Is Your Fear of the ‘Wrath of Angry Readers’ Holding You Back?

Even though a published story is no longer “ours,” that doesn’t mean we lose the right to be proud of what we have written.

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I am currently writing a novel. I am currently avoiding finishing this novel, as much as I can stand, because of a major decision I have to make.

As often ends up being the case, there is a character that I have fallen in love with. This has nothing to do with me killing off someone everyone loves: the premise of the book is that he is already dead, before the audience even gets a chance to know him (sorry). He is that character you want to know more about, and gradually learn more about as the present story moves forward.

I love this character and everything he stands for. He appears in flashbacks and is the driving force behind both MCs’ narratives (his name is in the title). Yet I have the choice to reveal something about his past that will change the way he is perceived (by readers, by the characters, I’m not really sure). I could just as well never reveal it, or leave it as subtly implied as I have up until this point, and let readers (if there ever are any) interpret it how they will.

But that would be so easy. It would be the safe thing to do. But would it be the right thing?

Some days, I swing one way. Some days, I swing the other. I’ll tell them; wait, no, I can’t. But as time has gone on, I’ve realized that one of very few things keeping me from going with the less desirable option is that I am afraid how future readers (if applicable) will react to it.

There are other factors that will go into making the final decision. But this one bothers me the most.

As writers, we cannot please everyone.

Try as we might, it just isn’t possible. There are always going to be people who write to you and tell you how they think your story should have been written (sigh). If that’s what makes them feel better, let them do what they will do. But there are also going to be people who, at least overall, like what you have written. Some of them might even understand that the way you wrote the story was meant to be, and that a strong emotional response to a story does not always have to be a bad thing (SIGH). Honestly? We all care about what people think. But even though a published story is no longer “ours,” that doesn’t mean we lose the right to be proud of what we have written.

But sometimes, the easy way is also the right way.

We should never make a major decision about a character or facts in a story based on comfort level. We can still be uncomfortable with a decision and know, deep down, that it’s the right thing to do. It’s important to always keep our story in mind above all else – meaning that regardless of what other people might think, if we are confident that a certain event or ending to our story is how it is supposed to be, we have to let it unfold that way. We can’t change it just to please someone else. People will always find things to criticize. But if you know it’s the right thing to do, you have to let it be. Be factual, be considerate, be honest, but tell the story the way you know it should be told.

We have to pay attention to our story. Our audience’s opinion … doesn’t matter.

That is not me saying the people who might one day read something you write don’t matter. The exact opposite is true. Your audience members are going to be some of the most important assets to the success of your published works. However, even though there will be people who hate on your decisions and people who support them, those who understand why you did what you did will always support you. Those who just don’t get it might be angry, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t pick up the next book you write. Some won’t. But many might.

I won’t tell you what or when I decide how my story is going to play out. My hope is that within the next few years you will get to read it and see for yourself (no guarantees, but I can dream). You will come to crossroads like this all the time when writing. The more you write, the more confident you are in the risks you take. I would love if, when I published something, no one would hate it. But that’s not reality. I’m sorry that person didn’t understand or didn’t resonate with something or didn’t agree. But that doesn’t make the work I have done any less valuable.

Never let another person devalue your craft. Opinions can hurt. But they are just opinions, after all.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

Image courtesy of The Huffington Post.

Your Audience Has a Problem. They Need Your Help

The best way to ignore your audience’s needs is to give them content that doesn’t help them.

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Every person who views content online has their own reasons for it. A lot of times, your readers will have a problem they’re trying to solve. You might be helping them more than you know. Here’s how you can do this with more effectiveness, and confidence, too.

There are only a few reasons people view online content

The best way to ignore your audience’s needs is to give them content that doesn’t help them. To understand that, you have to first understand why people view content online, whether it be reading blogs or magazines or other websites, watching videos, listening to audio, viewing photos, etc.

People often want to be entertained. Or they want to read something they can relate to (which is why BuzzFeed has nailed those listicles so well). Or they have a question or a problem, and they’re on the hunt for a useful, actionable answer or solution, whether that be in the form of information or straightforward advice, with step-by-step instructions (preferably in bullet points or bolded subheadings, so they don’t have to read the whole article. Not bitter or anything).

