Monday, July 04, 2005

Must Work Hard & Smart

Do you wonder why some writers seem to rocket to the top of the bestseller charts while your writing is consistently rejected? From my perspective few writers rocket to the top of the bestseller charts. If you get the opportunity to talk with them and ask questions, you will learn they have worked hard and consistently in a smart manner for years.

I’m continuing to write about characteristics of successful writers. These various traits are not based on some scientific study or trend but from my observations and years of interviewing and interacting with many bestselling authors.

I’ve seen it often and usually find it a bit amusing. A brand new writer will come to a conference. This writer has been successful in another career such as teaching or business. They expect their first book manuscript or magazine article will instantly find acceptance and success. These individuals have forgotten the years of learning and hard work they poured into their previous career. Usually the first writers conference is a revelation to these individuals that they need to figure out how publishing works—and that effort will involve hard work.

For example, are you willing to learn that the market needs before you write it? Are you willing to take the time to study a magazine and see what types of articles they publish before you learn to write a query letter? Are you willing to invest the time and energy necessary to block out other things and write to a particular deadline and word length? I find many writers want to write what they want to write then expect the market to embrace them and publish their material. It simply doesn’t happen that easily under normal circumstances.

The bestselling authors have worked hard to develop their own skills so they are excellent at the craft of writing. They’ve also learned to ask questions and work smart—deliver what the editor wants for the market rather than what they inspirationally would like to be writing. 

It’s fine to work hard but you also need to work smart. For example, you need to learn to write your ideas for magazine articles into a query letter rather than writing the full manuscript. You need to write book proposals instead of manuscripts (particularly in nonfiction). Otherwise you are spending volumes of time working hard on the wrong track.

Mike Hyatt has some terrific tips and links about how to work smart in his blog. I’ve incorporated a number of these suggestions and they have helped me work smarter.

If you’ve heard those miracle stories about the first-time writer who sells a bijallion books and makes it to the bestseller chart. Rejoice for that person but realize they are a fluke more than a path that most of us can follow. The majority of these authors worked hard to achieve their goals and they worked smart. If you had the time and opportunity to hear the stories, I suspect you would find this characteristic in each of them.

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