When you begin writing, you go through different phases. As a “wannabe,” you may begin practicing writing as a hobby and start developing your talents. As a “first-time author” you may begin winning notoriety and further developing your skills—learning to organize your time, gauging the markets, and so on. As a “midlist author” you’re writing regularly and building your audience and preparing to breakout of your genre—finding bigger audiences than normally read that kind of thing, much the way that Rowling did when she sold over a hundred million books in a genre that had only a few million readers.
In order to become a superstar in the traditional publishing world, you need a publisher who believes in you enough to back you by investing millions of dollars in your career. (As an Indie author, you need to learn to invest in yourself and your own career.)
You gain a publisher’s trust over time. You write excellent books quickly on a regular basis. You treat your editors and business associates professionally. You’re fun and interesting when dealing with fans, and so on.
Think of it this way. A superstar author is much like a superstar basketball player. The basketball player needs to develop amazing skills at a dozen levels. He needs to learn to dribble the ball, steal the ball, pass the ball, shoot the ball, block other shooters, play the field, defend from other players, find open shots, setup plays, fake-out opponents, control the clock, and so on.
What are the skills that you need as an author? Here’s one: coming up with good ideas for stories. I met a writer recently who presented me with a fantastic idea for a novel. In fact, she had written a whole book, but stylistically she wasn’t close to being publishable. Is she ready to be an author? No. Could she become one? Probably, but she had some work to do. One of her questions to me was, “Should I join a writing group?”
My answer was, “Of course.” If you want to be a writer, you need to practice your skills and improve them. Going into a room and writing without ever getting feedback probably won’t let you improve to the point that you become a professional. I’ve seen dozens of terrible writers who work hard at it all day long, but don’t have the courage to ask for feedback or the good sense to take it.
Having one or two skills won’t make you a star. As a kid, I got pretty good at playing H.O.R.S.E. I had three or four spots on the court where I could just about guarantee that I’d make a basket. But I was never any good at lay-ups. I couldn’t do it while dribbling, charging down the court, while evading other players who tried to block me, while then shooting underhand from behind my back. But I’ve seen great players make those shots.
I wasn’t a “good” basketball player, much less a great one.
So think about it: as a writer, what does it take to become a superstar?
Can you do a behind-the-back layup in a game for the title? Can you create a disgusting villain that lives in the memory of a reader for life? Can you make that unlikeable character—say Hannibal Lector—someone that the reader cheers for? Can you have the reader secretly think, “I hope he kills that nice prison guard and escapes! Heck, I even hope he takes the guard’s liver and eats it with fava beans and a nice chianti.”
If you’re going to get serious about writing, of course you’re going to do what serious writers do. The first thing that you’re going to do is write, on a schedule. No more diddling around.
You’ll work with other writers in a group, even if it is only two or three other writers. You’ll learn to develop novel ideas, to plot your novels—even if you’re a pantser and only discover your plots after the first draft.
You’ll teach yourself to write not only when you’re motivated, but when you’re facing grim times.
You’ll study the markets and other writers so that you know who your competitors are and what their strengths and weaknesses are.
You’ll learn who the editors and agents in your field are, along with the literary critics and the other kingmakers.
You’ll deliver books regularly and build a backlog of excellent work.
You’ll learn how to market books effectively—not so that you sell hundreds of copies or hundreds of thousands, but millions.
When you’re ready, when you’ve developed the skills and talents needed to be a superstar, that’s when some investor—the head of a major publishing firm—will decide to invest millions in furthering your career.
Until then, you’re not even worth considering. Dreaming about your future is fine, so long as you’re not just daydreaming.
So begin building the skills you need now.
For tonight’s Apex meeting, we’ll have a lesson on building fascinating characters from actor, director, and writer J. Scott Bronson. A week from Saturday, we’ll have a live workshop from motivational guru Forrest Wolverton on “Taking Charge of Your Care”. For information on how to join Apex, email the word “Apex” to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dave will be teaching on “Clark Kent to Superman” in an online workshop to be taught July 18. Register here: https://www.fyrecon.com/master-classes/david-farland-master-classes/
Writers of the future 3rd quarter stories are due tonight! Make sure you get them in! writersofthefuture.com
The Sale for the SUPERBUNDLE is still going on, but not for much longer! A 2,900 dollar value for only $139! Find it on mystorydoctor.com