Being considered by your peers as a “good” or “bad” writer can make or break your creative career. However, you can make easy adjustments to elevate your work, get noticed, and above all get better at what you do. There is always room for improvement, and anyone who tells you otherwise has given up. This leads to the first point: Good writers understand perseverance is key.
Quitters Never Win
For those who are just starting to get their feet wet in the publishing world, the first few dozen rejections can be discouraging enough to make you reconsider your passion. Where bad writers throw in the towel, good writers know that the only way to meet their goals is to keep going. Perseverance means pushing through with faith that you will improve or find the break you are waiting for.
While some writers seem to possess a natural affinity for the craft, writing must, like anything else, be practiced. Bad writers wait until inspiration hits, going long periods of time between writing sessions and then blaming things like writers’ block for their lack of production during the down times. What good writers know is that having the discipline necessary to write through the dry times makes for additional productivity and becomes a good habit. Most of all, the practice achieved in disciplined writing is vital to success.
Learning to Take Criticism
Criticism is not always a bad thing. If a peer, an editor, or your client reviews your writing and makes suggestions as to grammar, punctuation, content, or any other point of contention, take every word of advice and learn from it. Only you can decide whether or not it applies to your work, but remember, it is not generally someone’s intention to give criticism as an insult. It is there to make you better. Listen to both the internal and external voices to help you hone your writing.
Speaking of honing your writing, here is another thing good writers understand: The first draft is never the last. Bad writers will quickly knock off a piece of work, see no room for improvement, and call it a day. Good writers, on the contrary, will polish their work with one or several revisions, tuning their work with precision until it stands above the rest.
From learning to take helpful feedback with a simple, “thank you,” to realizing your work isn’t perfect but still requires your dedication, there are numerous little ways in which you as a writer can improve. Stay humble, and always be prepared to see your writing project through to completion, even if it means re-writing it twice and taking a rejection in stride from time to time.
Whether you are an experienced writer or aspiring to compose the next Great American Novel, disorganization with your time and goals is your worst enemy. Setting goals for your writing takes little time, but it can save you hours of frustration, missed deadlines, even the dreaded “writer’s block.” When you are ready to get serious about your writing, whether for personal or business purposes, the following tips will help you put your work into perspective and meet your goals.
The first thing you should do is empty your bucket. All writers have a bucket list, no matter how minor. Maybe you want to get the novel on paper that has been rolling around in your head. Maybe you want to submit and publish a certain number of poems this year or get picked up by a certain publication. Maybe you want to set up a blog that you can maintain and gain a large following. Whatever your goals, write them all down in one place so you can begin getting them organized.
Take Small Bites
Once your major goals are listed, start looking at their specifics. This is where you will break down each goal into bite-sized pieces so they do not seem so daunting to tackle. Two things to keep in mind are to make them measurable and attainable. Outline the steps you need to take to reach each degree of success. For example, before you start your blog, you need to secure web hosting, decide how much you can or are willing to pay for it, and pick a theme and layout.
To bring your goals to fruition, they need to keep moving. Set time limits for each task, and stick to them. Your eternal “To-Do List” will transform into something you will hold yourself accountable for. Be realistic in allotting the time you need for each step toward your goal. Also, be forgiving. Sometimes things come up and you cannot meet a deadline you set. Simply re-work your schedule, and keep moving forward.
It is up to you if you want to keep your writing goals with your personal schedule or in their own notebook or calendar. You may try different ways and see which aligns best with the way you work. It will make you feel quite accomplished as you are able to check things off, regardless of how you organize. Once you plot your strategies, following them and sticking with them will become an easier habit over time. Before you know it, your once-messy bucket list will become a portfolio of your achievements.
Readers spend almost five million hours each month reading publications on Medium. Medium is the popular online publishing platform founded in 2012 by Biz Stone and Evan Williams. Medium’s use of an algorithmic timeline expands the audience.
Medium—the Popular Blogging Platform
Medium is a publishing platform for articles, blog posts, and stories. Writers can generate traffic and boost their readership via Series, the new platform that targets Medium’s mobile phone reading audience. Series allows writers to create stories that develop over time. Readers who subscribe to the writer’s Series will be notified about updates.
