Starting out


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  1. #1

    Starting out

    Hi Everyone,

    I am an amateur science fiction, short story writer and I am pretty new to the publishing game. I'm interested in your advice on best strategy a new writer should adopt in today's writing market to become successful. I am interested in answering questions below:

    - What strategy should a new writer adopt in today's market?
    - What platforms are best to use? (for critique/review, editing, publishing, self-publishing, marketing, publicity etc.)
    - Which people should be influenced?
    - What is the best way to grow the amount of readers and a following?
    - Focus on publication of short stories in various publications, (higher volume) which can later be published as a collection or focus instead on novels? (higher quality, lower volume)

    I am looking forward to your feedback!

    Mish

  2. #2
    Hi!

    - What strategy should a new writer adopt in today's market?

    No idea what this means, sorry...

    - What platforms are best to use? (for critique/review, editing, publishing, self-publishing, marketing, publicity etc.)

    Not sure on this either. If you're asking for a binary choice between publishing and self-publishing, I am traditionally publishing at the moment, I'd say the majority of published people on here are probably self-published. Both have advantages and disadvantages. If you'd like to know what those are, maybe start a thread on it or head to the Publishing Discussion forum.

    - Which people should be influenced?

    Readers, ideally.

    - What is the best way to grow the amount of readers and a following?

    Write a lot and submit a lot maintaining high productivity (one new novel a year or 12-15 short stories I would consider productive)

    - Focus on publication of short stories in various publications, (higher volume) which can later be published as a collection or focus instead on novels? (higher quality, lower volume)

    I think every novelist should start writing short-stories. Some disagree, that's their business, but there are numerous skills that starting and finishing stories in rapid succession facilities development of, as opposed to laboring over a single novel for eons. Don't bother with collections, nobody will care, but publish short stories as much as you can, get your name out there, gain that experience and confidence, then maybe think about novels.
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

  3. #3
    Hi Mish. I am, as my title states, truly an erratic here. That's using the term "erratic" in the geological sense of a stone that's rolled up in the wrong place. so any advice that I give is equally based on very little. Very late in life my writing "career" consisted of writing one short story in a matter of hours and then later basing an entire novel on it. Having realised that the novel was itself just the first of a trilogy I decided that my remaining life was probably too short and too busy for such an enterprise and abandoned the whole work, even though I consider that the fascinating story line would have been worth the effort had I been younger. This then is clearly not a well structured approach to a writing career. Perhaps there is something to learn from it though.

    Luckyscars has set out some advice from his better perspective, but maybe I should address some of the more fundamental aspects.

    For a start, as i have indicated, becoming successfully published is most likely a long process, so you must be sure that you can devote the necessary time to it. As Luckyscars mentioned, you should primarily be aiming to influence your end readers, but even before doing that you should aim to influence your alpha reader, i.e. yourself. I have read my novel many times and each time have found more to like about it. It is alleged that novice writers later realise how bad their early works were, but while my writing style may have been a little naive I have never found fault with my original story line and still find remarkable nuances within it. Of course, it is difficult to form an unbiased opinion of one's own work alone, so making it available somewhere like here for critical examination is likely to help you form a more accurate and realistic opinion of yourself as a writer. My angel wife and I both beta read full length works by members here and we are sad when one has clearly put a lot of effort into such a thing but it hasn't had much impact on us and may be difficult to save. Therefore writing short stories certainly makes sense to get any problems with your style sorted out before you devote valuable time to anything longer.

    I always wonder why someone decides that they want to write fiction. In my case it took years for me to understand why I did it and the answer was almost unbelievable, indeed remains unbelievable to most people, but that's by the way. How then do you personally gauge success? Is your primary aim to earn money, to be recognised in society or just to share your imaginings with others because you feel that they are worth sharing regardless of any payback? Writing fiction is the solution to a problem, but what is the problem that you are trying to solve by doing it? Being clear in your own mind on that will assist you in deciding how best to tackle the task and succeed by your own criterion of success. Traditional publication and self-publication can be seen as different solutions matched to different criteria of success. The traditional approach may place more obstacles in your way but overcoming them may itself be essential to your perception of success, while self-publication may be easier but not give you the same feeling that you have achieved what you set out to do. If acquiring income is your objective then no doubt other members can advise you on the overall hourly return that a writer can expect to receive for their efforts in their early years. In my case it's well below zero, but then financial reward was never an objective for me.

