Advice for New Writers


I was recently introduced to TheLadders.com Career Project who were curious about the best advice I could give to new writers or those standing on the brink, wondering if it’s worth the dive. If this is you, here’s my take on things.

The regular advice: Don’t quit your day-job.

My take: They are right.
Don’t quit your day-job,
but make it work for you.

occupation by Freepik in People. Pack: Working women
occupation by Freepik

It’s been a little over eight months since I quit teaching to complete Settle Down Now, and the only thing I’m missing is my earnings. I love the writing. I’m getting the hang of marketing my way and I’m learning to be less introverted. But I do need money to live, and so do you. You can’t depend on your book earning you a living, not until your regular priced book is being downloaded in the hundreds almost everyday.

So what did I mean by ‘making your day job work for you’?
Working as a teacher improved my grammar and exposed me to current topics I would never have given a second glance otherwise. I’d always loved research (so crucial to most aspects of writing), so prepping for classes taught me how to find information and material quickly and efficiently; as well as how to work with the materials at hand.
Standing in front of students, ranging in age from three to thirty-three with varying degrees of comprehension, taught me public speaking; how to be mindful of my audience, and how to pitch my information while thinking on my feet; all of which helps me write faster.
Working as a DTP Designer has proven invaluable in designing my own covers and promo material, as well as in formatting and sending material for print.

So what kind of job am I looking for now?
Good question. I’m still taking stock, but you can be sure it will grow my current skills and expose me to some aspect which will help me be a better writer/communicator/publisher.

The regular advice: Write everyday.
Complete that story.

My take on that: In an ideal world, that may be possible, but I don’t live in an ideal world.

man343  by Freepik in People. Pack: Daily Job
man343 by Freepik

While I don’t have my own kids, I do have other commitments to family, as well as restrictions on electricity (loadshedding in South Africa) which makes for erratic schedules. And I still need to earn a living. So I try not to feel guilty about not writing everyday.

So how do I return to a story when I might not get back to working on it for months at a time?
I use what I think of as an emotional and tone prompt. For me, that’s a soundtrack. For you, it may be a photo or two, a physical object or a special place…anything really.
For me, having a soundtrack for Settle Down Now proved invaluable in finishing the story after ten months of guiltily looking at its incomplete status on my Smashwords dashboard. I go more into how the soundtrack evoked characters and places in this post. Many writers use this method like Chantelle Atkins and Dylan Hearn, so I highly recommend it to you if you love music. If you don’t, experiment till you find your own unique prompter.

The regular advice: You have to do things this way. Have a plan and follow it. You must market it this way to make loads of money.
My take: Everyone is unique. So is your writing. And so is your book and the people who will be your readers.

manager  by Freepik in People. Pack: Online marketing
manager by Freepik

It took me a long time to realize that there was nothing wrong in the way I approached my writing. I write in what I think of as an organic way. Rigid plans, outlines and long expositions on characters preferences didn’t work for me and only ate into the time I had to write. So I just wrote, and found that my story flowed better. It’s why I can’t write to the typical romance book structure. I tried to when I started No Distance To Run, in the hopes of entering it into a short story competition. I severely disliked the main alpha male; so I killed him off, and the next thing I knew, I had my first novel–even if it was a shortish one.
And what about marketing?
It’s been a bewildering few months, being exposed to all the marketing gurus out there. They all promise the same result if you only follow their secret plan. Once you’ve given them your email, the secret seems to be their product which reiterates stuff you could learn in a free marketing course on MOOC, or stuff you might have already tried. I still click on a few of their blogs, but I’m more wary of signing up for their newsletters for the same-o-same-o, which doesn’t seem to work for me anyway. So I have to reinvent my own wheel in someways–which is educational. What could have been someone else’s mistake, could be my biggest breakthrough. Only time will tell.
What I have realized is that the most important things in self-publishing are: my books, and my readers; not the number of followers I have on Facebook or my blog, or my marketing plan.

The regular advice: Have you work critiqued.
My take on it: For sure,
but be true to your story.

man342 by Freepik in People. Pack: Daily Job
man342 by Freepik

I only joined a critique group in January. Already, I’ve noticed that I’m a better editor and more demanding of my writing–and for my readers. I’d rather not be the writer of that piece which nobody wants to critique because it’s just so…
One of the best things I’ve learned from critiques is reader expectations. You created your story. You project your story in a certain style and voice which produces reader expectation. Failing to meet that expectation is failing to retain your readers’ interest and trust in your storytelling. Result: you lose that reader.
Good critiques always point out your strong and weak points in writing and storytelling–invaluable knowledge in your growth as a writer.

The regular advice: Writing takes time.
You’d better be in it for the long haul.

