David posted this question on my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page:
If an unpublished writer, with a completed and polished but still unsold novel, and maybe more novels (and some non-fiction ideas) in various stages of development, has severely limited time to put into writing (let’s say 10 hours or less per week), how will that time be best spent? The way I understand it, these are the demands for a novelist’s time:
– craft development (the words)
– art development (the story-telling)
– story research
– market research
– industry research (queries, proposals, agents, trends, etc.)
– publishing industry relationship building
– platform building
– marketing education/development
– idea capturing and future work development
– critique group
– probably something else I’m missing
How would you rank these in importance for an unpublished writer?
Randy sez: Holy Smokes! That’s a hard question, and one we all face. A lot depends on where you are on the road to publication. If you haven’t read my article, “Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Author!” then you should probably read that first. It spells out the various stages you pass through as you go from novice to pro.
If you’re a Freshman, then you should focus on craft first. Learn the skills of writing good fiction. You do that by writing a lot, by getting your work critiqued, and by studying the theory of fiction (from books or lectures).
If you’re a Sophomore, keep doing that, but also start learning a bit about the industry and also how to write a proposal.
If you’re a Junior, your craft should now be very good. Keep improving it, but now begin to focus on how to sell your work. You should be going to conferences and meeting agents and submitting your work. This is hard and scary and can be crushing (if you have an attitude that you must succeed instantly or your life is a failure). But it’s necessary and all published authors go through this stage.
If you’re a Senior, then all of the above, but now you need to be also thinking about building your platform. This may be public speaking (for a few authors) or a blog (for others) or magazine articles (if you prefer print to the web) or podcasting (if you’re good at talking) or some other way of building your platform. Or you can do as the vast majority of writers do, and simply skip the platform-building altogether. You won’t die if you do this. You may end up with a GREAT publisher who promotes you effectively. But the odds are than any publisher will work harder for you if they think you’re already working hard for yourself.
So the answer to David’s question is this: “It depends on where you are. You can’t master everything all at once. So focus on where you are right now and do the things you need to do to get to the next stage in your career.”
If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer in public on this blog, hop on over to my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page and submit your question. I’ll answer them in the order they come in.