Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Taking Stock

Yesterday was my birthday. I can finally say I'm 21 again! That's not "21 (pause) again", that's 21 two times over...I'll take what I can get.

As with most birthdays, it was a time of reflection and celebration. Thank you to my friends and family for the celebration part - it was a good day.

For the reflection bit, I decided to go over what stories I currently have in the cupboard. Turns out there are only seven and two of those I promptly retired. So, only five stories on the back-burner waiting to be edited and resent out into the wild. Currently I've only got two stories in circulation. One has been out for nearly three months while the other has been out for nearly 18 months (it's sitting with an editor who is trying to get a project off the ground, and it was specifically written for that project so I'm happy for it to stay there for as long as it takes). Not exactly what one would call prolific.

And that's okay.

I was recently surprised to read another writer's blog who freely stated they produce three or four stories a year. Granted they have an almost 100% sell rate, but it's all about quality, not quantity.

There are individuals out there like Cate, Nat, Aaron, etc, etc (have a look at my blog roll, most of them fit into this category) who are able to write dozens of stories each year and sell at least 10 of them in a calendar year (and who don't skimp on quality), but you do not have fit into this mould to be a writer.

Writers write. It is the biggest truism I've found since I took up the pen. There are no additions, quantifications or qualifying remarks to add to it. It does not only include those who write novels, scripts, shorts, flash, or picture books. It does not include only those who sell to FTL markets, semi pro markets, or have gained a multi-million dollar book deal. The only requirement is that you write. Not even how often you do it, just so long as you occasionally visit the keyboard/pen/quill.

So, I'm a writer.

Many writers out in cyberspace preach the need for writers to network. Get out and socialise and create a web presence. They will show you figures which prove their argument works. And I agree with them - kind of. When you want to become known, when you want to spread the word about your work and help drive sales, then by all means the writer needs to be a large part of the advertising machine. I also agree that writing can be very isolating and writing social networks can help reduce that, but, in the end, you still need to write and nobody else can do that. When it's all boiled down, more often than not it's just you and a keyboard/pen/quill - it's a lonely vocation at times.

I suggest new writers join writing groups to start with. Learn as much as you can from others who have been around for a while. Learn about the submitting process, agents, technique, grammar, etc, etc. Take all of these lessons and continue to improve on that knowledge away from the group(s). Become self sufficient in knowledge of the basics so you'd be confident in passing that knowledge onto the next generation of new writers. Find yourself a select few friends who write and are willing (and are able to very competently) edit and beta read your work. Buy them chocolates and offer praise. Thank them every opportunity you get. You will not progress without feedback.

But once you've got a group of select individuals, do you really need to keep pushing the social networking scene? I haven't got books to sell. I'm nobody important. Who the hell cares if I have polished a short story and submitted it anywhere? Who cares if a market actually buys it? I know, my friends do, but because they are my friends they are happy to unconditionally support whatever I post on a blog or other social networking device. And I do the same in return - happily.

If I sell a manuscript, will the agent take into account how many short stories I've sold? Possibly but it won't be a big factor. Will they be concerned with how many followers I've got on my blog? Probably not, unless I'm selling a non-fiction idea which concerns my blog.

They are only concerned with the work they've brought. They are concerned with what I've written and how we can improve it to get a publisher interested enough to pay currency. Once a publisher is on board, then the other factors become bigger. But it takes a long time to get from acceptance of a manuscript by an agent to release of the first edition into bookshops. With the right marketing campaign and enough effort, and with a product to centre it all around - that shouldn't be a problem.

So I'm taking a lower profile approach. I'm not going to blog every day - probably not even every week. I will still read my Google Reader and lurker around other blogs. Occasionally I'll make a comment. I will announce any sales I make and announce when things are published.

The reason: I've lost something I had a couple of years back and I need to find it again. Without it, my love of the written word has diminished.

I was watching Goal II the other day with my wife. There's a line in it which struck a cord with me.

"You'd best be careful, lad. You've got so many things being added to your plate, you need to watch what falls off the sides." (or words to that affect - and said in a broad Newcastle accent).

I think something fell off my plate because I'm trying to do too much. So I'm going to remove everything and start again.

God, this has turned into a long waffling post. And all of it only to say that I'm not giving away my writing, I'm just doing the whole thing in a different way.

Watch this space...


  1. Hope it was an awesome birthday.

    I think all that matters is that in our approach to writing (and all the little things that can go with it), we remain true to what we really want, and what's important to us. It sounds like you're on it, man. Nice to take stock like that and refocus, isn't it?

  2. Oh, to be 21 again.

    As long as a few words a month get put on paper you are a writer. Under this definition I qualify.

  3. Happy Birthday. I was never very good at balancing plates so I'm expecting some to crack soon. :D

  4. Hope you had a great birthday, buddy.

  5. Happy bday mate :-) and yes, sometimes the reset button is a wonderful thing. Hope you rediscover your love of writing soon!

  6. Someone told me the that the writers who do achieve success usually have one thing in common; they never gave up.

    It's a long haul. Social networks, blogs, all of it will come and go, but in the end it boils down to you, the quill, and the need to write.

    If you have that, everything else will come.

    ...or it's all bollocks, lol :)