Learning to Be an Author
I've reached a point in one of my projects where I can't seem to put pen to paper (figuratively, since I write everything on a computer). Not for lack of an idea. Conversely, it's too big of an idea.
I am one to normally sit down and write with a very general concept and almost no planning outside of a central plot point. Even then, I don't always stick to the plan.
Since I have never written any story which exceeds 10,000 words, I am really struggling to organize my ideas into a cohesive narrative. There are episodes which revolve around the central idea, but all of them seem to be interchangeable with no structured order to them.
Any one of the choices I could make would get me started writing, but I have to also contend with the possibility that making a wrong choice might make me disenchanted with the writing and stop with the project altogether.
I have had at least one idea go down the tubes due to poor execution. This idea is too special, too valuable to ruin it. I need to find a way to power though the struggles and growing pains.
I probably need to just write at the end of the day. I need to come to terms with the idea that whole blocks of text, subplots, and characters might need to be balled up and tossed into the trash before I get it right.
I took a very long break over the summer to take stock of a few things. That's the short version to explain my absence.
There aren't a lot of juicy details, I just found I was putting in a lot of effort without seeing results. Twitter was consuming too much of my free time. I was scheduling promotions on Amazon, writing reviews and reading the work of others.
All that work got me nothing, essentially. Perhaps a few page views here, but little else. It didn't translate into sales. It didn't foster enough goodwill to get me anywhere. I was left feeling more than a little disappointed.
Most of all, it wasn't all that fun. Writing is fun. Working to sell yourself as a writer is not fun. It's brutal, tedious work. All of the joy had been sucked out of the actual writing.
I spent the summer on me. Kicked my Twitter habit almost completely. There are good folks there, don't get me wrong. But most, good or otherwise, are really after the same exposure I was seeking. Since I wasn't helping them or myself, I got out.
I didn't look at my Amazon sales for months. It's too depressing. Still is, that hasn't changed, but I am no longer obsessed with it. I think I might have made one whole dollar this summer. Oh well.
Most importantly, I started writing again. I was no longer worried about making money, getting published or any of those things. The words suddenly came back. I enjoy it again.
I don't know when I'll be back, I probably will try to be a little more consistent again, but I won't be fretting over getting stuff done here, there and everywhere. Just not worth it.
For the better part of a year and a half, I have ignored most of the advice bloggers have given about pricing your work on Amazon. It's not that I undervalue my work, but rather I was more concerned about building fans and reviews than making money.
With the exception of the one novella I have offered in print format, none of my work on Amazon has ever been more than $0.99. Each of the stories there are short stories, which themselves are a tough sell, so I never felt right about charging more than a dollar for a few thousand words of entertainment.
My other main driver for setting the pricing was to price things the way I shop: cheap or free will always win over more expensive for less. Except that's not really how Kindle works are perceived. Price, it seems, is an indicator of quality, not quantity.
When searching through books on Kindle, you do find lots of things for free. I have downloaded quite a few myself, hoping for some reasonable things to read to pass the time (mostly during air travel).
What I've found in these free books is a lot of barely-readable, poorly-edited or just plain boring stories. Some of them read like textbooks. Others were just bad. But I didn't pay anything for them, so I didn't get too upset.
For anyone publishing on Amazon, you cannot sell anything for less than $0.99. I know what my motivations were for selling at this price, but I am not able to convey those things to perspective buyers. What seems to be the pervasive attitude among buyers is that if you are selling it at rock-bottom prices, it must be rock-bottom quality.
For some writers, this is clearly the case. The self-publishing world of Amazon has opened the doors for a lot of people who probably shouldn't be selling stories or books on Amazon. (Some of my early work might fall into this category, frankly.) For a buyer, it only takes being burned once or twice on a cheap story to avoid them altogether.
And if you happen to have shabby covers (I have a couple) on your $0.99 bargain work, well, you probably aren't going to be doing much in terms of sales. In that sense, your price coupled with your cover gives off the impression that what's inside looks like what's outside. It doesn't matter what inside to most buyers on Kindle, they'll save their dollar for something which looks better, even if it is a few dollars.