What you have to say actually matters

At times it can feel like you write a lot of general how-tos and the like, which can’t possibly help every single person the same way. It feels like what you’re writing really doesn’t matter that much. But to the readers who are served or reassured or entertained, it might mean the world.

They need you. Maybe not you, specifically, but the advice you have to give. You may not be an expert, but if you’re writing about it, you must know something. That’s good enough for them. They just need someone to understand them, to put into words what they’re thinking. Someone to offer a solution they haven’t heard before, or to reinforce what they’ve already been told but maybe aren’t quite sure they believe.

Here’s the best way to be helpful

You don’t know the majority of the people that will stumble upon your work. You don’t know their specific circumstances nor can you give anything other than general advice to your entire audience as a whole (in most cases). So how in the world are you supposed to be helpful, knowing these things?

You have to close your eyes and picture the person who might click on the piece you’re writing. What do they need to hear? What, deep down, are they truly hoping to learn or what truth do they need to have reinforced? Or do they just need to get away from it all for a little while, with a good old-fashioned distraction? The kind of content you put out will determine, in general, what need you will usually expect to fulfill.

Picture that one person and use that to guide you. This means you won’t be able to cater to everyone’s specific situation individually, but that’s to be expected. They’ll get more specific in a comment if they want to, and that’s totally valid. A lot of times, it’s up to you to bring up the subject, to give your audience something to work with. It’s okay if they take it into their own hands and build off of it, in a good way. You want that. It means you’re doing something helpful, even if it doesn’t always feel like it.

Even if you only ever help one person, it’s worth it. Don’t you think?

Image courtesy of clin-edge.com.

What Makes People Actually Want to Read Your Story?

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Falling in love with a book happens so fast you don’t even realize it’s happened until you’re halfway through reading it.

Obviously, for a book to be considered a good book, it has to have a good story. And everyone has their own definition of what that entails. Not just a good story, but a story people will actually want to read, has a few vital components. They’re not too easy to master, and it takes time to do so. But it’s possible. Many before you have mastered the art of telling a story the reader can’t turn away from. There is hope for you and your stories.

New takes on old ideas

Have you ever stopped writing for a second, sat back and thought, “You know, I think this story has already been written”? You’re not wrong. Not at all. Pretty much every basic framework for every story has already been written hundreds upon thousands of times. But it doesn’t always feel that way, because writers are always coming up with new ways to tell those stories, to use that framework only as a foundation to build from.

Just because “it’s already been done” doesn’t mean you can’t still write it. Readers love familiar elements of stories they’ve read before. But it’s up to you to make it unique, to add a new twist, to keep it interesting even if it is just a little bit predictable.

Real conversations between realistic characters

Every once in awhile, you will come across a book that’s just “okay.” The story is overdone, not that unique and you can already predict how it’s going to end (or so you think). Even though that might seem like enough to convince you to set it down and pick up another book, it’s not. Because despite the so-so storyline, you’ve immediately fallen in love with the characters.

Real characters engaged in conversations you can envision happening in real life are often the anchor that keeps a new reader turning pages. Some stories just get off to a rough start. Especially first drafts, which you know well if you’ve written plenty of them. Counteract that weaker beginning with strong, dynamic characters right from the start. Those personalities will carry you through the rough points until you can go back and write a stronger introduction.

Layers that keep going deeper

A good story, good characters and good pacing all have one thing in common: layers. All those stories you’ve read about a hero going deep into a cave or beneath the earth’s surface are just metaphors for good storytelling (well, maybe). Depth in a story is everything. A cast of flat characters, zero character development and little to no deep discovery are sort of just like walking around the Midwest. There’s not much variety and our hills don’t count. It gets boring, and fast.

To keep a reader engaged, you have to peel back the layers of every character, conflict and event and dive deeper into back stories (but no more than necessary), internal conflicts and so on. You don’t have to tell all, but age-old techniques like foreshadowing something yet to come are the things keeping the pages turning, even if it seems cliche to you right now.

