The Downside to Becoming a Better Writer

Yes, I absolutely believe in striving to become better at what you do! When it comes to writing, it seems I’ve always heard a lot about authors continually working to improve their craft, no matter how long they’ve been in the game.

However, before I was published, I didn’t hear much about how it actually feels when you, as a published author, do improve. When you’ve learned more, and you’ve lived more. When your passion and style has hit a stride on a whole ‘nother level (ahhh, yes!)—and then you think about or look back at your earlier, published work…and see all the things you could’ve done differently. (Ahhh…oh?)

Yup. What was once my absolute best work, years ago, is now years behind where I am today as a writer. And as a person. When you believe in all of your work, you can’t just leave the older stuff high and dry like it doesn’t matter anymore. It does matter. Still, as you promote an older book of yours, you may be thinking, “But please, dear readers, particularly any brand new dear readers: if you should notice my weaknesses here, do be so kind as not to prejudge all of my other writing, based on this.”

If only an author’s earlier material could all magically revise itself as the author continues to publish better and better work.

Now, lest anyone should think, “Oh. So this is her way of confessing that her older books aren’t as great as she thought they were, so I won’t waste my time reading them”—no. That’s not what I’m getting at. While I may be improving as a writer and as a human being, I’ve never been an idiot. 😀 I wouldn’t have published a book if it wasn’t any good. And, yeah. All of my books are good. (Author bias, here? Perhaps. But even one’s bias can be informed, and quality literature has been informing this bibliophile ever since she learned the alphabet. Besides, I firmly believe that authors should firmly believe in their work, or else they shouldn’t be publishing it.)

Anyhow, and thankfully, I think many readers do realize that authors grow as they go, just like anyone or anything else in life. I do reread my own books for pleasure, and I pay attention to my readers’ feedback. So if I find or am alerted to an error that truly matters in an older book of mine, yes, I’ll correct it. One of the perks of independent publishing, there. As for areas in my older writing that could’ve been better but that don’t really need to be changed now, I make a note of those areas for future writing. Then I have to breathe, know that my older writing is what it is, and know that it’s okay. I was a good writer when I published it, and I’m an even better writer now. That’s life.

With that said, I do think there are good reasons for authors to go back to revise older books, at times. I myself have revised and published new editions of some of my work. Even so, if you want to be a prolific author, it won’t be possible to keep going back to revise everything you’ve ever published. Therefore, you’ve got to have grace with yourself. Know that there’s no such thing as a book that’s perfect to everyone, and your older books don’t have to be perfect in order to keep making a positive impact in readers’ lives.

You were a good writer back when you published it. And you’re an even better writer now.

_______________

Here are two love stories, second editions of books that are even better now: Yella’s Prayers and World of the Innocent.

  

 

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Writing for Love or Money?

writing-for-love-or-money

Oh, I’ve heard various tips and ideas from various folks in the business.

“Authors have to study a genre, research the current trends in that genre, and then write books that follow those trends, if they want their books to sell.”

“You’ll lose your passion for writing and limit your creativity if you’re only trying to be trendy or fit in a popular box. Besides, readers don’t want the same book they’ve already read, just with a different author’s name on it. Stop worrying about the fads and write the book you’re meant to write, since there are people who’re meant to read it.”

“You have to pick up the pace and put out several books a year if you want a worthwhile return on your writing investment.”

“Quit trying to write and publish so many books so fast. That’s sloppy, and it’s not fair to readers or to yourself. Slow down and respect the art of writing.”

“It’s pointless to write and publish if you’re not making decent money from it.”

“It’s pointless to write and publish if you’re in it for money. That’s not what writing’s about.”

I’m paraphrasing, but you get the gist.

So. Is it better to write and publish for the love of books, or is it better to write and publish for other rewards? Hm. Well, I’m of the mindset that different writers write for different reasons, and I believe one writer’s reasons can be just as legitimate as another’s.

Some authors are looking to publish masterpieces that people will read, contemplate, and learn from for generations. Other authors focus instead on giving their fans a good time, here and now. Some writers are looking to make a living from their writing. Others aren’t. Some authors are looking to publish and sell multiple books in their lifetimes. Others aren’t. Some writers write because there’s a burning, vital message in their souls, and they simply must unleash their voice into the world. Other writers research market trends and deliberately write what’s trending in order to sell a lot of what people are enjoying these days.

Whatever one’s different purpose, motivation, or goals may be, I don’t think it makes one writer’s love and appreciation for literature, or even one’s professionalism, more or less than another’s. I believe the world needs all kinds of authors and different kinds of books, from the deep masterworks to the fluffy-and-fun stuff and everything else in between.

I’ve often said that for a writer, it’s important to know specifically why you, the individual, write. It will affect what decisions you make, what risks you’ll take, where you’ll place your priorities, and what will make it all worthwhile or rewarding to you.

Someone else’s reasons for writing may differ from yours, but that doesn’t mean those reasons are better or worse. Be true to your purpose for writing, put in the work toward your goals, and celebrate others who are doing likewise.