So what is the right price? I won't really attempt to answer that definitively, since there are a few factors to consider.
First, no pricing is going to fix a lousy cover or book description. If you can't afford to hire someone to do a cover for you and your cover is terrible (even in the best of lighting), then you're better off going simple. Look at a book cover from the 1950's: red background, gold type in a plain font. It isn't going to be any worse than your current cover.
If your work has some nice artwork and looks compelling, you probably need to sell it for $1.99 instead of a dollar. It can be hard to justify paying that for a 1,000-word story if you're a buyer, but this seems to be the going rate for quality shorter works. It's a better bet to combine a few shorts together and sell them for a few dollars than to try to sell individual ones.
Books which are $1.99 or $2.99 are still a relative steal on Amazon, so you're not pricing yourself out of the market. At worst, you risk a poor review for having something be too short for how much someone paid for it. Those can hurt you a little, but the risk is probably worth it most of the time.
The other upshot to having higher-priced books on Amazon is that when you do a Countdown Deal or Free Promotion, it looks like a great value. Something which was a dollar and is now free is not nearly as appealing as something which was three bucks but is being given away for nothing. These promotions are necessary if you want some volume. And volume is key for reviews, which pushes you up the search results. The cycle feeds on itself from there, and the next thing you know, you've made 20 dollars on your book.
The blogs I've read haven't always been clear on some of these points, but I personally went ahead and made the mistakes in spite of the advice (you're welcome). The bottom line is that if you feel that your work is only worth $0.99, then don't try to sell it. Hang on to it and perhaps package it with something else which you can sell at a higher price.
If you only want part of the story when it comes to how to build yourself into an author who actually makes a little money, by all means, read the tons of blogs out there.
These blogs paint a rosy picture of hope and provide "a few simple steps" to launch you on your way to selling thousands of dollars worth of books, with almost no effort or money out of your pocket. The advice provided is often sound, but they tend to leave out the parts which would send most people packing before ever getting started: It takes a ton of commitment, you're probably going to fail repeatedly and you probably have to spend money to have any chance at making any (and you don't have much of a chance, frankly).
In simple terms, there is almost no path whatsoever for turning your hobby of writing into something which will provide a small, but steady, flow of income. This is not meant to discourage you from writing. To the contrary, it's a piece of advice I offer as a means to maintain your love of writing. Hobbies are fun. Trying to make money from a hobby is a good way to ruin said hobby for yourself.
Luckily, there are a few places you can go to "publish" your work and get feedback from total strangers. Most writers at least feel a desire to have validation of their writing talent, and using a tool such as Wattpad or Smashwords to get you that validation is perfectly acceptable. It might be a good first step if you are indeed exploring the idea of monetizing your hobby. If you are a terrible writer and just don't know you are, someone at one of those sites will probably inform you of such.
If you seek more than the simple adulation of total strangers regarding your writing, prepare to roll up your sleeves and open your wallet. Nothing but tons of hard work, failure, rejection and spending your own money to accomplish even modest goals will convince people to buy what you write.
You have left the world where publishing a first draft full of typos, plot holes and crazy formatting is acceptable. Those things can happen (but probably shouldn't) when you're giving your writing away. You wouldn't expect to get raw bacon at a restaurant when you order breakfast, this is the same principle. You need to institute quality controls, such as an editor. There is a distinct difference between relying on your best friend's niece to help you (a proofreader) and paying someone to find typos, provide critical feedback and suggest changes that sharpen your story (an editor). Know the difference.
Once you've managed to get a manuscript or draft that's reasonable, now you have to find ways to put it up for sale. Amazon makes it pretty easy for anyone to publish anything. The caveat is that it also makes it incredibly difficult for anyone to find your work unless you pay Amazon money to advertise it. You'll get the thrill of being on Amazon, which will wear off incredibly quickly when you sell zero copies of your work. (Don't count on your friends and family to buy your work, they'll want you to simply give it away to them, since you know them.)
