We are THANK GOD bringing a close to 2016. Though I’ve survived, I feel like I’ve dragged myself out of a Dumpster fire. Is it me or did 2016 actually last three years?
But as Robert H. Schuller once said…
Tough times never last but tough people do.
Many who read this blog desire to be professional authors and that is a great goal and it is attainable but there are some practical realities we need to appreciate. The road to becoming a pro is long and brutal and treacherous and this post is to help you prepare accordingly.
Think of it like this. If you wanted to take a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood with your dog and kids, would you pack MREs, gallons of fresh water, portable water filtration systems, tents, sleeping bags and a med kit? Would you hire a personal trainer to get you in pique condition for the journey? Would you hire a team of sherpas?
Likely not…unless you’re my husband but he just wants sherpas.
Conversely, if you wanted to summit Everest, would you just slip on the running shoes and leash the dog? You haven’t exercised since Paris Hilton was cool, but why not? Fresh air in the Himalayas might do you some good, right?
Unless you wanted a lonely frozen death on a mountain? Yeah. Again, NO.
Yet sadly, a lot of writers fall into the secondary category. They have a dream of scaling one of the toughest goals in the Western World without fully appreciating what is required for such a journey. An idea only gets us so far and if we fail to properly prepare for what we are wanting to do, we are making an already long journey far longer and harder than is necessary.
I don’t think anyone who has ever summited Everest believes it was easy-peasy, but without the right planning, prep and gear it would surely have been impossible.
Unfortunately, I began my journey seventeen years ago with nothing more than BS and glitter and have done my share of falling off the mountain.
*long scream* *bounce bounce OUCH*
So here are some tips to help you with your journey into 2017 and though I am downloading a lot onto you, these fundamentals will make EVERYTHING work better, especially any New Year’s Resolutions…
Guard Your Dream
Often when we get a new shiny dream we are so excited and we want to go tell everyone so they can be super excited too. That is not always a good plan because humans are weird creatures who all have baggage (and not just carry-on).
When I was new, I thought others would be happy for what I wanted to achieve, that they would be supportive and we could do this together! And what I am about to say is going to be very unpopular, but it is unfortunately true.
Most people will settle for less than what they are truly capable of. But, here’s the kicker…
They really don’t want to believe they settled.
***Denial is more than a river in Africa 😉 .
These folks will have all kinds of good reasons they can’t do X, Y and Z and they will honestly believe them. So, when you come bee-bopping along all excited and start showing them they really could do better if they really wanted to? They are going to resent you. Just expect it.
Bear with me….
I want you to think back to every frigging group project you ever had to do in school. Be there. Think about it. Feel the emotions. Let the anger flow through you….
Now back to your writing dream. Do you really want it to be a group project?
When I was new, I thought every person who said he/she wanted to be a successful writer really did. I stayed in writing groups for years with people who had no time to do any writing but plenty of time to start a lot of back-stabbing drama.
I kept trying to make it work because I really didn’t want to be alone. Being alone was terrifying. But the more I pressed and the harder I worked, the more pushback there was from those who should have been on my side (YES,
even especially FAMILY).
I had to choose between pleasing others or reaching the goal I’d set out to attain.
The problem with group dynamics is that water will find its level. If we are fortunate enough to find a group with similar aspirations and work ethic, that is wonderful. But make sure you are being honest about who you are surrounding yourself with.
Actions speak louder than words and sometimes, to summit? We need to cut some ropes.
One of the big lies you will hear from people (and maybe even yourself) is the I just can’t find the time lie. Here’s the deal. Time isn’t hiding in the couch cushions with the TV remote. We don’t find time, we make time. People make time for what they find important and if you don’t believe me here is an example.
You drop a buck on a lottery ticket on a whim and win twenty million dollars in the Power Ball. Would you really have to find time to go turn it in and get the cash?
So if you find yourself saying those words, “I can’t find the time” just be honest and say, “It isn’t important to me.”
Being a successful author will require time. The more time we invest, the quicker and the better the payoff. We need time to write, research, train, and build a brand. Compromise any of those and the goal is harder to reach. So be honest with yourself in 2017. If your writing dream is really important, then actions should reflect that.
***Goes for me, too 😉
Time to Write
We need to write. I have been running writing sprints every weekday morning on my Ning WANATribe for well over a year so that any writer willing to invest the time will get to write alongside me and experience a professional pace. I pay $70 a month out of my own pocket and out of almost 3,000 members, want to know how many regularly show to sprint?
Fewer than ten.
We do sprints 40 minutes at a time all morning every morning (sometimes all day). Even if a person did one sprint a day and only eked out a single page (250 words), that person would have a finished draft in less than a year. And while that seems like a long time to write a book, how many people have been futzing with the same novel for five or more years?
Never underestimate the power of simply showing up.
If our goal is to publish a book in 2017, we have to actually write it. I know. Hard stuff.
Time to Read
Reading is how we hone our skills and learn. I do a lot of editing and one of my biggest complaints with new writers is it is clear they do not read. They beat up a lot of the same words, the same tired descriptions and their dialogue sounds like a bad soap opera. Often I can tell in less than ten pages they have no plot.
But these are the same folks who will claim they have no time to read.
I read about three books a week. No I don’t sit with a nice hard back the way I would prefer. I listen to audio books and it isn’t my preference but it works with all I have to do. I can’t sit and leisurely page through while folding laundry. I can, however, listen to an audio book and with Kindle Unlimited and an Audible membership I can afford my habit.
No, not all writers are plotters, but I will be blunt. Pansters really are plotters but the reason they can get away with not sitting and outlining is they literally have read so many books that structure is hardwired into their brains and they can navigate a 60,000-110,000 word story intuitively.
