Wednesday, September 5, 2012
The Insecure Writer and Not Having a Clue
Today is September's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.
What makes me insecure as a writer this month? The fact that I have no clue as to what makes a book successful.
What helps relieve some of this insecurity? The fact that, as far as I can tell, no one else has a clue either.
The standard answer is that if you want your book to be a success, write the very best book you can. Sound advice, but I’m sure we can all think of good books we’ve read that never seem to gain any traction on Amazon while lesser books make the best seller lists. Agents and editors tell us that sometimes the stars have to be aligned just right for a book to succeed – which I think is another way of saying they don’t have a clue either. So how is a beginning writer such as myself to know if his or her manuscript has a chance to be a success?
I don’t know. And that's the problem.
I can follow all the rules of writing I've learned over the past few years, but will that lead to success? Perhaps, but it seems the books I enjoy most break many of those rules. Consider Harry Potter. Rowling broke tons of rules - lots of telling, more adverbs than you can shake a stick at, imaginative dialogue tags, a first chapter that could well have been a prologue, very little character arc for her MC (I’m talking the first book here, not the overall series), and the occasional drift into a distant omniscient narrator (supposedly a dying POV) - and I think her book did reasonably well. Apparently readers care less about the rules of writing than do writers.
Hmmm. What about social media? If I suddenly became social media savvy and developed an army of followers, would that help make my story a success? Perhaps, but for me, the learning curve for social media is even higher than it is for writing fiction. (Hey, I’ve tweeted three times this month already! That’s progress, right?)
So, in the end, all I can do is write the best book I can, get the word out there as much as possible, and hope for the stars to align.
And people make a living doing this?