Six Paths of Writer Success

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group

September 1 question – How do you define success as a writer? Is it holding your book in your hand? Having a short story published? Making a certain amount of income from your writing?

Six Paths of Writer Success

While most people believe a writer’s success is by how many books are sold and the money they make, it’s not the only way to identify writer success. There are multiple ways to measure that success. These are a few that I’ve identified.

Path #1: Financial Success – This is the measurement stick most people—readers, critics, and other writers—use to determine if a writer is successful or not. Are they a best-selling author? Did they make the New York Times list? Did they receive a huge advancement?

Path #2: Review Success – The number of reviews readers leave can be a huge measure of success if the bulk of the reviews are positive. Getting notes and messages from fans is always a thrill. It’s the equivalent of Sally Field’s award-winning speech of “They like me!”

My best friend from high school who got a copy of my book a couple days before I got my copies! She’s one of my biggest fans!

Path #3: Word-of-Mouth Success – There’s no better measure of a writer’s project than it getting a lot of reader word-of-mouth promotion. Nothing can top it. Word of mouth praise sells books. And, there’s nothing more fun than seeing friends of my friends stating, “She’s a good writer,” or “I love her writing!”

Path #4: Publication Success – Before writers could become indie publishers, a writer’s success was hinged solely by being accepted by an agent or editor. The only other option open for writers to publish without an agent or editor back then was to use a vanity press, where the writer paid to have the book published, and then the author would go out and peddle the book. It worked for Robert James Waller who self-published his book, The Bridges of Madison County. He filled his trunk with copies and drove across the country giving them away, seeking out radio stations for live interviews.

With the advent of the eBook, independent publishing (self-publishing, indie publishing) became possible. That avenue became a game changer for many writers, including me, even though I had been traditionally published in the 1990s with three of these books, which I retitled and have republished. Today, any writer can get their book(s) published and in any format: print, e-Book, audible, large print, and so forth.

To date, I’ve published eight books and edited a ninth that included one of my short stories, publishing it for a writer’s group that I belong to.

Path #5: Film Rights Success – The dream of any writer of fiction is to see their story on the screen—big or small. I keep hoping and keep writing the scripts.

Path #6: Journey Success – This measure of success is all about self-satisfaction. The first time a writer pens The End, it is a huge achievement of a dream becoming reality. And then, opening a box and seeing a stack of my newest release never gets old. Ever. (Three such past boxes being opened.)

Currently, as I come to the end of writing a how-to nonfiction book and am finishing the small-town romance series I’ve been working on for the last few years, I’m enjoying how my fire is directing and driving me toward my desk every day.

Watching the words pile up, getting into the writing zone, and watching the hours fade into each day’s end are self-satisfying beyond words. Amazingly so. There is no other emotion or feeling like it.

I love all these various moments and events of success. How could I not?

*****

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

Posted in #IWSG, Writer at Work | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

The Writer’s Journey Recommendation

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group

August 4 question – What is your favorite writing craft book? And why?

The Writer’s Journey Recommendation

Ever since its publication in 1992 when I bought the book, my recommendation is and always has been Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Storytellers & Screenwriters.

Syd Field’s book, Screenplay published in 1979, introduced me to the structural three acts of screenwriting. Vogler’s book built upon it, showing where the emotions, conflict, and character goal (internal and external) take place and how they drive the plot forward within that three-act structure, using twelve important plot points.

Anyone since then who has developed a seemly new structure has basically used Vogler’s model but has renamed the plot points or provided something that made the new model unique.

For example, one structure has 22 steps. Popular right now is the story line with 14 beats. Another one has 15 beats. There’s always a new method coming out, all shiny and bright. But, it’s still the same information with the same foundation, just renamed, offering new insight.

While most of these other models are good and many find worthwhile, none hold the same esteem and respect that The Writer’s Journey did and still does for me.

*****

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

Posted in #IWSG, Writing Behind the Scenes | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Going Wide…Maybe

I can be so stupid sometimes.