    Publication is only half the battle anyway. The key element is promotion. I suspect that many people who casually take to writing are, like myself, not particularly concerned with self-promotion, indeed are even reclusive, writing being a reclusive activity in itself. Having written my novel I had no desire to promote it any more than I desire to promote myself, so even self-publication was unlikely to achieve much. I actually made it available for free download on my own website, just to make it easily accessible to anyone who happened to find out about it, but I have never actively promoted it and don't even subscribe to any of the popular social sites where writers are advised to promote their works, that not being in my nature. Again my social activity here is for a very specific reason and not typical of my character. So, how does one go about promoting one's work if one has no interest in also promoting oneself? Clearly you have to be clear on your reasons for writing to decide how you tackle this side of the task.

    When I sent an extract from my novel to a professional assessment service for comments (one of the reasons why my net income from my writing is a negative figure) one of the comments that I received was that I should write about something else, the reader having entirely missed the point of the story from their brief examination of it. I explained that I didn't want to become a writer writing whatever might please the readership as such, but that I had one solitary story that I felt deserved to be told and that I was endeavouring to do that and only that. If the story really didn't merit the telling then I didn't need to write anything at all and could get on with my real life. Once again how one goes about things boils down to one factor, why one is writing; that is why one is writing anything at all and why any particular work as well.

    So, you are asking us how to become successful but for us to answer that fully we need to understand what motivates you to write and how you measure success, because those things certainly aren't the same for everyone. We aim to help each member achieve whatever it is that they want to, but to do that we need to understand where you are coming from, to use an expression with which I have never felt comfortable. So tell us why you are doing it and perhaps we can more clearly tell you how.

    So, welcome to WF and hopefully we can help you and indeed in return perhaps you can help others here as well.
    'Sharing an experience creates a reality.' Create a new reality today.
    'There has to be some give and take.' If I can take my time I'm willing to give it.
    'The most difficult criticism that a writer has to comprehend is silence.' So speak up.

  4. #4
    Hi, Mish. Nice to meet you.

    - What strategy should a new writer adopt in today's market?
    1 Research your market: read other novels in your genre, check out publisher websites and their 'submissions' page, see what novels they produce.
    2 Write, edit, edit some more, get the work beta read.
    3 If you're going the trade route: submit your work, then focus on another project.
    4 If you're self-publishing: look for an editor in the genre, go with a very decent cover artist, find a formatter. Also, research which distribution outlets you want to use. Amazon etc.
    5 Be active on social media: don't always promote your work. You're looking to build relations, not give people a hard sell.
    6 If you get accepted for publication or you're ready to self-pub: look at an author website, but go for one that's free, like with WordPress.
    7 Research reviewing blogs in your genre.
    The list really is endless....


    - What platforms are best to use? (for critique/review, editing, publishing, self-publishing, marketing, publicity etc.)
    This really is your decision. I can tell you what works in my genre, but that is only for my genre.

    - Which people should be influenced?
    In what way?

    - What is the best way to grow the amount of readers and a following?
    Be social, be you, but mostly -- write damn good fiction!

    - Focus on publication of short stories in various publications, (higher volume) which can later be published as a collection or focus instead on novels? (higher quality, lower volume)
    Short stories are an art all of their own and require a different set of skills to the novel. I can't write short stories: the word count is too compact for how I'm comfortable with writing. If you can do both, good. However, I have noticed that novels from new authors are more likely to be taken on with publishers, unless you're lucky enough to fall on a good call for submissions that your work will fit into with authors.
    "You don't wanna ride the bus like this,"

    Mike Posner.



  5. #5
    My best advice would be to tell you to not worry about the business end of writing until you have the craft side down. If you are just starting out you probably aren't writing anything worth selling yet. That's not a put-down it's just a fact, this craft is like any other it takes time practice to start producing a product people are willing to pay for. As a beginner your primary job is to learn how to write a effective story, not to worry about marketing it. Amazon is overfull of novels and stories self-published by people who didn't take the time to learn the craft before posting their 'work' for sale. Don't be one of them.

