The Journey Continues – Research, Research, Research

Following on from last week’s post, I wanted to continue discussing some of the things I’ve done so far in transitioning from hobby writer to serious author. Along with working on developing an outline for my first novel, I’ve spent a lot of time online doing research. And it is unbelievable the number of things there are to research (and this is above and beyond all the research I did for my story’s world-building, which will likely be the subject of a separate blog post down the road). I’d put most of the research I did into three basic categories: networking, the craft of writing, and author brand/platform building (aka marketing).

Building your writer network

It didn’t take long to come to the conclusion that being a serious writer is enough of a monumental task that it’s not one you want to do alone. And while the support of friends and family is great, there’s only so much they can do for you, because (more than likely) they’re not writers. Which means they can’t completely appreciate the struggles you’re going through, and they’re not likely to have the most constructive/informed advice. Which is why one of the best pieces of advice I could give to aspiring writers is this: find and join at least one writer’s forum, preferably one focused on your genre of fiction.

I started with a quick Google search of “fantasy writer forums” and after looking at a few, I joined Mythic Scribes. And I am very glad that I did. The camaraderie that I find with fellow writers is very different from what I get with my other friends. They’re struggling through the same challenges I am (and many are further along on the road to publishing success, so they have valuable insights as I move forward on my own journey), and understand both the challenges and the joys of being a writer.

Another site that I joined as I built my network of fellow writers (although I didn’t discover this site until quite a bit later than Mythic Scribes) was Scribophile, which isn’t a forum per se, but a critiquing group. I was initially hesitant to join this site, as the idea of critiquing other people’s work filled me with apprehension, but at the same time I knew that at some point I’d have a manuscript that I would want critiqued/beta read before I looked at publishing it. So I took the plunge and joined the site. And as with Mythic Scribes, I found another wonderful community of writers. And now that I’ve done a couple of critiques, not only is it not so nerve-wracking, but in the long run I’m developing a skill I can use in re-writing/editing my own work.

Improving your craft

I think this category speaks for itself. There are countless blogs and websites out there filled with helpful articles on how writers can improve their craft. In my previous blog I mentioned Randy Ingermanson’s Advanced Fiction Writing site, but it is far from the only worthwhile blog I’ve found (at some point my goal is to find the time to add a links page so I can list some of the sites I’ve come across that are worth sharing). Of course, nothing replaces writing, writing, and writing some more, but I still try to find time to learn new things about the craft of writing. That being said, my focus over the last several weeks has shifted from the writing part of being a published author, to the publishing and marketing aspect of things.

Building an author platform

This final area of research is the one that continues to be an eye-opener, because this encompasses all those tasks that aren’t a factor when you’re just a hobby writer. And the toughest part of it is that these are things that have very little to do with actually writing anything. But the more I researched, the more I kept reading about building an author platform, and how critical to success that it is.

So what is an author platform? Essentially it is you the author, and your public presence. The bigger and more established your author platform, the more people know about you, and thus the larger pool of potential readers you’ll have. A great site that I used to learn many of the basics of what an author platform is and how to build it is Your Writer Platform. I’m not going to try and go over all the many things you can do to build your platform (since I’ve still got a lot of learning to do myself), but know that there is a lot you can do, and there are many resources online to help you do it.

I will quickly touch on the things I’ve done so far. The big one was setting up this website and blog. That in and of itself was a pretty big project (just getting everything setup and going was a solid 2 weeks of work, and I’m sure there’s plenty more I can do to improve the site – if you have any suggestions, feel free to add a comment!). After that came social media – which is a real challenge when you’re a fairly non-social person such as myself. But I setup a Facebook page, and a Pinterest account, and then I got onto Twitter. And I quickly realized that this will be the toughest one, but likely the one with the most potential reward.

The key with Twitter, of course, is that it is all about what’s happening right now, which means you need to stay fairly active on it for it to do you any good. And as someone who was very anti-Twitter for a very long time, this is a somewhat difficult realization to come to. But I’m making the adjustment, and even making an effort to Tweet something at least somewhat meaningful or amusing once or twice a day.

While all this work will hopefully pay off in the long run, it’s certainly been a big (and very nerve-wracking) investment in time and effort. And along with that comes that ever-present fear that I’m completely wasting my time, jumping through all these hoops and putting myself out there, and nothing is going to come of it. Either my novel will never get finished, or it will get finished and no one will bother reading it. But from what I’ve read, every author goes through these fears, so for now I’m going to grit my teeth, keep pushing forward, and we’ll see where this crazy ride takes me.

And that’s probably enough rambling on for one week. Only one week to go until NaNoWriMo! And I’ll be honest, with all the time and effort and focus that I’ve spent over the last month on building my author platform and researching the ins and outs of successfully being published, I am beyond looking forward to jumping with both feet back into non-stop writing!

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