Wednesday, July 06, 2022

10,000 Hours

 This post is dedicated to a writer friend who is just getting started and feeling a bit down about his ability. It's also for all those who are working to accomplish anything.

Do you know how long it takes to become a master electrician? I googled. 12,000 hours working under a master electrician plus at least 2 years as a journeyman. I mathed, too.  Divide that by 40 hours which would be an average work week, and you get 300 weeks...and since there are 52 weeks in a year, it would take almost 6 years to get those 12,000 hours. So, let's say about 8 years to become a master electrician.

To become a master welder takes anywhere from 5 to 6 years.

A master carpenter at least 5 years.

To become a dentist is a minimum of 8 years. And if you want to specialize, add a couple more.

Doctors take anywhere from 10 to 14 years. And again, if you specialize, it's more time learning.

Want to go into music?

To become professional level classical pianist takes 10 to 15 years of study with a master pianist along with hours of daily practice.

If you want to play the violin and only practice an hour a day, it'll take about 27 years to master it.

Flute more your style? If you practice only a half hour a day, count on about 22 years to be proficient. If you just want to be decent, you can get there in about 500 hours or 3 years.

So, to my writing friend...

They (I'm not sure who they are but...) say it takes about 10,000 hours to be proficient as a writer. And, if you only write 4 hours a week, it'd take you about 48 years.

That's a long time. A real long time. And a lot of words on the page, or screen if you are using a computer. 

All that to say, you're doing fine. Yes, you have some things you need to work on, but you'll get there. You'll write, rewrite, write some more, and then rewrite that. And you'll study your craft. You'll read a lot. You'll read how-to books, and study books of those who write professionally. When you read a novel, you'll see things like how characters change and grow over the story or how the author makes the reader care about what's happening to those characters. 

And then, you'll write some more. And rewrite. And you'll get better. 

To those of you who aren't writers...learning a new thing is hard. It takes time and work. Don't let slow progress get you down. Progress is progress and you'll get there. 

Now, I'm off to put words on the page. I've still about40 years to go. 

Monday, July 04, 2022

Shoulder Vultures

 Yep, something to go along with yesterday's post. Anyone suffer from shoulder vultures? 

For us writers, they says things like, "No one wants to read anything you write." Or, "You're the worst writer, ever."  Or, "You have nothing of interest to be blogging about."

For some, it's a lack of self-confidence. Maybe it's the fear we can't live up to the expectations of others. Or, we put so much pressure on ourselves, it's easier to not do things that challenge us.

Years ago, a lot of them, I took an online writing course. I sent in my first assignment and eagerly awaited the day it would return with comments from my instructor. At least, I waited eagerly until it came in the mail and I had it in hand. Then, I sat on my bed and stared at it for a couple hours before daring to open it. Her comments were much better than I thought they'd be and I felt silly for not opening the assignment sooner.

This online school had a chat room. Like I said, this was a LONG time ago. Chat rooms were a great way to meet people and socialize without leaving your house. In this chat room, I met another instructor who explained about shoulder vultures. 

Shoulder vultures are sneaky. They show up when you least expect them and they whisper just the right things to make you question everything. They aren't pleasant.

But, you can get rid of them. At least temporarily. For me, I kept copies of critiques with all the positive comments highlighted. After a while, I kept rejection letters that encouraged me with an "almost, but not quite, try again with something else" comment. Then I added acceptance letters and emails from contests I'd won. And when one of those shoulder vultures showed up, I'll pull out my pile of encouragement and show them that, yes, I'm a darn good writer. They'd squawk a bit and leave.

So, here's the thing. We are all going to have doubts. Some days are going to suck. And, that's okay. 

My daughter and I are members at the same gym and we both have personal trainers. Which I highly recommend. Her trainer is the male version of Jillian Michaels but we both really enjoy him. He tells her that yes, it's hard, it's gonna be sore, and sometimes it's just going to plain suck. He says for her to embrace the suck and move forward. And that's good advice for all of us. 

So, I leave you with this thought. Have you ever noticed how one negative comment or criticism can wipe out and make us forget the 99 positive ones? Writers are really bad about this. We get one negative review and we focus on it instead of the 99 good ones. Let's be more mindful of the good ones. 

Sunday, July 03, 2022

Imposter Syndrome

The fear of being found out that you aren't as competent as people think you are.

I read that about 70% of folks out there have some form of imposter syndrome. And yes, imposter is spelled both ways. I'm not sure which is more correct. I'm sure someone knows, but I'm not going to look it up. But it's a strange thing. I once had frequent bouts of  imposter syndrome. It doesn't happen as often now but still, it does.

For example, I had a critique partner that no matter what I wrote, found major flaws. Or at least, that's what this person made them out to be. I let this person get in my head, screw with my self-confidence, and stop me from doing what I love. It took a long time for me to get over it.