Recommendations grow the reader base. The more people who like the content by clicking on the heart icon, the more it will appear on readers’ timelines. Medium also lets bloggers know how many people viewed their articles and how many read it completely.
E-Readers and Mobile Phones Boost Serialized Fiction
Series is a concept targeting the on-the-go reader. It is a modern take on the 19th century serials that churned out short stories and boosted writers’ careers, now with mobile phone users in mind. Serials, then as now, were publications that published chunks of material episodically. Today writers can unfold their stories to be read on mobile phones by adding material over time.
In the Victorian era, serialization was a popular method of publishing stories. It made stories accessible to more people, created suspense and anticipation, and boosted readership by word-of- mouth. Dickens and his contemporaries used the series format prolifically and profitably.
The ubiquity of the serialized publication declined after the printing press made long novels affordable for the masses. However, with the creation of the internet and e-readers, this form of publishing novels is coming back in a big way. Medium is taking on JukePop, Amazon, and other online platforms that have re-established the popularity of the serial format. It is offering a bite-sized version of the serialized format.
Series Specially Designed for Mobile Phone Users
As more readers visited Medium on their phones, the platform’s creative thinkers conceived a new means for storytelling that complemented the screen constraints of mobile phones. Series offers writers a way to deliver their stories in a more immediate and dynamic format.
Readers can opt to receive notifications of new installments and save their places so they can return where they left off. Readers can provide feedback to the creator, who now can share deeper, more complex storylines with readers.
Writers can begin crafting their series on Medium’s app or online. Readers can select what they want by downloading or updating Medium’s Android or iOS app on their phones. Upon downloading or updating the app, phone users can tap the Series tab to begin reading the content.
A comparative study of British and American literature revealed that British literature has become less emotional than American literature. This startling fact was revealed by the study published in 2013 in the journal, “Public Library of Science ONE” (“PLOS ONE”). In this study, Dr. Alberto Acerbi and Professor Alex Bentley evaluated more than five million books using Google’s database, Ngram Viewer, to reveal the frequency of words associated with anger, fear, disgust, sadness, joy, and surprise in these books.
Stressful Events and Emotional Literature
Dr. Acerbi and his colleague noted that the use of language is tied to major events. For instance, during World War II there was greater use of words associated with sadness. Since the mid-1950s American authors have noticeably used more expressive words.
The emotional prose by writers such as E.M. Forster was replaced by the reserved style of authors including Ian McEwan. From the 1960s onwards, the divergence between the American and British prose and the change in the language used by British writers was more evident.
The study provides a useful starting point to understand the reasons for this divergence. Psychologists have discovered that people who have more emotional intensity live more complicated lives than less emotional people. This may explain why the apparent connection between emotion in literature and turbulent events.
A noticeable albeit unsurprising exception during the Cold War era was the use of words associated with fear, even though British writers used less emotionally expressive words generally. Words associated with fear became more common in the novels written during the second part of the 20th century.
More Turbulent Times in America
The researchers appeared to think that economic prosperity in America made the prose more emotional; yet in the British context they held the contradictory view that turbulent times affected the writing of the period.
While the American economy did go through a post-war boom, American writers were also living through turbulent times. The civil rights movement, the assassinations of American icons (John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.), the anti-Vietnam War movement, and feminism era were some of the notable emotional periods of the 1960s, the decade of the emerging divergence in the writing styles of the two nations.
In the U.S. were also greater inequality, a weaker social net and activists raising public awareness of the weaknesses. Writers like Alice Walker, Harper Lee, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Gore Vidal, Joseph Heller, and Norman Mailer were products of their times. The literary moods expressed in their writings were driven by the major events of the 20th century experienced in their country.
The comparative study of British and American books reveals that writers are communicators who are moved by their times. The storytellers are not immune to what is going on around them. They distill cultural and historical trends of their times in the language they use in their literary works.
Children are not too young to appreciate insightful wisdom about the world, especially when it is packaged in an entertaining and engrossing book! Some of the most beloved children’s books have taught their readers life lessons through their engaging stories.
Lessons about friendship, adversity, individuality, differences, love, loss, and the importance of being optimistic and not giving up, are among the many life lessons illuminated by classic children’s literature. These classic books are never out of date.
