So I’m supposed to be all erudite and wise on our blog this week and lay out some tips for writers. Huh…okay. Although I’ve had a (I think) respectable number of pieces published—seventeen to date, with two more due out this year so far—I still think of myself as learning how to be a successful professional author.
And it doesn’t help when the landscape of publishing seems to change every time we look at it.
So, bearing all that in mind, here are my general tips for writers, and I’m afraid there probably won’t be any you haven’t heard before. And yes, as the title suggests, it’s all up to you.
1) Read. Figure out what you like and, more importantly, why you like it. This will help you decide where you want to concentrate your efforts, because if you don’t love the genre you’re writing in, it’ll show.
2) Study your craft. I really wanted to do ‘control+b’, ‘control+u’, ‘ALL CAPS’ when I wrote that, but I know that’s the editor in me. Oh, what the hell… STUDY YOUR CRAFT. There, I feel better. Here’s the thing…we can get away with a lot of stuff as authors when it comes to the quality of our books. This is not a new phenomenon, no matter what anyone says. There have been many very successful hack writers over the centuries, so let’s not pretend the publishing of mediocre books is caused by the internet or the new publishing culture. We often sacrifice quality for speed, or to be able to seize an opportunity we fear won’t wait or come again. That’s fine, but is no excuse for stopping learning and growing, so as to improve your writing. When your editor (be it at a publishing company or the freelancer you’ve hired) points out something you consistently do incorrectly, take it as a lesson and take it to heart. Having pride in your work doesn’t only mean being able to say you’re published, but also in being able to know you’re getting better and better.
3) Determine for yourself what success looks like. Don’t let what others are doing or saying make you lose focus. Figure out what it is you want and work toward that goal. Now, there are many ways to measure success, and there is nothing wrong with any of them, as long as it’s what you want. Some people want a traditional publishing contract, others just want to be able to say they’re published, however that’s achieved. Some are in it to say they make art, others want to make money, or any combination of the previous. Whatever will make you feel successful, go for it.
4) Accept the fact we can’t all be superstars. No, I mean that, and say it with all due respect. BUT…this ties in to what I was saying above…we don’t all have to be superstars to be successful. Again, it all depends on your definition of success. If there was some way for me to make a good living without anyone knowing my name, I’d be quite happy to go that route. Hmmm…maybe I should take up ghost writing…
5) Finally, take your writing career seriously but yourself not so much. This is very important for your sanity and that of the people around you. Believe me. Please. Keep the drama for your plots.
Now, I’m off to research ghost writing 🙂