Sunday, April 17, 2016

11 things I've Learned So Far: On publishing book number 6

Concept sketch: Dreadnought And Shuttle
Book 3 of Halcyone Space and soon to be my 6th published novel

I've been writing for a long time. Not as long as some, but longer than others. I published my first novel in February of 2012. Novel number 6 will be out in June of 2016. I've managed to have one really amazing booklaunch with a ton of success right out of the gate and other books that have just burbled along, barely making their expenses. I'm not sure any of this makes me any sort of expert, but I have learned a lot along the way. Here are 11 things that I've been thinking about:

  1. No one has the secret formula for marketing success. If they say they do, they are lying Mclieface liars. 
  2.  And the corollary: There will always be someone angling to sell you some essential service that will bring you success. This is just a new flavor of snake oil.
  3. Once you move past a very basic minimum level of competency, there is little correlation between commercial success and quality of writing. This is neither the sign of the creative apocalypse, nor any indictment of anyone's writing or taste.
  4. Related to the above: Enjoyment is largely subjective. And you can't write a book for everyone.
  5. There is no one way to write a book. There is no inherent virtue in being a plotter or a pantser or any combination thereof. If there were a single magical formula, there would not be so many craft books published.
  6. No, not everyone has a book in them. It is likely that everyone has at least a story to tell, but that's not the same thing. (In the same way that I can take a photograph but am not a photographer and I can hum a tune but am not a composer.)
  7. Creating a book is work. And yet it's not work in the way being a physical therapist is work, for example (speaking from experience here) or probably any manner of jobs. The work of creation requires the ability to connect to the unconscious, simultaneously achieving a particular liminal state while managing to express that state in the mundane world and with prosaic (pun somewhat intended!) tools.
  8. Originality is less important that most artists believe. Readers want the familiar, only different.
  9. The rules of grammar and syntax, et. al. are important, but they're not heavenly writ. Ultimately, they distill down to one commandment: thou shalt not confuse the reader.
  10. Reviews are opinions. You get to decide how much stock you put in them. However, holding to your creative vision without being willing to consider feedback is dangerous arrogance. Figure out how to find a balance between being fully porous and completely sealed off.
  11. Readers do not owe you their time.
    Respect the value of your hard work.

    These two things may seem contradictory. They are not.

Your mileage may vary on any of these. That's okay.  What are some of the things you've learned in your creative life?



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1 comment:

  1. Very wise. I think there are a lot of people who want to be writers because they like the idea of it, or they see it as a shortcut to something else, or they think it's an easy way to make a living. One common denominator is always that notion of what writing is going to do for them. They're almost always disappointed, too. It perplexes me to no end.

    To me, the foundation of the creative life is simply about you serving your art. What you bring to the work, not the other way around. Writers who serve the story instead of themselves are never disappointed because that's all they have to do: create. Everything else that comes with it is icing on the cake, but it doesn't matter. Only the work does.