Learning about Freedom and Rules
Madeleine L’Engle’s book, “A Wrinkle in Time,” is a fantasy adventure that teaches young readers about the importance of love. Meg Murry, the young heroine, must be brave to find her lost father. The insightful messages about freedom and rules in the book, first published in 1962, have not faded over time.
Respect the Environment
The message of “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss is about respecting nature and the dangers of deforestation. The tale about Once-ler and the way he altered the landscape by removing trees is a cautionary tale about preserving the environment. Through this story, young readers are taught the importance of appreciating nature’s beauty.
Use Wit to Defeat Obstacles
In the story of “Matilda” by Roald Dahl., the child prodigy Matilda uses her wits to outsmart her foes and adversity. This book also encourages readers to appreciate books and reveals how they provided an escape mechanism for its protagonist.
Everyone Has Bad Days
First published in 1972, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” by Judith Viorst was made into a movie released in 2014. The book is about one of those days when nothing goes right!
Love and Loss Are Part of Life
E.B. White’s “Charlotte’s Web” teaches children about love and loss through a story set on a farm about friendship between Charlotte the spider and Wilbur the pig and their animal friends. The importance of loyalty and friendship among different animals is a moving tale that every reader will remember.
Be Honest with Yourself
“Harriet the Spy” by Louise Fitzhugh is about the life and adventures of a precocious and intelligent 11-year-old who dresses like a boy and does not fit in with the clique. Her neighborhood adventures, interactions with classmates, and home life provide a vivid showcase that also lets readers know it is okay to be yourself, even when you do not conform, or feel like an outsider.
The Value of Optimism
Watty Piper’s “The Little Engine That Could” instructs readers about the value of optimism and determination.
Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl, E.B White, and other authors of classic children’s literature have left behind stories that will resonate with children even today. The writers of these books understood the important role books play in development and used their creativity to enlighten children.
As America becomes more diverse, a significant portion of the current majority population feels threatened. However, as white Americans and Europeans age, diversity is a primary factor in national growth and innovation. In fact, what is unfolding is increased competition for migrants in aging developed countries. Since a majority of characters in children’s books are white, adding diversity is a positive way to introduce children to the diversity they will experience as adults.
Children’s Books Do Not Reflect Growing Diversity of America
A study of diversity in children’s books published in 2015 revealed that more than 73 percent of the characters are white, although that is no longer the ratio in the general population in America. Non-Hispanic whites were actually 64 percent of the population according to the 2010 Census. A snapshot of the U.S. census in 2012 revealed that at the present rate the white majority will no longer be so by 2043.
Books as a Vehicle for Understanding the World
Teachers have said that a good story helps children get the message about respecting differences. From “Sneetches” by Dr. Seuss to Queen Rania, different writers have tackled this subject in our time. Writers have plenty of room to add to the growing genre of diversity books for children.
Story of Civilization is Migration
In ancient times, people and animals moved freely because of climate change or search for opportunities from one region to another. It was recently discovered that cheetahs migrated from North America across land bridges all the way to Africa. Geneticists have revealed that we are all descendants of people who left Africa in one migration.
Carl Zimmer’s article, “A Single Migration From Africa Populated the World, Studies Find,” published in the New York Times on September 21, 2016 discusses this revealing research originally published in the journal Nature.
Diversity Books for Children
The “We Need Diverse Books” movement, started in 2014, calls for more diverse children’s books to be created and made available to young readers. At school and at home, young readers can be exposed to books that help them learn about respecting differences in people. Children’s books can be windows and reflectors for their young readers.
Research about prejudice reveals that direct contact lessens stereotyping. Books introduce children to the outside world. Bringing young readers into contact with diversity via books is an entertaining and educational opportunity that children’s book and short story authors can offer their young reading public.
Writers can create stories from their imagination. However, the unfolding history of how we came to be also offers writers many opportunities to write reality-based stories for children.
Literature can stoke the feelings that lead to civil war, express what writers think about the conflict, and help heal the wounds of war. When Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe, he told the author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” that she sparked the Civil War. By dramatizing slavery’s horrors, her book moved the conscience of Northerners and energized the cause of abolitionists.
