The Next Big Trend in Writing: Writing.

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At your day job, are you expected to be the company’s top salesperson, best engineer, most effective receptionist, savviest IT technician, hot doggiest recruiter, speediest delivery driver, wiz-bangingest marketing and public relations writer, snoop-lionest accountant, whip-crackingest plant manager, and least-distractible assembly-line worker? If so, you won’t last long. You can’t be all things to all people.

So why are writers supposed to be?

I give writing advice; you give writing advice. Agents give it, editors give it, publishers give it. According to what I’ve learned, I need to do the following things if I ever expect to be published for money, followed by my estimate of how much time is required each week:

1. Build a social media presence

Hours per week: 50

Get thousands upon thousands of rabid fans to follow my blog posts, tweets, and Facebook updates, despite that I don’t have a finished novel and, therefore, have no reason to expect such a loyal following. If I had a novel, I’d be querying it. That way, it could be published and I’d get some fans to follow my social media… um, wait a second….

2. Join a writing group and have lots of people read my stuff, and then do rewrites based on their suggestions

Hours per week (over 5 years): 3

Cool. This is my personal focus group. At three pages of reading per week, they should have heard my entire novel by 2018. I’m going to go ahead and do rewrites based on what they liked and didn’t like, because they represent everyone in the world. Multiply the 3 hours above by how many people are in my group, since they’ll all have different opinions and I’ll need a separate version for each one.

3. Read in your genre so you know your competition

Hours per week: 40

Cost per week, hardcover versions:  $54

Great. I’ll run to Barnes and Noble and spend all my gas money on novels by people who also write whatever it is that I write. After a few months, I’ll be broke and realize that everyone is using the same plot. I’ll get depressed and quit writing. That will free up lots of time. Oh yeah, I can’t forget to be totally different from all those other writers, but still kind of the same.

4. Be awesome at dialog

Hours per week: 23 of practice

Must write dialog that is authentic, snappy, relevant to the plot, gives depth to the character (but only if it’s relevant to the plot), and is tagged with the perfect blend of “saids” and “you should be able to tell who said it based on the character’s actions.”

5. Be awesome at plotting

Hours: 23 of practice

If you don’t have three exciting subplots, each of which starts with a non-gratuitous explosion, that twist together like a Celtic design and end up in a brilliant, dovetailing revelation, rewrite the whole thing. Because all published books have that.

6. Be awesome at using all five senses

Hours: 23 of practice

If your characters can’t smell the meteor coming, get busy with the rewrites!

7. Be awesome at characters with history, depth, detail, and complexity

Hours: 23 of practice

Make Tolstoy jealous with your character tree.

8. Read agents’ and publishers’ blogs and writing magazines to find out the latest trends and see what their successful clients do

Hours: 15

Be sure to put aside at least three hours to rage after reading the examples of successful query letters that not only don’t follow the advice the agent just gave but, frankly, need serious editing.

Time spent per week learning to be a good writer: 200 hours

Time left over to work on my novel:  minus 32 hours

Number of famous, successful novelists who did all these things well: 0

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26 responses to “The Next Big Trend in Writing: Writing.

  • nrhatch

    Exactly!

    Or you can focus on enjoying the JOURNEY of writing . . . and see where it leads.

  • Janna G. Noelle

    Funny post, and pretty timely for me, as this whole social media obligation is a source of constant consternation for me. Blogging and reading blogs, I actually enjoy for the unrestricted interaction it affords with other writers and readers. Twitter – eh, some days I like it and then I go through long stretches with nary a peep from me. I’m not even on Facebook at all, which, my writing platform aside, equates me with being some sort of dinosaur apparently.

    But I liked the sentiment you brought up when discussing query letters the best: the successful examples rarely seem to follow the “rules”, so in all of this, writers need to determine for themselves what they’re willing to do and not do for they’ll never be able to do it all. And if they don’t enjoy what they’re doing (or at least enjoy the challenge of it), they’ll never be successful at it anyway.

  • Jill Weatherholt

    You’ve read my mind, Eric. These are all things I’ve been questioning the past several weeks, primarily numbers 1 and 2. I hear so much about the benefits of a critique group or partner. When you’re working full-time, keeping up with family, friends and all of the required social media and then you’re responsible to read and critique a partner or partner’s work…when do you have time to work on your own WIP? I just want to write!

    • ericjbaker

      I read a lot about science, logic, and human reasoning. It leads me to question many assumptions, including the notion that experts have anything valid to say. On point, how does anyone know that writing groups are necessary. Well, you’d have to do an impartial study that shows writers in writing groups get published more often than those who are not, with all variables accounted for. Otherwise, it’s just a platitude. Just because something ‘seems’ like it makes sense, that doesn’t mean it actually makes sense.

  • Dave

    Awesome post, Eric. These were spot on, and you had me laughing the whole way through. After doing all these things we’re supposed to do, yeah, you can pretty much plan on no time for writing. Unless, of course, you give up on sleep. That might get you back to barely positive hours per week to write that next blockbuster.

  • Jaye Marie Rome

    Hah! If your character can’t smell the meteor coming…too funny!

    Great post, Eric!

  • skywalkerstoryteller

    Not much to add except that a lot of that advice we do ignore and we write when and what we want to write when we can – between all the other requirements of living – since these days anyone can publish a book – and not have it proofread!
    And some of us are foolish enough to read it all the way through because it’s a good story. (Of course, not referring to anyone in this group!) Well, I always say, I write because I can’t help myself and it gives me pleasure – and keep holding out that it’ll sustain me to some degree when I no longer have the energy to work 12 hour night shifts.:)

  • Arkenaten

    When I first began writing I avidly read everything I could on “Advice for Budding Writers? or “How to become a published author”

    Later, such drivel (?) simply depressed me and robbed me of the fun of writing, especially when I read how JK Rowling got published and how Terry Pratchett found his agent.

    So I simply stopped fretting and pretty soon afterward I bumped into my publisher and not long after that was offered a contract. Corny and uneventful with no serious hooplah.

    The advice I listen to these days is stuff like “Do you have wandering comma disease? ”
    or ”Help prevent Hyphen abuse”. etc 🙂 ….which I generally pay attention to.

  • Richard Leonard

    Haha! So true. I just tweeted a link to the this. Don’t worry, no one will see it in all the noise.

  • Uzoma

    A lot of writing tips are out there on the Internet. But I only follow a few and yours is on that list.

  • kriskkaria

    Love this! Can I narrate for my podcast?

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