The best writing advice I ever received
Writing is a business. Okay, you got me. Writing is an art. But if you decide to make writing your business, or even if you just want to be good a writer, then you should approach it as a business. My time in university taught me to see the world in a practical way. The best writing advice I ever received was in college. This is surprising because I majored in Economics.
I was sitting in one of the last rows of the auditorium in my first year, when my microeconomics professor pulled up a graph on the screen. And he said, “People will start a business because they are good at something, but they forget to look at the big picture. Two out of three businesses fail within the first three years because they forget to benchmark. Of course, this only happens because – unlike flying a plane – one does not need a degree or even a certificate to start a business.”
The same logic applies to writing.
Benchmarking is a fancy business term that preaches one vital principle – industry. Not factories, though sometimes it can be actual factories. Writing is an industry. Once I saw this, writing invoked in me the discipline it deserves.
Market research, or benchmarking, is kind of a checklist you follow. First, it will make you read. And you should read everything. Read pieces that are highly ranked by critics and by the public in your genre of preference. Read about that genre. These metrics will show industry giants, best practices, and market trends. As well as who your target reader is and what they like. Social media is another tool to understand readers and transcend reviews.
Secondly, study if you can. I have taken numerous writing courses and I will continue to take them for the rest of my career, no doubt.
The last piece of advice regarding any business is to market it well – you do not want to set the wrong expectations. In publishing this means knowing the difference between a cozy mystery and a mystery. This categorization can happen at any time in the process of writing, it depends on what kind of writer you are. Nonetheless, pantser and plotters must consider how to label their story.
Finally, be humble and start small. Just like you would not hire a painter to restore the Sistine Chapel, if you knew it was their first day. The trick is to write paragraphs. Better yet, scenes or maybe even lines. Do yourself a favor and write short stories. Once I know the structure of a book or a poem, I can draft a story-line, I am more of a plotter. And remember just like any other aspect of life, if you dedicate time to actively work on your writing, you will get results.