(A few writing tips from one writer to another.)
Why the hell would you want to be a writer?
Maybe the unsteady paychecks, perpetual anonymity, and the constant loneliness sounds appealing to you? Maybe you enjoy the “romance” of poverty while you sit weeping nightly into your bowl of top ramen? Maybe it’s the constant chase of the fickle, fleeting, shape-shifting muse you enjoy so much? Or maybe it’s just something you always wanted to do since you were a kid and you’re just that stubborn. Well the good news is that’s probably what it takes. Everyone says they want to be a writer but how many of those are really willing to hold on to that tree branch and ride out the storm till the sun comes out (if it ever does)? If all of what I described still sounds appealing to you then maybe you’ll last.
If you want to have loyal readers you have to create an emotional attachment to your work. You have to make them feel an emotion. When you read my writing I want you to feel like you either want to punch me or kiss me after. In most cases it doesn’t matter what kind of emotion you create just as long as you create one. Most of the riveting content you create will have nothing to do with you as a person. Unless you’re already a celebrity no one cares about your personal life unless they know you in real life. Even if every single person you knew in real life bought your book or read your website it still wouldn’t be enough people for your to be successful. To appeal to the masses you have to generate content that society can identify with. For non-fiction, subjects like travel, dating, or food are universal. For fiction your guess is as good as mine but wizards, vampires, and bondage seem to be the current literary climate.
Probably the most important quality to be successful at anything in life. Think of writing like learning to play an instrument. For the first year everything you write is going to absolute crap much like all the chords you play on a guitar will be clunky and off rhythm. How do you fix this? You guessed it, practice. Keep doing it like it’s your job. Make it part of your daily routine. It should look like this: Monday – Eat breakfast, go to the gym, write, go to horrible job as a waiter. Go to sleep and repeat. Join a writing group or start a blog that says “hey readers I will post on these days” to create some sort of accountability. You can’t just write when you feel like it because that will almost never happen. You have to push through even with the times you don’t feel like writing. Also, you have to realize that no one is going to ever read your work or comment on it. But you aren’t doing it for them are you? You’re doing it to improve your craft. If you want to learn how to hit a baseball, make the perfect soufflé, or write it’s going to take practice. Practice practice practice. Then keep doing it day in and day out for the next three to fifty-seven years.
You can go the traditional route of submitting query letters to find a literary agent that is going to hack your profits or you can go the non-traditional ill-advised rocky path of creating your own readership basis. Create your own followers from social media or submitting your writing to popular websites. Study their patterns and then submit articles. To become famous by extension of another website, retweet, or established publication is the quickest way to get your work noticed. But in order to get noticed you have to consistently create good content. Content is king and you need a lot of it. The Internet is a constantly evolving beast and even if you create a smash hit you will likely be forgotten the next day. Keep yourself relevant and in the forefront. Shamelessly publicize yourself and your work. Then cross your fingers because it’s still going to take some good old-fashioned luck.
Now, still want to be a writer? As with any kind of art there is no linear pattern to your goal and you must define your own success. It’s not like any other job on the planet where if you want to be a doctor there is a logical well-established progression of steps you take to be called a MD. Being an artist is cool because all of us at some point wanted to do it. But who are the ones that are going to consistently create good content and be dedicated enough to succeed at becoming an artist. Who are the ones that are going to stick with it long enough and consistently to become great at their craft all the while the knowing that one day, the universe still may or may not recognize your efforts.
Why the hell would you want to be a writer?
[Photo: Inside the famous Shakespeare & Company in Paris, France]