Persistence

You won’t be successful at writing.ย 

You will never be successful at writing as long as you measure yourself against someone else’s yardstick. Your success has to be yours, no one else’s. You can’t write like Heinlein/Correia/Nuttall – only they can (or could, since I don’t think zombie Heinlein actually exists, no matter what Sarah says). Sure, you can go look at Larry Correia’s list of writers, and figure out where on the alphabet you fall. But the honest truth of the matter is that the only way for you to be successful is for you to write. You don’t have to write 10,000 words a day to be a success, or even a thousand. If, like most of us, you are juggling the writing, family, and a career or something, then you know that there are days you can’t keep all your balls in the air.

Some writers are really spectacular jugglers. They can keep six flaming torches aloft, and spin ’em under their legs and the rest of us are all gaping, or peering through our fingers with hands over our faces flinching because dang, that’s gonna hurt if he misses… Look, I know some folks who eat fire, or juggle with it, and they didn’t pick up the chainsaws and say ‘look, Ma, no hands!’ and not mean it. They started out slowly, with things like scarves that float a little and give you plenty of time to get your hands in the right position before you have to grab.

Writing is like that. Sure, there will be days your wordcount is in the thousands, but there might also be a week with no words at all. Instead of beating yourself up, pick up the balls and start again. Keep your eyes on the balls in motion, because if you’re looking at the floor all the time, you’re going to miss them. If you’re looking at the dude with the flaming chainsaws, you’re going to feel like a failure, and you’re not.

For one thing, we don’t all write the same stories. Thank goodness. How boring would that be? Each one of us has a different voice, a style all our own, and only we can tell that story in that way. Is there a market for it? Who knows? You won’t, until you put it out there. The beauty of Indie Publishing is that you can put it out there, for very little or no capital expenditure, and find out if there’s a market. If there isn’t, you shrug and move on. But you’re still a success. Why? Because you wrote that. You finished it, and you put it out there. Success is not about how much money you get, it’s about the completion.

Money is good, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be trying for money. It’s a great milestone of ‘readers like me!’ and ultimately it’s what tells us how successful a story is. But you, the writer, are a success when you write something. When you don’t write, or when you ditch all your stories before they are complete, then you fail. It’s what makes you a writer, not how much money, or who publishes you.

Now that you’ve succeeded in writing a story, what comes next? Write another one. And another, and…. you get the idea. If you want to make money, if that’s the goal of this juggler’s act, then you need to have more than one story out there. Simply put, readers want to read, and having read, they move on to the next book. One is not enough. I’m not sure where the point comes in that volume creates it’s own momentum – at six novels, I had it for a while, and then lost it when I didn’t keep publishing. Momentum is important.

Does that make me a failed writer? No, I think not. I still have fans. I have a book that should be out already, but has been delayed while I added a new career to my juggling repertoire. I have more stories in progress (including a children’s book that unfolded in my head today nearly fully formed. Weird how that works, after years of saying I’d never be able to write one). I am a successful writer. I’m a slow writer, now, managing a thousand words a week rather than a day as I once did. But I’m not trying to make a living as a writer – that would change my goals. I want to up that wordcount, but for the moment other things have priority. I’ll creep slowly back up to adding the writing ball into my daily juggling.

In other words, don’t beat yourself up if you can’t manage pro-level output on a daily basis. Push yourself, but don’t burn yourself out. Set a manageable pace, and don’t quit. When you drop the writing ball, pick it back up, and instead of rushing, slowly work up to speed. If you rush, you’re more likely to make mistakes. And you don’t want that with a flaming chainsaw, really you don’t!

44 Comments

Filed under CEDAR SANDERSON, WRITING: LIFE

44 responses to “Persistence

  1. paladin3001

    Good advice. I have been trying my skills out for the past little while. Started with the Sunday vignettes at According to Hoyt, then it’s starting to snowball a bit. Lucky for me I can hold thoughts and ideas for days before putting them down on “paper”, so if I don’t write something for a day or so, it’s not like I haven’t lost track of what I was doing. Then there’s the silly research I will do. Then there’s getting sidetracked by another story that pops up and demands to be written. *sigh*

    Needless to say I have two projects currently being worked on, and one short story that I completed. Need to write faster actually. :p

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  3. Yeah, I think the secret to being successful at doing what you love is to teach yourself to hate it as much as your day job.

