Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Lower Rungs

These days, I spend more time than I'd like to reading other writer's blogs. For those of you keeping track, that's about 45 minutes a day. I know that may not seem like a large investment, but it's time, I could argue, that is better spent writing.

On the other hand, if I want to be part of this business, I need to get to know this business and keep up with what is going on inside it, and writer's blogs are a very good (and, as a bonus, often entertaining) way of going about this. Unfortunately, I see a trend developing--much of the discussion now is centered around marketing and self promotion. Not a bad topic, but I'd like a little variety.

Of the 'reasons for not self-promoting' that Joe Konrath puts forward, the one that resonates with me most is, I simply don't like being a salesman. I hate it, actually. But then, I'm thinking of sales in the traditional sense, and promoting your book isn't (or shouldn't be) thought of in the same way.

If you have a good book, and you believe in it, there should be nothing standing in your way of telling people you have a good book. Or a great one. I'm sure I could do this. When I was dabbling in stand-up comedy and bringing in a second income as a folk-singer, I did a fair bit of self-promotion. You have to, or you go no where. Joe is right on this.

So, if I had a great book, I don't think I would have trouble with the marketing quite so much. I think I would have no problem e-mailing, writing or looking an agent in the eye and saying, "I have a great book, you should publish this." The problem is, I don't have a great book.

I have a book. It isn't great. It is even good. And while I'm pleased that I have learned enough to know that, all the marketing in the world won't help me turn a poor book into a good book or a good book into a great book.

I'm not struggling with marketing concepts right now, I'm struggling to rewrite my novel and, I'm afraid to say, making quite a hash of it.

My goal (my initial one, anyway) is to publish a book. I'm still way down the ladder from that, however. The rung I'm trying to reach is labeled, 'Write a good book.'

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Back to Basics

It's time to admit that things are not going very well.

True, I have a completed novel and my non-fiction manuscript is out looking for an agent but the novel is seriously stalled and I have no confidence in my agent querying method. Plus, I'm suddenly and inexplicably negative about the whole writing thing. I can't seem to figure out how to rework my novel, I don't know what, if anything, is wrong with my query letters, I have no enthusiasm for writing new, humorous articles and I can't even seem to get around to updating this blog.

My writing target for this fiscal year is six hours a week. That's out of a possible fifteen I have set aside (I get up at 5AM and supposedly write for an hour, then I have an hour on the bus going in to work and another hour coming home). I managed five hours and forty-five minutes last week and that was mostly by working on my web site and writing in my journal. This week is about shot and I've only managed three hours, and that includes updating the blog.

I don't know what's wrong other than I feel washed out and fatigued both mentally and physically. For the past week, in the evening, when I'm supposed to be writing, I end up surfing the web and then, realizing I'm bored with it, I sit and watch TV, which leaves me feeling guilty. The idea of quitting writing has even occurred to me; after all, I'm imposing all of this on myself, no one is making me do it, I don't need the money, so why am I torturing myself? The problem with that is, if I do stop writing, I know I'll feel even worse.

My web-surfing this morning at least had a purpose. I managed to find a few useful writing web sites that I hadn't stumbled upon before. There were some interesting articles and links to books on writing. I printed out the articles, book marked the site and ordered six books. They cover a variety of subjects--query letters, novel plotting, agent advice--and will, hopefully, enable me to re-lay the foundation of my writing 'business.'

At the vary least, reading them will give me something to do with that spare fifteen hours a weeks.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

A New Year

I'm entering the fourth year of my efforts to treat writing as a job; I'm glad it's not an actual job or I would have been fired long ago.

My decision to start in April had more to do with the time of year that the idea occurred to me than with the fact that my real job's fiscal year starts at that time (hence my lack of postings over the past few weeks--this is a very busy time for me).

I'm not concerned that I haven't made any money yet--most businesses don't make any money in their first years--but I am approaching that 7-year break-even mark and I'm currently about £1,000 in the red. It has not escaped my notice that I made more money when I was operating in a more haphazard way (even writing sporadically I managed to sell articles to some local and regional publications) but having a focus has helped shaped my business plan, so to speak.

What prompted the decision in the first place was the fact that I used to sell the odd article when I was living in the US but couldn't seem to duplicate that success in the UK. So in Year One, I continued to write humorous articles on British life and attempted to find markets for them.

By the start of Year Two, I had learned that no one in the US gives a shit about life in Britain and the people in the UK already know about it. The discouragement came, not from the number of rejections, but from the lack of them, due to an absolute dearth of markets for the type of articles I write. So I decided to try novels again, on the assumption that I could at least find agents and publishers to send them to once they were finished.

At the start of Year Three I had the first draft of a novel completed and had amassed enough humorous essays to make into a book.

Now, as Year Four begins, the book of essays has been compiled, re-worked, polished, re-worked, polished again and is currently making the rounds. Five rejections so far; a good start. The novel is undergoing a long-overdue re-write and I'm striving to up my word-count and 'time on the job.'

Thanks to Joe's recent challenge to submit a story within the week, I have had it driven home to me yet again that there are no markets for my articles, essays or stories, which is why I switched to novels in the first place.

So I am starting year four with one manuscript (that I am rather pleased with) in search of an agent, and another (that I am not) undergoing major surgery to see if I can salvage anything from it, even if it's just the opportunity of learning from my mistakes.

What about you? Did you ever 'decide' to be a writer or has it just crept up on you? Do you have a business plan or do you just write and hope?