This year I’m Writing. Every year I’ve been writing since waaaay back (even when I was in 7th grade and my friend Tracy and I used to write Chapters, a sort of soap opera about two Mary Sue’s and their Adventures with their Favourite Band, the name of which I shall not tell you). But this year I’m doing it with a big W. Why? What’s the big deal about the big W? I’m prioritising my writing like never before and thus, the big W makes it official.
I explained in my Writers Circle last night that I am treating my Writing like a business. I love it, and I do it because I love it, but for me and for my family to take the time I spend writing seriously, I need to put it in a serious bracket and do more than just capitalise it. Calling it a small business means we all think about it differently.
So what do you do to grow a small business?
You work long hours.
I know some writers only write a couple hours a day, and that’s fine, but if I am going to treat it like a business and get stuff out there and published within a time frame that is reasonable to me, then I need to spend more than two hours a day on it.
You make notes about new ideas that aren’t directly related to what you’re working on and save them for future projects.
I keep my mind open to new story ideas all the time because when I finish the one I’m working on now, I want to be able to get started on a new one straight away. So I have a file of first lines, twists, what if’s, opening scenes, and an outline or two. Some will never be used, others get me excited about starting them every time I look through the folder. But getting the idea down and put away in a safe place so I can return to my current project means I can stay focused.
You develop skills that will help your business.
My blogging has helped me with writing discipline and helped me understand what readers respond to. And blogging about my long-term expat life has helped me understand more about my and others’ experiences as long-term expats, which in turn has helped me develop a couple of characters.
You network with people who can help you.
For me that’s agents, book doctors, editors, and fellow writers. I have a friend who won’t follow fellow writers on Twitter or Facebook because they aren’t his target audience. But I do because I’m not just in the business of selling; I’m in the business of growing. To grow I know I can learn a lot from fellow writers: which conferences are good, which agents are looking for psychological thrillers, websites and books with great tips, and so on.
You develop a personal brand
(More on that next week–it’s a really interesting, crowd-sourced post, look out for it!)
You look at what others in your field are doing; you study what the successful ones have done.
So in my case I read read read read. And I follow fellow writers.
Who do I read?
- I enjoy the way Robert Goddard makes a mystery from the past explode onto the surface of the story today. I also love how his stories are more about Mr Everyday confronting the mystery than the police.
- Michael Robotham’s characterisation of psychologist Joe O’Loughlin and retired cop Ruiz. And his unique plots are always interesting, good reads for me.
- Popular psychological thrillers are good to read because understanding current trends or what people are talking about is always useful. I don’t like all of them but I do like to know what people in my genre are doing and how they’re doing it. Gone Girl, Before I go to Sleep, and Apple Tree Yard are a few of the bigger titles of the moment. I really enjoyed the twist in Sister, by Rosamund Lupton.
- My favourite books have a bit more depth, and as an example I loved Child 44, by Tom Rob Smith.
- Classic thrillers like The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith are also good to read.
But I don’t always stick with the psychological thriller / crime genre. I love all kinds of books. Some of you know I love to read fantasy books in autumn. I love literary books, some chick lit, autobiographies. I really really love reading Kitchen Diaries I and II by Nigel Slater. He has a beautiful writing style. Read his autobiography, Toast. And one of my favourite all time writers is Patrick Ness. His Chaos Walking trilogy is completely captivating both in concept and execution.
As far as following authors on social media my very favourite author to follow on Twitter is Partick Ness. He really understands the medium and uses it well.
You help others where you can.
Because helping people is the currency of the Internet. Internet karma works in not-so-mysterious ways. People talk. Your reputation often precedes you, and anyway, your attitude is pretty easy to read from how you act and what you write online. The golden rule is the best rule for the Internet: Treat others how you want to be treated.
Think you, as a new and unpublished writer, have nothing to contribute to an online relationship woth other authors and publishing professionals? Of course you do! Each time you read an interesting article, you can send the link to someone who you know will appreciate it. That’s a good start.
You learn about your target customers and work for them.
You focus on creating a quality product that they will want to talk about.
Reading reviews on Amazon and Goodreads will give you an idea of what people like and don’t like about books. I’m not convinced reading reviews in the big papers is all that reliable as a learning tool as I often see a wide gulf between professional reviewers’ opinions of a book and the customers’ opinions.
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Most of the time when you see an article titled something like ‘the business of writing’ it’ll be about how to find an agent, what to expect from publishers and editors, how to tweet about your book on launch and so on. I rarely hear new authors writing about how they see the process as a business. Viewing it as a new business makes a world of difference in how the new writer and the new writer’s support group (i.e. family, usually) view the time spent on it.
Perhaps for some, it sounds too commercial to say it’s a business. I know some people feel embarrassed to say they’d like to make money from their writing. Either they worry that it cheapens the art, or they worry that it sounds too much like wishful thinking. But if you’re spending all those hours devoted to creating a thing, whether it’s a book, a series of bird paintings, blog templates, or whatever, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to put food on the table as a result?
So. Are you growing a small business? Is it a creative business such as writing or art? Do you find it difficult to call it a ‘proper business’ or do you worry others don’t take it seriously?