As always, Damon Suede hits the nail on the head with goalsetting and career paths for the writer. Read on!
As it often is these days, our industry is undergoing violent, seismic shifts that will affect the way livings get earned and shelves get filled for the foreseeable future. In case you haven’t been paying attention, it’s hard out here for a wordpimp….
Strategies that worked six months ago have begun to break down and the shrinking pool of competitive vendors, venues, and outlets make a sobering sight for the professional romance author. With lines collapsing, companies dissolving, subgenres shifting, and readers defecting, the idea of sitting down every day to tell a story that ends happily can start to seem like a ticket to a room with soft walls.
More than ever, careful career planning is not just important but essential to your solvency and sanity. Winging it is a recipe for paralysis and disappointment. Gone are the days when you can pump out 75K and assume that someone, somewhere will pony up to read your screed. If you plan to do this for a living, taking stock on the regular can save your butt.
For a while now, canny folks have been urging writers to pump out books as swiftly as possible regardless of content. More, better, faster, and right now! On one level that makes sense, more you produce the more they can buy. Unfortunately part of that equation requires that we all go out and turn nonreaders into new readers. That’s not happening, at least not enough to move the needle. Still, in an industry bounded by deadlines and the pressure to produce pages it’s all too easy to freak out and mess up the one thing we need for our books: hope.
I’m reminded of an anecdote I learned when I was studying biology in college: apparently elephants and rabbits fornicate at different speeds because of their relative vulnerability to threats. Both creatures are vulnerable herbivores, both fall prey to carnivorous threats in their environment, but on the whole the rabbit population has way more to worry about and way more members it can afford to lose and still survive as a species For this reason, elephants take their time making whoopee and rabbits hump quick before they get picked off.
The predator pressure sets the pace.
Our urge to rush is a survival instinct based on predator pressure. For those of us interested in learning our craft and earning our crust, we can’t afford to waste time, energy, or resources. I say that not out of pessimism, but pragmatism. I love this genre and I love our industry but I also know that adaptation and evolution are par for the course. That’s just the deal.
I’m adamant about goalsetting. Knowing what you want, playing for the right prize makes a huge difference to your relative success. All too often I meet authors who are writers simply because they write, not because they have any clear goals. That’s not super surprising, because the urge to write can be overwhelming and almost gravitational in force. At the same time if you plan to earn a living, you’d best develop a professional strategy.
What do you want, specifically, as a romance author? If you could have one thing as a result of your work as a romance author what would it be? Fame and fortune? Raves and awards? An enthusiastic mob greeting you at public events? The ability to predict the next hot trend? What pokes your professional no-no?
Given your allies, assets, and the time you can afford to use them, are you headed where you meant to? One of the fun games I started doing when I was still working in showbiz was to write an obituary whenever I was a professional crossroads. It’s actually hilarious and weirdly inspiring to sit down and hammer out the past you’d like to leave behind you.
- honors and alliances that truly mean something to you
- projects that changed people’s lives and moved the world
- loving relationships and a happy healthy home life
- the unique balance of adventure and comfort you’d dig
Knowing what I’d like to leave behind when the curtain goes down, always helps me to decide what’s worth carrying and discarding along the way.
As you look down the road at all the possible paths for your career, make sure that you’re not climbing the wrong mountain.
Unfortunately all too often authors end up fighting other people’s battles and playing other people’s games. Maybe you are dying to be a USA Today bestseller… Or maybe that’s something your chapter mates have foisted upon you. Do you truly–madly–deeply need a major literary prize or is that just a tacky hunk of metal that will sit on your mantel gathering dust and fingerprints?
Where did your goals come from? Can you promise that they’re yours and not something you picked up along the way like lint on a sweater? Maybe your mom wants you to write and “real” book. Maybe your husband doesn’t believe you’re an author until you make more than he does. Maybe you’ve been churning out books in a category you can’t stand just to one up that vicious cow who lives up the street. Is there something else, something different from all of the above that would make you truly happy not just as an author but as a human being?
Hard truth: not everyone can be a bestseller; there aren’t enough eyeballs or hours. The vast majority of books don’t live up to their potential. A lot of folks spend a lot of time climbing the wrong mountain because they never bothered to check where they’re going.
We all want to get what we deserve. Frankly, we pray that we get more than we deserve… But of course that doesn’t make much mathematical sense. The nature of all prizes is that their value is directly proportional to the difficulty in acquiring them. Sad but true. If you’re going to invest all this effort, you’d best pick the mountain you want to climb.
Sometimes we rush because we don’t want to see what’s ahead or behind us. I challenge you to take 10 minutes and look at the lay of the land and where you stand. Take stock. Where you going and why?
- Make sure each project moves you closer to the kind of career that secretly thrills you.
- Build relationships with talented people who kick your butt and call your bluff.
- Support great books and brilliant voices in your genre so that new readers are perpetually delighted
- Make it a goal to find new audiences rather than going back again and again to the diehard fans because they get burned out too.
The greatest gift you can give yourself is to meet creative challenges with joy. Actually, I believe that’s why readers buy books by certain authors. They connect with the voice and they come back for the joy. And so anything you can do to anchor and amplify your enthusiasm will make the job easier and the payoff’s greater.
Don’t let other people set your goals for you and keep checking in to make sure that joy is a component of the work you do. Make sure you’re climbing the right mountain and you’ve brought along everything you need for the journey. Not only will you enjoy the ascent, when you get to the top you know you’ll be able to enjoy the view.
RU Writers, do you enjoy your writing? Do you set goals?
Bio: Damon Suede grew up out-n-proud deep in the anus of right-wing America, and escaped as soon as it was legal. Though new to romance fiction, Damon has been writing for print, stage, and screen for two decades. He’s won some awards, but counts his blessings more often: his amazing friends, his demented family, his beautiful husband, his loyal fans, and his silly, stern, seductive Muse who keeps whispering in his ear, year after year. Get in touch with him on Twitter, Facebook, or at DamonSuede.com.