I saw something the other day that a friend wrote on facebook, and I wanted to share it with you my friends, print this and put it by your “writing device.”
I thought about that for a few moments. Then I told Peter I was going to share this. When we think back to our most successful works, regardless of our field or genre we have done this; columns, articles, books, stories, poems. Sometimes we are surprised with the success of something we have written. However, if you take Peter’s concise list in hand, and compare it to your work I think you will find you followed his advice, even if you did not know you were doing so at the time.
Write when moved. We have all had these moments. Sometimes we know exactly what we are going to write. Sometimes we only know the essence of what we are going to write. Sometimes the idea just hits us, all at once, and we begin to write. Other times it is something that nags at our conscious for days, something vague and yet specific. However it starts, when we begin to write it flows, at times it is all we can do to get the words out fast enough. When we are finished, before we begin editing, we look at what we wrote and marvel at how fast it all came together (wishing to ourselves that writing was always like this).
Be grown up. Mmmmm, be grown up. Well, first off, the kind of writing we are talking about is for your public, your regular readers. That is whom I write for. We are not talking about a letter to a lawyer who thinks you are negotiating when you are just trying to do what is right. (A word of advice, do not ever try to do what is right when dealing with a lawyer. If you do, they will not be content, and will continue pushing until they are taking the food from your mouth. Then they will tell you they are letting you off the hook, and you are lucky they are so generous.) Since you are writing for the public, and it would be nice to attract new readers, stay on the positive. There is always a positive and a negative to everything. If you do not see both, keep looking, they are both there. All of us have enough negative in our daily lives. Your readers do not need to turn to you for the negative. They can drive in rush hour traffic and get that. Give them the positive. If you can find the positive where most people miss it, that is even better. Be grown up — stay positive.
Know how to distribute. There is no easy answer for this, you learn over time. Start with a blog, a social network, and some site that will let you publish e-books at no cost to you. Then link them all together. It does not matter what kind of writing you do, you need at least those three. I will give you two examples:
1) I am a blogger, I am not an author. That may be true. However, no matter how well you map your blog, at some time it will start to become difficult for people to navigate their way around 300 plus posts just to find their favorite posts. When your blog gets to that point, take you most popular posts (the ones with the most views) and put them together in an e-book. You regular readers will appreciate it. Make this e-book free or .99 cents, you are doing this as a gift for your regular readers to show your appreciation of them. Do not put a $14.99 price tag on this e-book, you are not doing this so you can buy a new Porsche, you are creating value for your regular readers. This will expand your regular readers, and show them how much you appreciate them.
2) I write books, not blogs. That may be true. However, your regular readers have made an investment in you. They have given you their time. Time they could give to loved ones or other interests, but they have chosen to give it to you. So, once a week, or once a month, let them know what you are working on. Take your most popular book and tell your fans how you came up with the idea for their favorite book. Take some of your notes and drafts for a book and let your readers see how that book became the e-book on their e-reader. Let them inside the process. Also, always, always, give them a chance to talk with you. Listen to what they liked and did not like. Answer some of their questions. This will expand your regular readers, and show them how much you appreciate them.
Be heard. There is no magic formula for this, but if you give your readers value, and you appreciate them. You will be heard. How do you do this? Well, you provide value to your readers by teaching them something new, giving them ways to save money, encouraging them, or entertaining them. If you can do several of these at the same time you are doing even better. There is one more though that is a must, no matter what else you do, you must be passionate. I am not talking about romance, love, and sex. I mean you need to be writing about something that is important to you. Poetry, history, blogs, fiction, it does not matter what you write, write what you are passionate about. You cannot fake passion, you can try, and you may pull it off for a while. But, eventually all your readers will see through the ruse. When you write about subjects you are passionate about, you are taking a small part of you and giving it freely (this is not about price), willingly, openly. This is not about 1,000 downloads on Amazon. When someone reads what you wrote, it is an intimate one-on-one conversation — writer and reader. They want your passion; they already have too much in their lives that lacks passion. Why is Norm Abrams so successful? There are many others who can tell you how to build a deck for your house. Norm is successful because he is passionate about home improvement and working with wood.
Be recognized. This is something else that you cannot do very much about, directly. You can enter contests. However, the personal tastes of the judges have more to do with who wins. The type of recognition you should be concerned with is from your readers. When your readers enjoy your work so much they tell others about it, or provide links to your work so others may enjoy it as they do, THAT kind of recognition is exhilarating and humbling at the same time. It is the best kind of recognition you will ever receive.
Be a mover. When you write with passion, believe me, people will be moved to action because of your words. Historical, poetry, how-to, fiction, it does not matter what you write. If you write with passion, you will reach your readers, and they will take that passion and act on it in their own lives.
Be warm. You should never write for “the mob” or the “demographic group” you are shooting for. The United States has more than 350,000,000 people living in it. Just one percent of that is 3,500,000 people. Warmth has to do with passion and intimacy (once again this is not romance, love, and sex). Intimacy is being open and vulnerable it is a one-on-one connection. You do not get that by writing for 3.5 million people. You get that by writing for one person, you get that by holding nothing back, you get that by being positive. You do those three things and the warmth will come through. You do those three things and your readers will become important to you, individuals that you care about, and those feelings will create the warmth. Painting, sculpture, writing these are intimate expressions of you. Be intimate one-on-one with each reader and you will succeed one person at a time.