You will invest tons of hours in self-promotion, researching keywords and other fruitless activities in the world of self-publishing. In return, you might earn a shiny check from Amazon every month for $3.18. From my own personal experience, based on the time I have invested, I literally would have earned more money relocating to a third-world country and taking a minimum wage job there. I'm not exaggerating. The hourly pay rate for the time I have invested is less than a penny an hour.
Add in the cost of your own website to build an author platform and submission fees for publications (what a gig that is, where people pay you to completely ignore them or refuse to acknowledge their existence) and you're really starting to dig a financial hole, just to try to earn money doing something you enjoy. The website will help you sell exactly nothing, the publications will indeed ignore you, or at best reject you in favor of a two-word poem called "Toilet Paper".
I really am not cynical about the whole process, I still do have hope to someday achieve a small measure of success in writing. You may defy the odds somehow. You probably won't, and you ought to be a little better prepared for the failure and frustration than I was.
Every writer goes through a stretch when good ideas simply aren't forthcoming. Most have ideas, but they tend to dismiss them as terrible, rehashes of a more famous story or something not worth writing.
These same writers will tell you going through a creative dry spell is one of the most frustrating things a writer can face. Without an idea, there essentially is no writing. It's one of the many forms of writer's block. (Though I personally find myself more irritated when I've started on something and get stuck with it.)
Thankfully, there are a ton of places to turn when you find yourself completely out of fresh ideas. Here are a few:
Find a Prompt
Some writers may tend to frown upon using prompts. It's someone else "idea" so to speak. You'll probably never find yourself getting such works published, and that alone is enough to make writers shy away from using them.
The point of using a prompt is to kick start your writing, to get your creative juices flowing again. The prompt is just the start. Most prompts (depending on where you find them) tend to give you a ton of space to mold characters, setting or plot.
I personally belong to a group on Wattpad which gives out a one-word prompt for each weekend. The only "rule" is that the work come in around 500 words in length. Otherwise, it's complete freedom to interpret the word in a way which fits my idea. I have found it very helpful as it is the one time each week where I know I'll have an idea to write about. The group is very responsive and I get a ton of feedback as well.
Those works may never be published anywhere else, but that isn't the point. I can pretty much count on writing 500 words, in my own creative story, each week. It may not be a lot, but it's enough to make me feel like I'm making headway as a writer.
Other than Wattpad, you can simply use Google to find prompt lists. Some are tied to contests or submissions, others are just for fun. I enjoy the group setting as it gives me feedback as well, but you may find you just want to do things on your own terms.
As odd as this sounds, I have gotten TONS of ideas from Wikipedia.
I tend to write a lot of historical fiction, so the translation into a story is often rather easy. You find some historical event and write some sort of tangent to it: Add dialogue to a poorly-recorded event; make the real historical event a background element to your story; or use the event as the basis for a completely new story.
Also on the menu, if you're a sci-fi writer, is a wealth of ideas for alternate history. These are especially fun when you examine some relatively obscure historical event, then try to think about the butterfly effect of things unfolding differently. While the alternate history genre tends to focus on major historical events turning out differently (WWII or the American Civil War), it can be more fun to explore something well off the beaten path, such as if George Washington had received the British Army commission he asked for.
The best thing about Wikipedia is the sheer volume of things to read on it. It doesn't have to be a historical event to inspire you. Perhaps it is an unusual place (such as Mt. Athos in Greece) or an extinct animal or even an intriguing name.
My ever-growing collection of short and flash fiction stories is comprised of at least 70 percent Wikipedia-inspired stuff. At the very least, I learn something new even when inspiration doesn't strike me.
What You Thought You Heard
So it might be borderline silly, but taking a misheard statement and running with it might just be the best thing to get you started on your stalled writing.
We've all had times when someone has said something to us and our mind hears relative nonsense. We either ask for clarification or we try to sort it out in our head, as to what the statement actually was.
But it can be equally fun to say what you think you heard aloud, and perhaps jot it down for future use. I have a nice list of weird things I thought I heard from my children and my wife. Some of the better ones include my son's mispronouncing of the Grim Reaper into a character called the Gym Reaper (perhaps a person who excels in physical education?) and "Pirates with Jetpacks" (which came from some garbled statement by my wife, which I no longer remember).