My take on it: Absolutely.

money192  by Freepik in Business. Pack: Humans 2
money192 by Freepik

Being a fly-by-night writer is a lose-lose situation for everyone, especially your loyal readers.

So, writing takes commitment.

Writing takes time.

Writing demands sacrifices you may never have considered, but mostly in time.

And writing seldom makes you an overnight millionaire.

Take the plunge when you’re ready. It’s better than dipping your toe in to see if you can stand the temperature. Then it’s sink or swim, according to what you put into your writing career.

But always, always be true to yourself.
There’s nothing wrong in floating around till you get your true bearings.

 

 

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17 thoughts on “Advice for New Writers

  1. A lot of sound advice here, Leena. Your phrase beginning “What I have realized is that the most important things in self-publishing are: my books… (etc).hit me like a slap. I need to get that thought firmly fixed in my head and leave my blogging alone for a while. My third book needs far more attention than it’s getting at the moment. Thank you so much for that important reminder. Millie ๐Ÿ™‚

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      1. Thank you, again, Leena. I want to read your book when it’s published. I’ve a feeling it may already be out there, so could you let me know where I can get hold of it? ๐Ÿ˜€

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      2. Hi Leena. Sorry this is such a late reply – I’ve had no Internet connection for almost a week until today. I’ll have a look at Smashwords tomorrow. Thank you for the link. ๐Ÿ™‚

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      3. Hi Leena. I intend to get myself a copy of your book today. I’ve never used Smashwords, so I’ll have to check out about openiing an account with them. Sometime soon, I intend to take my books off Amazon Select so I can put them with other online retailers as well.
        Is Smashwords one I could use? Pleas don’t rush to reply – I know you’re very busy. I t’s just that I’ve never looked into putting my books anywhere else but Amazon. I need to look at Kobe and others, too. I’ve just had Shadow put int print (with CreateSpace) and Pit of Vipers is being done at the moment. So I also need to look into outlets for print books,. Anyway, that’s all for the end of August when my 3 months with Amazon Select finishes this time.
        I hope your book does really well for you and I’ll look forward to reading it . I just have to finish off a couple I already have first, though. ๐Ÿ™‚

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      4. Hi Millie
        For ebook distribution into multiple formats and ebook stores around the world, I couldn’t find a better option than Smashwords for my budget. They distribute to Kobo, iTunes, Nook, Angus and Robets, Indigo, Flipkart, and many more. We’ve been with Smashwords since 2013 and I find the support generally quite helpful. They pay on time and answer most queries within 24-36 hours. I’m quite happy with them. The only problem with Smashwords is that you have to get used to the ‘Meatgrinder’ which converts your book into multiple formats. You shouldn’t have much problems with your novels as they are mostly text. Just keep things as simply as possible in your Word doc.
        As for print books, I haven’t ventured there yet. In addition to Createspace, I might consider Ingram Spark. I read somewhere that they have better distribution outside the US, so if that’s where the majority of your readership lies, they might be a good option for you.
        If you have time, you could go over this year’s Indie Recon events for other views and ideas: http://indierecon.org/indierecon-events/
        I hope this helps:-D
        And thanks for kind thoughts and your interest in my book. It makes me very happy. ๐Ÿ˜€

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      5. Thank you so much for all that, Leenna. It’s really appreciated. Once I’m off Amazon Select, I’ll try to get going with Smashwords. I can’t say that Amazon Select is getting me extra sales, anyway. I just give away hundreds of books, which don’t even engender reviews, so what’s the point?
        I downloaded a copy of Settle Down Now last night. I hadn’t realised there was a coupon to use, so it was a very inexpensive book. Nor did I realise that you had wrtten so many books! I thought this one was your first. Congratulations on so many!
        I had to sign up with Smashwords, of course, because I’ve never uded them before. At least that’s a start for eventually putting my books on there. Then I’ll have a look at Ingam Spark for print versions. I’ve only just started with CreateSpace, so I’ve yet to see how well that goes.
        Thank you for the link Indie Recon. I’ll be sure to have a look at that as well. I’m looking forward to reading your book as soon as I’ve finished the ones I’m reading at present.

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      6. Thanks!
        It’s always a pleasure to be a help ๐Ÿ˜€
        I know what you mean about giving away lots of free books and not getting many sales in return. I guess it’s something all of us have to deal with.
        And thanks for buying my book. I hope you let me know what you think of it!
        BTW, I loved your post on Conwy Castle. I didn’t get a chance to visit it myself, but I did have it on my list. I tried to like your post, WordPress isn’t allowing me to do that just now.
        Will you be posting on some Danish monuments too?