      • I love the writing. I’ve even gotten to the point of enjoying the editing, seeing the gleam of the final product start to shine through. The formatting and other details has gotten sufficiently familiar to be quick and easy.

        Covers . . . well.

        Marketing . . . still hate the marketing. But at least I know what I ought to be doing, and doing more of, now.

        If you hate the writing, you’re doing it wrong. Hating the story, off and on, is normal.

        • lol still on step one, except for the blog, which I can’t really figure what to do with.

        • Well, if I was trying to pop out a novel every two months I would definately hate the writing.

          • paladin3001

            Right now I am just working on a story a month. ๐Ÿ˜€

          • Dorothy Grant

            Work at your own pace – if you grow to hate it, there are a lot better and easier ways to make a living than writing! But even at a faster pace, there are ways to make it still fresh and fun.

            Sam Flegal taught me one of the ways he make commissioned art fun is to find a way to interpret the requests as something that he likes. For example, a statue of liberty didn’t seem very exciting – but reinterpreted as a valkyrie waving a torch high? That was exciting! And because most clients tend to hire him for his unique style, they’re just as delighted with his interpretation. Another way is to make sure he regularly does a painting that he just wants to do, even though there’s no commission for it. Usually, he’ll have no problem selling the image rights, and often the original, after he’s done it , and it gives him a space for his brain to play and freedom to try new techniques and learn.

            For writers, this translates to never writing a sequel just because “there should be a sequel here”, but to make sure that you find a problem or person interesting and want to follow them through the story. Also, occasionally writing a new book that doesn’t fit in the current series (or even genre) just because you want to.

            Peter’s westerns started out that way – something he wrote just because he wanted to, to work on something while he was stuck on the military scifi. Right now, he’s writing a fantasy, because he wants to write a fantasy… and because he’s also using the time to think and work out the series plot arc for Maxwell, not just the individual books, while giving his brain a break between plotting and writing bits of that series. (He had a series plot arc when he started, but after writing nine books, he’s gotten a lot better at figuring out what will and won’t work.)

    • Not really. It is to treat it as a job you love. Still a job, though. Or more like a small business: you’re working for yourself, and often doing more than you would at a regular. And like all small businesses, it’s also a gamble: you’re betting on yourself, and most such bets fail. That means you sometimes have to do things you don’t enjoy as much as the fun parts. But I seriously doubt Larry Correia or Chris Nuttall hate their jobs. I certainly don’t, and although I’m nowhere near their level I’m making a fairly decent living at it.

      Everybody is different, of course. And how you define success is important, too.

  4. Well I’m failing so far, but I keep restarting. It’s not that they aren’t working (I think) I’m just having trouble arranging my world. It hasn’t quite meshed.

    Mind if I ask an off topic question, I can’t seem to find the answer to?
    If I post stories, is amazon going to give me a hard time about previously published?

    • The problem isn’t with something being previously published, the problem is being published on a platform where the site assumes ownership of the copyright of what is published on it. Read the terms of service.

      • Amazon only cares that you have the right to publish it _now_. And if it’s on multiple platforms, it excludes you from some programs.

      • For example, from the WordPress TOS:

        “By submitting Content to Automattic for inclusion on your website, you grant Automattic a world-wide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, modify, adapt and publish the Content solely for the purpose of displaying, distributing, and promoting your blog. This license allows Automattic to make publicly-posted content available to third parties selected by Automattic (through the Automattic Firehose, for example) so that these third parties can analyze and distribute (but not publicly display) your content through their services. You also give other WordPress.com users permission to share your Content on other WordPress.com websites and add their own Content to it (aka to reblog your Content), so long as they use only a portion of your post and they give you credit as the original author by linking back to your website (the reblogging function on WordPress.com does this automatically!).”

        I am not qualified to give legal advice, but I think this means that anything published on WordPress would be ineligible for Amazon’s KDP program, which requires that Amazon be granted an exclusive license to publish.

        • Yes, if it’s published in full or in major part on the blog, it’s not published exclusively on Amazon, and therefore can’t be in KDP Select. There have been authors running afoul of this: they offered a book in KDP Select, and also put it up as a free download if you signed up for their mailing list. And then they were surprised when they got hit with TOS violations. Don’t be that author.

          You can publish something on KDP if it’s published elsewhere – it just can’t be in Select (same as if you were publishing them on itunes or Kobo.) As for how much you can have available free as a sample and still have the work in Select – I think it’s 10%, but go check, because I haven’t had cause to check in years. I could remember wrong.