Understanding Sri Lanka’s Civil War through Ethnic Literature
In our time, the literature of Sri Lanka reveals to outsiders the trauma of civil war, and how important it is to heal its wounds to bind a nation afterwards. The protracted civil war in Sri Lanka that lasted almost 25 years until its conclusion in 2009 still haunts its people.
Colleen Lutz Clemens, associate professor of non-Western literatures at Kutztown University, published a blog article recently entitled, “Sri Lankan History and Literature Deserve a Place in Our Classrooms.” Published on October 12, 2016 for “World Literature Today,” her piece explained why literature provides a window into the process of healing a nation through the remembrance of a traumatizing period in history.
The literature and poetry reflecting feelings from both sides of the conflict reveals the different viewpoints of people before the war, during the war, and in its aftermath.
Literature Revealing Rising Tensions
Democracy paved the way for civil war in Sri Lanka when political parties mobilized voters along ethnic lines. Government led by politicians representing the majority-Buddhist Sinhala population introduced policies that discriminated against the (mostly Hindu) Tamils and fueled the tensions.
The first signs of conflict were ethnic riots that sprang up in 1958 after the polarizing Sinhala Only Official Language Bill was approved by Parliament soon after the 1956 general election. This law paved the way for the rise of militancy that culminated in civil war. Writers on either side of the ethnic divide reflected the passions of each faction.
Literature Promoting National Unity
However, among writers from the majority ethnic population were also those who expressed their support for reconciliation and respect for minority rights. During the 1960s and 1970s, the Sri Lanka Progressive Writers’ Association promoted socialism in Tamil literature and expressed support for ethnic integration, national unity, and social equity.
During this period, progressive writers highlighted social issues such as caste oppression, class conflict, and economic exploitation. During the civil war, writers on both sides in favor of unity expressed their feelings through their writing. The post-war literature has revealed what is needed to bring a nation together after a war in which each side viewed the other as its bitter enemy.
2016 marked the 400th anniversary of the death of Miguel de Cervantes. His great novel, “Don Quixote,” was published in 1605 and was partly written while the author was in prison. Since then, it has earned admiration from other great writers. The Bokklubben World Library, a poll of writers in 54 countries conducted by the Norwegian Book Club in 2002, selected “Don Quixote” as the greatest literary work.
Cervantes had an eventful life. He was injured in the battle of Lepanto in 1571, captured by Barbary pirates, and enslaved for five years in Algiers by the Ottomans. After he was freed, Cervantes became a playwright and a tax collector and was briefly imprisoned because of irregularities in his work as the latter. It was during this stint in prison that he began to write “Don Quixote.”
A Revolutionary Work of Literature
Not only was this book one of the first fictional works, it contained many special features. As the story was seen through the viewpoints of different characters, the writer’s vision can be seen for the first time in this book. This revolutionary literary structure for its time also depicted chivalry in a sardonic manner—another unusual aspect of the novel.
Harold Bloom, the literary critic, and others consider this 17th century novel to be the first modern novel. According to Bloom, the arcs of change mark the novel’s separation from the past; while for Carlos Fuentes, it is the characterization and dialogue that distinguish the novel from earlier works.
The title character, as described in a letter Feodor Dostoevsky wrote to his niece, was the “most perfect” literary hero. Both the author and his protagonist were idealists who had a tough time in their lives. Fighting windmills was symbolic of fighting for ideals even though loss was expected. Cervantes believed that standing up for ideals mattered more than achieving success.
Other Notable Facts
Parts of the story were taken from the author’s own life, such as the incident where the nobleman and his sidekick Sancho Panza free some galley slaves. During his period of enslavement, Cervantes tried to escape several times. His wife’s great uncle was the source for the nobleman’s characterization and the protagonist’s revealed real name, Alonso Quixano.
The book was written in a modern variant of Spanish, and its popularity mainstreamed this new development.
“Don Quixote” still earns praise, even from a business professor! In his film, “Passion and Discipline: Don Quixote’s Lessons for Leadership,” former Stanford professor and poet James G. March uses the hero to distill parts of his famous “Organizational Leadership” course.
The most popular publishing genres also show up as the most popular in self-publishing. When books are read for entertainment, readers focus on genres they like. Writers who want to self-publish and make a living at it should consider writing in the genres that have large readerships.
