Shut Up and WRITE
I have discovered some rules that I think writers who haven't "made it" -- that is, who haven't achieved the level of success they're looking for -- should know.
1) Shut up.
Now, before we go on, I have to tell you a bit about myself. This isn't bragging, it's actually part of the lesson. It will come in important later. Also, it's bragging.
I am (in no particular order): a produced screenwriter, one of Amazon's Most Popular Horror Authors for well over a year, a member of the Writers Guild of America, and I just had two of my books announced on the Bram Stoker Award preliminary ballot along with works by Stephen King and Joe Hill (though, to be fair, each of THOSE guys only had ONE book on the prelim ballot [grin]). I can also punch a hole right through a tuna casserole with my bare hands, but that's just something every guy should know how to do.
Now to the important stuff. But don't worry, I'll circle back to the brag.
I was online the other night, sending some emails and checking up on a few groups of which I am a part. You're an author so you know what kind of groups I'm talking about: the ones composed of other authors who are all wishing they had "made it big" by now, split fairly evenly between those severely chipper types who will grin and give cheerful advice as you punch them in the junk; the ones who carry desperation around like a toddler's sagging diaper; and a few who lurk in the shadows, ready to pounce at any moment.
I won't tell you which category I'd most likely belong in. Though I do wish it was the chipper ones.
At any rate, someone in the group had posted a question about query letters. Someone else answered. This is how it's supposed to work, so it looked at first glance like the System was Working, and everyone could move along because Nothing To See Here.
Except . . . .
Except the posted answer stank. Not with the desperation-diaper stink mentioned previously. No, it was just wrong.
So I (as kindly as possible) posted a different point of view. I stated that "I thought it might work better if" thus-and-such, and "maybe you might consider possibly" this-or-that as well. Which was a HUGE improvement over the first draft of my post, which mostly consisted of ARE YOU NUTS??? written over and over in several languages before finally devolving to spittle-flecked gibberish.*
And, of course, the original answerer responded that "Well, maybe that's YOUR opinion, but REALLY the best way is" [insert incompetent raving here].
I am not exaggerating this. If anything I am UNDERjating this.**
I responded that I had written thousands of queries, had gotten hundreds of good responses, and (unlike the crazy person with whom I was now involved in a weird Dance of Death) WAS A REAL LIVE WORKING AUTHOR WHO MADE A LIVING DOING THIS STUFF.
Her response (basically): "Well, I've gotten good responses, too. So there." I believe she stuck her tongue out while writing it, though this is entirely conjecture on my part. I'll let you know for sure after I talk to my NSA contact and he sends me a screen-cap from her "inactive" webcam. Ahhh, technology.
By the way, dear reader: when you pick your nose like you're doing now, the angels weep.
So back to the crazy lady.
How much money had she made writing? None.
How many of her weirdly-formatted queries, bearing the bizarro miasma of self-inflated opinion, had resulted in her being able to quit her job*** and get to work as a full-time writer? None.
But none of that really bothered me.
Okay, it bothered me a little.
But what really bothered me the more I thought about it was that this person, this gal who constantly reaffirmed her intention to "make it as a writer"**** was the fact THAT WE WERE HAVING THIS CONVERSATION IN THE FIRST PLACE.
Look, social media is fine and dandy. It can be used for research, marketing, to catch up with friends.
But you say you want to be a writer . . . and then you spend hours telling other people how THEY should be writing, neglecting your own craft so you can have the (negligible) enjoyment of feeling like an "expert"?***** WHAT A WASTE!
If you want to be a "real" writer (and by this I assume most people mean they want to sell books and make a living at it) then you have to treat writing like a job. Not just in terms of practice and love of craft but in terms of TIME. You have to be willing to put in hours and hours working on it. Not hours and hours a month, but hours and hours a week -- preferably hours and hours a day. Most writers I know who are successful (meaning they live off what they write) are people who basically worked two jobs for several years: full-time whatever (banker, lawyer, gas station attendant, crack whore), and full-time writer (which, now that I think of it, is a lot like being a crack whore, only without the great health insurance).
So you want to be a "real, successful writer"? Then stop futzing around on Facebook! Stop twiddling around on Twitter! Stop . . . uhhh . . . yahtzeeing around on Youtube.
SHUT UP. Stop blathering and start honing your craft.
[QUICK NOTE: this is actually where my bragging comes in. I can hear some of you -- and I know who you are! -- saying, "But, Michaelbrent, YOU were on Facebook!" And you're right. I was. AFTER A 12-HOUR DAY OF WRITING. I'd written 30 pages that day, edited, gone over some audiobook chapters that came in for my review, revamped part of my website, sent out marketing emails, talked to a guy who wanted to do a news feature on me for an ABC affiliate . . . . So I'M ALLOWED TO FACEBOOK. SO ARE YOU AFTER TWELVE HOURS OF WRITING. And I think any professional author out there would agree.]
This brings me to my second point -- which I've really already mentioned, so maybe it's my first. I don't know. Regardless, point pi-r-squared is this: WRITE.
Get off your computer. Turn off your TV. Stop messing around on the interwebz and practicing to see how many kills you can rack up in Call of Modern Warfare Part Seven: Hellstorm of Exploding Bullets. Resist the overwhelming urge to learn how to crochet.****** All that stuff is what normal people do. People with only one job, maybe two.
But you and me, we're different. We're not like them.
And writers, the one thing they do if they're "real" writers?
They never. Stop. Writing.
So quit telling others how to do it.
Shut up. And write.
*Yes, it is possible to actually WRITE the sound of spittle-flecks. I will not tell you how. If you don't know, you're not yet ready, Grasshopper.
** Underjating is a word. I know because I just made it up.
*** Based on her general incompetence and the fact that she had the sociopathic ego of a serial killer, I can only assume she was -- and continues to be -- a United States Senator.
**** I assume of books, though perhaps she was talking about the mad Crayon-scratches of a guerilla fighter left too long in the caves of His People.
***** Here I use the word "expert" to mean "slightly less dumb than the others." Also, apropros of nothing: look how many asterisks I've got going! That's got to be a record!
****** This is just a good rule in general. Crocheting is the Devil's knitting.