The point is, you can find some fun jumping points for starting a story by stringing together the nonsense you thought you heard.
Fictionalizing One of Your Own Memories
You remember a lot of stuff. Most of it is boring and wouldn't make compelling reading if the true version were told. But there's no rule about using it as inspiration for a nice fiction story. After all, Hollywood thrives on the "Based on True Story" types of movies which often bear little resemblance to the actual event. (Braveheart being a classic -- and massive -- offender.)
Start with the time you got lost in the department store and went to the service desk to have them page your mother. In real life, your mom came up, probably mildly embarrassed and annoyed and got you. Not the most exciting story. But if your mom vanished into thin air, or she mysteriously developed amnesia and doesn't know you're her child...well, that's the start of a good yarn.
As long as you're not pawning off your story as total non-fiction, you have license as a writer to take a real event and add spicier elements to it. It's an easy way to get started on something, since you already know the entire story as it actually played out. You can twist around the ending. Throw in a scene with your annoying sister to add tension. Maybe a brush with fame or some mortal peril. It's up to you.
The World Around You
It's obvious inspiration can strike anywhere at any time. If you're stuck creatively, the best advice I can give to get better at observation. This includes reading, listening and looking at your surroundings. Weird business names start to show up. You become intrigued about why someone felt the need to put up a deer crossing sign on a particular stretch of highway.
Questions are almost always at the root of a good idea, particularly the "what if..." kind. You'll find a good idea in no time if you start down that path.
And what if you don't find inspiration, wracking your brain but coming up empty? I'd say that could make a good story, but Stephen King already beat you to it.
Writers tend to get into ruts, even when they don't have writer's block. I'm talking about writing the same kinds of stories over and over again. Not pushing the limits of genre, falling into common story tropes, and not challenging themselves to do something different.
If you're selling work on Amazon, it's quite a challenge to get out of your comfort zone. If you build any kind of following there, you're probably not willing to offend or lose it by switching genres or styles. For me, I've missed opportunities to grow as a writer trying to cultivate a fan base on Amazon.
This is where a place such as Wattpad can provide you with a perfect opportunity to all of the things you wouldn't do on Amazon. Try out some new genres. Write flash fiction or short stories, or experiment with writing a serialized novel.
On Amazon, I primarily have literary fiction and historical fiction for sale. I believe they are well-written and great stories, but I found myself falling into a rut with writing in those genres. I have always found lots of freedom when writing science fiction, but those kinds of stories would not fit in with my current offerings on Amazon.
So a few months ago, I opened a Wattpad account and tried out a few things on the platform. I intentionally made a few mistakes to get fodder for a blog, one of which was to post some writing very similar to my Amazon offerings. Those works pretty much bombed on Wattpad, for a variety of reasons.
But I also took the opportunity to delve into writing science fiction, particular using the flash fiction format. While I tend to write a ton of short stories, flash fiction has been a challenge to me.
I belong to a group which writes 500-word stories based off a prompt. It provides a perfect challenge for me, to craft a new idea based off a one-word prompt, then flesh out a quick story on it. To add to the challenge, I allot myself one hour from concept to completion.
Needless to say, I am happy with the results thus far. I can feel my writing improving each time I offer a new work to the group. I enjoy writing again, and I'm out of the rut I was in.
Wattpad can (and should) be a low-pressure environment for trying to branch out as a writer. You're not selling anything, it's for pure enjoyment. As such, you don't feel duty-bound to offer similar writing to your other works. It can truly help you rediscover your voice.
I've always felt it was important for writers to attempt to write all different kinds of forms and in different genres. You can get practical experience writing things you may need for something more important, say, writing an action scene.
And the best part about Wattpad, from my point of view, is getting feedback from fellow writers about what works and what doesn't. When I finally do decide to head back to Amazon with new offerings, they will be of much higher quality.
So grab a pen name and drop in on Wattpad. Use it to push your boundaries. It's worth the time and effort.
For writers who know little to nothing about Wattpad -- myself included -- it's hard to spot value from using it.