Successful pantsers are extremely well read (plotters too but pantsers even more so).
If we don’t spend time reading, we will probably spend way more time with crappy drafts. Most people are not born writing savants. Stephen King didn’t become Stephen King without reading fiction and using others to refine his craft.
Time With Pros
Reading is our time with pros. We can see how J.K. Rowling or Neil Gaiman or whatever writing hero we have executed plot, character, tension, pacing, etc. We can also take classes or read books to shorten the learning curve instead of spending far more time figuring it out on our own.
You can spend ten years and three bad books figuring out all the intricacies of how to plot or take my class and get ten years of MY work in an hour.
Feel free to blog unsuccessfully for a couple years OR take one of my classes and I already did the hard work for you.
The thing is, you will spend time but there is a choice on how you spend it 😉 .
****New classes are listed below.
Time to Brand and Build a Platform
Lots of writers want to whine about social media and that it is too hard and it takes too much time. All right. But discoverability is an absolute nightmare and most people are not buying books at bookstores namely because bookstores are getting about as rare as unicorn tears. Of the remaining point of sale outlets only a small fraction of titles are available and for only short periods of time.
You really think Costco is going to let titles sit on their ONE table long enough to cultivate readers? No. They are only stocking authors who already cultivated readers. They are going for proven sellers and even those guys have a brief shelf life.
Barnes & Noble is dedicating more and more shelves for knick-knacks, toys, music and gadgets because they have a higher profitability. B&N, to me, has become less and less of a bookstore and more and more The Borg—a haphazard compilation of all the businesses their predatory behavior rendered extinct.
Just cobble a coffee shop a toy store a music store and a Hallmark together and sprinkle on some books and VOILA!
I know. Reality sucks. Reality dictates I can’t live on pizza and Ding-Dongs and be skinny. Reality dictates I can’t pay my power bill with my looks. When it comes to being a writer? Reality dictates we build a brand capable of driving sales and the brutal truth is this was ALWAYS the truth even before social media.
Go to any used bookstore and whose books do you really see? I mean REALLY see? Authors with multiple multiple titles. Don’t believe me? Blindfold yourself and spin around three times and see how many steps it takes to hit a James Patterson, Stephen King or Nora Roberts book.
In the olden days before social media, that was how an author became a household name. They wrote a crap ton of books.
Frankly? This is still how it is done, though social media and blogging can make name recognition that drives sales happen far sooner and with fewer titles. But branding and social media has to be done in an effective way.
There are no shortcuts. Book spam is NOT branding. Friending people on FB and spamming their wall is NOT branding. Blogging about your own book is NOT branding. Ranting about politics nonstop like a pit bull with Tourettes is NOT branding.
Well, it is. Kind of. It’s called negative branding and it is guaranteed to make people avoid us more than a Jehovah’s Witness who just joined Amway.
And I know the new trend is to buy into these services that promise newsletter nirvana but read my lips…
Without a brand it is only spam.
Authors who are successful with ads, Bookbub, newsletters, etc. are successful because they first took time to cultivate the audience.
They built a foundation with either multiple books and or meaningful social media branding. We skip that step at our own peril.
Trust me. I’ve been through all the fads. I was on Gather in 2004 when I first realized social media branding would eventually be crucial for authors. I was laughed at by agents and editors and tarred and feathered by traditional authors for years.
So I did something about it.
I very literally wrote the book on social media branding for authors, and I have stood the test of time through all the “experts” who’ve offered shortcuts. I withstood the 99 Cent Book Blizzard of 2010, the Free Book Free For All of 2011. The Triberr Tsunami of 2013, the Algorithm Alchemy of 2012-2013, the Automation Avalanche of 2013-2014 and on and on and on.
So back to newsletters….
I’ve seen all the hype.
Forget Facebook! No blogging! No time required! Social media no longer works! A big newsletter mailing list is the ticket to fame and fortune! Build that list! We can HELP!
Unsolicited offers from authors we don’t know? It’s called spam. Do newsletters work? YES. But only with a solid foundation. Without that? Mass numbers and blind luck.
So all of this goes back to my point to guard our time. Quick fixes are never quick so we buy into the Social Media Shake Weight at our own risk 😉 .
Make 2017 count and just ignore the fads. Consistent meaningful effort in small doses over time is far more effective than anything some guru will sell you. Need a manual? Pick up a copy of Rise of the Machines.
My methods have literally sold tens of millions of books and even launched unpubbed newbies to NYT status. My methods aren’t fancy but they do work and they work on any social platform in any given year because my approach is not based on technology or gimmick or trickery. My approach is based on humans and humans don’t change.
I have zero interest in turning you guys into high-pressure salespeople or mega-marketers. Just be YOU and still have time to write.
And yeah yeah I am promoting my book and classes. But I’ve also written over a thousand blogs and spent almost $6,000 of my own money maintaining WANATribe with NO fees and no ads, so I think it is safe to say I want to help you guys succeed 😀 .
So there you go! All you need to rock 2017. Guard your dreams and guard your time. Success is simple but it isn’t easy. We must spend time but if we spend it well and consistently, rewards are there.
What are your thoughts? Have you been bad about guarding your dreams? Have you allowed toxic friends, family, writing groups to drag you down? Do you get overwhelmed and forget that small actions do add up? Are you going to MAKE time in 2017?
I love hearing from you!
And to prove it and show my love, for the month of DECEMBER, 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. 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).
November’s winner of my 20 page critique is Nancy Segovia. THANK YOU for being such an awesome supporter of this blog and its guests. Please send your 5000 word Word document (double-spaced, Times New Roman Font 12 point) to kristen@wana intl dot com.
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All you need is an internet connection!