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?

Scary.

17 comments:

  1. Really, that's all you can do is write your best. I guess we can all wait for the stars to align, but wouldn't that indicate success for all of us??

    And don't even get me started on social media. Yes, it's important, but it can be time wasting, right? But it's fun. But it's time wasting. But it's educational. But it's time wasting. But it's...

    Nice to meet you through ISWG! I'm a new follower, wishing you the best!

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    1. As I said in my post, I'm so bad at social media right now that I don't have to worry about spending too much time on it.

      Thanks for stopping by.

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  2. Technically, I should be meeting new people, but I think the overriding element to success is finding a subject that really catches people's imaginations. Harry Potter did that. I wonder if Rowling's new adult book will do the same. I haven't asked you what you think you'll write when you're done with this, but it seems to me you have the key element necessary to write a successful book: a good imagination.

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    1. Thanks Sher, for the compliment. My problem is getting those ideas down on paper in a form that looks professional.

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  3. I couldn't tell you the answer either, although my blog has helped sell my books. Which is ironic considering I rarely mention them. Guess it's all in the timing.

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    1. I think it's also a matter of all the hard work you put into your blog.

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  4. Oh my gosh, I love this post... so true! It really is reaching the impossible dream...

    It totally feels like banging against an immovable door over and over and over again... but I love it, so I'm going to keep trying, keep pushing, keep knocking... ;)

    And off topic, I LOVE your picture up there... the house gives me goosebumps... and the coloring is so beautiful... I wish I could be transported into that picture!

    Oh! And new follower... love your blog. :D

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    1. Thanks for the comment. I loved that picture so much when I found it, I just knew I'd have to use it.

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  5. Thanks for visiting my blog earlier today. I agree that our job as writers is to write the best book we can-- the mainstream response to it is not something we have a lot of control over.

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    1. True, but unless one self-publishes, you often have to find a way to please both.

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  6. All good questions, and I have no clue. I don't know that anyone does. I went to a conference in 2008 and was told the mystery was dead, and vampires, and the paranormal -- on the way out. Yeah, those experts had all the answers -- it's up to the readers. I'm a reader, so hopefully if I write what I like, I'll hit what others like too -- is that a plan?
    Nice to meet you through IWSG.

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    1. Thanks for the comment. IWSG is a great place to meet people interested in writing.

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  7. Interesting blog. I too am new to using social media for extending my writing net. I'm finally in the groove for blogging and it feels much more natural now. As far as Facebook, Twitter, etc. Well maybe I'll get there ...

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  8. Rowling is an amazing writer, it is hard to come up to her standards but I think that if you truly believe in yourself you can do it. Rowling herself got Philosophers Stone denied several times before getting it published but she never gave up. So yes, I think believing in yourself is one of the main ways to make it successful :) x

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  9. I enjoyed reading your post. I think it's a mixture of skill/talent and luck. You have to write something good, but then it has to find it's way to the people. Sometimes things work out just right and a book skyrockets to fame, while other times a good book sits there not being discovered.

    As far as breaking the rules, sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't. I've read books where the mistakes pulled me out and were highly irritating, and others where I got so sucked into the story, it was only later that I looked back and said 'wait...the author has been doing xyz - how come it didn't bother me?'

    Who knows? Your guess is as good as mine... ;)

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  10. No one has a clue as to what makes a book successful. I think that's proven over and over. Keep at it. You'll never be successful if you don't.

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  11. Write the best book you can...yes, but have an amazing story too.

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