself from the outcome. I let it go. At least, as much as I can. I try to focus on finishing a book and telling a good story, not on how many copies it will sell. I also try not to obsess over it as I write. I just write it and let it go. Yes, I still go back and rewrite, edit, and proofread. But I don’t spend forever trying to make it “perfect.” Because there will always be something I wish I’d written better. Often, the whole thing. But I take a mental note and do it better the next time. Remember, that’s what my writing is — practice for the next time.
Still not convinced? J.K. Rowling just revealed she thinks she should have had Harry and Hermione end up together. Even J.K. Rowling isn’t completely satisfied with her own international phenomenon. But millions of readers are. So it doesn’t matter if you think it’s perfect. Someone somewhere will. And hopefully lots of someones.
This past November, I participated in NaNoWriMo. If you have never done National Novel Writing Month, I highly recommend it. It’s an annual online challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It doesn’t say a good novel, just a novel. Only about a third of the people who participate actually complete the challenge. I’m proud to say I’m one of them.
I wrote a snarky detective novel called DEAD SEXY and it’s the first in what will be a series. It’s not great. It’s good, but it’s not great. But here’s the deal — I didn’t judge it as I wrote it. I just wrote it. I went back and fixed it later. Because I had a deadline.
They say a goal is a dream with a deadline. I say a deadline is a deadline. Good or bad, I still had to write a cohesive 50,000 word novel in 30 days. That’s it. The “goal” part of it was to write a good novel in that 30 days. I wrote it first, fixed it second, and let it go third. And guess what — it’s selling better than my YA Paranormal Romance series, The Apparition Trilogy, which I spent four years writing!
I attribute that to two things: one, I wrote to a particular niche that I knew sold well, and, two, I detached myself from the outcome. I didn’t think of selling a lot of copies as I wrote it. My only concern as I wrote was meeting my daily word quota and getting it done. Today, I still set a daily word quota. I focus on quantity first. Then I go back and try for quality.
Imagine how much you could write — and consequently sell — if you just wrote. Get the story out of your head and onto paper. Once it’s there, let it go. That’s the time to write another one. Then another. Then another. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Once I’ve chosen what I’m going to write, I don’t write anything else. I may have other story ideas and I’ll write those down or take a few notes, but I don’t take on one novel while I’m working on another. I give it my focus because otherwise I’ll never finish it. That’s how I used to operate. I have a ton of half-finished and barely-begun stories. Now, I force myself to focus on finishing because I don’t allow myself to write something else until I complete what I’m working on. Sometimes it’s hard, but you can’t have the baby if you don’t have the labor pains. Speaking of labor pains…
HOW TO BREAK THROUGH WRITER’S BLOCK
You have know the answer by now. Write. There are times when my writing flows smoothly like a glass of Gentleman Jack. Other times, it’s like molasses in winter. Actually, most times are molasses times. And those are the times I curse the word processing Gods, tell myself I’m awful and I’ll never write anything good. Sure, I try to remind myself that every writer goes through this, but it doesn’t help. The only way to break writer ’s block is to write. Even if it’s garbage. Even if I don’t know what I’m going to write about, I start writing. It will come. It always does. It sucks while I’m doing it, but in the end I’m always glad I did it. Because invariably I come up with something better than I imagined.
See? Simple. But not easy. All the marketing in the world won’t matter unless you have a product to market. So write. Focus, finish, and let it go. Like Billy Crystal said in Throw Momma From The Train, “A writer writes — always.”
Now, since none of this counts towards my word count goal today, guess what I’m gonna go do …
Dylan White is the author of The Apparition Trilogy and DEAD SEXY – A Watts & Parker Detective Novel, as well as this article, several emails, a ton of tweets, and the occasional ransom note. (Don’t ask) You can find Dylan online at www.dylanwhite.com, “like” him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter. Just don’t follow him on the street. That’s creepy.