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      7. The only photos I have of Denmark, Leenna, are old-fashioned printed ones. I can always take photos of them and create jpgs. We did have some on our old computer which crashed, and we lost them all. Anyway, I’m hoping to do a lot of ‘histirical sites’ posts this year, and cut down on ff which takes so much more time (not writing them, so much as reading and commenting on everyone elses. It’s a nice thing to do, and I enjoy it, but I really can’t afford the time. I’m trying to keep just one a week going now). I’ll be posting about Beaumaris Castle either later today or tomorrow. I love castles – perhaps I shoul write my next book set after 1066 so I can bring castles into it!
        I’ll be sure to let you know what I think about your book and review it, too. It’s a pity I can’t get straight into it, but the ones I’m reading are for reviewing as well. When I put the review on Smashwords, it will be under my own name (Patricia Bunting) and noit my pen name. I signed up as PBU after several attempts at other abbrevaitions. So that’s what you’ll see.

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      8. I like your idea of posting more about castles. It’s a such a pity when you loose irreplaceable photos. Perhaps you could sometimes combine ff with some of your castle settings too.
        I love the idea of your next series being set after 1066. I was addicted to Nigel Tranter’s Stewart trilogy and Judith Merkle Riley’s The Green Lion trilogy. I’d love to read another series set in those time periods: the 12th to 14th century. I always think things got a little too complicated after that!
        Hopefully the like and comment buttons will start working for me again.
        I’ll be sure to look out for you on Smashwords soon. Send me a link when you have your books up too.
        Don’t stress about the review now. I’d rather you enjoy reading my work in your own time ๐Ÿ˜€

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Thanks, Leenna. I’ll probaably get to reading your book in a couple of weeks, if I manage to find enough reading time to finish the two I’ve aalready got on the go. It will be different for me to put a review on Smashwords, so I’m looking forward to doing it!
        I won’t be able to put my two books on Smashwords until September. My present three-month session with Amazon Select finishes aat the end of August. And as for doing about castles on my ff … I’ve already started doing something historical linked to the ‘Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers’ posts I do. None have been about castles, as yet, but you never know what turns up.
        I love the medieval period, too, but there are so many novels set in that time period now. A lot of them are murder-mysteries, which I usually enjoy. Whether I’ll get round to writing anything set at that time, I don’t knw. I have so many possibilities at present. But I think I’d better get Book 3 of my present trilogy finishes first. ๐Ÿ˜€

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      10. Yes, I know how it is with too many ideas and not enough time to explore them fully. I agree, you should get Book 3 done first ๐Ÿ˜€
        You’re right there a lots of stories set in the medieval period. A new period would be interesting to explore too ๐Ÿ˜€

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      11. My two main interests at the moment are Roman Britain and the Druids, and the 1950s. I was a child in the 50s and all the recent TV dramas set during that time (like ‘Call the Midwife’) have really sparked my interest. We’ll see. I’m really dragging my heels with Book 3, and need to just buckle down to it. I’ve had several people saying they’re waiting for it! Panic, panic…! It’s hard to buckle down to writing in summer. I’m a real outdoorsy-sort-of-person, and I just want to be out there. I read that you’re starting a new book in October, so I hope that goes well for you, Leenna. ๐Ÿ˜€

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      12. I’ve always liked the stories about Roman Britain and the Druids. It would be nice to have a well researched one to read. And my mum would probably enjoy reading about the 1950s too–every country experienced it so differently! I know I’m not being not help here; so maybe it’s just a good time for you to jot down your ideas and research notes so you’ll have a solid foundation for your next big project.
        I’m in much the same boat as you–way behind schedule! It’s difficult to set a routine with all the moving around I’ve been doing ๐Ÿ˜€
        I’m trying to get up a little bit earlier and restrict my time on the internet. And over a cup or three of tea, I’ll soon be getting much more done work-wise in a hour. Maybe a similar strategy will work for you. Half the time outdoors, then steal an extra hour in the morning to get some solid time with Pit of Vipers ๐Ÿ˜€
        Just keep in mind that you’ll get it all done. Sometimes, the best stories need a little more time.
        Hope you have a great summer ๐Ÿ˜€

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      13. Thank you for all that encouragement, Leenna. I’ll get Book 3 finished eventually, I know that. It’s just that it’s going slowly. Pit of Vipers (Book 2) has been published since last Christmas, so I really do need to get a move on with this next one.
        I like the sound of your writing PProutine, so I’ll have a go at that. I always have three cups of tea, so that’s a start! I must confess that WP takes a lot of my time.
        Funny what you said about your mum and the 50s. I’ll have to look up what things were like where you are (South Africa, I think?). Have a great summer, too. I’ll let you know when I’ve read your book. ๐Ÿ™‚

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