Posted by: Jodi | April 11, 2011

The Solitary Paradox of Novel Writing

The goal of novel writers is to get their work out into the world.  We want our work to be so compelling that the books fly off the shelves and our adoring public can’t wait for more.  We can’t wait for the royalty checks to start rolling in to give us the freedom to write without having to worry where the next pay check is coming from.  In the back of our minds we secretly dream of launch parties, book tours, and that sweet smell of success.  We want our name to become known.

At least that’s what we keep telling ourselves.

What is so engrossing that he forgot to put clothes on?

Current publishing trends prefer that their writers already have a strong platform in the social media world.  They want their authors to already have a fan base before the first book leaves the presses.  Writers are encouraged to keep up various forms of social media in addition to the challenge of creating their stories.   It makes sense for publishers to want this, authors that come preloaded with a strong social media presence will sell more books.

This is a major problem.

So, in addition to writing our books we must maintain a strong internet presence.  We must blog, tweet, comment, encourage, and in all ways possible put ourselves and our work out there in the world.  This takes time and energy.  It is a major distraction to the actual process of writing.  Whenever we sit at the computer to work there is always a lingering thought that there is something that needs to be done out in the internet world.  And there always is – there are always new posts to read and comment on, there are always new items of interest on the twitter feed, there is always more that should be done.

This is where the paradox comes in.  To be successful we have to push our solitary tendencies away and it is those tendencies that draw certain people towards novel-writing.  It takes time and focus to write a book, and lots of it.  That is what writers are good at, spending hours at a time focused on their work, making their stories come alive.  Every avenue of social media we engage in pulls us away from the real work of novel-writing.  When we are published we are required to do even more to be able to market ourselves to the world.

How can a writer, who tends to be withdrawn from the social sphere, find balance?

Any ideas?

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Responses

  1. Excellent post. I completely agree with you. The balance for me has been difficult to find. I think most writers are naturally guarded so to be out in the open is challenging. I think it’s a process that given time, we will all hopefully become more comfortable with. Blogging helps with easing into the social light a little bit at a time. But it should be secondary to the actual writing that needs to be done and not allowed to overshadow the ultimate goal. I haven’t found the balance as I am currently blogging instead of writing;)

    • I struggle with finding the balance, most weeks the blog gets 2-3x more time than my other writing. At this rate I have a better chance selling a non fiction using my blog posts as chapters than ever publishing my novel. At least I know they are polished!

  2. For me, the “internet presence” peaked for almost 6 months, before and after my book’s release. Now I’m scaling back, because I realize that if I don’t, there won’t ever BE a second book. Getting the first draft of the next WIP is priority ONE. Once that’s done, I can start easing back into the community on a larger scale.

    • Good for you! Perhaps we can have a race? My WIP to begin seeking representation vs. your WIP draft being completed. Winner gets treated to dinner. Let me know…

  3. Thank you for articulating my ongoing dilemma. I love writing my blog and the wonderful way I can ‘publish’ in mere moments. It is way more gratifying than my usual waits for publication in the freelance travel writing world.

    But…I find myself blogging when I should be working on my novel, throwing something up on Facebook, when I should be working on my novel, and then of course, writing some more travel articles when I should be working on my novel 🙂 You get the picture.

    I have solved part of the problem by grinding all my freelance work to a halt. I’ve stopped all travel for the next while and am keeping my blog posts fairly short.

    But I still feel like I’m in a constant state of transition as I learn to prioritize at keeping my ‘real’ writing first and minimizing my time building that cyber platform.

    Thanks for your thoughts on this. Now I’m going back to the writing 🙂

    • And here I am commenting instead of working on the novel, what a tangled web we weave! My new approach is to aim for 1000 words a day either on the blog or on the WIP. That way at lease some work is being done on a regular basis! It’s hard to turn our minds away from the draw of all the social outlets, isn’t it?

  4. I agree with everything you all have said. I also can’t help but wonder how much good web presence and blogging does if everybody and his flippin’ uncle has a blog going. There are only so many blogs you can follow and it’s awfully hard to come up with something different to say!

    • You can say that again.

    • The last statistic I heard was that there are over 150 million blogs out there. Lucky for serious bloggers most are poorly maintained and updated rarely so the competition is only between a few million. Among those there are literally thousands of distinct topics, so chances are there are only a few hundred blogs that have to do with your same subject. Now, finding something unique to say – or at least a fresh way to say it – that’s an issue that needs tackling! I did a post about medieval castles, more of a glossary really, and it gets hundreds of hits daily. The internet is a strange place.