Last year when I joined a local gym, I definitely had imposter syndrome. The feeling of not belonging. That's getting better too. Thanks to great gym staff, an awesome personal trainer, and time. 

So, what do you do with it?

First, realize it for what it is. It's a feeling, self-doubt. It's not the truth. Take an honest look at your abilities. If you need to get better at whatever, then do so. But don't be so hard on yourself. Which leads to the next thing.

Perfection...let it go!!! No one is perfect and striving for perfection is only going to lead to anxiety and stress. Always do your best, of course, but don't stress over what you can't control. Which brings us to...

Have self-compassion. Again, don't be so hard on yourself. 

And finally...celebrate your successes. 

For me, that means continuing to go to the gym and working out. And when I reach a new personal record, I celebrate it. Even if it seems insignificant, it's still important that I acknowledge each milestone. For my writing, I've changed to a different critique partner who knows my genre. I've also realized that I'm a darn good writer and the opinion of one person doesn't change that.

So, are you one of the 70%? If so, how do you deal with imposter syndrome?

Saturday, July 02, 2022

Hey, write for free!

 Why do publishers think it's okay for writers to not be paid for their work? I mean, really? And writer's aren't the only other daughter is an artist and has the same problem. Pardon me while I get on my soapbox.

Let's put some numbers out here. Let's say it takes 120 hours to write a complete novel. That's just an average, some take longer and some not so much. Now, if writing was a "paid" job, at just $10 an hour, the writer would earn $1,200.  But since no one is paying authors to write, it's actually costing the author that $1,200. 

For self-published authors who rely on their income to make a living, this is a big chunk. Now, let's add in cover cost, editing, and promotion. I pay on average $200 for a cover. And while I do most of my own editing, for the book I'm working on now, I paid about $1,500.(Totally worth it, by the way.) Promotion can range in the hundreds but for this post, let's just say another $250. It even costs to upload the novel document to the publishing platform, it's right at $50, at this time. So, the author has about $3,200 of sweat hours and other money invested in their novel. 

Now, let's sell those books. To make the math easy, let's say $10 each. Meaning, the author would need to sell 320 copies to break even. Except it doesn't happen that  way. Amazon takes their cut, IngramSparks takes a cut, and other distributors also take a cut. Again, to make math easy, let's just say that cut is $3.00 leaving $7.00 for the author.  Now the author has to sell 457 copies to just break even with time and money spent.

And, statistically, self-published books only sell about 250 copies over a lifetime.

Some do sell more, of course. The author gets out there, goes to book events or festivals and get some sales that way. But again, money is involved. Booth fees, travel, food, and of course the hours spent at the festival. I'm not even going to math that. But, booth fees range from $25 to $100, and those days are generally 12 hour add another $120 in time invested.

Being a published writer is just plain expensive.

Short story writers are a different story. Let's say it takes 10 hours to write and edit that story. So, the writer has $100 bucks invested. Not a big deal, right? 

Author does some searching and finds a place to submit his story. His story is published and he gets nothing. Whoever published it says they pay in exposure. Well, you know what? Exposure won't buy gas for the car or food for the table.

And this is where this rant comes from. There is a themed anthology soliciting short stories. They don't pay anything and the author will get a "discount" for any books they purchase.

Let's play math, again.  Say 20 authors have stories accepted. 

The publisher provides cover, editing, and publishing. Since all this is done inhouse, there is no cost other than time. Yeah, there is a bit for the ISBN number and publishing platform but I've added things up and cost would be less than $100. If those 20 authors buy just 2 copies each, that's 40 copies. And at a discount, say, $10 each, that's a publisher income of $400, minus the costs, so about $300 profit for the publisher.

I don't have a problem with the publisher getting paid for the work they do. They should get paid. But so should the author. 

Now, I have written for free. It was for an anthology but all the profits went to Toys for Tots. It was for a good cause. I have also turned down being published because they weren't willing to pay. Like I said, exposure won't pay my bills. 

We don't expect lawn services to mow our yards without being paid. We don't expect lawyers or plumbers to work for free. Or we shouldn't. So, again, why should authors and artists be expected to not get paid? Why should we be expected to be happy to be taken advantage of? It's not right.

So, what about you? Have you been expected to work for free? 

Friday, July 01, 2022

Welcome back...

 It's been a little over 12 years since anything new was posted on this blog. And I seriously thought about deleting the whole thing and starting over, but even without promotion of any sort, it's still getting a nice number of visitors. 

So, since the publishing world has changed so much in the last few years, I thought it's the perfect time to take a new look at the industry and see just what's going on.