Now a word about my audience. Writing “how-to” books are always talking about “know your audience, write for your audience.” Those noble educators of the craft of writing are talking about a demographic group. You know, a certain; age, sex, race (sometimes), political view, religious view, and et cetera. This nameless, faceless group is the supposed consumers of your work. Therefore, of course, I do not follow this tact. The group I write for is very specific, and (fortunately for me) gains more faces than it loses.
There is a man who is about my age whom I share much in common, but we have just enough not in common to complement each other.
There is the talented historical author breaking down her own barriers by being both black and female, while possessing a real talent for history.
The poet who bares her soul for the entire world to see, inspiring the most dejected among us while doing so.
There is the couple restoring an historical home, a home that our government should have assumed care for a century ago.
There is the sea captains wife, though she has never said so specifically, I suspect she uses some of their precious, limited time they share to tell him about an occasional column I have written.
There is an extraordinary woman who just lost her soul mate of many years. She has shared the loss that she and her children feel, with her readers. She is dealing with this one day at a time. Some days are not too bad, and the not too bad days are slowly increasing in number. One day she will be back to normal. A new normal, her life will never be the same again. A part of her will always mourn her loss, but she will smile again, and laugh again. Knowing that her husband would want her to, will make it easier for her.
There is a young feminist, an old feminist, and a former feminist, a couple of artists, and some other writers as well. Some are as young as 7 and some as old as 70. I have left out many, but it would take a book length tome to do real justice to them all. They are really a neat bunch of people, whom I treasure. Some leave comments, some send e-mails, and some just read and smile. As I said I do not follow what the experts say we should do to build an audience, I do not have a narrow faceless group of 3.5 million people for whom I write. I write for an individual, someone I care about, someone I celebrate with when they win, someone I cry with when they hurt, someone I care for and pray for, even though they may be an atheist.
The audience I write for is too narrow, I know that. However, it works for me. I did not start writing for just one person. I started writing for this 3.5 million person demographic I wanted to reach. It just did not work for me. If it works for you, use it. But, there will be something else, just one thing all the experts say you should do, one thing you just cannot do.
That one thing robs you of the voice inside you screaming to get out. Follow what the experts say, but when that one thing you are not supposed to do presents its self, follow it. This is what makes you unique; it is your style, your voice.
It will come to you, do not force it, do not say, “I am going to do this and it will be my style.” If you do, it will come across as contrived. Contrived is fake you want genuine. Follow the experts until you reach that point where you say to yourself, “I do not care if I lose all my readers except my mother, I cannot do this anymore.” Then follow your spirit.
You may lose readers, and it may take a long time before you begin to gain readers again. Do it, do it anyway, and do not ever go back to what you did before (remember, if you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got). What you did before silenced your real voice that is why you left it. Your new audience will come, do not worry about them. They are searching for you right now, waiting on you to find that voice deep within you. They will find you. They will not quit searching for you until they find you. Be patient and as Shakespeare said, “to thine own shelf be true.”
If you have ever studied art seriously, you know that there are certain “rules” of painting. These rules have evolved over centuries; they are really observations of what make paintings attractive to the viewers. Ever see a painting you just do not like? It probably violates several of the observations. Good paintings make you feel at ease, calm, all is right in the world, they follow all the rules. What sets off the good from the great? One observation, one rule … just one. The artist had just one thing he could not bring himself to do (or her). The artist knew to break that one rule could mean disaster for them as an artist, it did not matter. “To thine own self be true.” The truly great did just that. Following all the other observations, they broke one rule and that is what sets them apart from the crowd, that is their style. They said to themselves, “If no one ever buys another of my paintings I do not care. This is what I must do.” You cannot force it, but in time, it will come to you too.
- Don’t kill the passion, before you even start to write (simplestuffandsuch.com)
- Why here, or there or that other place? Does setting affect readers’ preferences? (tombrysonwriter.wordpress.com)
- Writers Inspire: 10 Ways Authors Inspire Me to Write (courtneysking.wordpress.com)
- Platform Building (newauthors.wordpress.com)
- Simple Living Idea: How to Stay Motivated? (prefs.zemanta.com)
- New E-Book Series Helps Writers Communicate Effectively (prweb.com)
- Guest Post and Giveaway: “It’s a matter of genre” by Claire C. Reily (greyhartpress.com)
- Celebrating Bloggers 2013 (tweedling.com)
- 14 Ways to Recover From an Emotional Affair (thereseborchardblog.com)
4 responses to “The 7 Secrets of Great Writing”
I’m bookmarking this one. You have brought up very important issues and I want to remember them! Love the ebook idea, especially, audience, and being positive. Hubs always tells me to be positive and not to give in to the current fad of snarky moms. Thank you!
Great Post! It has helped me deeply inside. I don’t think I will see the results of it for quite awhile, but I know now it is in there.
I am glad you finally see in yourself what the rest of us see in you Scott.
I should be embarrassed, but I am a little proud. Thanks.