Saturday, 26 March 2011

Writing Goals

Over on JA Konrath's A Newbie's Guide To Publishing, he talks a lot about setting goals as a writer. He talks about a lot of other stuff, too, so it's a good place to check out if you want information on e-books, self-pubbing, traditional publishing, etc. I've found his information to be completely eye opening.

The point is, he makes it really clear in a lot of his posts that as a writer you need to set some pretty specific goals so that you can make concise decisions about what the best publishing route for will be. Someone who wants to become the next JK Rowling is going to want to travel a different route than the guy who just wants to see his name in print and maybe make a buck or two. Likewise, someone who wants to make a real living writing is going to have slightly different goals.

Another interesting point he's made in several of his blog posts is that there is a vast difference between a GOAL and a DREAM

A goal is something you can achieve yourself through hard work, determination and perseverance.

A dream is anything that relies on SOMEONE ELSE to say "yes".

Writing a novel is a goal. Heck, writing 20 novels is a goal. Submitting to 50 agents/publishers is a goal.

Getting published is a DREAM.

Unless you self-publish, publishing is something that relies on someone else to say "yes". Yes, I love your book. Yes, I want to publish it. No matter how great a writer you are, getting published, quite frankly, relies on a lot of sheer luck.

I want to make a living as a writer, that's my ultimate goal. Quit my job and write full time. I don't need to make gobs of money, just enough to pay the same wage as what I'm making right now at work. Believe me, that's not much. That means my novel needs to be out there in front of as many people in as many mediums as possible. I need to be prolific and varied. That seems to be the key for a lot of successful writers.

So, I've made my own personal list of goals as a writer for 2011:

1. "If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that."
Stephen King

Word, Mr. King. Fortunately I've got this one covered. I read every day. Seriously. I probably read for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours per day, which is a lot less than I used to, believe it or not. I read on average 2 books per week. It seems a bit of a cheat to make my first goal reading, but there you go. How can you ever learn your craft if you don't study your craft?

2. "If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There's no way around these two things that I'm aware off, no shortcut. "
- Stephen King, On Writing

I read somewhere once that a good writer should read four hours every day and write four hours every day. I don't think that's particularly practical unless you are able to write full time. But most of us have jobs and kids and partners and, well, lives. And, frankly, if you don't get out and LIVE a little, what are you going to have to write about?

I also don't believe a person HAS to write every single day. You don't go to your job every day. Then again, for most writers, writing is an obsession. It's something we HAVE to do, we LOVE to do, we can't BREATHE unless we do it. We do it every day without thinking about it. It's the focusing bit we sometimes have trouble with. :-)

So, my goal is to write one chapter in one of the three books I'm currently working on every week. I know that doesn't sound like much. I'm capable of writing far more than that and most weeks I probably will. Sometimes, though, there are weeks where I feel tired, drained, unmotivated. I make excuses, drag my feet, and generally act like a whiny two year old. THOSE are the weeks this goal is for, to kick me in my ass when I need it. And believe you me, I've got people just waiting in the wings to help with that ass kicking.

I further have the goal to finish my next Bailey Morgan novel by the end of June, and the other two novels by Thanksgiving. There, I said it.

3. Writing is not the lottery. New writers have to be realistic about what it takes to get published. But there is one similarity to the lottery: You have to play to win.
- Lori Perkins, literary agent

Now here comes the interesting bit. While getting published or getting an agent is a DREAM, taking the steps necessary to get yourself in front of one of them is not. It's a goal. And that means actually sending real manuscripts to real agents and publishers. So, starting Monday, I will be sending my work to at least 5 publishers/agents per week until I run out of people to send them to.

4. You feel the call. That's the important thing. Now answer it as fully as you can. Take the risk to let all that is in you, out. Escape into the open.
-- Elizabeth Berg, Escaping into the Open

One of the things I've noticed about some of the most successful authors is that they are both prolific and varied in their writing. By successful, I mean those that are making a living writing full time. Not all of these are "traditionally" published, either. Some write exclusively e-books for e-publishers. Some used to be traditionally published, but are now self published. Some are both traditionally and self published.

The point is that there aren't a lot of JK Rowlings in the world. That's pretty rare. Let's take Agatha Christie, for instance. She's known as the most successful writer of the modern era, possibly of all time (saving Shakespeare, of course). While she wasn't terribly varied (Though she did write non-mysteries under the name Mary Westmacott.), she wrote over 40 books. That's a lot of books in a time before PCs and MS Word. Stephen King has over 70 novels and short stories published. He mostly writes horror, but it can be anything from aliens to cell phone mind control. Nora Roberts, aka JD Robb, has over 209 novels ranging from her futuristic mystery series to classic romance.

