Writers

Do All Self-Published Books Really Suck?

Newsflash — all self-published books suck. Don’t believe me? Then spend five minutes Googling the concept and you will get hundreds of articles from ‘experts’ who will prove to you that it’s the truth.

Okay, so I guess we should all just give up, run away with our tails tucked between our legs, and go start a McDonald’s franchise then?

I don’t know about you but I despise generalities. I hate broad, sweeping statements that dismiss an entire topic out of hand. So, in this here, uppity blog post I will attempt to address what seem to be the biggest complaints.

Complaints about self-pubbed books

While there seem to be as many complaints about self-pubbed books as Carter’s has little pills, let’s hit the highlights:

Not good quality. This I take to mean not as good as traditionally published books and people say this with a straight face too. As though the fact that a book was published by a traditional publisher makes the book good. I don’t know about you but I’ve read plenty of traditionally published books that were terrible. Where and how a book gets published does not guarantee good quality.

Unprofessional. By whose standards? If the readers complain, then so be it. You should probably listen and possibly unpublish the book if the response is really bad. Of course, it’s a given that you want to do everything you can to write the best story you’re able to write and if you have, then who gives a rat’s ass what your competitors say?

Glutting the market. This one really gets me. Because the market is for readers, not authors. So how can an endless supply of books be bad for the market? It can’t. Although it may be bad for authors and publishers who don’t like competition, I don’t think readers are too upset about it.

Poor formatting, not professionally edited, typos, bad layout, terrible covers – blah, blah, blah. Okay, again, so what? (And by the way, I’ve seen typos in traditionally published books too, so no one is immune. And don’t get me started on some of those ‘professional’ cheesy covers either.) And sure, I’ve seen this in indie books too but the market weeds these products out by refusing to buy.

And just as a side note – Hollywood spends billions of dollars a year producing one stinker after the next. Do you hear actors, producers, or screenwriters complaining? Nope. Instead they have awards. Yup, that’s right awards for the biggest stinkers of them all. That group knows how to close ranks and defend the fortress. Also many many of these really bad movies become cult favorites (Attack of the Killer Tomatoes ring a bell?) Who knows, even if your book sucks it could still gain popularity as a Raspberry of its own.

Anybody can publish – no standards. And who might be the gatekeepers in this little scenario? The traditional publishers? The critics? The trolls who travel review forums to trash the work of others? And again, that anyone can publish is good for writers and readers. A writer gets to test her mettle, possibly fail, and learn new tricks, or God forbid succeed – and readers get unfiltered, non-homogenous stories that they can’t get anywhere else. How is this a bad thing? Except possibly in terms of competition for those who’d prefer to thin the herd.

Indie authors are so pushy. Now I agree that manners and being polite in social discourse is a must – however, when an author approaches a reviewer or promotes her book in another way, she is being the publisher/distributor. Not the author. Of course they want to get their product out in the market and known about and create a buzz. It’s a sales cycle, baby. What salesman isn’t tenacious and persistent? Answer: the one who doesn’t sell anything.

Published too soon. Again by whose standards? I’ve seen authors brag that it took them five years to write a book. As though their book is somehow better than a book by an author who wrote and published in six months. But in the end it’s the reader who decides what book is better. The time it took to write a book is no measurement of its value. Again, if an author published too soon, no need to worry about it, her public will let her know. But making statements like this create an arbitrary that really has nothing to do with the truth.

And too, and this is something people don’t talk about much – in the “Golden Age of Pulp Fiction” those dudes and dudettes were cranking out 4-5 stories a week and being published. They didn’t torment over every word, they didn’t wait for beta readers, or spend months looking for just the right editor. They just wrote stories. And apparently, damn good ones because their stories were everywhere. Even if your story isn’t perfect (and I’ve yet to see one that is) if you entertain the reader and give them what they want – the rest really doesn’t matter, does it?

Productivity over quality. I don’t understand how these two are mutually exclusive. Is it really so impossible to write fast and good? Nora Roberts is very prolific and fast, as are many literary giants and best selling authors. Are they hacks too? And if readers love a writer’s books then that’s the important thing, isn’t it?