    Selling fiction is one of the most difficult tasks you can undertake. You have a far better statistical chance of winning the Powerball lottery than you do of making a million dollars as a writer. So, you better not be in this just for the money (the average yearly income for a 'working' writer in 2017 was less than $7,000), you need to love writing and be willing to work at the craft to get good at it. Because, as Henry Ford once said, "Profit is the inevitable result of work well done."
    “Fools” said I, “You do not know
    Silence like a cancer grows
    Hear my words that I might teach you
    Take my arms that I might reach you”
    But my words like silent raindrops fell
    And echoed in the wells of silence : Simon & Garfunkel


    Those who enjoy stirring the chamber-pot should be required to lick the spoon.

    Our job as writers is to make readers dream, to infiltrate their minds with our words and create a new reality; a reality not theirs, and not ours, but a new, unique combination of both.

    Visit Amazon and the Kindle Store to check out Reflections in a Black Mirror, and Chase

    Hidden Content






  6. #6
    Flash is a new trend. It could be what you should try because it is short and will test your skills as a writer and prepare you. Craft is important. Because you must learn everything you can.

    I suggest you subscribe to new scientist which is expensive. It costs 100 dollars a year. But many writers swear by it in science fiction. Many famous writers turn to it for inspiration who are not scientists.

    Reading the character based science fiction is my main interest. I would ask writers who have read more than you what to read if you have interest in learning about conventions and even try doing what has been done before in a different way. That is also to find what is considered the best science fiction stories. I like less plot based fiction. I do want to focus on that kind of plotting and type of story. To know what was done before you can always consult the online encyclopedia of science fiction by John Clute.
    Last edited by Theglasshouse; June 13th, 2019 at 02:00 AM.
    I would follow as in believe in the words of good moral leaders. Rather than the beliefs of oneself.
    The most difficult thing for a writer to comprehend is to experience silence, so speak up. (quoted from a member)

  7. #7
    Hi luckyscars,

    Thank you for your time and response. I appreciate it!

    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    Hi!

    - What strategy should a new writer adopt in today's market?

    No idea what this means, sorry...
    To rephrase, what first steps do you recommend for a new writer to do first as high priority before anything else? Apart from dumping their work on an easy to read website.

    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    - What platforms are best to use? (for critique/review, editing, publishing, self-publishing, marketing, publicity etc.)

    Not sure on this either. If you're asking for a binary choice between publishing and self-publishing, I am traditionally publishing at the moment, I'd say the majority of published people on here are probably self-published. Both have advantages and disadvantages. If you'd like to know what those are, maybe start a thread on it or head to the Publishing Discussion forum.
    This caught my attention. I want to know everything you do/did to traditionally publish. How is that working out for you? How successful have you been? Did you try to self publish first and then concluded that traditional way is superior? Who did you go with to publish your work? How many publishers did you approach and how many rejections did you get? How many attempts before they agreed to publish you? What did you have to do to get accepted? (e.g. a very nice and interesting cover letter, connections etc.)

    I should probably stop with this line of questioning otherwise I will drown you in the sea of queries.

    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    - Focus on publication of short stories in various publications, (higher volume) which can later be published as a collection or focus instead on novels? (higher quality, lower volume)

    I think every novelist should start writing short-stories. Some disagree, that's their business, but there are numerous skills that starting and finishing stories in rapid succession facilities development of, as opposed to laboring over a single novel for eons. Don't bother with collections, nobody will care, but publish short stories as much as you can, get your name out there, gain that experience and confidence, then maybe think about novels.
    I agree with your approach. Hence I currently make short stories my main business. Having said that there are two novels in the works as well, very early stages. My current writing strategy is to use feedback and craft development from short stories on the novels.

    Out of curiosity, what best platform / place do you recommend for short story publishing?

