Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ramblings - Information Overload

As a writer I have found it a bit daunting to make the big step from aspiring writer to published author because of the amount of choices on advice that is available. I pride myself on being able to keep my cool in a crisis, to be able to handle chaos elegantly without fail, however, even I will admit to feeling overwhelmed by the amount of critiques and opinions available online. While I have found some information to be invaluable, some of the others I’ve heard are about as useful as boobs on a man.

Now before you commence with the reading you’re probably wondering where I have any right to decide what is useful and what isn’t, aren’t you? Point taken. I don’t. This is a blog filled with my own thoughts because of countless headaches on the subject. If you would like the abridged version please read it here:

Abridged Version

For those of you that want to see a ramble session… read on:

ADVICE #1 : Market, Market, Market!

“You should be marketing from every platform available. If there are free or minimal fee websites you should be signing up and running a page for your writing on all of them.

There is a lot of truth to marketing as much as you can, but like just about everything in the world, would you rather have a ton of lackluster things, or a few phenomenal things? I tried to heed this advice because I didn’t realize the different between useful and useless advice, I assumed that even bad advice is still advice. So set yourself up on a platform that you’re comfortable with and that you can get some good feedback from. Twitter, Blogger, Smashwords, and Bookbuzzr have been my favorite sites since starting to market my work and myself as a writer. In the world of e-publishing it’s very easy to get started and get your name out there. Yes I do have a Facebook fanpage, but it gets A LOT less traffic than I do on blogger or Twitter, and the ‘fans’ I have there, save for one person, are all people I know, are related to or work with.

ADVICE #2 : Follow Everyone You Can on Twitter

“If you start following everyone you can possibly follow on Twitter, people will start following you then they will all see what you Tweet and that is how you get known.”

Um no.

My advice for this is, yes, if someone starts following you, and you’ve realized it’s not a bot of some sort, you can follow them. I have two twitter accounts, one is my personal filled with my famous people that the fangirl in me loves to follow (Vampire Diaries, Supernatural and True Blood are my obsessions), as well as friends and family. I have another that is for me as an author that is filled with people that are either fellow writers, people who have heard of me and have started following me, and multiple resources, BubbleCow, Bookbuzzr etc, etc. Granted I don’t have near the followers that some other, more well-known writers do, but there are some that follow me, that I will not follow unless I see a need for. Is this mean? Maybe. But seriously, why as a writer do I need to follow a site that gives daily horoscopes or dating advice and so on? I do however, follow the research and testing rules (comes from working in an IT related field). I will look through their tweets, see if I find anything of interest, and then follow them. If within a week or two, they are simply taking up space on my feed list, they are unfollowed.

This leads me to number three…

ADVICE #3 : Be Nice To Everyone

“No matter if you think she is a rude person, talk to her kindly and answer any thing she asks cordially and friendly.”

Again, very good advice, especially when marketing yourself as a product, but who really wants a phony car salesman in their lives? Not me. I would rather you be brutally honest and up front and follow the old adage if you must, the one our mothers droned into our heads that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. I have found that some of the authors I have met, on Twitter especially, are great to follow and to keep an eye on. You know why? Because they are themselves, they are honest, most of them are strikingly hilarious and they offer a lot of insight without even realizing they are.

ADVICE #4 : Post Blogs Daily

“The more you blog or post things, the more likely you are to get people to notice you. Even if it’s crap, doesn’t matter. You should be posting something in your online blog daily, and you should retweet anything and everything on Twitter.”

Can someone spell Overkill?

The theory is great, but a little excessive. And then the question gets raised, if you spend all your time blogging and tweeting, when are you writing? Because while I’m sure this is something we would all love to become rich and famous from, most of us have other jobs outside of this. Free time to write is fleeting, so do you want to be spending it on blogging and retweeting or would you rather be working on your WIP, the real reason why you’re here? Or you could simply be like me and not feel that anyone in their right mind would want to read my ramblings on a daily basis, and that even a weekly basis is pushing it.

If you have read this far, I commend you. Here is a fun statistic for your efforts… Did you realize that most of the How-To books that have been published on how to get published are written by authors that have only been published once or not even at all outside of their How-To book? I wouldn’t take advice from Dr. Phil and he has a PhD and years of experience, and yet I’m going to listen to people who’ve never tried to get published in the realm we’re trying to get published in? Um no, I don’t think so.

The saying that comes to mind is one my Mama used to say all the time in reference to a relative. “Take everything she says with a grain of salt.” The same is true in this world. Whatever advice you get, don’t be gullible enough to believe every single word of it.

What I have found to be invaluable have been from random people as well as close friends, and that is the following:

DON’T listen to premade lists of what subject, genre, type, font, book cover etc., you should be writing or using. Write what you feel and what you connect with.
DO get a professional editor to go over your manuscript before you publish or submit to an agent. Beta readers are great for this if you’re on a budget, but some may be less likely to offer constructive criticism because they don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
DON’T let anyone convince you you have to have an agent or publishing company to get published.
DO decide up front what your goals are for your work and if they are reasonable.
DON’T get offended by bad reviews of your work. First reaction for me is to get pissed and go off on the person. Sit back, calm down. Take what they say with a grain of salt but try to find what they’re saying constructive and see if it bears any weight on your work and if improvement could be made.
DO have a support network outside of friends and family that consists of other writers/authors. Because when the going gets tough, they will be the ones that truly understand what you’re going through.

At the end of the day though, you could think about it and believe that knowledge is power. It is a saying I don’t agree with fully because I have an uncle that has a lot of knowledge in bullshit, doesn’t mean he’s powerful.

Truth be told I have no more room than anyone else to tell you what to do and how to do it. Fact is, it took a very dear friend asking me what I wanted to accomplish with my writing to get my act in gear. Did I want to be famous or did I want to be published? Once I had that goal set, the rest has been fairly easy to latch onto.

So if you’re a writer or an author, what has been the best and the worst advice given to you about writing and getting published?


  1. Frankly I'm a little sick of all the damn advice about writing. How many sites, books and blogs are dedicated to how to get published? Holy crap! Good point about people writing books on getting published who have only published one book that probably no one has ever heard of, much less bought. Were any of them self-published? Does that even count? And let's be real about "best seller" lists, that's less about the writing, I find, and more about the marketing and the money behind the product.

    Advice though? Again, nothing specific, but there's definitely way too much of it. It reminds me of dieting advice or 'make money from home' ads -- there's just way too much of each.

  2. Great advice. I have a growing collection of books on plotting, writing style, and storytelling. Like you said, advice is advice. I have learned something from each of them.

    One of my favorite "how-to" writing books has been "On Writing" by Stephen King. He can be an elitist when it comes to his own preferences (remember his blasting Stephanie Meyer? I'm not a fan, but he was unnecessarily harsh), but he is very effective at storytelling. He also falls into that painfully masochistic mindset of thinking that everyone should be rejected for years before publishing anything. Still, his book is full of fantastic anecdotes and a peek into his own writing methods.