If you’ve ever fallen in love with a story, you’ve probably never stepped back to analyze exactly why you love it. Everyone likes a story for different reasons, and as a writer, it’s not possible to cater to everyone’s needs and satisfy every person that picks up your book. Don’t make that your mission. Aim to write a story that has as many good storytelling ingredients as possible without overdoing it.

Go with your gut. Often, it will steer you right.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

The Most Difficult Things Writers Have to Explain to Non-Writers, Part 2

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One big difference between people who write and people who don’t is that people who write get what it means to be a writer … and people who don’t write … don’t.

While we’d love to say writing is all fun all the time, the reality is, it isn’t. Which can be frustrating when there are friends and family always going on and on about how easy we have it, getting to write for a living (or trying to).

Our first post on this topic covered a few literary phenomenons most people don’t understand, like characters taking over stories. This post talks more about writing as a process, which is also something nearly impossible to understand if you don’t basically write to live.

Difficult Thing #4: Writing is hard

“You’re a writer! Wow! You have, like, the easiest job ever!”

Ha. HAHAHAHAHA. Ha.

Enlighten me. Where in the world did this one come from?

Introduce me to a writer who can look me straight in the eye and tell me they have an easy job. It doesn’t matter if you’re a novelist or a journalist or a PR intern or whatever your official title is. Writing is hard. There are days words just do not come together to form coherent sentences. But most of the time, you have to write anyway, because there are deadlines and people counting on you and expecting you to get your work done. Always.

Sure, maybe some days words come easily and you can write ten 500-word articles in an eight-hour work day. But you’re not just a writer. You’re a reader, a re-reader, a proofreader, an editor, people tell you to rewrite, and re-rewrite, because a first draft is never perfect, and sometimes, a final product has to come pretty darn close.

It’s not that writers don’t love what they do. But to them, writing is work. If you want to be a writer because you think it will be easy, you should probably start looking into different professions.

Difficult Thing #5: Writing is not always fun

“You’re a writer? I’ve always wished I was a writer, it sounds like so much fun!”

Sure … writing can be fun. Sometimes. But it’s a huge misconception that being a writer is the most fun job you could have. For one thing, writing is hard (see above). Just because you might be able to sit down and write a story that makes you laugh and is entertaining to write doesn’t mean it’s entertaining to edit, revise, rewrite, etcetera.

And writers don’t just get to write fiction all the time. It depends on individual disciplines, but there’s always professional writing involved, too. Proposals, query letters, emails, marketing materials, articles, blog posts, all the technical stuff that allows writing to even be considered a profession at all.

Because many writers literally write to live (it’s their job), they write all day, and then end up sometimes writing even more, on their own, just for fun. That’s not easy on the brain after awhile.

Difficult Thing #6: Writing is literally as important as eating food regularly

How many times have people asked you, when they find out you’re a writer, “Do you write a lot [frequently]?” Probably, well, a lot (frequently).

For non-writers, the idea of writing daily is basically a foreign concept. It’s different when you’re so used to writing every day it becomes almost an involuntary activity.

To the dedicated, disciplined, experienced writer, writing isn’t just something that happens during free time, like playing video games or chatting with friends on social media. In one form or another, writing, like eating food, is a daily necessity. Without it, everything else seems to fall to pieces. Whether it’s a few minutes of journaling, writing an email or working on a blog post, article or story, words need to be written at some point throughout the day.

So if you’re not a writer, and you usually roll your eyes when your friend says she’ll meet you in five minutes – she has to finish writing – give her 10 minutes instead. She’ll be much more pleasant to hang around when she’s done and has it crossed off her to-do list.

Writing is a process. The difficulties that come along with it, while rewarding when it’s all said and done, are often hard to navigate through. Send this post to your non-writing friends. Remind them that you’re a hard worker just like anyone else. Progress isn’t always instantaneously detectable. You’re a writer, not a magician.

Give your writing friends a pat on the back. And some chocolate. And a hug. They need it.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

The Most Difficult Things Writers Have to Explain to Non-Writers, Part 1

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“Where do you get all your ideas?”

Anyone else ever been asked this question? Of course you have. We love people who don’t write for fun. They are amazing. But there are just some things, like ideas and stories and characters and plot bunnies, they will never understand.

