Friday, January 02, 2015

15 Things Successful Writers NEVER Say

Edie Melson is the author of numerous books, as well as a freelance writer and editor. Her blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains ChristianWriters Conference and the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy. She’s also the Military Family Blogger at Guideposts. Com, Social Media Director for SouthernWriters Magazine and the Senior Editor for Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

15 Things Successful Writers NEVER Say

We writers are an odd lot.

I can say that, because I am one. So I speak from experience, not judgment. Like all creative people, we tend to feel things more deeply, reacting poorly to criticism.

We also have no perspective at all when it comes to our own creations. Because a lot of us begin writing as a hobby, we also seem to have a lop-sided view of the publishing industry.

So today, I’d like to clear up some common misconceptions and share some things that successful writers never say.

1. Uh…I guess…uh…I write. So…I suppose that makes me a writer…sometimes. CUT. IT. OUT. If you are serious about writing, even if you don’t get paid, you can call yourself a writer. So repeat after me. “I am a writer.”

2. I’m a much better writer than the majority of the published writers out there. This is for the small percentage who don’t have trouble telling everyone, “I am a writer.” Some of you believe you know more than everyone else. I hate to break it to you, but you don’t.

3. Sure, I'll go to lunch with you. I don’t need to write today. Successful writers make spending time putting words on paper (or a screen) a priority. If we want to be taken seriously and have our time respected, we must set the example.

4. I don’t need to read books. I’m a writer, not a reader. Besides, I don’t have time to read. I am not kidding. I’ve actually had writers tell me this. We need to spend time reading, and reading widely. Read outside your genre and learn what works and what doesn’t.

5. I don’t need an editor. I have a sharp eye and can catch anything I need to in my writing. Yes, many of us do have an editor’s eye. That’s a good thing. But that is NO substitute for an editor. We are blind when it comes to our writing. We see what is supposed to be on the page, not what is.

6. I can’t afford to attend conferences. I know conferences are expensive, but they’re also vital to moving forward in your writing career. There are a lot of ways to fund a conference—from asking for money from family and friends instead of gifts for holidays, to writing small articles for pay and saving that money. Conferences do three MAJOR things for writers:
  • They provide a place to learn the latest industry standards and techniques.
  • They provide a place to network and talk to writing professionals, like editors, agents and published writers.
  • They provide a place to network with other writer.

7. I decided to self-publish because traditional publishing just takes too long. I’m glad to say that self-publishing—when done with professionalism—is now a respected option. Beyond that, there are a lot of good reasons to self-publish. But using self-publishing as a short cut is NOT a good reason.

8. I don’t have a target audience, everyone loves what I write. Every book has a primary audience. Yes, there are books that a lot of people enjoy. But if you write to a specific audience, you’ll have a much better finished product. Not to mention the fact that book stores will know where to shelve your book.

9. The rules don’t apply to me. Yes, I’ll be the first one to agree that there are exceptions to almost every single rule you ever hear about writing and/or publishing. BUT we can’t look at ourselves as that exception. Follow the rules and let the exceptions be a wonderful surprise if and when they happen.

10. The first part of my book is just information the reader needs, the story starts on page 70 (40, 60, 90, etc.). I really have lost track of the number of times I’ve had an author say this to me. Here is my response. If the story starts on page 70, that’s where your book needs to start. Trust your reader, and trust yourself, and skip the background information.

11. I’m not a marketer, I’m a writer. If this really is true and you absolutely refuse to market your work, then be prepared to pay. You’ll have to hire someone to market your book because marketing is a joint partnership between the publisher and the writer. That’s just the way publishing works today.

12. The publishing industry is dying. No, not really. It’s definitely changing, but it’s not dying. There’s a difference. Learn to adapt with the changes, but realize books and people who write them aren’t going anywhere.

13. I already have a book contract, I don’t need a literary agent. Now you need one more than ever. There are those who will argue this point, but here are my thoughts. Because of the rapid changes in publishing, contracts are brutal. You need someone in your corner, advocating for you. After the contract, you still need someone to help with possible (really probable) hiccups in the publishing process. If you don’t like your cover, or the copy editor isn’t doing a good job, your agent can be the bad guy and go to bat for you. This makes it possible for you to stay on good working relations with the publisher.

14. I don’t need to work on social media until after I have a contract. This is another that makes me cringe. Editors and agents award book contracts based on a lot of things. Now days, one of those things is whether or not an author has solid online presence. The lack of a presence may not always keep you from getting a contract, but it will affect the way you’re viewed by prospective buyers. Smart writers build an online presence while they’re working on a book, so everything is in place when they begin pitching.

15. Published authors don’t need to take classes or read books on writing. Successful writers know there’s never a point when you’ve arrived. Lifelong learning isn’t just a buzzword, it’s vital to stay current in the publishing industry.

Even though I slanted a lot of the points toward books, all are equally applicable to writers of shorter works. These are things that I believe you’ll never hear a successful writer say. I’d love to know what you’d add to this list. Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.


Ane Mulligan said...

Great list! I've found that a lot of writers aren't serious about being authors. They only want to say they are but not put in the hard work. But those who are serious avoid most of these. :)

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Good advice on "the story REALLY starts here" phenomenon. Definitely want to rewrite and avoid that, because readers check those first few sample chapters on Amazon and if the story doesn't get rolling there, they often won't purchase! Hooking quickly is key, but it doesn't mean we have to have explosions or over-drama. People just need to feel connected to the characters and wonder what's going to happen next, I think. :)

Edie Melson said...

Ane, you are so right! Blessings, E

Edie Melson said...

Heather, great insight. Writers used to only have to hook editors at the beginning, now readers are much more savvy. Blessings, E

Jolene Underwood said...

Thank you for this Edie. I feel like jumping up and saying AMEN! Reading this list confirms many observations I've made over the last year. You've given me more to consider as well. Good stuff. Glad to read your thoughts & keep these tips in mind. :)


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