Up until now, all of my eBooks have been published on Amazon and through their Amazon Select program, which means it’s sold exclusively through Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited (KU) program. Instead of buying books, those Amazon readers who pay a monthly fee get to read it and any other books they desire for no other charge.  

Up until now, half of my eBook royalties have come from pages getting read. The other option author have to sell their eBooks would be to go wide, which means remove it from KU, though I can still sell it on Amazon as an eBook and selling it through additional distributors. The best places that my research revealed and was highly approved of by other authors was to use Draft2Digital (D2D) and Smashwords, the latter only because D2D doesn’t distribute to it. D2D does distribute to digital stores: Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, Tolino, and Vivlio; the subscription service of Scribd; and Kobo plus territories: Belgium, Netherlands, and Canada.

But, which eBook(s) did I want to start with, experiment with? I did some investigative research. One of my books, Grendel’s Mother, does extremely well with pages read and eBooks purchased through Amazon. My romances: Love’s New Beginnings, Tomorrow’s Wishes, and Determined Hearts do not. So, it had to be one of these latter three.

When you put an eBook into KU, you do so for 90 days. I’ve always chosen to have that 90 days renewed automatically. This time, I unclicked that auto-renewal box for the first one that would renew: Love’s New Beginnings.

Then, I went to D2D and uploaded the book. I put in my desired publication date, which would be the day after it came out of KU. I pushed the publish button thinking it wouldn’t publish until my indicated date.

To my horror, the book published immediately as a preorder book! No, no, no! Turn it off, turn it off!  

I scurried like a frantic squirrel in the road with an oncoming car: where to go?

Ten minutes later, I saw the panic button I needed to push. It said DELIST. I clicked on it. Immediately, my book was delisted. No more preorders.

A huge sigh of relief.

The day it was free from KU came and went. I kept checking D2D to see how the book was doing.

No sales. Nothing.

What??? How can that be? I had the publishing date correct.

Today, two weeks and a day later, I went back into D2D to check on the book. Still no sales. And then, I saw it.

DELISTED

Stupid! You have to republish it!

I pushed the publish button. Everything turned green. Yay.

Posted in Indie Publisher, Persistance, Writer at Work | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Teaching again…

Squeeeeeee! I’m going to be teaching again!

The class is Time Management for Writers; and actually, the class is applicable for anyone who struggles with managing their time. The principles and science are the same for everyone, regardless of their career or goal(s) they’re trying to reach.

The class takes place February 1-25, 2022, via email. Registration is located on the WritersUniv.com web. Click here for details.

Anytime I’ve been able to teach anything about writing—whether it’s creative writing or the business of writing, regardless of genre—I’m having a good time.

I enjoy sharing information. I especially enjoy watching the light bulb reactions that my students and participants have when they get it.

I enjoy watching empowerment happen. The expressions of joy I’ve witnessed is inspirational. I always smile watching someone’s confidence rise because they’re mastering a skill they never thought they had or were told they never would have.

I enjoy learning from others. I learn as much from my students and workshop/roundtable participants as they learn from me! I’ve even been corrected from time to time. After all, information is not always static. Improvements and new information are made and found all the time.

I’m even toying with setting up some live Zoom meetings, where I teach creative writing/business writing in two-hour workshops. Maybe even set-up some free Q&A/discussion sessions. There are so many writing topics that could be covered! What do you think?

Posted in teaching, writing | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Getting Back to Normal – But What Does Normal Look Like?

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group

July 7 question – What would make you quit writing?

Getting Back to Normal – But What Does Normal Look Like?

My answer to the question of What would make you quit writing? is simple: my death. Or, being incapacitated to the point I can’t see, can’t type, can’t think.

That said, I did struggle with writing recently. My son-in-law died of Covid-19 on April 29.

At first, I resisted the writing—it was hard to start again—but thanks to the weekly Zoom write-in meetings I had with a group of writers, I was able to find that familiar joyful rhythm again.

The promotions, though… Since April, I’ve not been doing any—not for my books or for my writer friends. I couldn’t even perform a simple retweet.

Every time I tried to do any kind of promotion for my books, I struggled and ended up walking away from it all. I’d purposefully delete the emails with links to share, so I didn’t have to deal with it.