Yet sometimes we find ourselves caught in that loop. We want to be nice and tell people what it’s like to be a writer, but that requires a lot of explaining. The reality is, writers are just like non-writers, except to writers, writing is like breathing. You can explain how it works, but the reality isn’t quite as magical as what you might imagine from the outside looking in.

Difficult Thing #1: I come up with this stuff as I go, I’m really not that clever

English class is a great place to look if you’re trying to find metaphors and symbolism you never would have otherwise noticed in a story. It doesn’t mean the author didn’t do it on purpose, but not all writers are creative masterminds.

Most of the time, we’re just making it up as we go along. Some of the best stories are written with the freedom of mind to let things happen the way they’re supposed to, instead of trying to force yourself to plan everything out down to the last detail. As writers, we’re pretty smart. But we don’t come up with this stuff just to give you something to say in your next lit analysis. This stuff just sort of happens and we just go with it.

Difficult Thing #2: If the story is over, there doesn’t need to be a sequel

Every story has a beginning, middle and end. At least, that’s how it appears on the page. If you’re a writer, you know there’s another part to every story: everything you imagine but don’t actually include in the final product, and for good reason.

Some back stories and side plots aren’t meant to be written. Just because a minor character still has some secrets by the end of the book doesn’t mean there needs to be a second book that reveals all those secrets. Sometimes a writer chooses not to tell the whole story, because the story that’s been told is plenty. There doesn’t need to be more just because you still have questions. There are plenty of other books out there. It’s over. Move on.

Difficult Thing #3: My characters made me do it

It’s not my fault that plot twist just came out of nowhere, I promise. And that cliffhanger ending? Also not my fault. I don’t have as much control over this story as you probably think I do.

It’s really hard to explain the power characters have over the writers who create them to someone who has never spent enough time on a story for this phenomenon to occur. It makes us sound a little silly and probably like we’re exaggerating. But we’re definitely not. “My characters made me do it” is a legitimate excuse. They’re very persuasive. And they like to have their way.

Stay tuned for Part 2! If you have any suggestions for the second installment, compose your words of wisdom below.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

How to Show Your YA Readers You Respect Their Intelligence

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(For the purpose of this post, if you don’t have any readers yet, imagine you have them. A lot of then.)

Your readers are smart. When they’re searching for books to read outside of school, they want to read stories that are entertaining, intriguing and mentally stimulating. Every reader has different genre and style preferences, but when it comes to reading, everyone has one major thing in common: they do not want to be narrated down to, intellectually speaking.

If you want your YA readers to respect you and your work, you have to respect them, too. They’ll be quick to turn away from books written by authors who avoid storylines, themes and even language they don’t think a teenager can handle (think of Twilight or The Hunger Games, books a lot of people liked, but who many bashed for their over-simplicity in some areas).

Here’s how to write the stories you want, while simultaneously showing your readers you respect and value their intelligence.

Don’t give them straight answers

Readers don’t need all the answers to figure out what’s written between the lines. Not only do writers need to leave some questions unanswered (no matter how many might complain – you can’t please everyone), but writers also don’t need to answer all raised questions straightaway.

Smart readers, remember? They will either figure it out on their own – or, even better – they might actually start a discussion about it with other people who have read the same story to help fill in the gaps.

Make your story deep and complex

Subconsciously, writers sometimes shy away from certain story elements. This happens for a lot of reasons: sometimes it’s a personal thing, or a writer decides the particular theme or event is better suited for a different story. But sometimes, without realizing it, we put a certain idea to bed because we’re not sure if it’s right for our audience.

Of course you’re going to avoid going too deep if your story is geared toward younger readers, but here’s the thing about YA’s main audience – young teenagers: they are hungry for intellectual stimulation. (My brother is 16. The thing he hates most about school is not feeling like his teachers are challenging him enough – he does not want to sit there at his desk feeling dumb.) The best thing you can do for this audience is to go as deep and complex as you need to in order for the story to have its full effect. Don’t think your readers can’t handle it. They need to be given the chance to handle it before anyone should be able to decide to take it away from them.

