Finally, a post about writing that doesn’t involve actual writing. It’s a relief, isn’t it?
I mean, you can’t blame me for touting writing so often. It’s a given if you’re ever going to succeed as a writer.
But the dangers of taking ‘just write’ too seriously could be getting literary tunnel vision, and tunnels of any kind can be detrimental to our craft.
So what should you be doing other than putting words on paper then? Let’s start with the most important one.
1. Put your money where your mouth is
Do you really want to be a writer?
Are you nodding because you think it’s cool, or do you really want to write? Does an audience of two at your book signing bother you? What about an audience of two on your blog? Would you keep writing even if no one knows your name?
So you do, huh? You really do? Then prove it.
Not to me. Prove it to yourself. Prove it by bettering your skills even when you don’t have to. Prove it by sticking through the grind of querying, or through the constant reading of books on the craft.
Or prove it by doing the other things listed below.
Some of you may be jerking a thumb at my direction, saying, “This guy. Tell us something new, won’t you?” Yet you won’t believe the amount of writers I know who are actually proud of not reading.
It’s not the arrogance that gets me. It’s the lack of respect. And these are often writers who are in it just for the money too.
I get it if you don’t enjoy reading. Everyone has a right to their likes and dislikes.
But as a writer, every time you choose to glorify not reading, the writing gods kill a spacebar. Do that enough and we’llallbetypinglikethisverysoon.
Seriously though, if you’re not going to do it for the craft, then at least give the authors the same courtesy you’d want your readers to give you. And that’s to be read.
3. Go out and meet people
I can already hear the collective groans of my fellow introverts, but this is a necessary evil. Establishing new contacts really does make life easier for us writers.
Here’s an anecdotal statistic for you—about 90% of my writing gigs were referrals from people I already knew. That’s just the way it is. People would take a chance of a friend’s friend before they’d actually purchase writing services off WordPress or Facebook.
And meeting people can result in some pretty interesting experiences as well.
I remember attending a writer’s book signing event just to pick her brain on what she did to become a nine-time novelist in Malaysia. She ended up mentoring me throughout my first novel.
Of course, don’t be a douche and make connections just for the sake of benefits. Actually take an interest in people, especially writers, and see if you can learn something new about the industry.
Besides, you’re going to need yourself some writer friends, because the muggles have little empathy for all our writerly troubles.
4. Shop your work around
I admit to not pitching enough. I’ve gotten too engrossed in writing that I’d totally forgotten about the peripherals. And one such error is not reaching out to publishers.
Sure, I have five manuscripts in various stages of drafting, but am I really paving a proper path for myself?
This category alone involves so many moving parts—the cover letter, the synopsis, the research, the etiquette, the grind, the tracking—and getting good with the pitch is just as daunting as mastering the actual writing.
If the act of writing alone satisfies you, then hey, don’t let me tell you what to do. But if you desire seeing your story in print, you’re going to have to learn to pitch, like it or not.
5. Actually finish
So you won NaNo and you have a 50,000-word manuscript waiting in your Google Drive. Congratulations. Now actually go and finish it, because you know that your current plot is barely held together by duct tape and glue.
I know, you want to bask in your achievement a little longer, but merely slapping ‘THE END’ on the bottom of your manuscript doesn’t mean anything. Yet.
Don’t let all that momentum go to waste. I hate editing as much as you, but it’s part of the process too.
6. Establish your digital presence
The best way to stop a potential reader (or publisher) from discovering you is to be a digital ninja, which means you’re not going to get any brownie points if a Google search of your name reveals only a Facebook account that was last updated in 2017.
Remember the part about proving it? People tend to gravitate towards writers who take their craft seriously, and the only way to show your initiative is to have a body of work available online.
So do your best to build a decent online presence. Not just because it’s your international CV, but because it gives your would-be customers peace of mind that they are entrusting their work to someone that actually cares about it.
7. Learn your craft
I’m a pantser through and through. You know how I know that? Because I’ve tried plotting. And I did that because Libbie Hawker said it was the superior way to write a novel, based on her teachings in Take Off Your Pants!
With a title like that, the least I could do was try.
And it was miserable.
I’ve plotted two novels, and each attempt just solidified my beliefs that I work better when pantsing. So what if I write myself into corners and have to rewrite the entire manuscript? And who cares if I need two (or seven) more drafts compared to the average author? There’s no right or wrong way when it comes to creative work, so I’m sorry Libbie, but my pants stay on.
That doesn’t mean you should stop learning, though. I still apply some techniques I picked up from the book, such as character flaws and arcs, and I’ll continue to apply more knowledge as I gain them.
So don’t keep doing the same thing. Try to constantly improve, even if you have to pants your way through that.
8. Sell yourself
You thought that publishing that book meant automatic sales, huh? You thought that starting a blog automatically meant having a readership? Ha. Ha ha hahahahaahahaa *cries in introvert*
Here we go back to braving the outside world, but with the sole purpose to market yourself.
You write cyberpunk? Then you’ll need to trawl the cyberpunk subreddits. Maybe make a passing mention of your work in the game forums for Cyberpunk 2077. You’re going to have to tease out all the possible channels for proper marketing (as opposed to spamming your novel’s URL in the comments section).
Or you could spend money and take out some Facebook ads.
Sure, you can be a purist and focus on just writing, and maybe you’d be posthumously discovered one day, but if you don’t want to be that author with five reviews on Goodreads for the entire 2021 (a.k.a me), then you’re going to want to at least learn the lay of the marketing landscape.
Stop taking advice from the internet
I feel like a broken record at this point, but I think it’s prudent to remind you that nobody’s words are ever set in stone. Not Stephen King’s, not JK Rowling’s, nobody.
But one thing remains true, and while I’d promised not to mention writing as one of the essential things a writer should do, there’s just no denying it. At the end of the day, you could do much worse than to just write.