The wild wild west of the indie author frontier

Indie authors and indie publishers are forging a new path. And my belief is that this is unsettling the apple cart of the status quo. Could things be better? Sure, but that could be said about any industry or field under the sun. Things can always be better and it’s a great thing to strive for – always.

As an author and a reader, I agree that you should do everything you can to give your readers a topnotch, high-quality product. A story that will wow them and keep them up past their bedtimes reading because they just can’t fucking put it down. So absolutely, get all the professional help you can afford and work that puppy into a thing of wonder.

But don’t let a small budget stop you either. You do the best you can. And on the next one you do better. That’s the cycle. Always improving on the next shot, the next round, the next book.

So, I say self-publish. Take a shot. If nothing else, you’ll learn a lot. And hopefully, there’ll be other writers out there who will give you a hand up. And hopefully you’ll do the same when you’re able.

All self-published books do not suck. All traditionally books are not all wonderful. There’s room for all of us. So keep writing.

WC

Copyright 2015

Eight signs your story has been taken over by plot bunnies

plot bunnies
Do you know what plot bunnies are? I didn’t – until today. Apparently, plot bunnies are subplots or elements that we love and leave in our stories though they contribute nothing to the story and may even lead us way off the path of the plot. I’m not sure why they’re called plot bunnies but I’m thinking that it’s because they are apparently, warm fuzzy things that you dear writer, hold dear, and just can’t kill. Or maybe it has to do with the speed with which bunnies multiply?

I digress. If you think you may be guilty of populating your stories with plot bunnies, the following may tip you off  or whether or not you’ve lost the plot:

1. You name all your characters after people you know and/or from the list of baby names you’ve had since you were twelve in case you ever have babies.

2. The steamy sex scene between your main character and the UPS man, meant to show the character’s problem with sex addiction, has now become a major plot point. And the story has turned into a Telenovella but without the subtitles.

3. A secondary character you particularly like has more dialogue than your hero/heroine and you just can’t bear to edit it out.

4. Your story is intertwined with stories of things that actually happened to you but aren’t really funny, monumental or even very interesting to anyone other than you and your BFF.

5. You find a way to save a character you should definitely kill off and sacrifice for the good of the story – but you just can’t. Because you love him.

6. You just can’t, can’t, can’t cut out that dialogue because you love it so much and laugh every time you read it. Even though it has jack to with the story, characters, theme or anything germane to the story.

7. You bristle whenever a beta reader makes an unflattering comment about a plot bunny and write a 10 page response, justifying its existence.

8. You threaten bodily harm to any reviewer who spots your plot bunny and gives your story one less star because of it.

I have to go now because I’ve bought ten pounds of carrots to ferret out my plot bunnies. Wish me luck. Where is those wily wabbits?

How about you? Do you protect your plot bunnies to the end, or do you just make rabbit stew?

Writer Chick
Copyright 2015

Ten Signs That You Were Meant to be a Writer

pencil nose

Ever wonder if you were meant to be a writer? If so, the following may help you decide.

1. You’re more comfortable making stuff up than dealing with reality

You can spend the day, imagining strange new worlds, a new language or a new superpower. When you were a kid, the other kids came to you for creative solutions to ditching school. No matter how much trouble you get into, you always manage to talk your way out of it. You’re damn good at making stuff up.

2. You’ve worked in at least five different careers and none of them stuck

You’re a multi-tasker. You seem to be good at everything. But you get bored easily – once you’ve mastered something (or just gotten the hang of it) you tire of it and move onto the next thing. Alternately, you know a little bit about a lot of things. But no matter how nice the office or how pretty the benefits you just can’t get excited about anything that doesn’t involve making stuff up.

3. Rather than looking away, you study people who do weird things in public

Weird people doing weird things, especially in public attracts you like nothing else. You could watch them for hours and never get tired of it. Often you take notes and rush home to tell your significant other about the weird guy who could play Rhapsody in Blue on his lips. Weird is just cool, right?

