Sunday, November 11, 2012

Paths to Success and Failure

I realize that I have yet to publish anything, but my travails and observations over the last little while have helped me understand a few things.  While we all have our opinions of what writers should do to be successful, and here's the list I've come up with:

1.  Interact with your readers.
This is especially helpful to those who are just starting out.  However, it is my earnest hope that writers don't lose this as they gain success.  Faithful readers are the base of success for any writer, and the one who forgets this does so at his or her peril.

We should always be willing to take time to interact with those who've shown an interest in our stories.  From my own experience interacting with those whose stories I enjoy, the enjoyment drawn from even getting acknowledgment is one that is difficult to describe with mere words.

2.  Put yourself out there.
Anyone can come up with a story.  Beyond that, a large portion of those folks can tell that story exceedingly well.  However, those tales will entertain only ourselves if we don't share them.

Further, we have to find ways to draw in readers.  The way we do that in today's world is through social media.  Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, etc., are all good ways to put yourself and your work on display.  But simply going on Facebook or Twitter isn't enough, just as having a blog isn't enough.  Dovetailing with number one, it helps to interact with others.  Go to other blogs and leave comments.  Email writers you like and see if they would be willing to provide interviews(this helps both of you in terms of exposure).  As you publish, contact local publications and see if they would be interested in doing a review.

Lots of ways to increase your exposure, but you'll never know unless you expose yourself.

Heh heh...expose yourself...

3.  Stay in your lane.
In this profession/hobby, people want to hear your stories.  However, that doesn't mean they want to hear your opinion outside of your area of expertise.  Too many celebrities - sure, writers can be celebrities too - think that because they have a platform, their readers want to hear that author's take on the world, from politics to religion.  Given the polarized world we live in, that's not always such a good idea.

I love to read the Monday Morning Quarterback column from Peter King of CNN/SI.  Unfortunately, King sometimes strays from sports and into politics.  I don't think he gets that we are bombarded all the time with political crap, and we are looking for an escape when we go to sources that aren't advertised as having political content.

It's good to have an opinion, but having it too loudly when it's not asked for can alienate people.

4.  Be consistent.
This goes with the first point on this list.  Readers see what you put out on a consistent basis as interaction - it provides one bit of consistency in an otherwise chaotic world.  When you violate that consistency, readers think you've blown them off.  That might not be right - maybe you had a kidney transplant or something - but that's how a lot of them will see things.  They will probably let you get away with it once or twice, but not all the time.  Think about it - how long do you put up with that one asshole in your group who always lets you down?

5.  Embrace insanity.
If you want to be a good writer, you need to be a little bit crazy.  Too many of us are afraid to go down those dark paths since society might shun us.  I say, so what?  Only a crazy person could come up with a story about a series of ghosts saving a man's soul on Christmas or one about a little boy living in a psychic hotel with his alcoholic father.

You need to crack the door on insanity if you want to find a great story.  Yes, sometimes there's little there to work with, but the occasional jewel will eventually stand out.

These are just a few things that lead to writing success, and the list is by no means exhaustive.  Wait, did you think I was going to reveal everything?  Puh-lease - I need to keep some for later posts.

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