I realized in answering the question for today’s blog that something had to change. I didn’t like the monstrous time I’d spent in the past, promoting with little results to show for it. I wasn’t looking forward to doing it again.

Wanting to put the joy of writing back into the writing and why I do it in the first place, I had to dig down deep. Here’s what I came up with:

  1. I want to depend on and work toward more word-of-mouth advertising, where fans share my books and my self-created promos on social media. If it doesn’t happen, so be it. If it happens slowly, so be it.
  2. I want to become more connected in online writing groups where I can share my experience and knowledge. Even if I get back nothing in return. I’m paying forward the help I’ve received over the years.
  3. I want to spend more time writing, teaching, and coaching than I do promoting.
  4. I want to become part of the 5% of authors who write more than 12 books,[1] where everyone else with fewer books has quit writing. I’ve got 9 so far. When I’m finished with my novella series, I’ll have 15. I’m working on getting them finished.
  5. I acknowledge that being an author—traditional or indie published—is a long game, even though I’ve been writing for 45 years.
  6. I will no longer look at my $15-25 per month royalties as sad, but as progress in this long game from where I started at $0 with the creation of my production company in 2015, and which became a new direction/life for me, a reinvention actually.
  7. I will remind myself upon learning of another author’s promotional success that while it works for them, that doesn’t mean it’ll work for me. I will focus, instead, on those methods that DO work for me. I’ll concentrate on a few methods rather than on many.
  8. I want to thank those who subscribed to my newsletter and have stayed because I have something to offer them.
  9. I want to thank those who subscribed to my newsletter and then unsubscribed because I wasn’t a good fit for them. I’m ecstatic that they gave me a try, because…
  10. I want followers who are genuinely interested in my work and me. I want to have earned that follow.

If putting joy back into my writing is my mission statement, then these ten points are my vision statement, specific steps to make that mission statement a reality.

Based on my vision, I don’t see me quitting anytime soon. In fact, after finishing this blog and scheduling it to publish, I went and did some retweets. The next step is to schedule some of my own promotional posts.

Nope, quitting isn’t on my radar anytime soon.

*****

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!


[1] Jane Friedman’s Electric Speed email newsletter, June 26, 2021.

Posted in #IWSG, Struggling to write | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

2 Reasons Why You Don’t Want to Be an Author

1) There’s no money in it.

Are you surprised?

There is money in the publishing industry, though, for those who provide you a service as you create your book: from the classes you take, those who do your editing, formatting, help you develop your story, the virtual assistant(s) you hire to save you time, and so forth.

In his article, “How Much Money Do Authors Actually Earn?” Lincoln Michel states that 99% of all writers will need other jobs beyond the actual writing.

Jane Friedman states in her blog, “How Much Do Authors Earn? Here’s the Answer No One Likes” that “the majority of writers don’t earn a living from book sales alone.”

She revealed that her book, The Business of Writing has earned $25,000 since 2018.

Clearly not enough for any author to live on.

Friedman further reveals that her books earn only five percent of her total income. The rest comes from her “paid subscription newsletter, and her services, which includes consulting and teaching.”

Most every writer I know started writing books and scripts for the same reason. They were enticed by the money. Even readers believe authors earn lots of money. After all, don’t we read about the first-time authors who hit it big with six or seven advances? Those stories dominate the news.

I’ll admit it. I wanted to be a writer earning money from writing books. Along the way, that including writing screenplays, wanting to see my name on the big screen, too.

Even though I treated my writing as a business and was always trying to earn a living from my writing, I always needed a day job to pay for the writing expenses.

Once I became a published author, I was approached and asked to teach others how to write, how to get published, how to find an agent, and so forth. I discovered there was decent money in teaching. It’s why you see so many writers teaching! Not to mention paid spending engagements where their expenses are paid—travel, hotel, conference fee—plus, they earn a stipend. And, if they’re lucky, they sell a few more books.