4. You have an incessant need for people to pay attention to you but you can’t sing, dance or act

You crave attention. You try hard. You could be a perfectionist (which is not to say you’re a clean freak). You want people to notice you – you may try to impress them with your knowledge of rare cracked china teacups, or the proper way to load a musket or other unending sources of trivia that live in your head. Deep in your heart you long to entertain or enlighten others but know you can’t get away with it in person – hence the need to make up characters who can get away with it.

5. You quote yourself on Facebook and Twitter

Nuff said.

6. Your only use for reality is research

Reality is boring unless it somehow feeds into or validates a storyline, character arc, or fictional scientific breakthrough. You’d rather live in any of the worlds where you make stuff up.

7. Your idea of aerobics is meeting your daily word count

Gyms, leotards and yoga do nothing for you. But trying to meet your totally unrealistic daily word count makes you break into a sweat that requires three showers and five clothes changes a day.

8. You can successfully carry on both sides of a conversation

You don’t need friends. You know how to be the good guy and the bad guy. You can speak in accents. You can pull off any personality affectation known to man. You can spend the day having conversations with your many selves and feel complete content.

9. You’re attracted to all things strange and weird – people, places, buildings, pets, foods, movies, you name it – if it’s weird it fascinates you

Accidents, acts of nature, strange food, weird bugs, the homeless guy in the park who talks to the mirror glued to his hand all fascinate you. You never tire of anything that is odd, unusual, strangely attractive and magically menacing.

10. People describe you as quirky, different, unique, or interesting

Reliable, responsible, stable, grounded are not typically the words people use to describe you. You’re quirky, unusual, weird, a laugh riot, even ca-razy but never normal.

So what about you? When did you know you were a writer?

Writer Chick
Copyright 2015

Book Thoughts and What do You Think About Books?

photo courtesy of morguefile.com

photo courtesy of morguefile.com

I think I came out of the womb loving books – I seriously can’t remember any time in my life when I didn’t love them. Let’s face it, life is a fickle mistress but books are always good and the most well-behaved children in the world.

I think a lot about books. Sometimes the thoughts are logical and cogent but just as often they are random – perhaps fired off by a dysfunctional brain cell screeching during its final death throes. Still… Recently there have been lots of memes about books around the Internet and these have inspired the following thoughts:

Should books be free?

There are arguments pro and con on this idea. Many argue that thanks to libraries they are free. Except that libraries pay for the books they stock and tax dollars pay for libraries, so not really free. See where I’m heading? There are also authors out there offering free books as a promotional tool. On the other hand, some people think that you get what you pay for. And some of these free books as this post points out aren’t even the actual bonafide books. Personally, I believe that if someone went to the trouble and torment (and yes I mean torment) of writing a book you should at least want to see them get paid for it. Because contrary to popular belief writers need money to eat and stuff like that. If Beyonce can be a millionaire, can’t I earn enough to pay my rent? Just saying.

Do you love the smell of books? What do books smell like?

One of the favorite arguments against eBooks is that they don’t smell like ‘real’ books. So that begs the question, what do books smell like? One person I asked said they smell like dust and paper bags, others go for the metaphor and say they smell like knowledge or imagination – personally I think they smell like equal parts of ink, paper, wood, dust and mildew. Now there’s an aftershave I want for my man. Also, if an eBook could smell like a ‘real’ book would you be more likely to buy it?

Are writers who use foul language in their books, hacks?

This is my own version of the question but there have been several blog posts scolding/warning writers not to use poor language because well you know, unprofessional much. I’m down the middle on this issue. On the one hand, I really do get tired of characters dropping the f-word every two seconds, which currently seems very popular with cable TV shows (maybe they just discovered the word?). And I’m not fond of characters who curse every time they open their mouths in a story. However, I also believe that books have to have some connection to reality and the reality is that people swear all the time. Poor people, rich people, highly educated people, high school dropouts, ethnic people, non-ethnic people, kids, adults, teens – we all swear. Sometimes it’s a habit and sometimes it’s to express an extreme response. I write murder mysteries so I don’t think anyone would believe a cop who said something like, “I’m ever so distressed by your rude and inconsiderate behavior.” If I wrote something like that I’d lose my fictional P.I. license. I think it’s impossible to have a hard and fast rule about this and would rather say a write should keep context in mind. If it’s appropriate in the context of the situation and the character than feel free to swear in your books writers.