You're giving away perfectly good writing for free, and in the eyes of some publishers, spoiling it for all time in terms of selling it. That alone is a powerful deterrent for many serious writers.
The reality of the site is a little more nuanced, of course, as I have learned in the roughly two months since I started using it.
Wattpad is far more suited toward engagement with other writers and actual writing than other social sites, such as Twitter. (I pick on Twitter because I have used it as a primary social platform for awhile now.) To put it simply, on Twitter you have to beg to get people to read your work. Getting a reader involves someone leaving the platform to actually read your writing. I never had tons of luck snagging readers from Twitter.
On the other hand, it hasn't taken me long at all to get multiple sets of eyes on my work on Wattpad. It does not happen organically, however. Just because you published something on Wattpad doesn't mean that anyone will bother reading it. (And in most cases it is nearly impossible for anyone to run across it via searches.) You have to put in a little effort. This is what Wattpad Community is for.
The Community is not part of the Wattpad mobile app, you have to navigate to it (www.wattpadwriters.com) and log in. It goes without saying you are better off at an honest-to-god computer doing this than your phone's browser, but to each his own. You can get there on a phone browser.
Be prepared to have a massive amount of time swallowed up sifting through the Wattpad Community looking for the right place to start engaging people. As an older writer, I find most of the users are relatively inexperienced teens and college students, so finding a "tribe" is a little more challenging. There are endless threads of nonsense to wade through and it may take you a few tries to land with a group of like-minded writers. Don't skip this step, though. It's pretty much essential to getting anything meaningful out of your Wattpad experience.
Since joining a group, I've garnered hundreds of reads on my work. I get regular feedback and comments. Unlike Twitter, I don't have to beg. I just post my work to the group, and they go in and read it at their leisure. This is the value which Wattpad provides: the ability to get unbiased feedback on your work. And since almost 100% of the writing there is not behind some kind of paywall or purchase (sorry Amazon/Goodreads), you don't have to break your bank or anyone else's to participate.
Wattpad is not without its warts.
As I mentioned before, there are a lot (and I cannot stress A LOT enough) of young writers on Wattpad. There are the usual genres which accompany such youth in droves. If you love brooding vampires, magical fantasy worlds and bi-curious dragons, you'll love Wattpad. If you write in other genres, you're in a minority. Finding readers for non-fiction, literary or historical fiction is challenging on Wattpad.
Wattpad's Community site clearly has had issues in the past and are governed by some strict rules. You can't just go around soliciting for readers. Publishing a link to your story in the wrong thread will result in catching the ire of Wattpad's version of the Eye of Sauron, the Community Ambassadors. There are stern talkings-to, post removals and other harsh things to follow. Learn what is acceptable and where to post things before diving in with both feet.
Probably the biggest strike against Wattpad is how often some of the functions are broken on the site. Since I have joined, I have not witnessed their tagging system work the way it should, for instance. The stats on your story reads and votes are often wrong, out-of-sync or incomplete. Usually those things fall more into the "annoying" category, but on occasion they are downright frustrating.
One of my personal complaints about Wattpad is the very limited options you have for formatting your story when you post it there. I want my stories to look a specific way in terms of readability (short paragraphs which are easy to discern from the next paragraph). Wattpad makes it tough on me and I've messed up a few drafts battling the formatting.
And Then There's That "First Rights" Publishing Thing
This is probably the most frightening thing about Wattpad for a new writer or someone who's looking to be published. It scared me off for more than a year. I didn't want to screw up my chances with an awesome work by giving it away on Wattpad.
I do think there are publishers who absolutely would reject a work solely on the grounds that it had been available on Wattpad. I think there are other publishers who would realize that Wattpad readers are not people who generally buy books in the first place and you haven't done a thing to the marketability of your work.
Honestly, this is a judgment call, and one you need to make personally. For me, the value of having readers is outweighing my fears about "ruining" the publishing rights to the work. I still have things to learn, and Wattpad is a good place to learn without the pain of a rejection letter.
People make a big deal out of it, but in realistic terms, your chances of being published traditionally are rather slim to begin with. And probably just north of zero without some honest, unbiased feedback to help you hone your craft.