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by JustRob View Post
    I always wonder why someone decides that they want to write fiction. In my case it took years for me to understand why I did it and the answer was almost unbelievable, indeed remains unbelievable to most people, but that's by the way. How then do you personally gauge success? Is your primary aim to earn money, to be recognised in society or just to share your imaginings with others because you feel that they are worth sharing regardless of any payback? Writing fiction is the solution to a problem, but what is the problem that you are trying to solve by doing it? Being clear in your own mind on that will assist you in deciding how best to tackle the task and succeed by your own criterion of success. Traditional publication and self-publication can be seen as different solutions matched to different criteria of success. The traditional approach may place more obstacles in your way but overcoming them may itself be essential to your perception of success, while self-publication may be easier but not give you the same feeling that you have achieved what you set out to do. If acquiring income is your objective then no doubt other members can advise you on the overall hourly return that a writer can expect to receive for their efforts in their early years. In my case it's well below zero, but then financial reward was never an objective for me.

    Publication is only half the battle anyway. The key element is promotion. I suspect that many people who casually take to writing are, like myself, not particularly concerned with self-promotion, indeed are even reclusive, writing being a reclusive activity in itself. Having written my novel I had no desire to promote it any more than I desire to promote myself, so even self-publication was unlikely to achieve much. I actually made it available for free download on my own website, just to make it easily accessible to anyone who happened to find out about it, but I have never actively promoted it and don't even subscribe to any of the popular social sites where writers are advised to promote their works, that not being in my nature. Again my social activity here is for a very specific reason and not typical of my character. So, how does one go about promoting one's work if one has no interest in also promoting oneself? Clearly you have to be clear on your reasons for writing to decide how you tackle this side of the task.

    When I sent an extract from my novel to a professional assessment service for comments (one of the reasons why my net income from my writing is a negative figure) one of the comments that I received was that I should write about something else, the reader having entirely missed the point of the story from their brief examination of it. I explained that I didn't want to become a writer writing whatever might please the readership as such, but that I had one solitary story that I felt deserved to be told and that I was endeavouring to do that and only that. If the story really didn't merit the telling then I didn't need to write anything at all and could get on with my real life. Once again how one goes about things boils down to one factor, why one is writing; that is why one is writing anything at all and why any particular work as well.

    So, you are asking us how to become successful but for us to answer that fully we need to understand what motivates you to write and how you measure success, because those things certainly aren't the same for everyone. We aim to help each member achieve whatever it is that they want to, but to do that we need to understand where you are coming from, to use an expression with which I have never felt comfortable. So tell us why you are doing it and perhaps we can more clearly tell you how.

    So, welcome to WF and hopefully we can help you and indeed in return perhaps you can help others here as well.
    Hi JustRob,

    Thank you for your time, for welcoming me and for the thoughtful response to my questions. It was inspiring to read your personal story and your writing experience.

    Your questions; "How then do you personally gauge success? Is your primary aim to earn money, to be recognised in society or just to share your imaginings with others because you feel that they are worth sharing regardless of any payback? Writing fiction is the solution to a problem, but what is the problem that you are trying to solve by doing it?" Made me pause and think for a moment.

    So in summary. How do I define success? I think of it in tiers.

    Tier 3

    Become good at writing. Write stories that resonate, with myself first and foremost and then with others. Also, write stories that matter. I've been writing for some time, for myself, as a hobby and I think I am getting better at it. I think I am ready to take it to the next level and see whether my stories resonate with others. There is nothing else I aim to achieve in this tier.

    Tier 2

    Build a following. Hopefully of readers who like my work. I'm interested in communicating ideas for discussion and I am interested to see what discussions my ideas will generate. There is nothing else I aim to achieve in this tier.

    Tier 1

    Become successful on the market. Despite the fact, this is probably far fetched. But stranger things in life have happened. I do not wish to sacrifice my personal interests to achieve success. I have firm ideas of what I want to write and which relevant topics to explore. Is that enough to become popular? I don't know.

    I'd like to know what tools I will need to achieve any, some or all of the above.

    To answer your last question. I used to write stories as a hobby because I like writing. Now, I find myself writing stories that directly relate to my personal experience. It goes something like this; I have a problem>Wait, others experience this problem too, it is a universal problem!>How will we <humanity> attempt to solve this kind of problem in the future>Bingo, here is the story!