And those are just the big ones. The aforementioned JA Konrath has something like 20 novels, novellas and short stories published from thrillers to horror. Some were traditionally published by the Big Six. Some were self-published and some were both. Apparently, he makes an excellent living. And he's not alone. He's had plenty of guest authors on his blog who make a good living writing, many of them just writing e-books.

My personal goal is to write at least three books per year instead of the one book every two years or whatever ridiculous thing it's taking right now. I can do it! Sure, I can. ACK!

5. Anyone looking for you can find you. Get them to find you when they’re looking for something else.
- JA Konrath

This is really important once a writer is published: being found. As a reader, there's nothing worse than reading a wonderful story, then trying to find the author online with zero luck. In this day and age there is NO excuse for a writer not to have at least a blog or a page on Facebook, if nothing else. It's so crucial to list your other works, upcoming works (and when their release dates are), as well as whether or not a book is a standalone or a series. I remember being so frustrated about Justin Cronin's website because it didn't say anywhere if there would be a sequel to The Passage. It might now, but at the time I ended up spending ages on the internet hunting down the answer. I finally found it in an interview he'd done. Epic Fail on his part for not having that information on his website the moment that book hit the stands, if not before.

Marketing isn't just important for established, published authors. It's important for us newbies, too. We need to get our names out there and establish a presence on the interwebs so once we DO get published, we already have an audience.

My goal is to post at least once a week to this blog. Even it it's just a random two sentence thought. I'm good at random. I will also spend more time on sites such as Goodreads and SmartBitches, not just lurking but making comments and reviewing books. I'll list this pseudonym, too, so people know it's me.

And two more quotes from JA Konrath just because I think they're awesome. First:

Write when you can. Finish what you start. Edit what you finish. Submit what you’ve edited. Repeat.
- JA Konrath

And the best one of all:

There’s a word for a writer who never gives up — published.
JA Konrath

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Welcome To The 21st Century

You'd think I'd be more up with current technology. I admit, I'm kind of 20th century.

Until recently I've pretty much had a one-track mind as far as my writing career goes.

1. Write lots of books. Good books. Fun books.

2. Get an agent.

3. Get a publisher and get published.

4. Become international best selling author. Or at least scrape by a living at it.

No problem, right?


I mean, I can handle the first one. But the rest? It's pretty much the luck of the draw. There are loads of really good authors who can't get there work published. There are loads of absolutely rubbish books that do get published. (Trust me. I've tried to read some of them. Egads.)

That doesn't mean I will ever give up. I feel about writing and books the way I feel about chocolate. Which is: I'd give it up, but I'm no quitter.

But I digress.

The point is that I've been considering more and more going the e-book route. My 20th century brain is totally obsessed with print books and seeing my name on the shiny cover in Waterstones or B & N. The problem is, 21st century reality is that e-books are slowly taking over the planet. Not that print books will ever go away altogether. We humans are tactile creatures and there will always be those of us who love the print, but e-books are here to stay. And e-readers are so very Star Trek. I do love the thought of them.

I think I want to go the publisher route rather than self-publish. I just think there's a lot of benefit with having a publisher, especially for a newbie, and there are some really great e-publishers out there with proven track records.

I also think it's important to research. A lot. It's crucial to understand your craft, your medium, your market, and everything that goes along with it so that you can make informed decisions and plan for future success.

So, I've been reading up a lot on the internetz. Some of it's gobbledygook, but I've come across a few people who know quite a lot about e-books and the e-pub business and who are happy to share their knowledge with newbies.

Piers Anthony
(Yes, THAT Piers Anthony.) has a fantastic resource on his website. Basically he's done something similar to what Preditors & Editors has done and provided non-biased feedback on several different publishers both traditional and e-pub. His information is invaluable and he most kindly answered via email some questions I had about e-publishing. In fact, I was surprised at how quickly he answered my query and I'm most grateful.

Voirey Linger is the author of erotic romance e-books published by Ellora's Cave. She's a smart, savvy lady who is more than happy to share her experiences and knowledge. I came across Voirey through a thread on Nanowrimo's forum about e-books and e-publishing. Her comments are thoughtful, informative and well presented. I definitely found her information to be helpful. I haven't read her e-books yet, but they're definitely on my to-be-read list now!

It's writers like these, those who take their time to help a virtual nobody, who make me so proud of this profession, this craft, this obsession.