So You Want to be a Writer in the Information Age
Everyone thinks they have a million-dollar novel in them, something they’ll option to the premium cable companies once they get it started, but you’ve transcended those theoretical thinkers and become a doer. You’ve put in your time at the coffee shop, gritted your teeth through bad dub-step, and put your magnum opus on paper. Now you’re thinking of shopping it around.
The problem is you’re just now reading articles that tell you you’ve done it all backwards. You put the cart before the horse. You were supposed to build a website first, develop a strong social media presence, and then get your novel published. You spent all your time honing your writing skills when you should’ve been practicing selling, so saith the social media gurus you’ve found and they speak with authority.
Build Thy Brand
These social media gurus, these masters of marketing, these grand clerics of the click-through insist writers build a brand before they do anything. A brand is an online presence that represents your unique perspective, beliefs, and voice, and by unique, of course, they mean nothing so emotionally vulnerable that someone might find it depressing, nothing so quirky that people without a sense of humor won’t get it, nothing so seedy it couldn’t be read in classroom, nothing with references your grand parents won’t catch, and nothing remotely political.
Add Your Voice to the Choir
So now that you’ve polished off all your jagged edges and made yourself fit for consumption, what do you blog about? Well if you’re a horror writer it’d make sense to write about the fears that drew you to the genre, but that’s a niche topic. Niche audiences take a while to build and you want instant gratification. So why not cast a wider net? Hmmm, what’s a general topic you could build a brand on?
How about the craft of writing? You could write writing advice. But you’re not published. You’re not a success. You’re still at the scullery maid stage of your Cinderella story. Who’d want advice from you?
Did you check the credentials of those social media gurus before following their advice? No? What does that tell you? If you write with enough authority people will assume you have it.
You’ve written a novel, albeit one that hasn’t been published, but you have a cursory knowledge of the process. Spin that into insights, when in doubt simply bullshit.
How to Be Basic
Social media gurus will tell you that “How to” articles get more clicks than anything else. Don’t worry about actually developing some kind of online course curriculum. Your job isn’t to actually educate. Your job is to info-tain. There’s food for thought and there’s junk food for the brain. Leave it to the professionals to offer nutrients. You’re just here to peddle sugary platitudes with little substance. Just make people feel better about writing.
Now remember readers are intimidated by walls of text. The one thing they hate most is actually reading. They want to see a lot of white on the page. That’s why they prefer lists. So…
Follow this Formula
Bullet points for posting quality blog spam:
• Look up writing terms like Chekhov’s gun, dramatic irony, or deus ex machina and redefine them in your own words.
• Find a quote from a bestselling author and pad out an entry reiterating what they put so succinctly.
• Find a bunch of quotes from authors on writer’s block, tally them up, and number them in the title
• Outline the steps to get published in a general way that presumes every author is equally inspired, that they all have the same means to achieve their goals, and that every gate will be open to them.
• Write a stream of consciousness article on what inspires you. Conflict is the heart of drama, and writers should really be looking for inspiration in dramatic situations, but readers want to associate inspiration with positive things like childhood innocence, love, and faith. If what you find inspiring reads like something off a cat poster then you’re in the right ballpark.
• Go all the way through the looking glass and write a blog on how to get started blogging. Again, offer only general advice (come up with a name, start a WordPress account, choose a theme etc). While technical information on optimizing SEO and social media algorithms would totally help your readers they’re a total turn off so it’s best not to even mention them.
• The ideal blog post length is now 1000 words. So end there, abruptly if you have to, even if there’s no room to reach a satisfying conclusion.
What Not to Do
Don’t waste your reader’s time by teaching them how to outline a novel. Don’t teach them about plot points, how to structure a scene, or the value of character biographies. Don’t talk motivations, subtext or symbolism. Readers aren’t reading your blog for technical details. They’re reading it to get the warm fuzzy feeling that comes with thinking a positive attitude will help them accomplish anything, even publication.
They want general tips that fit on the fridge between their wish board and their to-do list. Things to look at while they sigh and say, “Someday.”
No one wants to hear it takes natural talent to become a writer. They want to believe that anyone with an idea can pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and get readers to give a crap. They go online searching for formulas to make the process easier, so they can stave off actually having to do the work. They want to call themselves the noun (a writer) while dabbling at the verb (actually writing).
Resist the urge to make readers aware of the hardships of trying to launch a career in writing. Resist the urge to vent your own personal struggles with the process. Resist the urge to cry for help. Social media gurus will tell you cries for help get the least amount of engagement no matter the platform.
Write happy thoughts. Err on the side of positivity, and never under any circumstances post an advice column ironically, even if there’s truth in jest.