It’s the rare author who earns a living from their books alone. I know of only three such writers personally. In two cases, they treat it like a forty-hour-per-week-plus job, and they have a huge number of books published—more than most writers will ever write. One has her husband doing the editing and formatting.

The third writer, who has less than a dozen books published, invests heavily in Amazon ads. She spends hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to earn it back and a third more.

2) Becoming an author is about playing the long game

All three said it took time for their sales to grow. It didn’t happen overnight, and it took constant vigilance in doing promotions, and writing more books.

Again, it’s the rare author who makes it big right from the beginning. It’s not the norm.

My favorite example of the long game is Andy Weir, the author of The Martian. The story began as a serialized blog, free to his readers. They wanted the book, so he offered it for sale for only $.99 on Amazon Kindle where it became a best-seller that attracted a literary agent and a sale to Crown Publishing Group.

Weir began his writing career in the mid-1990s. The Martian was published by Crown in 2014. Twenty-four years.

I’ve been writing for over forty-five years. Truly, the long game. With my share of teaching and presentations.

So, why am I still willing to play the long game? Two reasons.

  1. It’s the only way I can give a home to the many characters and ideas who follow and travel with me 24/7.
  2. Lightning has to strike somewhere, doesn’t it?

In the meantime, I’ll continue adding books to my portfolio, and in February 2022, I’ll be teaching online again, details to follow.

So, how long are you willing to play the long game?

Posted in Indie Publisher, Publishing, Publishing books, Writer at Work | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

7 Good—and not so good—Reasons Why I Shelve First Drafts

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group

The question being asked this month for June 2, 2021: For how long do you shelve your first draft, before reading it and re-drafting? Is this dependent on your writing experience and the number of stories/books under your belt?

7 Good—and not so good—Reasons Why I Shelve First Drafts

From the beginning of my writing career, I was always shelving first drafts for various reasons. They are:

  1. I start a new project with great enthusiasm and after writing the initial idea, I run out of steam.
  2. A new idea pops up, so I desert anything else I’m working on to pursue that new dream: see #1.
  3. Once I perform the initial writing, create an outline, and research everything I’ll need, I finish the first draft fast. In the process, I discover holes in my plotting, characterization, or that I need more research.
  4. A major life event occurs, demanding all writing stops.
  5. I’ve finished that first draft and am not ready to begin the revision process. I need a break.
  6. Because I can.
  7. Procrastination. I just don’t want to.

Some projects get shelved by design, the rest…okay only #4 gets shelved because I have no control over the situation.

The longest a project has been shelved and which is still in the running—23 years so far.

The shortest shelf time for a fully finished first draft was for 10 years, but the totally writing time in that period was about 2 years. Each time I thought I had a finished draft, I discovered I really didn’t. It was shelved several times before reaching fully finished status.

Smaller projects, like short essays, are usually shelved for a few days to a week or two, simply for proof-reading concerns, but these don’t count. It’s usually the much longer projects that get shelved for any real duration.

My Lauren Ridge romance novella series I’m working on had the first story published in 2017. I’ve been picking away at the remaining 6 stories ever since. I just finished editing and proof-reading #2, giving it 6 final reads. It’ll be shelved as I work on #3.

I’m determined this is the year I’ll get past all these first drafts that have been shelved for this series and publish the darn thing.

Only to turn to another project that has been shelved with either a partial or full first draft.

And, so it goes.

Shelved first drafts . . . waiting to be finished and/or polished.

******

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

Posted in #IWSG, Struggling to write | 6 Comments

Reader Surprise & Reader Expectation(s)

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group

The question being asked this month for May 2021 is: Has any of your readers ever responded to your writing in a way that you didn’t expect? If so, did it surprise you?

Reader Surprise & Reader Expectation(s)

While I like to think that not much surprises me anymore, there have been two times when I was surprised by what a reader asked or expressed.

The first time:

Upon learning I was an author, the individual asked, “Have I read anything you’ve written?”

I’ll leave you with that one for a second. (Are you laughing yet?)  I wanted to laugh but didn’t. I stared for short moment, thinking, how do I answer that one? I came up with:

“Since I don’t know what you’ve read, I have no idea.”