Should books have trigger warnings?

This was a new one on me. Honestly, I’d never heard of it until I read this well-written and thoughtful post and it inspired me to write a long comment. But for me, the issue is similar to that of swearing. It’s a matter of context. If your subject is very highly emotionally charged, it might not be a bad idea to add a trigger warning somewhere in your book’s page or promotional material. After all 50 Shades of Gray was not a book about interior design, right. However, since apparently just about anything anyone says can act as a trigger, a writer can’t go around trying to figure out what might trigger someone she doesn’t know who might buy and read her book. Much as I sympathize with individuals who have had a truly traumatic experience the tendency in our society today for all people to yearn to somehow be victims causes me dismay. And too, reading reviews about books and what others say about the books should give you a bit of a clue as whether a story will trigger you. So, we’ll try to be more sensitive and you try to be more diligent. Fair?

I’m sure if I really tried I could come up with other recent thoughts about books but those cover it for now.

Do you think about books too? What do you think about books? If I missed anything but sure to let me know and feel free to share. Thinking about books should always be encouraged.

PS: Don’t you love that photo? Is he wearing the book as a hat or is he thinking with the book or is the book thinking for him?

Writer Chick
Copyright 2015

7 Life Hacks for Writers

7 life hacks for writersReports  of my death have been greatly exaggerated – I’ve just been working hard on the second draft on the new novel. We’re close – we’re very close. Anyway, my bad for letting the blogging duty slip. So, here is a little list of writing hacks that I use that may be helpful to you.

For those who don’t know what life hacks are this sums it up nicely:

Life hacking refers to any productivity trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method to increase productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life; in other words, anything that solves an everyday problem of a person in a clever or non-obvious way.

The List

  • Character names:  Stuck for character names – pick up a phone book, a registry, a membership list or anything that lists names. Believe me, real life can offer up names that you couldn’t think up in a million years. Also, pick up a couple of baby name books from the used bookstore.
  • Make notes as you write:  Sometimes when I’m writing, I remember things I have to add or change but I don’t want to stop what I’m doing. In Word, you can use the INSERT feature for making notes on manuscripts. To make a note, click on INSERT and then COMMENT – write your note and keep going.
  • Visit locations from your desk:  If you can’t visit a location, you can use Google Map street view feature to help you describe physical locations. Depending on the location you can find an amazing amount of detail by arrowing around the area. Of course you can’t get the feel, sound or smells – so do visit locations when possible.
  • White noise:  Need background noise in order to write but don’t want to drag your laptop to Starbux? Try this
  • Capture your flashes of brilliance:  Always have the best ideas when you’re walking the dog? Use a digital recorder or your phone to record your sudden bursts of brilliance while you’re walking.
  • Describing physical action:  Great tips on describing body language
  • Use props to get in character:  If your character is French, put on a beret and striped shirt and play Edith Piaf on your iPod. If your characters are in Italy, play opera and eat Italian food. Is your hero a bicyclist? Get into those biking shorts and a helmet. No, I’m not kidding, dress like the character, walk like her, talk like her, listen to her playlist, eat her favorite food – immerse yourself in her world (as much as possible). You’d be amazed at the difference it can make.

Well that’s the short list anyway. I’m sure there are many more and when I have time to think I may do another list.

What are your favorite writer hacks? Share your tricks, tips and advice in the comments. In the meantime, keep writing people – the world needs your work.

Writer Chick

What’s in a Name?

the bard clip

How I find monikers for my characters

We fiction writers have our tips and tricks for how we do what we do. And sometimes we get stuck. Personally, I can get stuck on a character name for days. And I can’t go forward until I fight the right name. It has to look right. It has to feel right. It has to sound right. And it has to sound like a real name. Like somebody you’d meet in your daily life.