          • Thanks Dorothy. I prefer to steer well clear. I was thinking some small spin-offs for the freebees. Shouldn’t be too difficult, it is an apocalypse, after all.
            There are many stories in the zombie apocalypse. This is one. ;o)

        • Note the wording they are using. “Posted” “Shared” “Reblogged.”

          And “In part.”

          It is not “published.”

      • Aha! Oh I did, but missed the point.
        Thanks.

      • So, if I post some shorts, I could put them up for free on amazon with no problems? They could be bait later on, no?

        • Again, I am not an attorney, nor do I play one on television. But that’s my understanding. I have put brief excerpts from my novels up on WordPress and haven’t had any problems with it–

          Hang on, there’s someone at the door. It’s the Amazon Police! “Arrgghhh…”

          • Dispensing guidelines without a license?

            • Parts aren’t a problem. Even entire rough drafts, so long as there are substantial differences. But I go into my archives and remove snippets and rough scenes and whatnot as I publish the final version, just on general principles.

              Free downloads are not a good idea. Put it up on Amazon for 99ยข and every three months have a “Free for Five Days!” advert up on your site and facebook and so forth.

              • To expand, I have a site I use for my beta readers to comment, where I post snippets of my rough drafts, sometimes all the way to the end. I remove them when I publish, and never had any problem with Amazon.

                • that was my understanding, as well. As long as it’s taken down – and I don’t think you ever put the whole thing up as a chunk? Then you’re fine. I’ve been debating doing this with a longish short story I’m working on – writing in public. Putting up a snippet as I write it, then removing it after a week.

              • This (what Pam said). I may have snippets or even a full draft, but I take them off the blog well before I start the edit-cover-format-publish stage. As with Misha, I’ve not had any trouble yet.

    • Make sure that what you post isn’t what you have for sale. I think Amazon lowers their price to others, which means if you offer a story for free somewhere and have it for sale on Amazon, Amazon might send you notice of that and mark their version for free as well. Not sure exactly how this works, only that it came up with stolen works and promos on other sites.

      Otherwise, if you’re wanting to post a story different from what you have for sale, it shouldn’t make Amazon twitch at all.

  5. Having careered– er, I mean had my career elsewhere, my measure of writing success has long been “Do *I* enjoy reading my own stuff?”

    Since for some time the answer has been “Yes,” I have no complaints.

    One of these days I’ll even pub the heap and if it makes a few bucks, jolly good.

  6. caitliniwoods

    Good timing on this. I gave myself permission not to write a few days leading up to vacation… then discovered I couldn’t hold two thoughts together while ON vacation. (Thirteen people, one of them my one-year-old, all on top of each other on a beach house. Didn’t Think Things Through.)

    But I did get a lot of background reading done. (I couldn’t quite work it out–what WOULD the media/police response be when my substitute librarian runs off with a student? Turns out something really similar happened last month.) So that’s something.

    Tomorrow… tomorrow is back to normal, and I try again.

  7. Christopher M. Chupik

    Nevertheless, we persisted? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • *hunts around for properly aged produce*

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        Out of carp?

        • *Burps quietly* Oh, excuse me! And yes.

          Plus that political, um not joke, although the individual who kept droning on is a dreadfully bad joke, that political comment deserves something like well-fermented onions with a side of moldy eggplant with a rotten cabbage chaser.

          • Christopher M. Chupik

            You’ll have to direct it at Chelsea Clinton: it’s the title of her upcoming book.

            • Taken from the Senate’s fussing at Elizabeth Warren for violating procedure and then not stopping when she was told to. Which is NOT evidence of the patriarchy silencing women, no matter what the media are baying.

            • Draven

              her new book where she comes out to her parents as a convervative…. j/k

  8. The vast majority of “writers” never finish a darn thing; they prefer talking about it. Anybody who actually put in the work until reaching the point where they can type “The End” are successful writers. The rest is fiddly bits.

  9. Bob

    I’ve been persistent, but these days the ratio of effort to progress and success has gotten so bad that I’ve got a near-physical aversion to actually sitting down and writing.

  10. It’s been a while since I’ve read through the alphabetical list of authors. I fit on there somewhere, but it’s somewhere off to the side where I’ve published, but I don’t do the annoying bits like compulsively check my ranking. (For one thing, I don’t know how to… and I don’t really care to anyway. It would probably only make me feel bad or just confused.) Probably because it still doesn’t feel real…