I am pretty happy with my experiences so far, I'd love to hear about yours.
For any writer who is just starting out, one of the most frustrating parts of the process is finding new (and unbiased) eyes to look at your work.
Getting people to read your work is like a big wet blanket being thrown on your enthusiasm. You've created a stellar draft of a story and you're excited. You need to know whether others share your opinion. And this is where you hit a wall.
There is nothing wrong with mom or your spouse or your siblings or a friend reading your work, but every writer knows exactly what those people are going to say when they're done. And you know how you're going to react, you're not going to fully believe the requisite, "It's good."
It's a strange thing to say, but writers have more faith in the opinion of a complete stranger. The stranger has no skin in the game. They are free to criticize or flat out unload on you. They don't have to care about your feelings or sleep in the bed next to you.
But finding people willing to read is a challenge. In the case of a novel, you're asking for several hours of time commitment. That's just to read it, it doesn't even factor in the feedback you want. It's not far off from taking your Saturday and driving around until you find a moving van, then helping a complete stranger move in and unpack.
So how do you get people to agree to read your work. Here are a few suggestions:
People will do anything for money, including reading a messy first draft full of typos. They might even help you fix up your work.
It is not difficult to locate an editor - Goodreads, Twitter, Medium - just about anywhere where writers are found, there are people advertising editing services. I personally have never looked deeply into those, frankly I don't have the money for it just yet. I am certain of one thing: As with anything else, you get what you pay for. You may search high and low for good deals, and may even find one. But there's a better chance of finding someone who claims to be a professional editor while they're really just a kid in college trying to score enough money for pizza and beer for the weekend.
There is also the double-edged sword of expecting a different quality of reads and edits when you are paying for it. When your Uncle Joe misses a typo it's one thing, it's another when you're paying $500 to someone. People will miss things, even the pros. But it only takes one to sink your manuscript with a publisher (such as one in the first sentence). You could find yourself in a squabble about what you received versus what an editor wants to charge. (There is a little entertainment value in running a search for this subject and reading the horror stories on both sides.)
The point is that you can get a read if you offer someone money. There are tons of people out there who do that. Finding the right one -- one that fits in the budget, meets your expectations and is appropriate for whatever stage your work is in (first draft, final draft), is a challenge. Do your homework before you open your wallet.
I think my story is a little on the rare side. I put out a tweet looking for a critique partner and found one. A very good one. And even though she's past the point of needing someone to read her work (it is due out in book form quite soon), we still maintain a working relationship. There are people out there who will read your work on social media, most are other writers who want to trade their work for yours.
You may get bites on your social media posts quickly, because there are tons of writers who want reads. It pays to be a little bit picky. The world is full of bad writers with terrible stories. Think of the worst thing you've ever read, then add more plot holes and a bunch of typos, misspellings and terrible grammar. If you choose the first person that wants to do a swap, you might be reading something like this. Or you might get a work in a genre you really don't like.
Personally, I enjoy the challenge of trying to find something redeeming in an otherwise pitiful piece of writing. But you may not be up to it. I have also found that the feedback you receive is often on par with the quality of the other writer's work. To put it bluntly, I've wasted a lot of time reading bad stuff in order to receive marginal feedback.
On the upside, people on social media usually don't want money. You can't expect a lot from someone who's trading their time for yours. And you will probably at least get back one or two useful things, in addition to getting a precious foreign set of eyes on your work.
There are quite a few places which have active communities to find readers. I can only speak to the two I've had the most experience with: Goodreads and Wattpad. It's a mixed bag, but I would recommend Wattpad over Goodreads based on my own experience.
The key to either site is not just to put your work out there and hope for readers, but to become involved in the communities on them. There are a few people on Wattpad who like reading stuff for free and don't write anything. There are literally millions of things for them to choose from, so it is tough for your work to be noticed.
I picked a group which runs a weekly flash fiction prompt, and started being marginally active in it. I read their work, but they also read mine. And they'll offer unsolicited feedback. So far, for me, it's been the path of least resistance in terms of getting reads on my work. I've got 15 to 20 unique readers looking at everything I produce for the prompt. And some of those people have read the other things in my library, my longer works, as well. I didn't even have to ask.
