Craft: A person I really like recently wrote a book that I cannot read because it’s not well written. I have tried on several uninterrupted occasions to plow through this book and I just can’t get through it even though I am genuinely interested in the topic. What a disappointment for both of us.
Would you tell your friends a book was well-written if it wasn’t? I’m sure you wouldn’t. There is no question that I want to support people I know and like who accomplish a task as huge as writing a book and getting it published. But when a person produces a poorly written book, I have a conflict. I can’t put my name behind this person’s book as a “well-written book” if I can’t even force myself to finish it.
So, here’s a lesson for all of us about professional responsibility. If you are going to write a book, don’t expect the editors at the publishing house to make it a well-written book. It’s the writer’s responsibility. Always.
Are there any exceptions? I can’t think of any. The quality of your writing should always come first. High quality writing should be your most important priority, no matter what genre you are writing.
Pitching: This may seem obvious, but I’m going to say it anyway: different genres of writing are pitched in different ways. For example, nonfiction and fiction books are not written or pitched in the same way. A nonfiction book is pre-planned to fill a niche and then a proposal is written to sell the (future) book. Whereas a (first) novel is written in advance and the pitch is fashioned around selling the completed manuscript with the assumption that changes can be made, if needed.
So, it stands to reason that if you want to become skillful at any one genre, you should plan to stick with that genre for a period of time. I’ve been focusing on nonfiction writing for over a decade now and I feel happy with what I’ve been able to accomplish in this genre. Nonfiction is a lot more creative than most people realize, not to mention all the creativity that goes into the work of nonfiction platform development.
The moral of this story is: if you want to succeed, stick with one genre and stay with it for the long haul and THEN branch out after you have achieved success in one groove. You’ll learn valuable lessons about yourself as a writer that will carry over into other genres of writing as well.
Platform Building: When it comes to platform building, only one type of writer is in big trouble. And that’s the kind of writer who thinks that he or she is exempt or too good for self-promotion. I feel sad when I encounter this attitude (but don’t think it stops me from telling that person that they are not exempt) because really what the person is saying is, “I am the exception.” That kind of thinking never got anybody anywhere and it’s certainly counter-productive for writers. The message is getting out: writers need to learn basic self-promotion. Believe it.
Professional Development: One of the primary thrusts of professional development for writers, in my mind, is to get them out of isolation, away from dreams of grandeur and beyond fantasies of being discovered. There’s nothing like a little dose of reality to put a writer’s feet back on the ground where actual concrete steps can then be taken. Because writing careers are not “dreams that come true” (with all due respect to Walt Disney). Successful writing careers are the hard-won result of years of sustained hard work. And that’s good news because it means that success is available to anyone who is willing to put herself through the paces, find her success rhythms, and keep reaching those concrete goals.