Let me count the ways

Over the years I had many ways that I’d try to find just the right name. Sometimes it came out of the blue. Sometimes I’d go through phone books or other directories to find one that grabbed me. I’d scan through the obits of newspapers. But usually I’d end up thumbing through several baby name books. Yes, I have several and they have proven the wealthiest source of character names for me.

Is there meaning in the meaning?

One of the things I love about my baby name books is that they not only have hundreds of names to choose from – but that they tell you what the name means.  And this was my ‘aha!” moment with these resourceful little books. If I knew the characteristics and purpose of my characters I could find a way to match them to a name.

For example the main character in my book False Witness (insert link here) is Billy Frayne. William means ‘determined’ and Frayne means ‘stranger’. Put the two together and you get a determined stranger. This for me worked incredibly well because Billy goes off looking for a stranger to get to the truth he is determined to find. Another character in an upcoming novel is named Kennie. To ken is to know. This too is applicable to this character.

Exception to the rule

Now I don’t always use this method. Sometimes the name just comes to me.  The universe just serves it up on a silver platter and I’m off to the races. But when I get stuck thumbing through my books looking for the meaning of names often does unearth just the right one for me. It’s not always easy and it’s not always quick but it does work for me. So, if you get stuck – give it a try.

How about you? What are you secrets for find the right character name? Let me know in the comments below.

Copyright 2013

Do You Have Writer’s Burn-out?

writers

 

If you’re like me, you both love and curse a huge influx of work. Being self-employed is an adventure and freelancers are always looking toward the next job, next new client or new lead. We freelancers work hard—often into the night, on weekends and in between meals and the other necessary parts of life.

 

My first year as a freelancer produced practically no income.  Requiring a lot of fancy dancing, using up savings, doing other freelance work and unfortunately relying on credit cards.  It’s hard to break in because there is so much to do and only you to do it.  You must market, sell and then do the work.  Then you must collect for the work you have done— and sometimes the checks arrive late and sometimes the checks don’t arrive at all.

In my second year as a freelancer, I hit the mother lode.  Out of the blue a friend and fellow freelancer contacted me and asked if I could help her with an ongoing contract she has with a legal service.  At about the same time, another colleague contacted me to write for a start-up web design company. Overnight, I had more work than I could handle.  It was exciting and scary.  Exciting because of the potential of regular, good-paying work.  Scary because I had to learn a lot in a short space of time, meet deadlines and write in several fields I wasn’t personally knowledgeable about.  Necessity is the mother of invention and I managed to ride the learning curve, meet the deadlines and get the work done.  And I became pretty good at it. But…

 What day is it?

The fast and constant workflow was never-ending.  I certainly didn’t want to turn the faucet off, because I wanted the work.  But I also realized that I needed to do laundry, buy groceries and occasionally take my dog for a walk.  As my dirty house, unwashed dishes and uncaptured dust bunnies crowded around me, I couldn’t remember the last time I had a day off. While adrenaline and the profound desire to succeed drove me and enabled me to get the work done and to a high standard, I knew I couldn’t go on in this mode forever.  So, I had to figure out how to maintain the workflow but prevent the certain fate of burnout.

The small things make a difference

While I couldn’t just walk away and take a break, I did find small ways to give myself a break without stopping the flow.  Most of them quite simple, but ever so helpful:

I started to schedule my day, not just the work but personal things like laundry and grocery shopping.

  • I made an arbitrary decision that my computer was turned off at 8 p.m. no matter what.  It’s good for human eyes to look at something other than a computer screen.
  • I made a point of calling a friend every other day.  Not for any particular reason other than speaking to another human being.  Freelancing, especially freelance writing is very solitary and it’s easy to lose touch with the outside world.
  • When I needed break but didn’t want to stop the writing flow I switched to a creative piece—a story, a poem, a limerick.  When you’re burning your brain exclusively with non-fiction writing you can lose something. Switching to the right brain side of things actually helped me when I later returned to freelance work.
  • Laughing is also good for those of burned out brain. Mindless comedies, stupid jokes, funny pictures of cats, whatever tickles your funny bone can help pop you out of your head for a while.
  • Sleeping a few extra hours didn’t hurt either.

