Training to Be a Career Author–Writing is More than the Writing
Many of you who read this blog desire to be career authors, and kudos to you. It is a fun job and a great time. I used to be in sales. I literally hated my job so much I would throw up on the way to work. Every day I died a little more. This might be shocking, but selling cardboard had little outlet for being creative. I just knew that writing was the life for me. Ah….but how little I really knew.
I now have had two successful best-selling books, and I still have to pinch myself when I realize I have the same agent as James Rollins and Diana Gabaldon. This isn’t to brag—okay maybe a little—as much as it is to say that I feel I’m in a better position to offer advice. I have grown from clueless neophyte with a dragon notebook and a dream to a writing professional. That said, I now feel confident to tell you…
Being a career writer is more than the writing.
It is more than the book. Why do I tell you this? Because it is going to affect how you train. Yes, train. Writing is not a marathon, as many author-bloggers might have you believe. It is more like a decathlon….oh, but one of the events is a marathon.
This career is so much less about talent and far more about endurance. I have talented writers I know who will never make this a career even if they publish. Their approach will burn them out quickly or keep them trapped at a certain level.
We’ll talk about why in a moment.
In a decathlon, there are ten events from running to pole vaulting to shot put, and athletes are judged on their collective scores. This means that, not only does a participant need to be able to run distance, but he has to be a good sprinter, and also strong and flexible. All aspects of his physique are going to be tested and then judged against his competition.
Same with writing.
We have to write, edit, learn about the craft, organize, plan, run a business, read, research, market, blog, speak, and teach. There is so much more to this career than just the writing.
I can tell writers who aren’t avid readers in three pages. I can tell writers who haven’t properly researched pretty early on, too (and I don’t finish those books). It takes me less than a page to spot writers who haven’t read craft books. Writers who refuse to do social media? Well, their days are numbered.
We have to be organized (I’m still working on this one). First of all, writing a novel requires we be organized. Any work spanning 80-100,000 words is going to need to be plotted and the right events placed at the right point. People who just sit down and write until they stop? Yeah, that ain’t a novel. Novels that do not have narrative structure—antagonists and major plot points—well, they aren’t novels. They are an entity with no skeleton. Or, if there is a skeleton, some bones are missing or in the wrong place. In nature that is called an aberration. In writing that is called Book that Won’t Sell.
Organization will also be critical when it comes to the business end of this business. Tracking sales, filing royalty statements, receipts, deductions, and TAXES. Oh my!
Don’t get me wrong. Some of those things writers don’t have to do, but it could impact their final success. For instance, authors don’t have to do public speaking, but those who can and do have an added advantage. Authors who can present at workshops and conferences stand a far better chance of meeting the right person who opens the right door to take her career to an entirely new level.
I generally work six days a week. This past week was particularly hard because I had to drive to Denton, TX to present. This means I had to be up at six in the morning so I could prepare and be ready to drive 70 miles. The interesting part was I wasn’t slated to teach until 2:00 in the afternoon. Why was I getting there at 9:00? Because there were other people speaking, and I did so to support them even though I really didn’t particularly need their classes. I know what it is like to fear an empty room. Supporting others is part of being a professional.
So I sat in workshops from 9:30 to 3:00. Then, due to a miscommunication, I wasn’t allowed to sell any books, so I had to stand out in almost 100 degree Texas heat and sell books out of the trunk of my car. After that, I drove over 100 miles home. Over a 100 miles? Yep. Three major traffic jams and it took over two hours to reach home. I spent more money in gas than I made. I finally got to settle down and rest at around 6:00 that night. Basically, it was a 12 hour day.
Today I begin teaching an on-line workshop. I also have my blog, social media and I have to do a test-run with Skype, because in July I will be teaching a class for UCLA, and the private jet is in the shop :D. I also have chapters due to my agent, about 50 pages of editing for other people, a mountain of laundry that won’t wash itself and a baby who loves to make even that simple chore three times the work.
Mommy, why are you crying?
This isn’t to have a pity party. I love my job. I loved every minute of spending time with my writing peeps on Saturday. I loved being able to support other speakers and learn new things. I loved being able to open up the world of social media for some newbies and make it more accessible. But I do have to say that you have to train to be able to endure this kind of schedule and still be productive.
Mommy, are you writing? I’m hungry. I need clean clothes.
Those kids hanging off our leg are still there even when we decide to write. In fact, as I type these words I have an 18 month old screaming because I won’t let him climb on the table and play with knives. The house still won’t clean itself, and apparently they can put a man on the moon, but have yet to invent clothes that never need to be washed.
I am here to change your perspective and make those challenges your triumphs. Learn to do it anyway. Those kids that interrupt you every thirty seconds are a blessing. Think of it like running pulling a weighted sled. This is author training. If you can learn to maintain your focus despite all of life’s distractions, think of how amazingly productive you will be when one day you do have that private office and can afford a meth-addicted howler monkey with a sidearm to guard your writing time. Heck, you will probably be twice as productive at least.
Successful authors are a multitasking MACHINE. This is one of the reasons it is SO vital for us to brand our name when it comes to social media. We already have a lot of responsibilities, so streamlining becomes paramount. Spreading ourselves too thinly can be a formula to give up.
I see a lot of writers who will not make it in this business. Why? Often they aren’t doing the tasks that are vital to writing a great book—reading and learning the rules of the craft. This is like wanting to win a decathlon, but eating pizza everyday and not going to the gym.
These days, everyone can get published so a new benchmark of success is becoming book sales and list rankings. I watch a lot of writers who are too obsessed with the marketing side of things. They are banking everything on the success of ONE book and aren’t getting back to the computer and working on the next book and the next and the next.
Other writers are blogging machines. Blogs are GREAT for branding….if done properly. Many writers are wearing themselves out posting blogs that will do very little to brand their names. They are writing thousands of words a week that do…almost nothing. Or they are blogging, but never getting to writing the actual book.
These types of writers are only focusing on ONE aspect of their careers. They are like the participant in the decathlon who only focuses on one event. It is a recipe to lose.
Athletes who compete in decathlons use a lot of different skills—speed, endurance, strength. They walk this fine balance of giving an event their all….without really giving it their all. They still must have energy left to effectively compete in the other events and outpace the competition.
We writers must learn to give it our all….without giving it our all. The better we get at balancing our duties, the more successful we will be in the long-run. Writers who fail to appreciate all this job entails won’t be around in a year or three. They are like a runner who sprints at the beginning of a marathon. They will fall by the side of the road, injured and broken.
So today when you have to squeeze in that 100 words on your break from work, think I’m training. When your kids hang off you as you write, picture that weighted sled. Play the soundtrack to Rocky if you must.
What part of your life are you now going to view as author training? What setbacks can you reframe in the positive? What commitments are you going to make to be successful for the long-term? What have you been doing wrong? What problems are you having? What do you now think you could do differently?
I love hearing from you! And to prove it and show my love, for the month of June, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of June I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!
Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.
I will announce last week’s winner on Wednesday.
Make sure you join our LOVE REVOLUTION over on Twitter by following and participating in the #MyWANA Twibe. Read this post to understand how this #MyWANA will totally transform your life and your author platform.
Together Everyone Achieves More!!!! SUPPORT THE HUMANE SOCIETY OF AMERICA! Spread the word and save a life. Sigma Force saves puppies and kittens, too. Ahhhh.
In the meantime, I hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.
Until next time….