In a rather dangerous pastime, I’ve been thinking. I’m a writer, you see (like I don’t mention that as much as possible. How insufferable. Anyway…), and as a writer, I’ve made a good many friends who are also writers. We attend conventions together, we join writing groups, or go out for coffee and chat. In fact, I’m quite certain that the majority of my friends are creatives of one sort or another, and the vast majority of those are fellow writers.
Well, that sounded more passive-aggressive than I intended. Let’s ignore that. One of the beautiful things about social media is the discourse that can be had about all manner of things. Some of it is awful — alright, a lot of it is awful — but it isn’t always. What crossed my feed this week was not one of the awful things, but rather brought up a really interesting discussion about magic in fiction; and how people prefer to consume it.
Like many of you (I suspect), I’ve added ‘read more’ to my goals for this year. I try not to make resolutions, but rather goals. It feels a little less pushy and more gentle. You still have something to strive for, but it somehow feels less harsh. Anyway, I have very limited time, so reading so often finds itself on the back burner.
In my last post, I spoke a little bit about one particular piece of writing advice, and made a small mention of writing advice in general. I have a small problem with writing advice, which is to say, I think that writing advice is bunk. Sort of. Let me explain.
On my last post, I received a question that I want to take the time to answer fully and so, with the commenter’s permission, I’ll do so here. It’s a great question, but it is also indicative of a broader issue with writing advice that I also want to touch on. But first, the question:
There’s a piece of writing advice that I know is well-meant, but I never know what to think of it: the work you are writing now should be your favorite work yet. Any perspectives on that one?
Why yes, yes I have a perspective on that piece of advice. Primarily, this one:
Once upon a time, there was a person, and that person had inside of them a hundred-thousand worlds, filled with people and events; tales of incredible joy and woe. This person, who contained universes beyond count, had a desperate desire to share them with the world. But they hesitated. What if they weren’t any good? What if they shared these stories that they loved so dear, only to have the world sneer at them, turn their noses, proclaim them to be the worst stories ever told? So, in an effort to prevent that, they travelled the world, making a study of stories and how they’re told so that they might be able to learn the craft, learn how to emulate these stories that people told and loved, and make their own just as good. The stories didn’t have to be the best, but they had to be good.
The apprentice story-teller did not find the answers they sought. Only confusion. Each story-teller they encountered cited different things that made a story good.
I am currently editing a manuscript, rather than writing one, but as I sit here writing this post, my cat is pacing back and forth on the ground before the chair, looking up, judging angles and estimating. I know what’s about the happen. He knows, too.
Things are going to get very difficult in just a moment.
As I’m prepping for the release of the serial I’ve written as a freebie to my readers (each chapter will be uploaded on Fridays on my blog once it’s ready to go), I’m struck for the first time in a long time how long a process publishing is. You see, I’ve been away from the scene for a long while now. The pandemic really did a number on me. In less than two years, I lost my job (ah yes, the great furlough), had to move, found a new job, and had to move again. That’s a lot of change in a very short amount of time, and it took me quite a while to adjust and settle.
In that time, I wrote very little. This was not for lack of trying. I wanted to write, but there was nothing coming. I know I’m finally settling in because I was finally able to write again. In the last two years, I managed to finish two manuscripts (the most recent one being the afore-mentioned serial). Both of these manuscripts will have, I hope, a very different publishing journey.
I’m back at it with the mentions of BookTok, largely in part because this is a (relatively) new-to-me social media site, and I’m still trying to plumb its depths and unravel its mysteries. Right now, all I’ve managed to do is upload a few vids that are largely trying out silly filters and somehow turn my ‘For You Page’ into nothing but Astarion (from the Baldur’s Gate 3 game that was recently released) thirst traps.
You like one funny video…
In any case, I understand that it can be an incredibly powerful tool in getting a readership — which I so desperately need if I have any hope of making any kind of living from my writing. BookTok is such a powerful player in the publishing world that brick-and-mortar stores often have a table near the front door devoted to books that have popped off on the site. Conquering BookTok is now one of the best ways to acquire that much-needed readership.
I’m sure that any reader who follows any writer will have heard the plaintive cries from any one or perhaps all of that author’s social media, pleading for a review. Any review. It doesn’t have to be a good one. Or very involved. For the love of all things good and green in this world, would you please leave a review! You’re probably sick to death of it, actually. Don’t fret, writers are sick to death of asking, as well. Unfortunately, reviews do help, and they’re one of the few things that are actually useful in helping an author out; particularly those of us who are largely unread and struggling to be seen in a very flooded market.
It seems like such a silly thing to be true — that someone’s opinion could matter so much in helping a book and its writer find their place in the world. Surely any other avenue would work, no? Well… perhaps a little, but nothing else has the impact of a review – both individually and as a cumulative effect. Even negative reviews can absolutely help! If ever you’re hesitating to post a review, let me try my best to convince you.
Yes, my motivations are entirely selfish. Shall we?