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Tough Advice for Writers

If you are really serious about wanting to make a living from writing, there are five hard-hitting bits of advice that you probably need to confront:

1. You have to write stories that people want to read.

It’s not good enough - though it’s unquestionably a start - simply to ‘write’. You must continually work on your craft and skills as a storyteller. You must want to get better at it every day, every story. If you think that you have reached the pinnacle of story-telling already, then chances are that you either a) don’t need to read this because you’re already a best-selling author or b) are too blind to see that you are not writing in a language that readers can understand. You need to learn the language and patterns that readers expect to read. This isn’t about ‘killing off originality’ it’s about communicating in the first place.

2. You have to be able to make sales traditionally with long and short fiction.

Your stories need to appear somewhere, whether on websites or in traditional magazines and books. It’s the only way a reader base can build. If you hold back until ‘you are ready’, you are invisible to everyone and will continue to be so. Don’t wonder about why you’re not making it if you’re still unseen from a reader’s point of view.

3. If independently publishing, you need to learn how to do good covers, minimise your costs, write good blurbs, and keep up with the changing technology.

You can get someone else to do the covers and the blurbs and not worry about technology, but your costs will soar.

4. You have to write every day.

This is a tough one, and the point which defeats most writers. About the only days that you will be able to have off are the weekends. Every weekday you need to be writing. The quantity soon stacks up: 1,000 words an hour, 2,000 words a day, 10,000 words a week, that’s 40,000 words a month or the first draft of a novel every two months. Ideally you should be writing at least 5,000 words or more every day (it’s possible, don’t moan!) which means a draft novel about every three weeks, or a decent short story every week. That’s the kind of quantity you need to be thinking about.

What happens if Life drags you aside now and again? The same thing that would happen if you stopped working at a ‘normal’ job now and again: your income dries up, your momentum ceases, you ‘disappear’ from the world. Getting back into is hard, but just like any other work, it has to be done. Grit your teeth and get behind that keyboard.

5. You have to plan long-term.

By long term I mean at least a year. I started with a 40-year plan and so far have pretty much stuck to it despite being thrown a few spanners (I’m in Year 5!). Don’t just plan to write ‘The Book’, plan to write whole series of books; don’t just plan to get ‘some sales on Amazon’, plan to conquer the world through every possible channel; don’t think of earning a living as a writer as something that ever ends or something that you do so that eventually you’ll be able to do something else: you need to be in this for the long haul.

It helps if you really love it.

And there’s always advice here and elsewhere to help.


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