There is a shitload of advice for writer’s out there. All of it conflicts with the last one you read. So many tell you to learn the rules of grammar, find critique groups and hone your craft before stepping out into the big wide world. More tell you not to wait, don’t listen to your doubts or the nay-sayers, jump in and get wet.
For the self-publishing world, this is all a double-edged sword. If you lurk and listen and watch, you discover that hundreds – nay – THOUSANDS of writers have taken this advice to heart.
There are two results:
1 – Those who feel they have not honed their craft enough and lurk on the sidelines forever. To these folks, I have nothing for you. If you are not willing to make a plan to take a chance, then … well … there’s just not much to work with. I ain’t gonna push you in, and you’d better quit complaining about hanging out on the sidelines.
2 – A mega-fuck-ton of sheer junk on the market. Badly written. Grammar rules completely ignored. Wretched spelling. Plot holes bigger than my house. Bits of storyline left dangling with no resolution or – worse yet – badly handled resolution. The kind of writing that leaves you thinking “What the hell is this and where can I get some brain bleach?”
I’m not saying all self-pubbed work is garbage. Far from it. There are gorgeous jewels out there that were sadly and tragically tossed aside by major houses because they weren’t standard, lab-created diamonds. But they are outnumbered by dross. Even self-pubbed authors complain about it.
Then they turn around and tell you “Do Not Wait For The Right Time. Do It Now.”
I think the problem is that they don’t qualify/clarify their statements. And so many novices get so desperately confused because no one bothers to explain the caveat. I’m one of them – I’ll admit to that.
But after a lot of thought, I think I have discovered the caveat. It doesn’t matter which camp you live in – Hone your craft until three days before death or Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead – this caveat applies to both sides. It is the body of the coin that both sides are bonded to.
This is the only caveat:
MAKE. A. PLAN.
You must commit to this plan.
Commitment doesn’t mean showing up in a pretty dress, exchanging a few words and a bit of jewelry. That’s just the cover art. Commitment is when you have to buckle down and dig deep to get past obstacle X, because that ring sure as hell isn’t going to do it for you.
The plan doesn’t have to be carved in stone. It doesn’t have to be notarized. It doesn’t have to be an incredibly detailed chart showing each and every step. “First I will write 350 words of chapter one and then I will pause and take a potty break, after which I will spend 7.5 minutes catching up on the news.”
Someone out there probably has that plan. I don’t. But I do have a plan, as sketchy as it is. My plans were made after considering my strengths and weaknesses.
1 – If I am excited in a project, if it is something I want, I will work. I will hang on until the bitter end.
2 – I ENJOY research.
1 – I do not write fast. Some authors can bang out a book every six weeks. I’m more of a 1 book every two years kinda chick.
2 – I don’t have a lot of spare cash that self-pubbing requires you spend. My numbers for my first book have been roughly calculated in the neighborhood of $1500 to $2k. Editing, cover art, ISBN, LLC, blahblahblah. Things that should be taken into account before you punch that credit card number in or damn yourself because you were too cheap to get a pro to help you out.
A – Save money. Every month a set amount. If I can push more into it, great. If not, stick to the minimum. The goal is to have about $2k set aside before I publish that first book. Why? Because I have these pesky things called a family and a budget. I do not want my dreams to destroy everyone else.
B – In the meantime Write. Rewrite. Edit.
I have one manuscript enough done that I have put it aside to patiently await the day I have enough money to find an editor. I have number 2 in that series 80% of the way there. Numbers 3-7 are hazy and more conceptual, but notes are being taken, research is being done.
I have another series in a similar boat. I have book one drafted, but research needs to be done to rewrite it correctly and hit it with volleys for books 2-4 (or 7, that’s still up in the air.)
Yet another group of stories awaits my attention in a completely different genre. And another. Same tactic. I employ the same tactic every time. WRITE IT DOWN. There is a good chance I won’t remember it in two years if I don’t write it down. There’s a good chance that the next time I look at it, I’ll say “I have no idea what to do with this,” and that’s as far as I’ll go. But there’s also the chance that it has grown like some mutant mushroom in the darkest corners of my mind, shielded from the UV rays of reality and the sterilizing cleanser that the maid comes through with (If only I had a maid…) and it’s actually pretty good. A little creepy. A little stinky. It definitely needs a bath (or two) and a trim but it’s still there and ready to go.
People will interrupt you. Life will interrupt you. The house will interrupt you and it’s a non-sentient object. “‘S’cuse me, Katty, but my water heater just died.”
Scribble in a notebook while you wait for your child’s dance class to finish. Tippy-type away while they’re at school. Text yourself emails in between trucks at the loading dock. Ignore your friends to write on cocktail napkins if you’ve finally figured out the perfect zinger for your hero to dash off right before his kid pops him in the face with a basketball. Get up early, go to bed late, whatever works – do it.
Finish. Your. Story.
That’s step 1. Assuming you’ve learned such foolishness as basic grammar and proper spelling. There is no calendar for Step 1. Some people can slap down a date and say “yea, verily, I shall make this happen by December 13th.” Others are more pokey. Our schedules are fluid. We have no daily goals of word count or hours spent.
Step 1 only means you work. You do the best you can.
Step 2 involves rewriting. Editing. Paying someone professional to edit your work because your mom is going to miss stuff while your best friend, a high school english teacher, is probably not going to get back to you in a timely fashion.
Step 2 means you spend money. It means you bleed and you cry and you might get sick of your story after a bit, but you polish that turd until it’s the best YOU think you can make it.
Step 2 also takes time. Step 2 also means MORE WORK. But I promise you, if you press that publish button BEFORE you’ve done Step 2, statistically speaking IT WILL HURT. A lot. Because you DIDN’T TAKE YOUR TIME AND MAKE A PLAN IN THE FIRST PLACE.
Make a plan. Learn to swim, acquire a chase boat and get supplies and a crew before you try to take the Florida to Cuba challenge.
It won’t hurt quite so much.
(After re-reading this post, I’ve come to the conclusion that most writers and/or published authors get sidetracked very easily in our descriptions on our blogs. My theory is that we’re so used to working with ever sparser descriptions in our “public” work that we’ve starved ourselves to the point of slapping down utterly ridiculous, random and excessive prose – kinda like the way you slam an ostentatious 7 course meal of foods you’ve never heard of or even thought you’d be willing to try after eating nothing but granola bars for three months. But it’s only a theory.)