by Bruce Blake
On the surface, it seems as though writing should be an easy pastime and a pretty darn fantastic job for those of us lucky enough to do it full-time. Broken down into simple terms, here’s what we authors do: get an idea, think about the idea, write down the idea, polish the idea into a story, publish. No problem. Basically, we make stuff up for a living. What could be easier?
But there are traps along the way, monsters lurking where you might not expect them. I’ve run into a couple of them lately myself, so I thought I’d give you all a peek, so you know what to watch out for.
1. The Social Media Monster
Blogs. Facebook. Twitter. Goodreads. Google +. LinkedIn, Pinterest. It seems like there’s a new social media site popping up almost daily. Of course, if you want to be a successful indie author, you have to maintain a presence on all of them.But don’t push or promote your book…readers don’t want a salesman, they want a writer. What you have to do instead is engage readers…have conversations, leave comments, post and tweet non-book related material that will interest people who might like your books. Great advice…and time consuming. For me, when things are busy (two projects being written, two being edited, for example), this is the first thing to go out the window. I know it’s wrong, but it happens.
Thank God no one uses MySpace anymore (do they?).
2. The Promo/Advertising Monster
This is all those other places outside of social media with which writers need to concern themselves. Book bloggers, listing sites, newsletter, freebie/preview sites (Wattpad, etc.), forums, and so on. This pool of potential time -eaters grows even faster than the social media pond. Many of these places are run by people trying to make a buck through the various associate and referral programs which, for the record, I have no problem with, The more people making money from my writing the better, I say. But does there have to be so damn many of them? Because of the changes Amazon made to their program a few months ago, most of them want to charge the author a fee, too. Double dipping…hey, I get that, too. But how does one go about figuring out which ones are worth the time and/or the money? You got me. Let me get back to editing.
3. The Editing Monster
This bad boy can look different to different writers. For some, the editing monster swallows them whole. Some unsuspecting, well-meaning writer decides to go back a couple of chapters and do a little rewriting, touch up that little loose end and…WHAM! The editing monster sinks its fangs in and its months or even years before the poor scribe carves their way out of its gut and gets around to a new project. My editing monster looks a bit different, because I go in with a plan for editing–a map of how to get out of its intestines, you might say. No, the problem for me is that, while I’m in there, I forget to do any other writing, then, when it’s time for the next project, I run into the editing monster’s best friend.
4. The Writing Monster
On the whole, I would characterize myself as a pretty confident writer. I’ve studied my craft through courses, books, and exposing myself to other writers (did that sound as odd as I think it did?). Since I began writing seriously, I have had little trouble finding things to write, both on a larger scale as well as when measured by daily word count. Once in a while, though, something happens, and the doubt creeps in. Am I good enough? Is what I wrote just a large heap of crap? Are my characters growing? Will I ever get myself out of this tangled web of plot? Who wrote this? That`s the writing monster rearing its ugly head. I don`t know what attracts him…maybe its the stink of the editing monster`s stomach goo all over me. Maybe its the pungent aroma of frustration hanging in a cloud around me after sitting in front of a computer for hours chatting and tweeting and retweeting and searching for interesting posts and researching bloggers and advertising and promo. Or maybe he`s just always sitting on my shoulder, waiting for my focus to flag. Whatever it is, he shows up now and again.
Here`s the good news, though: MONSTERS ARE NOT REAL.
Oh sure, they feel like they are when you don`t want to look at Twitter, or you can`t imagine having enough money to do another BookBub ad, or you can`t stop editing, or your latest novel smells strangely of week-old fish and blue cheese. They’re not, though. Like all other monsters, when you turn on the light, there`s nothing there. They didn’t go back under the bed, they just didn’t exist in the first place. Stop, take a breath, reorganize, and get back at it. Stop wishing Facebook would turn into the newest version of MySpace and share that Ray Bradbury quote. Stop crossing your fingers that someone will buy your books and post a few chapters on Wattpad. And for God’s sake: don’t start editing something until you’re finished writing it, and don’t stop writing just because you’re editing something else.
Tomorrow, the sun will come out, the light will shine, and the monsters will disappear.
Bruce Blake is the author of millions of words, several hundred thousand of which have been organized into somewhat neat and possibly orderly sentences and paragraphs of varying lengths, then lashed together into semi-coherent chapters that have evolved into six published novels. He’s expecting number seven soon and working on number eight. Find out more here, if you like.