When you create a novel, there is a certain amount of time and money you will need to invest. Some of the time of composing the book is easy to gauge, but other allocations are harder to see. Brainstorming and outlining your story. This is something that normally takes a few days, at least. You may want to write out your ideas, talk with your writing group, and run it past an editor or agent. I often have authors who have me “greenlight” their outlines as they look for ways to tell a story better or adapt it to a larger audience (email firstname.lastname@example.org to set up appointments to do that). So outlining might take a few days, but I’ve seen authors spend weeks honing a good outline to perfection.
“And what genre should I write in?” My answer is similar. “What genre do you most love to read? That’s the kind of story to keep you up at night working, and to give you the most rewarding writing experience. You’ll write it better because you’ll know the genre well enough to understand whether your ideas are cliché or fresh, and you’ll know what your readers expect.”
A few weeks ago, I spoke with a young man, let’s call him Zack, who was working on his 16th novel. He felt despondent. Zack said, “I just can’t seem to get into this one.”
It just so happened that I had read a children’s book the day before from an author who wanted to help children deal with the death of a sibling. This author had experienced tragedy in her own family more than once, and I felt a strong connection to that book. The world needed a book like hers, I
So let me see if I can make this simple. Let’s say you write a novel. When you do, as it’s creator, you own the “copyright,” the right to print the work and sell copies of it. Under US law, you don’t need to necessarily register that copyright, but it is helpful if you do. (Registering copyright isn’t hard. Just Google the topic. I saw a scammer last week telling authors it was a complex process and he wanted $80 to do something that would actually take the author only a couple of minutes.)
Part of the problem is weak adjectives. “Stone wall” doesn’t tell us how big the stones are or the color. We don’t know if they’re held together with concrete or carved to fit together like a Mayan temple. And “small”. What the heck is a small house? Is this forty square feet, or 400, or 4000? The idea of “small” can vary from one reader to another. So you need to begin filling in some details. First of all, what color is this house? Are we in a country where houses are painted vibrant colors like magenta and banana, or is this a stoic little bland white house? What does the roof look like? Is it made of slate, or cedar shingles, or perhaps thatch? For that matter, what are the walls made of? I know of a fellow who used glass bricks that he made from recycled bottles. Or is it made of river stone? Or bamboo mats? Or logs?
There are ten thousand ways to create a great writing career, but there are a million ways to ruin one. I’ve just told you four of them.
So often I hear of writers who can’t seem to “get started” on their writing in the morning. They want to do it, but not enough to do it by themselves. But I know of many authors who will get together for short retreats and bang out a chapter or short story on their computers in a few hours. I’ve done it myself. Very often when we hear of people succumbing to peer pressure, it’s a bad thing. But it can also be a great power for good. So how can you use peer pressure to your advantage? Try setting some simple goals. Try renting a cabin or a hotel for a weekend with a couple of writing buddies. Don’t just give yourself permission to write during that time, make sure you spend a couple of mornings writing, and then spend some afternoons critiquing one another’s work. Join or start a writing group. This can be a group where you just do “sprints” together—writing at a certain time—or you can also do critiques. But make sure that it is a real “writing” group. Make a simple rule: if you don’t produce something, then you can’t come. You don’t want onlookers and bystanders and gossips. Make it clear that every writer in the group is required to produce. If your group is a critique group, then in your writing group, create a Sargent at Arms who sends text messages to other members a couple of days before your meetings, reminding them that, “Your ten pages are due by the end of the week.” In short, create a little pressure on yourself. If the goal is to write sprints, let you clock be the Sargent at Arms. When it says it’s time to write, everyone writes. Give yourselves awards for a job well done. For example, at the end of a meeting, applaud those in the group who wrote the most, wrote the most powerful passage, or did something unique and interesting.
Here are a couple of clues: Is your idea original? As a contest judge, I get to see thousands of stories a year. Many of them are roughly the same story told over and over again. For example, I get stories about “brain transfers” a lot. It might be a Freaky Friday kind of story, where two people switch bodies, or it might be a person getting his memories downloaded into a machine, or it might be a person getting his memories downloaded into a younger version of himself. The question is, do you have a unique take on this idea? Have you considered the idea more deeply than others? If your idea is not original, if you’ve seen it time and time again, then your story might be weak at its very core, and perhaps you should look for a more-original idea.
For example, instead of opening your email before you write, could you wait for three hours and do it on a break (setting a time limit to answer)? Instead of just putting your books up on Amazon and advertising to your mailing list, would you consider some targeted ads that might double your income? Can we evolve beyond “good practices” and adopt “best practices?” During this coming year, I intend to write more than I ever have before. I intend to sell more than ever before. My goal is to adopt the “best practices” of the most productive and successful writers in the business. That is the whole reason I created Apex. I noticed a lot of students were good writers, but didn’t belong to writing groups. Many of them seemed stuck. They weren’t quite getting published, or never seemed to find time to finish a novel, or weren’t breaking onto the bestseller lists.
“The right way.” I send out announcements and ask friends to share them. I have about 7000 people who get my newsletter, another 5000 friends on Facebook, 20,000 on Twitter, a few thousand more fans on Facebook, and so on. So I can make a pretty decent splash, and if my friends do the same, we can make huge waves! Books I promote generally hit #1 on Amazon in one or more categories. “The right time.” I like to recommend books on their release day or shortly before. With many books, if you recommend them three months before the book comes out, readers won’t want to wait that long. It’s an impulse buy. On the other hand, some people are happy to buy a book early and wait for it, so letting people know a book is coming in a few days usually works well.