On Goodreads, I've found a lot more people who are serious about their own writing, and not so willing to help you with yours. My experience might not be a common one, but I've done things for people on there (such as read and post reviews) and not even gotten so much as an offer of a reciprocal read. It's been disappointing. I no longer budget much time to their forums as a result.
Wattpad is not without its warts, either. The writing quality there is more on par with "hobbyist", and it shows in a lot of works. The site is brimming with younger writers all writing in the same genres (sci-fi, fantasy, Young Adult), many of whom are not terribly good. There is a ton of fanfiction as well. If you don't write in those genres, your work will never be popular enough to get tons of reads and feedback. It just won't. I focus on quality and not quantity. Most of the people there are the other way around (since Wattpad rewards you on their landing pages for reads and votes by featuring your work).
At the end of the day, you're not going to make it as a writer, at least a serious one, without total strangers reading and critiquing your work. It is a necessary evil. You don't find many writers who drafted, edited and polished everything on their own and got a large publishing contract.
But you also need to remember you are not alone. All of the other writers in the world are in the same boat. Sometimes you have to help row their boat a little to get them to help you with yours. (Or you can hire an oarsman.)
Getting reads is one of the keys to improving your writing. Consider it a required step on your path toward being an author.
As a writer, it's really easy to get too many irons in the fire. Ideas don't stop because you're busy or your kid gets sick or you get a big project at work. And one can't always adhere to a schedule.
In this day and age, it is a lot easier to maintain a consistent presence on social media and blogging platforms by scheduling things in advance. There is consistent advice out there which says you need to stay consistent in your updates if you want to collect followers and fans.
I'd love to say I've done this intentionally, but a string of recent events has depleted my backlog of items and I have no time to get caught up or create new content. And inspiration has hit me, I really needed to start writing creatively again on top of that. The result is that I've missed some regularly scheduled blog posts.
The results have not been unexpected, my site traffic has fallen as I have neglected it. I promote my stuff on Twitter but haven't been active on there for a few days. My website traffic dipped as a result. I wonder how many of those people will keep coming back to look for updates since I didn't have anything new to offer them. I suspect I may have lost at least one or two of them at a minimum, it's the nature of web traffic.
The reality for most writers is that there are so many hours in a day to write, and sometimes you need to focus on something at the expense of another thing. It's hard work being a consistent blogger, writing new material and thinking up new subjects each week. That alone is enough to tackle for most writers, and they find themselves unwilling or unable to write anything else. It becomes like a job.
But when you start piling the other platform things on top of it -- maintaining a social media presence, managing your website, writing creatively for a story or novel -- it can break you. If you work a regular job (and many writers do) and have a family too, things have to get prioritized. I've reached that point. I can't bend or stretch any more, I've been forced to back off from a few things.
There are some people who are superstars at managing personal and professional profiles on multiple social media sites. It's fine if you're not one of those people. You need to find one and stick to that one. It's really better to kick butt and take names on one social media platform than it is to put halfhearted efforts into several. You risk over-committing if you take on too much. I will not sacrifice my family life for platform building (as an example), so I have to lighten the workload a little.
But I understand that is going to come at the expense of some of the relationships I've tried to build with fellow writers over the past year. I think it is an important lesson that writers can learn early in their journey: You're going to disappoint people. Sometimes your writing won't match a previous work and they'll hate it. Other times you'll take too long between books in a series. There are a million different ways to let down people who don't know you or understand your life.
I know I'm letting down a few people who have come to expect a certain level of participation on Twitter and some regular blogging. Life happens, and I'm going to at least try to push through until I have more time. I will eventually get caught up. I have some plans for some new things that I simply need time to work on. When I get some writing finished, I'll be back with some better stuff. I'll take my time to build a really big backlog to ensure I can work within the confines of my weekly schedule. And I'll have new material to offer.
So if you're like me, take a break if things are getting too hectic. Hit the reset button. It's not the end of the world, just a turn in the road.