How Many Licks, um Books, Does It Take to Get to the Top of the Best-Seller List?
Most of us, especially when we’re new, want our first short story to be a major contest winner or our first novel to be a runaway success. That’s natural. Of course, this is not reality for us mere mortals.
Just like most of us never picked up a violin and magically busted out a flawless rendition of Flight of the Bumblebee, most of us won’t sit down and write a work that hits the New York Times best-seller list the first go round (or that sells a bazillion copies on Amazon, if you’re an indie).
Yeah, I was bummed, too.
Writing, like most other things, follows the Law of 10,000 Hours (Read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers for more). 10,000 hours of dedicated practice/work/study/training seems to be the magic number that separates the successful professional from everyone else.
Whether it is gymnastics, ballet, playing the ukelele, or writing, practice is key if we want to become masters of our pursuit.
*shock face* :O
This is why we need to write as often as possible, and it’s HUGE reason I am a proponent of writers learning to blog. Blogging can help accelerate the path to mastery, and has an added benefit of helping build a lasting author platform that can help drive sales.
History demonstrates time and again that it takes roughly 10,000 hours (or a million words, depending on who we listen to) to reach the status of true artist and masters of our craft.
Additionally, most authors write at least three books before they start seeing success, which is part of why successful novelists like Bob Mayer, Joe Konrath, and John Locke are constantly telling writers to do less tweeting and more writing. They’re correct. Write, write, write. Great to have a social platform, but we need books to sell or the platform is merely a monument to our Facebook skills.
Guess how long it takes to write three novels?
About 10,000 hours.
Three books minimum.
Thus, all you indie/self-pub authors who put your first book up for sale and you haven’t sold enough copies to buy tacos? Keep writing. 10,000 hours. 3 books. Traditional authors? Three books. Rare is the exception.
The more we write, the better we get (ideally). If the first novel is “eh” keep writing. To paraphrase some Monty Python:
I wrote a book! …and it sank into the swamp.
So, I wrote another book! It, too, sank into the swamp.
So, I wrote another book! …. And it caught fire, fell over…and sank into the swamp.
But the fourth book, THE FOURTH BOOK STOOD.
Happy writing! And follow The Dork Side on Facebook if you want to laugh regularly.
What are your thoughts? Do you agree? Disagree? How much practice do you do daily? How much did you write before you started actually thinking your writing was any good…and other people didn’t run away bleeding from the ears?
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of January, 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 once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
NOTE: December’s winner will be announced Monday.
And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.
At the end of January I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!
I also 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 . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.