I’ve taken longer than most author bloggers to consider what I learned last year. I decided not to do the regular, almost obligatory, New Year review, as I took time off to enjoy New Year instead!
So what did I learn about writing last year, and why am I sharing it with you?
I think as writers, we must be continually open to change (particularly in marketing, but that’s another topic altogether!), and by sharing what we each learn, we can pass on our experiences and help others. Not only do we grow and mature if we keep learning, we write better books as a result.
All pretty obvious, I know, but I still see authors who are content to push out books riddled with grammatical errors, proof reading misses (argh!), plot holes, dull characters, and incoherent, or boring, plots.
And if we want to make a career out of selling our work, we have to stand out amongst the massive number of questionable quality books flooding the market, and hope the readers don’t get so irritated by these feckless authors that they give up buying books altogether!
SO what did I learn last year?
Mostly it was about how to write books faster, but not sacrifice the quality.
- The Pomodoro technique has revolutionised my ability to write! If you didn’t read my original post on it, you can find it HERE. Having embraced this simple idea, I can now sit down at any time, and write with full concentration for 25 minutes, instead of waiting until I have a clear, long block of time. It’s much more feasible to grab a spare 25 minutes here and there in between other aspects of life, than it is to wait for ‘spare time’. If your life is anything like mine, you’ll be wondering what spare time actually is! I’m thinking now, that my inability to write unless I had at least a full hour spare, was another of those sneaky procrastinations that trap the unwary author. Not anymore!
- I can no longer be a dedicated pantser. Oh dear, I did so enjoy that phase of my writing life. I loved setting off on a novel with no idea of where it would take me, letting the characters create the story as they interacted. Sadly for me, when you write a series, there are plot threads that need to be remembered, continued, spliced together, and completed. Without some planning, that isn’t necessarily accomplished. I also realised this was another of those pesky procrastinations! If I didn’t know where the story was going next, I couldn’t write. I could sit at the keyboard and maybe tap out a few interesting sentences, but bulk word counts? No way. So now, although I shall never be a true plotter, I am taking time out to plan a rough story structure, and outline my character arcs, before I start. I can now consider who would be the best viewpoint character for a chapter before I waste time writing it from the wrong person’s perspective, and having to go back to change it. As I now know where I’m aiming for (even though I don’t know the details) the words fly out of my fingers without stuttering. Mostly.
- Trust my subconscious to work out the details. I’ve mentioned this one before, I know, but self-confidence is always a challenge for authors. We work in isolation, write massive numbers of words, agonise over whether a book is good enough, and don’t know until we put it out there, and get either praised, or shot down. I have the same anxiety with every book I release, but I’m reaching the point of accepting that I write what I want, and I can’t please everybody. The good thing is, my subconscious mind is incredibly crafty, and if I let it, and don’t try to pressurise it, it comes up with the most amazing sneaky plot twists that make ME really enjoy what I write. That way, even if no one else enjoys my writing, as least I get a buzz out of it!
- Marketing is important, but it’s even more important to have product to sell! Again, this sounds so obvious, but with so much pressure out there to learn the ropes of Amazon ads, Facebook ads, and Bookbub ads (the triumvirate that seems to be the holy grail of successful marketing at the moment), not to mention the obligatory newsletter, it’s easy to spend too much time focussing on marketing, and not enough on writing the next book. I have dealt with this by creating neat folders in my email storage, labelled with each individual type of ad, and when the mail comes in exhorting me to sign up to the latest classes, or read the latest post, I simply file it for later viewing. I am really happy about this cutting down on my wasted time, as I start to notice how quickly things change, and go out of date/relevance. By the time I have the time to learn more (I run a few ads on Amazon and Bookbub, but haven’t tackled Facebook yet as the learning curve is vastly greater, and anyway, the effectiveness seems to be waning) I shall only need to open the most recent mails to get the most recent advice!
How about you, fellow authors? Did you learn anything this past year that might help other authors?