Half of Amazon’s self-published e-book bestsellers are category romance, science fiction, and fantasy novels! Their readers are devoted to these easy-to-read and engrossing novels. They offer sheer escapism. And, readers of these genres have clearly defined interests that authors can appeal to.
Romance is the most popular genre. Happy endings and escapism have made romance an enduringly popular genre. Science fiction, fantasy, mystery and crime are also leading genres.
The Romance Category
Romance as a publishing genre has the lion’s share. Romances have forty percent of the market share of Amazon’s e-book sales. Like other genres, romance has subgenres as well such as contemporary romances, historical romances, romance mystery, Christian romance, westerns, and erotica. Even though “Fifty Shades of Grey” is in the erotica genre, erotica actually has a very small market share of the romance genre.
Bestselling romance writers, like Lindsay McKenna, are able to move from traditional publishing houses to self-publishing with some success. McKenna started self-publishing in 2014, after leaving Harlequin. In 2015, she joined Kensington; however, she did not leave self-publishing behind.
Science Fiction and Fantasy
Almost half of the science fiction and fantasy books sold on Amazon are self-published. Books in this genre invite readers to immerse themselves in alternate universes.
The Mystery and Thriller Categories
Mysteries and thrillers also sell very well. Readers who enjoy problem solving and getting their hearts thumping for entertainment enjoy this genre.
The successes of self-published authors indicate there is room for many more such success stories. Books by Deborah Bladon, Vi Keeland, Tijan, and Penelope Ward made it to the New York Times bestseller list for digital books in 2015.
The self-publishing option is becoming more mainstream. Crossover authors are on the rise in both traditional publishing and self-publishing. These hybrid authors make the most money, according to a survey by Digital Book World. Crowdfunding remains a popular platform for publishing projects. If you are worried about money, explore the crowdfunding option. Keep in mind that to build readership, many series book authors have offered the first book for free.
For any genre, marketing is the key to success. If you do not want to write a genre book, you can remain true to your vision and see how it goes. Readers will notice if you have to force your writing. Consider generating some crossover appeal, if making a living as a writer is your goal.
Every genre has distinct rules and reader expectations. Readers often select their reading material by genre. Choosing the genre helps in plotting, constructing the appropriate writing style, and selling the book to the right audience.
Publishing success depends on the category in which the book is marketed. For instance, a general fiction book will not sell well as a romance, because the plot will disappoint reader expectations. Even when genres are similar, the plot will determine which category attracts the most readers. Readers of some genres have firm expectations, such as a happy ending in a romance book.
Genres and Pacing
Even though mysteries and thrillers are similar genres, one is more plot-driven than the other. In thrillers, more time is needed to create the scenario; however, in mysteries the end has already transpired. This means writing a thriller involves more world-building, and mysteries can focus more on character development. Thrillers are also faster-paced. The informative Mystery Writers of America is a good source for tips.
Thrillers and suspense novels involve trying to prevent something very bad from taking place. These plot-driven books do not allow the writer to dwell much on character development. In the hybrid mystery–suspense genre, the pacing is quicker, but a crime has already occurred. However, the rush to prevent something from happening remains and quickens the pacing. Check out the informative International Thriller Writers website for more information.
Fantasy and science fiction involve world-building, and the more world-building in the novel, the longer it is. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America provides more information. For horror books, the Horror Writers Association is a good resource.
In character-driven literary fiction, the pace is slower, and the plot reveals the personal evolution of the characters. The choices made at critical junctures challenge the protagonist’s character. This is why plot remains important, but character development is the dominant factor in literary fiction.
Writing Style and Genres
Skillful writers use precise language, but the words contribute to sentence fluency—the flow of words in sentences. Skillful writers use different types of sentences with different sentence flows and lengths to achieve the desired effects. They know that variation prevents attention-killing monotony.
Capable writers arrange the words in sentences and use sentence structure and sentence variation for optimal effect. However, these wordsmiths write in the context of the genres they select. In literary fiction, for instance, the emphasis is on the prose. In faster-paced genres, the writing style uses more action words.
Plotting and writing become easier once the genre is selected because genre-specific rules and reader expectations discipline writers. Understanding the ground rules means knowing which critical elements are necessary. The rules and expectations also help writers to write something that sells well.