Right now, publishing and internet marketing are sort of quantum entangled.
It’s like all of a sudden, the people who write things and the people who sell written things woke up and said “HEY! THE INTERNET!”
Most of the last ten years I’ve spent getting people to read and click things on the internet. Not my stuff, employer and client stuff, but still. I’m pretty good at that. All other things being equal, we gravitate towards stuff we’re already good at over stuff we aren’t yet. So in getting serious about writing fiction in the last year or two, focusing on the business, technology and marketing end of things has been a constant problem. Because I’m already a pro when it comes to business, technology and marketing. That’s my dealio.
However, that’s not what I need to focus on when it comes to writing fiction. What I need to focus on to get good at writing fiction is (… wait for it…) ACTUALLY WRITING FICTION.
I know this. I’ve kept repeating it to myself over the last year. But my attention still kept gravitating over to the other stuff: business, technology, marketing.
So for 2013, I have a plan to keep first things first. To understand my plan, I’d recommend you read a series of posts from science fiction author Dean Wesley Smith. It’s in four parts, and you can read them all here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.
I’ll hang around and wait for you to read all that. Or not.
Anyway, it was clarifying because Smith points out with laser accuracy what kicked my butt last year: production. It doesn’t matter what your business, technology and marketing skills are if you don’t have PRODUCT. And I was getting too distracted with all that shiny stuff to make PRODUCT.
(Well, except for the novella I wrote in three weeks. And the half-dozen flash fiction stories I wrote for Quills & Quibbles, my local writers group. And a couple of poems I wrote on my Sojourn Writer’s Retreat. But on the whole, I don’t think I’ve got the production habit. Yet.)
Really, it’s nothing new. The ideas are not substantially different from what I read in Pressfield’s The War of Art, in terms of philosophy. Smith just gave me one distinctly helpful tactic I didn’t have before: a framework for creating specific, meaningful production-based goals.
Based on the method he recommended, I came up with what I feel is a challenging-but-attainable production goal for the year. I’m going to produce and publish an eBook every month. Some of these will be short fiction, but at least every third eBook will be at least novella length according to SFWA standards (between 17,500 – 40K words).
Before you say “That’s crazy, Katina. You can’t possibly produce a book every month for a year.” Let me point out that Smith’s “Idea #4” recommendation was to produce an eBook every two weeks. So I’m cutting that in half, with the addition that I want to produce at least 4 lengthy fiction works during the year.
This is going to help me in a couple of ways. First, compared to last year’s nebulous goal (“get serious about my writing and start submitting things”) this goal is beautifully clear and specific. I could have justified my rabbit trails last year as “getting serious about my writing” because learning about the business, technology and marketing end of writing is part of getting serious. There’s a place for that, but that place is far below producing actual prose.
Second, it lets me off the hook for everything else. Since my goals are entirely focused on production, I have permission to not feel like I need to learn everything there is to know about every aspect of the publishing industry. It’s a function of my weird brain that when I get passionate about something, I dive headfirst down the rabbit hole. And frankly, a lot of the material and “resources” out there aimed at beginning writers creates a false sense of urgency. I know this technique well. You create urgency to get the click. You amp up the perceived risk of not acting to get people to sign up. You convince writers that they need to learn how to market a book (and navigate contracts, agents, self-publishing, cover design…) before they’ve learned how to produce one.
I’m going to go ahead and say it: a lot of the material out there that is purportedly to help writers actually hurts them, because it’s designed to make them focus on the wrong things at the wrong time. This goal is going to help me avoid that trap because it gives me permission to ignore everything but actually starting and finishing stories.