He blinked a few times. I’m not sure if he realized what he’d actually asked or not. Thankfully, someone else was already talking about something else.

The second time:

A reviewer responded to my novel, Grendel’s Mother, a book where I gave voice and a backstory to a character from Beowulf who previously had no voice. I stayed true to Beowulf and all incidents regarding Grendel, his mother, and Beowulf’s interaction with them.

Even someone who hasn’t read Beowulf can still read and enjoy Grendel’s Mother. It’s a stand-alone novel.

The reviewer’s comment essentially was, “I’d like to see a sequel.”

Say what? Did you actually read my story? Truly, an impossible feat considering the events at the end of my story. Because the review was online, I didn’t respond, as a good author shouldn’t.

As I was telling someone later about this comment, they said, “Well, couldn’t there be a sequel with Grendel’s children?”

I continue to be surprised.


Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!


Posted in #amwriting, #IWSG, Readers and Fans | 7 Comments

Risk-Taking Writers

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group

The question being asked this month for April 2021 is: Are you a risk-taker when writing? Do you try something radically different in style/POV/etc. or add controversial topics to your work?

Risk-Taking Writers

Something I’ve noticed over the years about writers and their writings: the more risks the writer takes, the better the odds of selling that work.

Even though publishers and agents say they’re looking for XYZ, which is usually the new and different story that’s become a blockbuster or best-selling sensation, wanting to ride the wave of popularity for that kind of story, what they’re really looking for is something that hasn’t been done before, because that’s exactly what that XYZ story has done

When I started writing Grendel’s Mother, I knew I was taking a risk. Purposefully. My vision was that Grendel’s Mother would be read in English literature classrooms, alongside Beowulf, and I saw Grendel’s Mother, too, as a commercial entity much like Clan of the Cave Bear. I was amazed how other writers with no real authority—meaning as publishers, purchasers of manuscripts—told me that I had to choose; it couldn’t be both. And yet, many of the current fictional bestsellers are both. Did they not recognize or understand the difference of literary books from commercials books?

I wrote and published it anymore. The readers are in two camps, most appear to like it. Some don’t, but then they didn’t like Clan of the Cave Bear either.

As writers, we take risks every day, exposing ourselves, even if minute pieces of ourselves, in our stories.

As writers, we take risks knowing we’ll draw both the fans who love our work and the critics who will tear it apart. Not liking some while others love it is pure human nature. There are lots of books that I don’t like, but I also recognize I don’t have to like everything. We’re not meant to agree on everything.

As writers, we take risks when writing against the norm, then being told by non-writers and specific genre writers that it can’t be done, whether it’s the subject matter, the POV, the tense used, or the type of character.

I do it anyway. I don’t listen to the noise.

I write what interests me. Some ideas are risky, some not; but I’ve noticed that the riskier the idea, the more excited I become about the writing.

Innovators are risk takers. Innovators push the boundaries, and an innovative writer will push the boundaries of genre, style, characterization, narrative, plot, and even punctuation. They follow their own vision regardless of trends.

It’s that how new trends start?


Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

Posted in #amwriting, #IWSG | 4 Comments

Home

She looks at me like I’m old news. I’ve seen that look before, just before she got rid of her favorite high heels and those sneakers that had supported her forest walks and trips to the zoo. Unlike before when there used to be replacements, now their spots remain empty.  

At one time, I was untouched and unblemished, fully fur-line with bright, spunky fur that totally embraced her icy cold feet.

Now my fur is worn and flattened, disheveled as if caught in a bad whirlwind of a muddy storm. My insides are still warm and I’ll admit I’m tired, but I’m still functional. So what if I have a few worn-down spots? Inside and out. My soles are like steel now. Hardened and experienced.

She sighs every time she slips into me. Her worry lines disappearing. How can any replacement provide that same level of comfort? It would take any replacement months, probably even a year before they’d hear that same sigh.

Doesn’t she realize I’m home?

How can she throw away home?

Posted in #amwriting, fiction, Writer at Work, Writing Behind the Scenes | Tagged , | 2 Comments