We can’t always affect the wider world—and there’s so much going on that at times things can seem overwhelming—but we can still “do our best to do our best” at home, with our own work. To that end, I’ve put together a little four-parter which is meant to be more inspiration than prescription…
Here you are, stuck at home, maybe thinking it’s not the best time to query or submit your latest work*. So you’re left with writing. Or revising. Or polishing. Or maybe writing/revising/polishing your query.
[*But OTOH, maybe it is. Submitting during the pandemic is supposedly a fool’s game, but around here our experience has been the exact opposite. Which might tell you something about conventional wisdom. ‘Nuff said…]
Or maybe starting to think about your next project.
Or maybe you’re stepping back and looking at the big picture, wondering about the best path to wherever it is you want to go. (And wherever that is, it’s undoubtedly some version of “success,” whether that’s being published by a mainstream trad house, having a respected and responsive independent publisher, being self-published with great sales and reviews, or simply writing the best book you can, for your own enjoyment and maybe a few chosen readers.)
But whichever version of success you have as your chosen destination—and there’s no reason you can’t have multiple goals here—there are certain things which are crucial in getting there.
Well, here they are:
The Keys to the Kingdom…
The Passwords to Publication…
The Big Assist to Hitting List…
Yup, I’m talking about (drumroll!) The Big Fat Secrets to Writing Success!!!
There’s no “quick” in this get-rich-quick scheme.
Maybe no “rich,” either. At least not for me, because I’m selling these secrets for the discounted price of zero dollars and zero cents.
And actually, there aren’t even any secrets.
However, I’m convinced these attributes are absolutely vital to achieving whatever success looks like to you (whether artistically or commercially). So without further flap copy here’s the first attribute…
We’ve said it before: caring about your characters is key if you want your readers to care about them. (See this post.) But does that really matter? I mean, can’t the cleverness of your plot carry the day? Or the importance of your theme? Or the brilliant language in your prose? Or the detailed, evocative setting of your story?
All those things can be important, but at the core, what do most readers really want out of a story?
They want to care.
About something. Or someone. They want to be emotionally invested in some aspect of the work… they’re seeking a connection. And the core of that connection has to come from you. (Where else?) And the strongest way for that to happen is if you’re writing about something you’re emotionally connected to.
And ideally, not just your protagonist. You should care about the subject matter. About the theme. The plot. The setting. And yes, the language.
And from this, we can deduce one of the anti-secrets of writing success: Don’t chase trends, flavors-of-the-month, or hot topics. Not just because you’ll be late to the party (like, years late), but because you’ll be writing about something you didn’t even choose, and which you likely don’t have an innate connection with.
There’s a good reason Red Barber’s quote on writing is the most famous. (“Writing is easy. Just sit down and open a vein.”)
Because it’s true.
Readers may not always get this, because—as discussed last time—one of the goals of revision is doing such a good job that it seems almost effortless. But anyone who’s ever had to sit down and pour their heart onto the page will absolutely understand the truth of this.
This is where I write about things that are of interest to me and which I think may be of interest to you. I’m assuming most of you are here due to an interest in reading, writing, editing, publishing, etc., so that’s the primary focus.