Guest Post : author Lee Stephen
From fellow author and friend, Lee Stephen.
Several weeks ago, Patrick approached me about the prospect of writing a guest entry for HSSJ. As someone who’s never been asked to partake in guest blogging before, I leapt at the opportunity to splatter my thoughts all over someone else’s blog like a fat bug on a car windshield. Admittedly, I am a terrible blogger, as anyone who frequents my own blog at www.epicuniverse.com undoubtedly knows. I fall into the category of “writers who hate writing and who hate themselves for being good at writing, as opposed to, say, math.” Unfortunately for me, blogging falls under the “writing” category, so…yeah. A love affair with the craft, this isn’t.
Hey, at least I’m honest.
There are a litany of blog entries out there in the author-blogger ocean that offer writing advice. This will not be one of them. What this entry will offer is writer advice, which is entirely different. How so? Well when it comes to the actual process of writing, in my experience, the advice of most profiting indie authors is, “be just like me.” Are there exceptions? Sure. But in my own personal experience as a realist, I’ve found that most indie authors dedicate a lot of blog time to explaining how great they are, and how if you pattern your entire existence after them, you could be almost as great (but not quite). I would highly recommend these blogs to people who have no sense of self-worth or direction. But that’s not you!
So what is writer advice, exactly, and why is it so different? Writer advice (or at least my incarnation of it) has to do with attitude. It isn’t worried about things like daily tweet quotas or mandatory words-per-day levels. Writer advice has to do with you. It’s also not advice you’ll hear in very many places, because it’s kind of heretical. But as I like to say, “yeah whatever.”
ADVICE #1: Avoid most writers.
So I guess this one warrants explanation, eh? Basically…most writers are self-centered attention hogs who only care about you for the size of your fan base. Oh, snap!
Once again, the above does not classify all writers. But as a general rule, it’s kind of true, isn’t it? I actually debated this point recently with someone who was about to dive head-first into the realm of indie writers. I warned them, I flailed my arms, I screamed at the top of my lungs, “Writers suck!” But they didn’t believe me. They started talking to writers. They went to writers’ group meetings. They joined the writing community. And sure enough, it was only a matter of time until they came back and said, “Lee, you were right. Writers completely suck.” I am fortunate to have three good writer friends in Patrick here, Robert Fanney, a fantasy author I’ve known for years, and Erik Sabol, WHO DESPERATELY NEEDS TO GET HIS FIRST NOVEL OUT, ERIK. I would tell anyone looking for writer friends to find 1-3 writers they can relate to and who they can toss ideas back and forth with. Leave the rest in the dust. In YOUR dust. Because you’re better than them. Which leads us to…
ADVICE #2: Do your own thing.
There actually is a practical reason for Advice #1, and this is it. When you get too caught up in group-think, you lose your sense of identity. You start buying into this FAKE mentality that there are certain things you absolutely, positively must do in order to be successful, based purely off what other people are telling you that you have to do. You probably don’t even realize how prevalent this is, but it’s true. Think about it. Right now, in 2013, in order to be a successful indie author, you must do at least two of the following:
1. Have a blog and blog consistently.
2. Tweet daily.
3. Make yourself write every single day.
I mean, those are like, the basics, right? Anyone with any hope of getting anywhere pretty much has to adhere some of those. Right? Wrong. Not one of those things is remotely necessary, as evidenced by the fact that I do none of them. Get the concept of a “must” list out of your head. There’s only one thing you need to focus on: standing out by the things that you do.
When you start avoiding writers, this becomes easier. It’s not about being antisocial. It’s about practicing your independence. When you start plugging into the collective, you start losing the uniqueness that makes you you. You become a mimicker as opposed to a trailblazer. You lose the ability to do things that get you noticed. Take the audiobook, for example. Just think of that word: audiobook. What comes to mind? What’s the first thought that enters your head?
Chances are, it wasn’t this: http://www.epicuniverse.com/DODCh5Sample.mp3
That’s where independent thought can take you. That clip is a sample of the soon-to-be-released audiobook adaptation for the first book in my Epic series, Dawn of Destiny. Had I gotten audiobook advice from other writers, that probably wouldn’t have been the result. I’d have probably hired a narrator to read the whole book or read it myself – not that either of those things are bad! They’re just not necessarily new. I wanted to produce an audiobook for people who don’t like audiobooks, meaning I had to erase every preconceived notion of what I thought an audiobook was supposed to be from my head. In doing so, I like to think I’ve gone in a direction few folks have gone before. You can do this with anything. All you have to do is realize you can do it. Cut the “writing community” umbilical cord. It’ll make you stand out in a ridiculously overcrowded field.
ADVICE #3: Just be nice.
It’s my nature to be sarcastic. I think to think of sarcasm as the quintessential underrated spiritual gift! But I also do everything in my power to exercise kindness and courtesy. Sometimes I struggle, as all humans do. But I try my utmost to abide by the Golden Rule.
One of my favorite quotes is by Conan O’Brien, at the end of his final night hosting the Tonight Show. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Conan fan or not (I happen to be one), I find this advice absolutely fantastic. Check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e35SVmdx9nY&t=3m58s .
I can tell you this, without hesitation: simple kindness has taken me further than any amount of social media savvy or writing ability ever has. I have opportunities (the kind I can’t even talk about), right now, because of courtesy and literally nothing else. If you ignore every other piece of advice I mention, take note of this one. And the next one.
ADVICE #4: Be humble.
There’s a vast difference between confidence and arrogance. I love confidence – I love to see it in people, because it drives them to be the best. But arrogance is the ultimate turnoff. Always remember: you’re never as good as you think you are, and there’s always somebody better.
Don’t brag about sales. Don’t assume you’re doing it the right way. Don’t buy into the notion that because you might be having more financial success than the next guy, you must be better or more important than he is. These are all tell-tale signs of an insecure writer. The only person you need to worry about is you. Let everyone else do what and how they will.
For those who may be wondering about my level of success, simply for contextual purposes, I’ve been incredibly successful. I married the woman of my dreams, I have a one-year-old who lights up my life, and we live in a nice little house with a fence for the dog we rescued. Oh, and every now and then, I sell a book or two. But you don’t need to worry about that part.
Do your own thing. Blaze your own trails. Be relentlessly fearless. When you separate from the herd, it is amazing–amazing–what you can do.
Good luck out there!
If you’re a Sci Fi Action Fan, check out Lee’s Amazon Page for his Epic Universe series: