Lately, on Twitter, I’ve seen a lot of people talking about the worst advice they’ve gotten in regards to being a writer. It’s a bone of contention for writers–which advice is good and which is bad. Sometimes–especially when you’re an amateur, such as myself–it’s hard to tell. One of my problems is that I believe that people are generally good at heart, say what they mean and mean what they say, and are not intentionally giving bad advice.
Yes. I know that makes me naive. But I refuse to give up hope on people being good at heart, so we will all just have to agree to disagree.
However, the fact remains that there is a lot of advice out there that is bad…well, kind of. Some advice that is horrible for one writer may be a blessing to another writer. Then again, some advice that’s good for one may be horrible for another. The biggest challenge is finding a mentor who understands what you are trying to achieve, who you are as a writer, how you work, your process, and what advice is best suited for you. Sometimes it feels like it is impossible to find a mentor to match yourself up with in the writing world. It definitely takes a lot of searching. I was incredibly fortunate that, after years of writing, a common life event brought a mentor into my life by chance.
I’m the type of person who wants his mentors to be very blunt with him. I do not like having to decipher hidden meaning in advice. I love that my mentors will give everything to me in a very direct manner–even if it sounds rude to other people. “Stop being a whiny little bitch and get back to work.” was recent advice I got. That kind of thing works for me.
Do you want to know some of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten about writing? Well, if you’re here, I’m assuming you are interested, so I will share some of it.
“Girl. Go take a beat, cry your eyes out, then get back to work.” – I had been having a really bad “writing day” and was very upset. But I was told by a writer friend to do what I had to do, but then get back to work. It’s simple advice, but it is good advice. Don’t get dissuaded for too long. You’re only a writer if you write. Take a minute if you need to in order to clear your head, scream, cry, rage, laugh, eat a pint of ice cream…but get your fingers back on the keys (or put that pen to paper).
“You know what’s worse than a really bad review? A writer who thinks they know better than anyone else which books deserve them.” – I think this one speaks for itself.
“If you’ve got enough time to worry about another writer’s business, you’ve got time to write your book.” – This one speaks for itself, too. Don’t worry about what another writer is doing or why they act a certain way. Focus on being the best you that you can be.
“Why would you concern yourself with advice from a writer who can sell advice but not books?” – This one speaks for itself, too. A lot of people “know how things should be done” but their books are not selling. It’s not necessarily that their books are bad or they are a bad writer. However, if they aren’t selling books…why would you trust their advice on how to market yourself?
“No matter how much glitter you put on a turd…it’s still a turd.” – This was advice given to me about marketing and writing. If the product you are trying to sell is crap–all the best marketing in the world won’t give you longevity. Consistently putting out decent, good, or great work that a reader feels they did not waste money on will. Spend more time on telling a good story than you do on marketing and things will fall into place eventually. It may take longer if marketing is not your main focus…but once people start to discover you, you’ll start making lifelong readers. That is how you create longevity–not with shiny ads and displays (though they never hurt if your book is good quality). Keep in mind, that I do my best to be open to constructive criticism. That’s why some books have gotten new covers, re-edits have been done, and so forth.
“Sometimes a gem needs more shine.” – This was a caveat given to the previous advice. Even if you write the best book in the world, you have to make it appealing to a potential reader. I’ve had to work a lot and get a lot of advice from really talented and creative people about book covers and marketing in general. I don’t sell as many books as Stephen King or James Patterson (gosh, I hope I do one day), but I have learned that people truly judge books by their covers sometimes. A good book needs a good synopses/blurb and a cover to really drive home a sell sometimes. Is it wise to judge a book by its cover? Well…that’s up for debate. But do yourself a favor and do your best to make your book visually appealing, too.
“Don’t pay to be a writer.” – A friend told me this, basically meaning that if you spend a lot of money on a cover, editing, proofreading, copyediting, formatting, and marketing, you’re probably not going to make any money as an indie writer. In fact, you’ll probably end up paying to release your book. Sure, you want to publish the best product possible for your readers…but don’t go so overboard that there is absolutely no way you will ever make money on your book. Oftentimes, you can find other creatives willing to exchange services. Are you a good proofreader? Maybe a good book designer will create a great cover for you if you proofread their book. Talk to people, network, find people you can work with so that we can all publish good books but not waste our life savings doing it–then everyone wins–especially the readers. Also, it’s surprising how affordable some services are if you work with other indies–and there are so many talented people out there just looking for a way to make some extra money.
“Don’t get so caught up in writing that you forget about reading.” – This piece of advice is given by nearly every writer out there. Reading is one of the best ways to become a better storyteller and writer. You don’t read other books to get plot and characters ideas–we don’t want to steal from each other. But you can learn so much about structuring stories, learn new words, better ways to convey emotions and character descriptions, get better at different styles of writing…the list goes on and on. Also, make sure to stretch your legs. Read things outside of your comfort zone. Even though I write mostly LGBTQ+ YA, NA, and paranormal romance, I don’t just read those genres.
“No two writers have the same goals. It’s okay if writing is something you want to do for a living and it is okay if it’s just a hobby.” – If you’re fine selling a few books here and there and you are not trying to make your living as a writer–there is no shame in that. It is okay if you are happy having just published a book and checked it off of your Bucket List. And it’s okay if your goal is somewhere between “working writer” and “hobbyist.” Don’t let anyone shame you for doing things your own way. Don’t shy away from advice and help…but if it is not advice or help that works for your particular situation, you can ignore it.
“Not everyone is trying to set the world on fire. Some people just want to be able to pay the gas bill.” This was not necessarily advice, per se, but a friend told me this as a way of saying: “Don’t judge other people if they are not as ambitious as you think they should be.” Some people are happy to make a living doing what they love and do not care if they are ever the “next J.K. Rowling.” And that’s more than okay. It’s also remarkably similar to the previous piece of advice, but I won’t hold it against the person who gave it to me…
Tremendous Love & Thanks,