The Writing Advice Not Taken

Also known as “The writing advice I wish I’d had in 2011.”

I ran into someone on a Facebook group today, asking for help. This person had a bunch of books out, and none of them were selling. I went and analyzed the writer’s work, and recognized a familiar set of problems. The writer was doing a bunch of things wrong – most of them, the same things *I* messed up, early on. Hey, these are easy mistakes to make. There’s no guidebook. (Well, there are, but the advice is often conflicting and confusing.)

After assessing the writer’s work, I wrote a reply. It was a public group, and a lot of people wrote nice replies offering counsel. I wrote a veritable essay. Not shocking for those who know me! I’m a writer – I saw someone in trouble, facing a lot of the problems I had to overcome the hard way. I wanted to help. The writer turned down my advice, which is sad, but some people have to go their own path and learn in their own way. That’s certainly how I managed it.

But a number of other writers suggested I save the essay anyway, as it had a lot of value for other people as well. Here’s the essay, for posterity. If you’re a struggling newer writer in this crazy modern era of publishing, give it a read. You might be facing none of these issues, or all of them. But if there’s even one bit in there which might help you, I’ll be happy. Not ALL of the advice below is going to be correct for EVERY writer, mind you! Read it through the lens of your own experience and situation.

I’ll pitch in a little here. This is going to sound harsh, some of it.


You’re making all of the classic blunders. Welcome to my world.  I did the same thing – made most of the SAME mistakes that you are making. As a result, I made virtually nothing from my writing for five straight years of publishing.


I have cleared four figures a month every month since last August. I did so by turning things around. By not making the same mistakes. You can too.


1. Classic Blunder One
You’re ALL OVER THE PLACE in genres. You have mysteries, urban fantasy, and science fiction. Stop that shit now. PICK A GENRE. ANY GENRE. Now write your next 10-12 books in that genre alone. No hopping around. Just do the work.


2. Classic Blunder Two
Your covers suck. With the exception of the mystery covers, which more or less meet the minimum standards for the genre, your covers range from badly targeted (the UF cover looks like a middle-grade novel) to horrible (the SF covers just need to go) to no cover at all (why do half your books have a blank white page?). Study the genre you pick, and make your cover look as close to the bestsellers in that genre AND sub-genre as possible.


3. Classic Blunder Three
Too many series. Stop. Write ONE series until the series is done. Make that series at least three books long. Ideally, make it 6+ books long. Again, you’re all over the place and this is killing any hope of building momentum.


4. Classic Blunder Four
You are overpricing your books. Drop your prices to $2.99. Yes, there is a difference between $2.99 and $3.99. You are a new writer. You want people to take a chance on you. Dropping price early on will help. Raise them later when you’re better known. Once you have the third or fourth book out in a series, drop book one to 99c as a loss leader.


Less Obvious and Less Classic Issues:


– You’re misusing Instafreebie. There are two ways to drive traffic to your IF books. You need to either run Facebook ads targeting your target market which send people to the IF book – OR – you need to join group promotions *which target your genre*. You should be getting about 500-1000 new subscribers a month just from joint promos. If you’re not doing that, join more joint promos until you are. These leads are not the best; you will need to offer them samples of your writing to hook them. But they can be hooked. Again, part of maximizing IF use and even mailing list use in general is STICKING TO ONE GENRE. If your reader signed up for police mysteries, and you send them a SF book, they’re going to unsubscribe.


– Your blurbs need help. Your blurbs are too short. Well written, but not enough meat there. THIS IS WHERE YOU CONVINCE THEM TO BUY. You need to sell the book with the blurb. Really key.


– Edit to add: You’re also not publishing fast enough. Two books a year will result in a VERY slow build even if you follow the guidelines above. Bump up your speed to four+. Write the next book. Nothing matters more than the next book. Write in one genre, in a series, and get the next book done and out to readers. THIS IS A MOMENTUM GAME. You’re either BUILDING momentum, or you are losing it. ALWAYS. Write in a new genre? You’re building momentum there, but not where you were building it, so you’re likely LOSING momentum there unless you’re writing a book a month.

Writing in Public, Too: NaNoWriMo Day 27

writinginpublicHappy Thanksgiving, for all you folks in the US!

Hope the rest of you are having a grand day, too.

Thursday is usually a 16 hour work day for me, but – I got half a day off, for the holiday. I got up at a decent hour and got a thousand words in on the Raven story, which proceeds to go pretty nicely. Smooth sailing on this one so far, and already I am seeing some hints about what I can do in future episodes.

Then I decided to check out the coverage of the Macy parade in NYC, and…I got derailed for a while.

Because there wasn’t any coverage on the internet. (more…)

Writing in Public, Too: NaNoWriMo Day 25

writinginpublicCrazy busy day today. Still got the writing in!

Woke up and got rolling a little later than I would have liked. Woke up, checked email, sort of played on the internet for a little bit. Grabbed some food. And then plowed into my housework. I’m moving to a somewhat smaller apartment, you see. So today was all about downsizing. Got rid of a bunch of stuff. Packed up a lot of the rest. Worked from about 11am until around 4pm, when I suddenly realized I’d skipped lunch, and I was starving.

At which point it was time to stop for the day. I went and grabbed dinner with SO. and watched an episode of Game of Thrones together. After that, I got started on writing, feeling much refreshed. I got in a thousand words, took a break for a little bit to catch up on some reading. And then hit the Raven story again, for another thousand words. It’s coming along, but I’m still not as far along with the rewrite as I was with the original story, and I’m really starting to look forward to breaking new ground on this one. Her voice is starting to come through – which is what I really love about first person, how you’re able to give the character’s voice so much focus.

Should hit fresh stuff tomorrow or the next day, which will be awesome!


Fiction words for the day: 2000      Fiction words for November: 34,000

Blog Words today: 249    Blog Words for November: 9861

Writing in Public, Too: NaNoWriMo Day 20

writinginpublicLOONG work day today. Very tired. In work from 7am till 11:30pm, and then home. Very, very tired. No writing done, but then that was more or less expected. 😉  Off to sleep now!



Fiction words for the day: 0      Fiction words for November: 25,300 (10600 into the 4th episode)

Blog Words today:: 33     Blog Words for November: 8490

Writing in Public, Too: NaNoWriMo Day 19

writinginpublicToday was a decent writing day. Up and moving by around 9am, and after some light breakfast and coffee, checked emails, and generally relaxed for a while. Ate lunch, and then put in about 1000 words. So not the most productive morning, but the afternoon started off well.

Had an appointment in the afternoon, and then got into some sorting and packing work. Which was good, and productive. Took a couple of hours. Then dinner, which was delicious chicken sausage stir-fried with egg noodles, brussel sprouts, green beans, and spices. And some more writing – another thousand words in.

Going to be a challenge to get caught up, at this point. With work days coming, it’ll be Saturday and Sunday.

Fiction words for the day: 2000      Fiction words for November: 25,300 (10600 into the 4th episode)

Blog Words today:: 138     Blog Words for November: 8457


High Volume Writing: Why Track Session Wordcount?

bigstock-Alarm-clock-standing-on-stack--52359475My peak writing days give me 20-25 thousand words of fiction. I can kick out five thousand or more words in a day without really breaking a sweat. I’ve also found that the parts of my books where I wrote more words per day are cleaner, clearer, require less revision and get less critique from my editors.

And I’d like to share with you some of the techniques I’ve learned to use to generate high volume writing! As always, every writer is different – these are things which work for me, and may or may not work for you. Try them out and see!