The writing path: do the work first


just the other day I came across an earnest little post in a Facebook group I occasionally swing by – from a newbie writer who said something to the effect of that she “wanted to write a book”, or had started writing a book, perhaps, if I am being charitable – I don’t remember precisely and I can’t find the post again to give you verbatim – and that in itself is not unusual or even something to take exception to – it was what followed that announcement that gave me pause.


photo: Nick Fewings Unsplash



“I want to write a book… so I have created a Facebook fan group, and a page where you can support me while I work on the book…”


Dear. Sweet. Newbie. It doesn’t work like that. You have to write the book BEFORE you can start gathering “fans” because what would they be fans of, otherwise? And asking your mom and three of your closest friends to support yoru dream is one thing – but splashing that request on social media and asking for that support of strangers who don’t know either you or your (potential) book… you have to earn fans, my love. By doing the work. You don’t just get to post an advert for fans on Facebook and watch them come rolling in. People far more established than a wannabe who has decided that (s)he wants to write “a book” (please note, that was the entire hook, “a book”, there was not even an indication about whether it was supposed to be Hallmark movie stuff, eldritch horror, space opera, comedy, something lit’rary, a kids book, anything at all that was specific – there was just “a book” for which “fans” were solicited)

The fact of the matter in this trade is that EVERYONE thinks they have a book inside them. For a whole lot of people, the best thing for absolutely everyone concerned (would-be writer AND potential readers) is for that book to stay right there inside that person and never ever see the light of day, for any number of reasons – it might be a story told so often that nobody wants another iteration of it; it might be that the author thinks that the story is far more “important” than it actually is; it may be that the person involved in the creation of this thing simply cannot write – just because you can talk and string words together in coherent sentences doesn’t mean that you can produce readable narrative of any sort – it DOES take a bit of work, and at least a smattering of talent at wordsmithing. For the percentage that actually do have something to say and the wherewithal to say it, there is the shattering statistic that less than 10% of people who actually begin writing a book end up finishing one (which is why agents won’t accept queries from unpublished newbies who are only three chapters into their deathless novel – there are NO guarantees that it will ever get finished…) and that’s before you start factoring in people who start out with a blowout book, write a middling sequel, and end up promising book 3 (which will never happen) for the rest of their natural lives.

You need to put in the work before you magnanimously invite “fans” into your parlour.

Write the damn book. PUBLISH the damn book so that it is actually read by someone other than those people who are related to you (and feel obligated to tell you that you are brilliant) and your very best friends (likewise obligated). When a complete stranger who does not know you reads your book and likes it, then you have a “fan”, and believe me, THEY will find YOU. You don’t advertise for fans. Fans don’t sign up for a pig-in-a-poke “novel” which somebody they don’t know from a bar of soap *hasn’t started writing yet*.

I’m sorry, do I sound harsh? This is a tough business. Nobody owes anybody ANYTHING, and the sense of entitlement that came screaming out of that post basically said to me, “I don’t really want to WRITE but I do want to be lauded and celebrated as a WRITER”… and as someone who really IS a writer, and because I wanted to write, not because I wanted “fans” (although they are nice when they happen…), and on behalf of many of my tribe who are likewise, who worked hard to earn their stripes and their kudos and yes, their fans…well, it ruffled my hackles.

Do. The. Work. And look up what TANSTAAFL means.