Friday, September 28, 2012

The Life of a Hoarder

First off, let me apologize for not keeping up with this blog in recent weeks. Between vacations, some personal issues at home, some hectic weeks at work, and a few other commitments, I’ve had little time for writing. And what time I did have left was devoted to working on my book. Now that my schedule has returned to normal, my goal is to return to my usual Wednesday, Friday schedule.

Now on to the post.

My wife thinks I’m a hoarder. She’s wrong. I just don’t like throwing stuff away.

It’s not as though I never throw things away – although a photograph of my office might suggest otherwise - but every time I do throw something in the trash, I almost invariably need it the next day. Honestly, this has happened so many times I no longer fight it. If there’s the slightest chance I’ll use something again – no matter how broken it might be - I’ll find somewhere else to store it. It gives me a nice, warm feeling to know I can still put my hands on it anytime I want.

Assuming I can find it, of course.

When it comes to Internet links, though, I am an avid hoarder. I just can’t help collecting them, especially ones about writing. It’s no secret I probably follow way too many writing and author blogs, but I’ve learned so much the past few years about writing I simply can’t stop piling up the links.

Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee I’ll ever go back to these links again. A quick check of my writing links folder reveals that I have over 900 bookmarks waiting to be clicked. I tell myself I’ll eventually go back and read them again, but I know it’s not going to happen. But that’s okay. I still get that warm fuzzy feeling from knowing the links are sitting safely on my hard drive.

Not surprisingly, I’m still collecting links. I think I’ve saved four of them this morning already – most of them having to do with self-publishing and social media.

Help! Is there such a thing as Link Hoarders Anonymous?


P.S. Please forgive my excessive use of the word “it” in this post.

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?