 

Authors and Bloggers: Don’t Discount Your Audience

True Audience

Hey. Being an author or a blogger is no joke, especially if you mean to be around for the long haul. It requires a lot of passion, time, patience, and quite a backbone. Even “overnight successes” are oftentimes only “overnight” to the public at large, since not everyone was there to see the years of blood, sweat, tears, and legwork that went into making that “overnight” possible.

I see the frustration of fellow authors and bloggers who put so much thought and effort into their work, striving to put out quality books and content, but the interest and results they manage to garner seem so minimal.

Writer Frustration“Hardly anybody reads my books, and even fewer people review them.”
“I do my best to get the word out there about what’s happening on my blog, but hardly anyone stops by, reads, or comments.”
“If nobody really cares about what I’m doing, why am I even doing it?”

Those moments of discouragement come to the best of us. But I find myself mentally (and sometimes vocally) countering the “nobody” question, asking, “Is ‘nobody’ truly no one at all? And if not, who is ‘nobody’?”

Besides the fact that, in most cases, it simply takes time to find and reach the right people and to stir up interest, I think the idea of “nobody” often comes from comparing one’s results to someone else’s. And too many times, we’re comparing our newbie or five-to-ten-year results to those of people who’ve been in the game much longer than we have or people who have resources that we don’t.

Still, there are billions of people on this planet. Billions. Even if you sell millions of copies of your book, or you have a million blog subscribers, it’s likely there will always be far more people on Earth who aren’t reading your book or visiting your blog. It’s likely that there’ll always be more people who’ve never heard of you, or who don’t care, than who have heard of you and who do happen to care about you once they’ve heard.

But are you going to spend your time worrying about all the people out there who don’t care, about all the folks who pass by your wonderful books or blog with nary a second thought or glance? No, I’m not saying not to bother with producing excellent work and growing your audience as much as you can—but I’m curious as to what magic number your audience has to reach before the people in it are no longer “nobodies” to you.

Of course, all authors and bloggers must decide for themselves the kind of results that are worth the energy, trouble, and finance they put into their work. There’s no hard and fast rule about what outcomes will or should make it all worthwhile for everyone in the writing world. Time, resources, goals, priorities, and any number of factors vary from person to person.

But if you’re in this for the long haul, I’d encourage you to remember that, out of the multitudes of people around, not everyone is, or is meant to be, your audience. Don’t undervalue or discount the people who are indeed listening to you, who are truly interested, even when the numbers are relatively few.

However large or small it is right now, your audience is your audience. And the human beings in it may very well need to hear what more you have to say.

Reading Audience

 

Be Careful of Book Presumptions!

Book Presumptions

With a countless number of books waiting to be read in the world, we as readers all have our ways of narrowing down our selection. Besides considering a book’s presentation (cover design, book blurb, sample chapter, reviews, etc.), we may base the choice of our next book on genre, author, our mood at the time, or we might even rely on good old-fashioned “eeny, meeny, miny, moe.”

However, when it comes to our process of book elimination, or even how we judge books in general, how much do we presume about a book or an author before we know much about either? It’s possible we aren’t always even aware of our presumptions; we just see a book we’re unfamiliar with, and several instant (likely conditioned) thoughts speed through our minds.

Hand with Pen WritingAuthors the world over may be faced with any number of presumptions about their books or themselves. As an author, I’m aware of some of the presumptions that may come with my particular territory.

Please bear with me if I’m a bit facetious.

“A female author of sweet romance? There must be a scene where the heroine flees to her room, throws herself down on the bed, and bursts into tears. Or she cries herself to sleep one night in lovesick despair.”

“A black author with black lead characters in her book? Hmm. The story’s probably full of neck-rolling drama or may be too ‘ghetto’ or smutty for my tastes.”

“An indie author? Bad grammar and a lot of typos in her books, most likely. If no real publisher wanted to publish her, she must not be that good.”

“Oh, she writes Christian fiction? So squeaky clean it’s unrealistic, I’ll bet. Or it’s probably preachy—detracting from story to make way for a ‘come to Jesus’ agenda.”

“Why all of the novellas? She can’t write a whole book? Her stories must be rushed, underdeveloped, too light on plot, and then—poof—they’re over.”

And this past week, another presumption was brought to my attention by a fellow reader/author. (This is a paraphrase of the sentiment, mind you, not something the reader/author said about me specifically.)

“Authors write trilogies to drag a story out to make more money. So you can skip the second book in her trilogy, or pretty much any trilogy nowadays, and you won’t miss anything important.”

Yikes. Do people really do that?

Movement Trio New

How would this series make sense without the connecting story in the middle?

Now, I’m not saying any of this to belittle any book, author, or reader, nor am I saying that thoughts like the ones above are wholly inaccurate in all cases. Nonetheless, until you’re truly familiar with an author or his/her writing, your presumptions about his/her work are just that: presumptions. You might be right about that author or book you haven’t read—or you might be wrong.

So. Whatever your particular presumptions as a reader may be, I’d encourage you to pause and recognize them, and then to be careful with them. Who knows? You might be missing out on books that would pleasantly surprise you.