Keep yourself in fighting shape

We freelancers get used to doing it all ourselves, sitting in front of computers for 16 hours at a stretch and just muscling through all that needs to get done. But honestly, that type of strategy can lead to total burn-out and even more serious problems so don’t forget to:

  • Exercise and eat right
  • Drink lots of water
  • Organize during down times
  • Develop files that help you become more efficient
  • Make time for family and friends

After all, the reason we are in this freelancer life is so we can do what we want right?

How about you?  What do you do for writer’s burn out?  Let me know in the comments below.

 

Writer Chick

Copyright 2013

 

Are Your Characters on Board?

storyboard

I am a visual person and I find that using this type of cue enhances my writing.  For instance, if I want to write about a place I haven’t visited, I find pictures, movies or videos about that place and use them to ‘learn’ that location.

One of the best visual aids I’ve used when putting a story together is a character board.  I’ve always believed that before you sit down and type Chapter One you should have a firm grip on who your characters are and using character boards is an easy and effective way of doing this.

Creating a character board is simple – start by grabbing a stack of magazines and page through them, looking for your characters.  “Ah yes, that blonde in the toothpaste ad is perfect for Suzie Jones.  And that mutt chowing down on Purina is just the right sidekick for my hero, Joe.”

Clip out pictures of anything that relates to your characters – whether pictures of people, the cars they drive, the homes they live in, the bistros they frequent or the brand of poison they drink.  You don’t need to stop at pictures either, you can add ticket stubs, a favorite poem or quote, a piece of hair ribbon, whatever you feel represents the life and experiences of your characters.

Once you have collected the pictures, mementos and items you want to use, sort them by character.  You might find you have too much for some characters and not enough for others but don’t worry, the board, like your story will evolve over time.  You can add, change, or completely overhaul it whenever you feel the need.

Putting it Together

These are the general steps I follow:

  • On a large piece of poster board or bulletin board, plot out a section for each character.
  • At the top of each section, write the character’s name on a piece of paper and use that as a heading.
  • Assemble the pictures and items in a way that communicates your character to you, attaching them either with glue, tape or push pins.
  • If a character has a long lifespan in your story, use pictures and items that show her progressing in age and how her likes and dislikes change throughout her life.
  • Continue this process until you’ve got all your characters added and the entire board done.

If you have several major characters in your story, you may need two boards or one very large one—it’s your choice.  Make it as sparse or detailed as you like, it’s your character board, and the cues are for you and you alone to inspire your story and your characters.

Does it Work?

When you have finished, step back and look at your character board and ask yourself:

  • Is it a good representation of your characters?
  • Does it give you good visual cues that will facilitate your story and character development?
  • Does it make you smile because your characters now feel more alive, more real to you?

If the answer is yes, then you’re done.  If not, rework the board until it feels right to you.

Hang your completed character board over your desk or in a prominent place in your writing space where you can easily see it, while writing.  Not only will it help you keep your characters firmly in your mind, but it will also inspire you to continue writing their story and keep your characters on board.

How about you? Do you have a technique that you use to make your characters more real? Share it in the comments.

Writer Chick

Copyright 2013

Secret Writer Behavior

I admit it, I was a Sex in the City junkie. Although I never watched the show while it was on the air, I did start watching it when it went into syndication.  Again and again. One of my favorite episodes is when Carrie laments about losing her SSB – secret single behavior- because she was now living with her boyfriend. SSB is the stuff you love to do when you’re alone.  Whether it’s jacking up the sound system and playing air guitar with Clapton, chowing down on some Hagan Daas, or chatting on Facebook in your undies, SSB is a guilty pleasure. And I think that most of us can identify with the concept, male or female.

