Once again, my new writing hero Dean Wesley Smith has slapped me across the face with my own poor attitude and behavior and righted my listing writing ship. Metaphorically. I’m sure he wouldn’t slap me in person.
Anyway, while storytelling and business skills can be taught, patience and persistence can’t. And that is today’s lesson for me.
Dean points out, rightly, that for new writers (and despite how much I flap my gums on this matter, I’m still a new writer), hearing stories of overnight or sudden success by writers since the indie revolution causes unrealistic expectations.
For most writers, the path to success – and by success, I mean longevity in career, and ability to earn a living by writing – lies not in hoping for overnight success or a miracle, but in producing professional product at a reasonable pace.
And therein lies the rub. Because it’s going to take time to develop a catalog. And it will cost money to produce professional product. And it’s going to take patience to learn the craft. And it will take time to become a publishing business owner and operator. And it will take time to research marketing, promotion, and discoverability. And all of those things will require dogged persistence, to stay with it, to keep BICFOK, and to push forward. It simply will.
Kristine Kathryn Rusch, my other writing hero (and Dean’s wife), told an interesting story about an indie writer’s meteoric rise to the top of the publishing game. But she did so in context of talking about writers who, desperate to achieve that level of success *coughMEcough*, will try to “chase the market” and write what’s selling now.
The idea’s a simple one: write what’s hot and you too will be a bestseller.
When everyone wants a particular type of product, jumping in while it’s hot gives you a better chance of hitching your wagon to that shooting star. There is an inevitable bell curve though, where the market will either reach saturation, or public interest moves on to something else.
Erotica became very popular when 50 Shades of Grey broke out into mainstream notice. And it did that because of the popularity of Twilight – Shades started life as fanfiction for Twilight – and now, there’s a level of saturation in erotica like never before. (Aside: Romance seems to be the one genre that doesn’t run into saturation, but discoverability is very difficult because of the number of books available.)
So many things like that – The Hunger Games launched a new branch of YA dystopian fiction and has produced a plethora of movies and books with young protagonists, as another example. So a lot of authors started writing just that.
KKR speaks of how this is a mistake and causes bad mindsets for a writer, then burnout or frustration, then departure from writing. Or at least, from indie publishing.
DWS reinforced this idea today with his post about how so many think if it didn’t happen in a blaze of sudden, or at least fast, glory, then what’s the point? (There’s that horrid question again.) If I can’t have it fast I don’t want it. And he discussed how writers have the mentality of getting it now, wanting it now, and aren’t willing to put the effort and work into developing strong storytelling, to write enough books to eventually get out there and be known, and to develop a long-term career in writing.
He says those writers are soon gone from the writing scene, and they appear as nothing more than momentary blips on the radar along the path of publishing success to those like him who’ve traveled it far, and long. He’s seen so many in his forty-plus years come and go, he can tell without looking who’s who.
That reinforcement, and his expert insight into the “What’s the point?” question writers get to and why, are starting to open my eyes (gradually – I’d still take a meteoric launch into stardom, thanks) to a new way of thinking. I’m late to this game, I have a lot to learn about the craft and business of writing, and I’m in a dire hurry to have it now.
Which is a formula for disaster.
For now, I’m working on the patience thing. Then, I can worry about persistence. But both unteachable qualities have to be in place for a writer to survive for the long term in writing.
I’m old in years, but I want to have a sustainable career as a writer. I guess I’d better get my BIC and FOK, and find ways to keep learning.
Then stick with it, even when it looks bleak.