  5. If you got hit and killed by a bus next week, month, or year . . . what would you want to be doing today?

    Do that.

    • Ah yes, the ‘live like you were dying’ test. If I knew I was going to check out and had a certain time frame then for sure I would make all efforts to finish the book and then leave the marketing and agent seeking and what not to my survivors should they feel so inclined. But, I don’t have that luxury and must build my presence as well as network with other writers and refine my writing skills, this whole blogging thing does have its perks.

    • That answer says tons, Jo.

      Many would-be novelists would abandon their effort to write the Great American Novel if they KNEW they would not be around to enjoy the fruits of their labor ~ they are writing not to enjoy the journey of writing, but to reach the destination of publication.

      You obviously REALIZE that writing IS the fruit. 😀

      • Whew – glad I didn’t choose the other option! To me it would be such a waste to have spent so much time while alive to leave it undone. Naturally I would do all sorts of other crazy things as well to get the most out of my last days.

  6. I resent that I am supposed to be a marketing expert as well as a writer.

    I’m not on Facebook. I know I can probably up my blog readership considerably but joining, but then I’ll be getting messages from every Tom, Dick, and Harry going back 25 years, and suddenly I’ll be in a position to “insult” people if I don’t find some way to squeeze another hour out of my day somehow to reply.

    If I have to do the marketing and the writing and the PR, what is the publisher for? I might as well self-publish.

    I love doing the blog, but it takes on a life of it’s own. Between that and my contributing articles to another blog, I have written one whole short story so far this year. That’s my fiction output for 4 months. One story.

    Sorry for the rant-like reply, but you touched a nerve. It’s already a grind trying to make a dime as a writer, and now publishers don’t want to spend any money on us.

    • It was a nerve that needed touching, and has been something that has been rubbing me wrong for the last few weeks. I keep thinking if only I could spend the same time writing and editing that I spend on the blog I would have been done by now and maybe contracted. At the same time, the work I do here helps with refining my skills and voice and also helps me solve issues with my work – I’ll be the first to admit that I create posts that address problems I’ve been facing in the WIP. Great way to learn new things is trying to teach them.

      I’m not sure how you can solve any of your WIP issues on your blog, but you can sure as ever use it to refine your voice and style – not to mention gain some fans. There is tons of interest in political satire and zombies.

      • The blog has definitely honed my writing and has helped me make connections (like you, for instance).

        It’s this pesky day job that’s holding me back (from starvation).

  7. Great post.

    Yes, building and maintaining an author platform is a distraction but it is what it is. Segment your time well, say “today I’m writing a new blog post and doing x,y and z” and then “tomorrow I’m not even going to open up the internet but spend the whole day locked in with my manuscript”. It’s tough to fit it all in amongst the day job, friends and family but anybody who has the discipline to write a novel should have the discipline to organist different tasks into their day. The key is, don’t have the internet running in the background when you’re writing.

    I also do not see this as a bad thing, the fact that we have avenues of self-promotion such as FB, Twitter et al means that we can get ourselves out there. Few writers are lucky enough to have a publisher do that for them… even before the advent of web 2.0. Word of mouth can spread like wildfire and holds a lot of credibility. So long as the product is good, there is plenty of reward to be had for the effort involved.

    • I agree, setting priorities is hugely important. Problem is so many of us struggle to make clear boundaries of when and how we will go about reaching our goals.

      There is one truth that we can’t ignore and you hit it on the head – an awesome book will generate it’s own buzz and create it’s own audience.

      Now, off to writing that awesome book!

  8. I try to combine my postings with research I need to improve my writing skills. I also consider any writing I do to be practice for writing my novel. You are right, though. It takes considerable time and juggling to manage a novel and internet marketing.

    • I’m just glad that it is something that seems to be an issue with many of my writing buddies, and not just me. I only wish I could find more time to be able to do both better. I guess this is why many published authors (who can afford it) get an assistant.

  9. I laughed my way through all the comments as they succinctly reflect my own frustration as I move more into my marketing campaign as well as continue several writing projects. More friends, autobot followers, professional links, ……..pooped.

    I have to turn off the twitter, FB, Email, smart phone, podcasts, put out the dogs, lock the fridge, put people off, make kids ride bus home from school, etc, and try to achieve either a daily goal of # of words or completion of a story line. I also try and be ready if I really get inspired to write creatively outside of my normal scheduled time. The laptop and legal pad goes everywhere.

    My background in writing speeches/sermons, requires short bursts of concentration. However, the concentration required of a creating a novel story line has been whole new level of focus, as has learning to use social media for more than just keeping up with my high school classmates. Still looking for the right mix.


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