    I found if I follow the above script, my writing remains interesting to me and hopefully relevant to others. Can that be monetasied? If yes, then goals of all three tiers are achieved. If not, then achieving goals of two tiers will do.

  9. #9
    Hi Aquilo,

    It is nice to meet you as well. Thank you so much for your relevant and thought provoking responses!

    Quote Originally Posted by Aquilo View Post
    Hi, Mish. Nice to meet you.

    1 Research your market: read other novels in your genre, check out publisher websites and their 'submissions' page, see what novels they produce.
    2 Write, edit, edit some more, get the work beta read.
    3 If you're going the trade route: submit your work, then focus on another project.
    4 If you're self-publishing: look for an editor in the genre, go with a very decent cover artist, find a formatter. Also, research which distribution outlets you want to use. Amazon etc.
    5 Be active on social media: don't always promote your work. You're looking to build relations, not give people a hard sell.
    6 If you get accepted for publication or you're ready to self-pub: look at an author website, but go for one that's free, like with WordPress.
    7 Research reviewing blogs in your genre.
    The list really is endless....
    Your bullet points are great and thought provoking!

    What tips do you have for being active on social media? Do you recommend creating a new account just for writing on all platforms (Twitter, Facebook, what else?) to keep it separate from personal?

    Quote Originally Posted by Aquilo View Post
    This really is your decision. I can tell you what works in my genre, but that is only for my genre.
    What is your genre? And what works for you? (it's okay if it won't work for me, I'd like to know anyway)

    Quote Originally Posted by Aquilo View Post
    In what way?
    A good question. Perhaps it is a two part question:

    1. Who are the key players in this trade that should be influenced? (publishers, editors, readers, reviewers?)
    2. What are acceptable ways of influencing them? (e.g. showing up at the publisher's office with the bosses favourite bottle of wine, is that acceptable or creepy?

    Quote Originally Posted by Aquilo View Post
    Short stories are an art all of their own and require a different set of skills to the novel. I can't write short stories: the word count is too compact for how I'm comfortable with writing. If you can do both, good. However, I have noticed that novels from new authors are more likely to be taken on with publishers, unless you're lucky enough to fall on a good call for submissions that your work will fit into with authors.
    I have written about a dozen short stories so far and I have two novels in the works, in the very early stages. What works for me is taking feedback I receive for short stories on my craft and writing style and then applying that feedback to the way I write the novels. In this way there is a symbiotic relationship between the two. Also, I found as I write short stories start to finish, it helps shape my thoughts on how to begin and end chapters in the novels. The way I see it; short stories are snacks, one or two ideas converted to bite size pieces, just enough to get the gist of the idea across, where as novels are full meals, where various ideas coalesce, take form and mend into something else like consequent processes, lessons learnt and ideals.

    However, I am interested to know what works. So I would like to know, which publishers are keen on new authors? Which publishers are keen on shot stories? What has worked for you personally?

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Terry D View Post
    My best advice would be to tell you to not worry about the business end of writing until you have the craft side down. If you are just starting out you probably aren't writing anything worth selling yet. That's not a put-down it's just a fact, this craft is like any other it takes time practice to start producing a product people are willing to pay for. As a beginner your primary job is to learn how to write a effective story, not to worry about marketing it. Amazon is overfull of novels and stories self-published by people who didn't take the time to learn the craft before posting their 'work' for sale. Don't be one of them.

    Selling fiction is one of the most difficult tasks you can undertake. You have a far better statistical chance of winning the Powerball lottery than you do of making a million dollars as a writer. So, you better not be in this just for the money (the average yearly income for a 'working' writer in 2017 was less than $7,000), you need to love writing and be willing to work at the craft to get good at it. Because, as Henry Ford once said, "Profit is the inevitable result of work well done."
    Hi Terry D,

    Thank you for your time and for the useful advice. I appreciate it!

    I agree, working on the craft and developing writing skills is essential. I aim to dedicate most of my (free) time to that extent.

    What has worked for you personally in this business? I'm interested to know your personal story and how you did not become one of them Amazon overfulls by creating work that is well done?

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