Just a quick update (since I’m taking a break from writing the article on constipation that I’ve been hired to do.)
In my last post I told you that I’ve been offering a number of services on fiverr, from making awesome book covers to writing web content. I’m now offering a service that other writers might want to take advantage of: workshopping.
Think of it as a one-on-one writer’s group meeting. Check it out here:
(This is straight talk from my WIP book “Codename: Pitchcraft.”)
At the end of the day, money is always a factor. You can’t write if you can’t eat, and while being a “starving artist” is probably one of the more socially acceptable paths to poverty, it’s not fun having to live hand to mouth. Trust me, I’m well exercised in doing so.
I’ve always been an advocate for pursuing ones artistic inclinations. Do what you love. However, I’ve also been chided by the artistic types for always trying to figure out how to make a profit from doing it. I’ve been accused of trying to get people to “sell out” more times than I can count. My argument against this is simple: people don’t mind paying for good work. If you paint something, you’re not selling out by putting a price tag on it. If you’re a musician, you’re not selling out by trying to market your music. What you’re doing is pursuing the path that takes you from being a hobbyist to a professional: a payday. There is nothing immoral or wrong about seeing the value in your talent and skill.
What’s the other argument I hear the most? “I don’t write/paint/play/draw the kind of stuff people buy and I don’t want to change my style just to make money.”
First off: Bullshit. People will buy anything if it’s good. There are fans for your work, whatever it is…whatever the style. Just take a look at Etsy and see the kind of stuff that people sell. Some of it makes me go “what the hell…people pay $200 for THIS?” But my opinion doesn’t matter. Neither does yours. Not when the guy selling it was able to quit his job to do what he loves for a living.
Secondly: Get over yourself. I can be harsh about this, I know, but I’m an artistic-type myself and I know better than anyone that the thing that we often need is for reality to kick us in the ass. If you can quit your day job by writing what other people want instead of what you want, isn’t that worth it? If you say “no,” then can you really consider yourself a writer? Or are you a waiter/clerk/accountant who writes?
Any work that you do in your field will push your art into greater levels of success. I want to be a professional author, but for now I’m a professional writer. I write ad copy, business letters, marketing strategies, articles, press releases, web content and blog posts every day for money. It’s not what I want to do with my life, but when you boil it down, it is writing. I am continuously honing my craft and my art through “selling out”…and all of the money I’m making goes right into my brokerage account where it can earn a percentage. Some day, I’ll have earned enough from “selling out” that I can stop working for other people and sit on my butt all day writing novels. That’s my artistic vision. It ain’t pretty, but it’s a plan.
There is nothing wrong with having a rich portfolio of professional work. I highly recommend that any artist pursue a bit of income from their talents. Here’s a quick breakdown of how to get started:
Decide if you want to sell your artwork or be a freelancer. Or both. Do you want to make things and then see how much you can get for them, or do you want to do commissioned work?
Find a venue. There are scores of web sites out there which can serve as your storefront or your agency. If you’re selling your artwork (things that you’ve already made, not custom work) then Etsy is a great place to start. You can also try eBay, which is still a very viable place to sell your work. If you want to be a freelancer and do commissioned work or contract jobs, try deviantArt, fiverr, or eLance. Do your research and find out what services will promote your art the most effectively.
* Best for writers that I’ve found: eLance and fiverr.
Promote yourself. This is the marketing part. Want to know all about this? Wait until my complete book is released and read it. Codename: Pitchcraft will be a self-contained marketing course, followed by very specific information on how to find success as an independent artist. I’m even working out deals with some of my fellow marketers that will allow people who buy this book (or course, if you want to call it that) to take advantage of our ever-growing promotional network.
You don’t have to wait for my book, though. Now is the time to take your skills to market and start being a pro. Hit up those websites, make your free account and get selling.
I’ve been seeing a lot of success on fiverr over the past couple of weeks. Aside from graphic design work, I’ve started giving feedback/editing other writers’ work. I was just punching out my feedback for one of my clients when it dawned on me that I could go into very heavy detail on “where I’m coming from” when I give suggestions and input.
So here goes.
I like to consider myself unconventional as a writer (and as a person in general.) It’s probably all of the philosophy books I spent ten years reading, but I think having an open mind is critical both to success as an artist and to being a happy person. As such, I will spend as much time trying to think of ways to destroy the “marketability” mold as I will trying to fit inside of it. My feedback and input will reflect this.
Regarding “Style” – It took me a long time to figure this one out. What is a “writing style?” Your “writing style” is how you adapt your work to best convey your message. It’s a functional element, not a flourish. I believe that style has to evolve from good fundamentals. First, you learn how to write correctly. Then you learn how to bend the rules to fit your whims. If you START by bending rules, you won’t know which ones are important and why, and you will write poorly. Learn the rules, then spend the rest of your writing career figuring out the best way to smash them to pieces.
Regarding Rhythm – To me, writing is all about rhythm. I’m not a musician and I don’t fancy myself a poet, but I must think like one. When I read, I set the words against a metronome. There’s a reason for this. Music is something that has penetrated and thrived within every human culture (it even defines some cultures!) and it has done so for a reason. It’s pleasing. The human mind loves the mathematics of music. It revels in the beats and measures. It’s relaxing, familiar, comforting to have input streaming into you that follows a cadence. Think of your story like a song. Every narrative is a poem. How does the rhythm of your words make you feel? If the scene is fast and choppy, make your sentences fast and choppy! Make the reader’s mind dance the beat of your drum.
Most importantly, mind your measures. When you change the rhythm of your words, the reader will notice. Don’t do it unless there’s a reason. In other words, try to keep the number of beats in each sentence the same until it’s time to change the mood. This is fast. My words fly by. My fingers strike the keys and words erupt on screen. Quickly now, I think. I must blog. Notice anything? If you didn’t consciously feel the difference, your subconscious picked up on it.
Regarding Purpose – What’s important in writing? The feelings, the message, the words. In that order. Words mean nothing, which is why I finally learned to use the simplest words whenever I write. The message (the story, in fiction) is far more important, but still borderline meaningless when put into perspective. The feelings matter. That is the purpose of writing. We write to make the reader feel what we want them to feel. This is where style becomes important, and rhythm as well.
You can make the reader feel rushed, tired, angry, sad or excited just by changing how many words are in the sentence. You can make the reader feel scared by using dissonance and varying the rhythm. Think about the scary movies where the screen flashes randomly to spooky pictures. The duration of each shot is random, varied, chaotic. Our brains hate that, and used effectively, it can make the reader scared or angry.
That’s about all the time I have tonight. Keep on writing, and go study some music theory!