Our goal as writers is to craft a story so interesting that strangers will pay money to hear it.
It is mid-2012 and hundreds of thousands of writers have come out of the closet. Most are looking for a marketing method to make them rich by writing e-books. Many bloggers leading the way maintain fairly good sites about the journey. (In my humble opinion, Joanna Penn offers the most relevant postings about the indie publishing business.) The one thing most often overlooked is the product itself—your book.
Lee Child, one of the top thriller writers of today, has a terrible website, a lousy social media system, no discernible e-marketing strategy and yet it doesn’t hurt him in the least. Why not? GREAT WRITING. Success starts and ends with the story you want people to buy.
Having been in sales and marketing for decades, I learned a very important lesson: only quality products succeed. This is true for e-books, automobiles, computers, hookers, toasters, and everything else in the world. You can sell everyone something once, but if it sucks, that will be your last sale. If it rocks, that will be your first. This series is aimed at helping indie authors create a quality product so their first e-book sale will be the first of many.
What authority do I have? None. I have two shelved novels, one about to be released (The Geneva Decision), and a collection of short stories. Writing is subjective at best. I hope you will agree that my writing has a certain level of quality. I tried. What we all need is a stimulant for our writing, the source is not all that important. To prove my point, I quote Lee Child. While speaking at the Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, AZ, he was asked what advice he had for writers. He replied, “Writing is an individual vision; take no advice.”
Yikes, lots of personal responsibility in that anecdote. What if I have literary glaucoma? Yet Child’s advice holds true. Every book on writing says, never do X. Every book of Lee Child’s does X on page 1. All of his books hit #1 on the NYT best seller list. It’s almost as if he’s the anti-creative writing teacher. What you learn about writing is not as important as the fact that you’re learning. That said, let’s press on and see what advice we should keep, ignore, use when convenient, and so on.
First, a common understanding of writing philosophy between you and me: Writing is closer to Architecture than any other art form. Your work must be beautiful but it must also have structural integrity and a functional layout. In other words, it must stand for generations. It must attract a new buyer from outside while offering the owner a comfortable living space. It must offer exciting views while standing on solid foundations. And most of all, the owners must love it enough to show it off. Through all of this, the writer must be the creative visionary, the structural engineer, and the leading salesperson. Like an architect.
The Creative Visionary is something you have to work out for yourself. If you have a vision, run with it. If you don’t–you’re tilting at windmills. The Salesperson is something you’re either willing to become or cannot do at all. This is easier to overcome than the vision-thing because you can hire salespeople. Even if you hire the best salespeople, you have to be passionate about your product. Passionate enough to inspire the people you hire. This series is going to focus on the middle part: the structural engineering of your story. And I’m going to be as brief and concise as possible because I’ve sped through too many padded tomes on writing and hated the padding. In the end, my goal is to have stimulated some ideas on how to make your novel the highest quality product possible.
This series will roughly follow the outline below on an irregular schedule that I hope will be bi-weekly:
A) The big picture
- Writing foundations: what are we talking about?
- Appreciating the craft
- Heading out: ignorance is bliss (not cash)
- Cash is good. How do I MAKE A LOT OF MONEY from writing?
B) Preparing: the influential and um, ‘lesser’ reference materials
- Sources for improving your writing
- Writing programs pros and cons
- Writers groups (Got Kevlar?)
- Putting academic advice into action
C) How I layout my books
- To outline or not to outline, why both suck
- What works for me
- What works for others?
- What works for you?
There are a million people out there more qualified than I to guide your writing. Most of them are hundreds of pages long and not always thought provoking. My goal is to get you thinking about the challenges ahead, the product in your hand, and the steps you need to get there. What are your thoughts?
Peace, Seeley James