Monday, 6 June 2016

Five Questions I'm Asked Frequently About Putting Your Writing Online

I mostly get asked these questions by family or friends, with a smattering of online buddies, and I always preface answering them with: I'm not an expert. Simply because I'm not. I'm an amateur in a sea of people who know a hell of a lot more than I do, but, they're good questions, and ones most people, whether they're creative types or not, face daily.

They predominantly focus on doubts, so I say damn those doubts to hell...

But we're all human, so most of the time we're slaves to indecision and self-sabotage.

So I hope my opinion on these questions helps fortify your more optimistic side.

1. Do you feel you jumped the gun when you shared your writing with the big bad world?

Yes and no.

This is a doubt I most contend with when my mind spins itself round to my dream of being an author. And it's a hard question to try and answer. My writing, to be brutally honest, was absolute crap. I was idealistic and too busy wanting to dive into the pool of writing to take a long, hard look at myself and my works. In that respect, I definitely jumped the gun, and in many ways, it's a mistake I continue to beat myself up for.

But, for me, it was a necessary step. I've never been under the illusion of making it big and being this wealthy paragon of stories. Thankfully I have my realistic cap on, even if the dreams swirling beneath it are restless devils. My inexperience helped me gain experience. For the most part, the bookish community is one the nicest and most forgiving communities I've been a part of. Make a mistake? They'll tell you with the utmost respect and with criticism that teaches you immeasurably.

The writing I've done isn't perfect, even as I apply and reapply knowledge I learn on the journey. They're not going to win prizes or blow people's minds, but they're integral steps for my development as a writer. Almost all authors will tell you that the only way to be a writer is to write. Write poorly, fail and fail and fail, then accept pointers from readers who know what they want. Learn from your rubbish and turn inexperience into intelligence. 

One of the best ways to get better is to join the reading community, share your dream, and listen to their wisdom.

2. But if you release bad stuff online, won't your dream as a writer die?

This is one I hear a lot, and it flies in the face of every piece of advice a successful author will give you. No one starts off as an expert. With everything in life, you begin as a beginner, and one of the best ways to proceed from that point is on-the-job training. You can't learn if you aren't open to criticism. 

More simply: If you don't ask the question, how will you get the answer?

But what if you're like me? If the dream is to be traditionally published? Won't bad writing online affect their opinion? I'm not experienced enough in these areas to give a definitive answer, which could be said of all these questions, but common sense says no.

If, after you've shared rubbish online and knuckled down to use the varying criticisms to better your writing, you create something you feel is worthy, don't be afraid to send it away. Because if it is worthy, if an agent and/or publisher think it has potential to sell and work, then they're going to push it. In this instance it all comes down to the bottom line. If your work has the potential to sell, even if you have writing online that might not be bestseller material, then that's all that matters.

Publishing houses need money to keep publishing, and if your story helps, nothing will stop it.

3. Negative reviews will destroy you, though, right?

Only if you let them. If you let someone's opinion dictate your dreams, how much did you really want those dreams in the first place?

Readers aren't idiots. If they see a review that rips into a book or an author for no apparent reason, then they're probably going to dismiss it. The same goes for overwhelmingly positive reviews. Readers are more likely to read mixed opinions, opinions that highlight the good and criticise the bad. 

If a negative review is respectfully put and contains sound reasoning, take it as a win. Why? Because that person didn't have to offer you anything. There are a finite amount of books that a reader can read in their lifetime, and if one such reader has taken the time to read part or all of your writing and gives you advice, be thankful. 

You've just learned something.

4. Does reading and blogging help develop your writing skills?

Hell to the yes! They're probably the two most integral hobbies. Reading helps a writer see what works: How to structure both their writing and story; how to balance plot progression with character progression; what readers want. It sparks that creative fire that wants to ignite in all of us, and the inspiration you earn from a writer further in their journey is invaluable.

Blogging works much the same way, only it puts your writing to the test. Blogging helps you structure; it helps you work on your flow so potential readers have an easy time of getting from top to bottom. It's also another place to improve, to test varying styles to see which you feel more comfortable with. 

5. You're hard on yourself, are you really that bad a writer?

Probably not, but that's not for me to say, everyone's opinion is subjective.

I suppose I'm extremely critical of myself because I want to improve, and if I keep kicking myself, I hopefully prevent the ol' ego from ever growing when something positive happens. People work differently, with most having strengths and weaknesses in different places.

I have been so close to just scrapping everything I've wrote so many times, and if you feel this way, just remember: Failure is a part of your foundation, and if you reject it, you'll crumble.

If you have a dream then you should chase it.

No matter what gets in your way.

(Sorry for the shameless use of gifs, I couldn't help myself.)

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