When I first started writing, self-publishing was something only those who couldn't get a real publisher did. I found this quote from one of the traditional publishers dated 2018."In the publishing industry, a self-published author is generally not considered a published author, anymore than someone who starred in their own home movie is considered a movie star." 

A real writer wrote, did the agent search thing, submitted query letters to those agents, did a lot of waiting, and hopefully ended up with a publishing contract. And then, in about two years, you had a book out. It was a long and difficult process and not everyone made it. We were told to grow thick skin to deal with all the rejection. 

My goal was a book published by one of the "Big Six" publishers. I stalked agents on their blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. I went to writer's conferences to meet agents and editors from those big publishers. I even spent a week in New Orleans studying with best selling authors, learning how to properly pitch a novel, and then had two days of meeting with top agents and editors. It was an awesome week, I learned so much, even though I didn't get a publisher out of it. 

Eventually, several years later, I decided to publish with a small press. She was still a "legit" publisher so there was none of the self-published tarnish, though things had gotten better for those who took the self-pub route.

Now, with more freelance editors, cover artists, and affordable software, self-publishing is a normal thing and most of the time, there is no difference in quality when compared to a traditionally published book. And that's a good thing. Sure, you still have some folks who rush the publishing process and don't edit as they should using homemade looking covers. But it's a much better product these days.

So, since there are several paths to choose, let's take a quick look at them.

First, traditional or commercial publishers. This used to be the "Big Six" but now, as of 2020, is the "Big Four." Here is where the author must query agents. This could take a while but if/once you get an agent, they help get your manuscript polished and then shop it around to different publishing houses. Again, this takes a while. Normally, the publisher buys all rights to your work. The author gets a royalty payment against future sales. Meaning, you get paid but won't get anything else until you earn out that royalty. 

Next, Subsidy publishers. Here, the author makes a commitment to subsidize part of the cost of publication. Rights purchased vary with the contract. I've seen it described as a partnership between the author and publisher. They aren't as selective in what they publish as the traditional publisher are but there is still a selection process.

Vanity presses, on the other hand, will publish anything submitted to them. The author pays all the costs including editing, design, marketing, and promotion, along with all sorts of other services. They tend to have different "packages" that vary in price and what services are provided. And, where other publishers make their money from the sale of books, vanity publishers make most of their money from the authors. Again, rights purchased vary with the contract.

And now, self-publishing. The author handles everything. Many times, the author will "sub-contract" work such as editing, formatting, and cover design. They still pay but remain in control of their book publishing process. 

One thing all these options have in common is the author is still responsible for promotion and marketing. Sure, the traditional publisher helps, to some degree, but the author still has to be active and involved. We'll talk about marketing and promotion in another post.

So, are you a published author? Which option did you choose and why? Would you do it differently?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Tick, Tick, Tick.

What motivates you as a writer? Fame? Money? Glory? We all hope for those to some extent, but what really gets you to sit down and put words on paper?

If your anything like me it's pressure. Unless there's something that makes me feel a real need I just can't bring myself to do it. I think that's why deadlines came into existence, to get people like me to do it.

So what use is this to us? Well like I said before the best way to improve is to write, a lot. You can't always be writing for publication. Sometimes you just need to write for practice. But how do you motivate yourself if you're writing for something as nebulous as practice?

Set your own deadline. Make it something real, something with consequence. When you write to publish the consequence is simple. You don't get published. Do something for yourself to make it real. Whether the outcome is positive or negative depends on you. Personally I'm not much for self flagellation. I bribe myself with a pack of trading cards for a game I enjoy. It works for me.

Now just figure out what works for you and get to it. The clock's ticking.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Scribble, Scream, Repeat.

I’m supposed to tell you about writing. Well guess what here’s a treat for you. I don’t know all that much about writing. Can I give you the secret that will unlock bottomless troves of publishing treasure and might? No. Can I bequeath you the location locked in your mind that will reveal all of your full fledged characters? No.

I am a writer, just like you. I get the same rejection letters you do. I struggle to put pen to paper just like you do. I even beat my head against the keyboard into the wee hours of the night, just the same as you. So what could I possibly have to say that’s of any use? How about this?

I’m still doing it.

After years of ridicule growing up, medical mayhem, a family, and general random insanity. I am still at it. That’s what it takes. The majority of people out there “want to write a book.” It’s not that unique of a dream.

What is unique is the fact that you’re here. Your reading this trying to improve your writing. And you know what? You just might. There are any number of ways to improve your writing. Probably the most hyped and least practiced is this. Just write! When it comes down to it the only way to actually get better is to sit down and bang out those words.

And keep at it. Whether it’s every day or every week or every month. Write regularly and as frequently as you can. That’s the thing that will eventually get you published. If you keep trying to learn and keep putting it down on paper, sooner or later you’ll get that all important acceptance letter. And then the next. ;-)