I was once kicked out of a social group for being too social. Sociable. Whatever. The point is that I have trouble not talking to people, regardless of online, such as Facebook or WordPress, or in line at the supermarket. It’s caused problems.
Roughly a year ago, I stopped teaching in order to start writing, and start is what I did. Within two months, I had finished a first draft of a novel about two people who meet, as ghosts, after dying in a plane crash. In short, it’s like When Harry Met Sally in spirit form. I posted it one chapter at a time here for feedback, which was nice, especially from a few people who seemed to adore it. Okay, it was really just that one lovely poet in India, but the encouragement prompted me to post other stories and get more pats on the back. It was nice, too nice. I branched into other forms of writing, such as social commentary and film reviews. Someone found me interesting enough to suggest I write about myself, which I did for about 16 chapters. That brought even more “likes” and attention and friends. That was bad. I was supposed to be writing novels, not shaking hands and waving to the crowd.
Several people warned me very nicely that each time I wrote 500 words for a film review, that was 500 words not added to a novel. Each of those 16 autobiographical chapters, times 2,000 words, was 32,000 words not added to a novel. I had lost sight of my goal, which was to make a living through writing. Blogging is fun, and I would never dare criticize it, but it’s not going to be a career, not the way I had approached it. Blogging is writing, of course, but it’s different writing. As ready as I might feel now to begin what I consider more serious writing, I could not possibly feel this ready had it not been for blogging. It was necessary, but it needs remodeling.
Recently I visited a friend’s blog and apologized for not having visited much lately, and he respectfully told me I was wrong. He said, and I paraphrase, “You have your writing to do. You provide people with entertainment, and that takes a lot of time and effort. You have no obligation to read anyone else’s work.” That too easily made sense. I had been spending a great deal of time reading, commenting, visiting other blogs in order to get more people over to my blog as well as to just make more friends. That was a nice thing to do, but it doesn’t help write novels. I visited another blogger who actually has made a living as a writer, both with published books and features in publications like the New York Times. She said, “Don’t get sucked into blogging and Facebook. Those things are too distracting and will drain your time and words in the wrong direction.” She was right, but I didn’t listen because I was too busy watching my followers reach 400, 500, 600, and now almost 700. I’m not saying that blogging is “goofing around.” I’m saying that if you want to write books, then you need to refocus your time and effort.
Trumping both of those situations is the editor who read some of my work and was very willing to help me fix things up to assist with pitching my work to agents. That is the kind of thing that writers are dreaming about – someone working in the industry noticing your work and reaching out to you instead of you having to solicit and hope for a positive answer. What did I do with that offer? I worked on it for about a week, and then I fell back into the immediate gratification of blog posts. I was given great advice and a gift, and I ignored it all. At this point, I’m even too ashamed to ask her again if she would help.
Back in September, I joined a writers group managed by a published author. I attended two meetings, each about 2 hours, but for 1 ½ of those hours the author told us aaalllll about herself, what she’d written, how, when, why, etc. She brought copies of her books for us to buy, some kind of romance I think. I’m not criticizing, just giving details. She brought useless handouts and writing exercises not worth doing. We were supposed to send her writing samples that she was to distribute to other members. What I got back were some suggestions for different word choices. Then I stopped getting e-mail invitations to the meetings.
Back in January, I joined a different group after being on a waiting list since September. Good people. They had a “Meet the Author” night with a gentleman from a Philadelphia college with a book about something unimportant to me. I searched his book title, and it was available on something called SBPRA: Strategic Book Publishing & Right Agency. I searched that, and it’s actually worse than self-publishing. It’s a company that you pay, and then they self-publish for you. Also, they’re under investigation for fraud. Every time I came across a “published” author, it was less impressive and more discouraging. However, the discouragement has been a good push, and I realized it was time to stop goofing around.
If you – like me – want to write books, then you should STOP:
1. ranting online that you’re not published
2. complaining that “it’s not what you know but who you know”
3. self-publishing without trying traditional publishing
4. tweeting a link – 24/7 – to your book on Amazon
5. tweeting/blogging/FB-ing about your “exciting new release!”
6. calling yourself a “published author” for self publishing
7. begging people to read your selfpub book on GoodReads
8. hoping that a publisher or agent will notice your selfpub book
9. recruiting more followers to your blog
10. touting false stats to get attention on Amazon
11. fearing that you are going to fail
If you – like me – want to write books, then you should start:
1. reading things similar to what you want to write
2. comparing your writing to those books – can you do that?
3. cutting back on Facebook and blogging for social fun
4. reading and commenting on fiction from other bloggers
5. asking – after you’ve commented – for them to read your work
6. writing flash fiction for quicker, specific feedback
7. finding a writing group and sharing your work
8. joining sites like writersmarket for agents & publishers
9. realizing that “good job” is not good feedback for your writing
10. writing one book while preparing and marketing another
To wrap this up, here’s a short list of what I must do now:
1. I post fiction. Please read and critique ONLY IF you want to.
2. I will gladly do the same for you. Just ask. No problem
3. I take your suggestions seriously. You improve my writing.
4. I am getting queries ready to pitch to agents.
This is what I need to do to be the kind of “writer” I want to be.
Several people recently complained that I do not read or comment on their blogs as much as they read and comment on mine. That is unfortunately true. I don’t. I can’t possibly do that while accomplishing what I need to accomplish. However, here is what I have always done and will certainly always do:
If you have something you want me to read, please tell me. E-mail me or send me a link through my comments. Say, “Rich, can you tell me what you think of this? I will never fail to read and comment because I know how valuable that is, but I can’t regularly browse through blogs and read everything like I once did. That is the best I can do, and that is completely fair. If I am asking you to read my work, I better be equally ready to read your work. I am, and I will.
The only way to do it is to do it.
Thanks very much for putting up with me.