I won’t divulge my SSB but I wondered if SSB also extended to other things, like writing for instance. Do you have any secret writing behavior (SWB)? I know I do and it includes things like:

  • Cursing all the way through a writing project I hate. Let’s face it, not all your projects are going to be fun or interesting. Many of your projects will be tedious and for clients who are difficult to please. For me, giving in to my angry cussing side makes it easier to get through the pain. I pound on the keyboard and let the cursing rip like I’m a parrot on Thunderbird.
  • Talking to my characters. Now this may not be too weird to another writer but when your room mate is in the next room and hears you scolding, cajoling or encouraging people who only exist in your head it’s not easy to explain.
  • Acting out the scenes. Yep, that’s right. If I am trying to write a scene where the character is doing something a little weird, I literally put myself in that situation and see what it’s like. For example, a current story I’m writing involves a character who is blind, so I practiced walking up and down the hallway with my eyes closed. Another thing I wouldn’t want my room mate to see or have to give an explanation for.
  • Writing naked. Sometimes you just have to let it all hang out to get those writing juices flowing, right? Okay seriously, am I the only one?
  • Getting into character. If I am writing a character who has an accent, affliction or some other unusual characteristic, I become them. Whether it’s a southern drawl, a Midwestern twang or a bow legged stance – if I have to don a cowboy hat and do the two step to get it right, I’m game.

Now I don’t know if any of my SWB really makes me a better writer or enables me to write more effectively but I do know it’s a lot of fun and not stuff I like to do when others around. And maybe that’s why writers like to be alone when they write. They may say that it’s because they need the quiet to focus and concentrate but I’m willing to bet it’s because there is some secret writer behavior going on too.

How about you, what is your secret writer behavior? Has any non-writer caught you in the act? Tell me about it in the comments.

Writer Chick

Copyright 2012

Should a Writer Keep Stats?

Anyone who has blogged or has a website is familiar with the concept of stats.  We all want to see how many hits we got and what posts people liked, traffic sources, time spent on pages, conversion rates, and so on.  And as writers we can take a cue from our blogs and websites and consider keeping some stats of our own.

What kind of stats might a writer keep?  I can think of several off the top of my head:

  • # of words written (can be tracked daily, weekly, and/or monthly)
  • # of submissions
  • Income/royalties (weekly, monthly, quarterly)
  • # of promotional pieces sent out (could be emails, newsletters, info packets, prospect letters, etc.)
  • # of reaches/inquiries
  • # of assignments landed
  • # of pages edited
  • # of queries sent
  • # of completed projects

The above are just examples of stats you might want to track, depending on what kind of writing you do (freelance or fiction, or both) and naturally you would tailor your stats to your own production and specific activities.

Why keep stats?

There are several reasons you may want to keep stats aside from the obvious stat of income derived from your writing.  By breaking down the process and tracking and monitoring other stats you can see how much activity results in income or publication or your desired result.  For example, if you had a completed novel and your goal was to get published, you would track how many queries you sent to publishers and as you start to get a response you can see how many queries you have to send in order to get a response.  The same would be true for a copywriter looking for more clients, how many promotional letters do you have to send out to get someone reaching back for your services?  And then how many bids do you have to give in order to land a client?

The same would hold true for fiction writers who want to publish short stories.  How many submissions before you get interest in your story, or publication?

Even if you are just setting out to write a novel, targeting a completion date can help you to get that novel written.  Tracking daily and weekly word counts can help you ramp up your efforts if you are falling short or keep you on track if you are clipping along.

In fact, anyone who has their own business or even a large goal they want to accomplish can be helped by using statistics to track their progress.  Statistics can help to motivate you and keep your eye on the ball.

While writing is a creative endeavor it is, like any other activity, also a numbers game.  The more writing you do, the better you get, and the more consistent you are the better result you reap.  And while keeping stats won’t make you a better writer, it will make you a more productive writer and that, as Martha likes to say, is a good thing.

What do you think – would keeping stats help you as a writer?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Writer Chick

Copyright 2012