Create smart, relatable characters

Not every character you create should be genius-smart, but don’t make them intellectually dull, either. Think realistically here. Not everyone has the same “intellectual gifts.” Someone who’s not great at math might be really good at figuring out how computers work regardless. Everyone expresses intelligence in their own way, whether it be through reading or science or pop culture (yes, it counts). Your characters should reflect that.

Readers need to believe the time they’re spending on a book has value, and if the characters they’re getting to know just don’t give them any personality to look up to or appreciate, it’s going to hurt a lot more than it helps.

Writing is about those reading the words just as much as it is about the person writing them. Treat your readers like the smart, innovative people they are. Make them feel represented and appreciated. Crush stereotypes. Give them the voice they feel they don’t have. That’s the kind of book, and author, they are looking for. We want people to read more. We have to pay attention to their needs first.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

For a Book to Be a “Good Book,” I Need It to Have These Three Things

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I’ve been reading a lot lately. A lot of Princess Diaries and Twilight, nothing too complex. It’s how I give my brain a break between writing sprees without letting it totally shut down. It’s also healthy to read if you’re a writer. I think of it as brain food. Or that’s my excuse, anyway.

One reason I read as much as I can is so I can, as creepy as it might sound, get inside the heads of my readers. So I can understand what they need from me as a storyteller.

I’ve come up with a list of “requirements” of sorts. Things I need a book to have in order to consider it “good.” To remind myself what to and not to do as I’m working on writing my own book, but also for your benefit, if you so choose to indulge.

Here are my three “requirements.”

Believable characters

You can write a fantasy story with realistic characters. I don’t care which genre you’re writing in. I need to be able to believe that this character could come to life right now and exist in my world.

I tried to think of a good example for this point, but nothing specific comes to mind. I’ve read books where characters are inconsistent, or they’re just way too extreme in one direction to be able to actually imagine them existing. That’s a huge turnoff to me. I can’t get into a story if a character annoys me to the point of not being able to focus, just because he or she is unrealistic.

 Something unexpected (and preferably the opposite of what I want to happen)

Many, many people I know hated Allegiant, the third book in the Divergent series, because the author killed off a character, which no one expected her to do. Honestly, I get really annoyed when people claim to “hate” books because of twists like that!

I need to not be able to predict what’s coming next. I’ve fallen in love with Gillian Flynn for this very reason. I feel sort of disappointed if there isn’t a huge plot twist. Someone doesn’t always need to die; it doesn’t have to be that drastic. But I want to be surprised, and upset with the author—in a good way.

 An ending that makes me feel all the feelings

When I finished reading A Casual Vacancy, I probably sat there with the book still open to the last page for 10 minutes after the fact. That’s the kind of feeling I’m talking about. I’m okay with happy endings, I promise I am. But a happy ending sometimes makes me feel as if I haven’t learned what I was supposed to learn. Like I’ve cheated, somehow.

If there is a happy ending, though, the entire book can’t be happy. I’m sorry. I need to cry or feel like I need to punch a character (cough cough Edward Cullen) in the face. I read for the feelings.

It helps to step away from your own work for awhile and think about your audience. Because at some point, their thoughts and feelings toward your work does, to some extent, matter.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and health. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist, Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

Let’s Write, Learn and Grow Together

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About seven months ago, I published this post. Which, at first glance, doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, right? It’s not much different than the daily posts you’ve seen appear here every day since June (that’s a lot of posts). It’s not like you haven’t seen plenty of posts like this before.

There’s something special about it, though. Can you guess what it is?

It was, officially, the first post I ever published on Novelty Revisions.

That was a big deal, seven months ago. Because even though I had been blogging aimlessly for six years and had about 20 or so subscribers, I hadn’t been posting regularly. My posts weren’t really about anything, and the posts about writing didn’t really have a clear audience. I wanted to keep blogging, but I needed structure. I needed something new, without completely getting rid of the old stuff.

It took me weeks of long train rides and late nights in February trying to figure out what I wanted my blog to be. Seven months ago, though, I figured it out. And at some point, you showed up. Since March, subscribers have quadrupled. Site hits are consistently, well, not zero.

It’s not about numbers, though. I don’t want you to think that’s all I care about. The reason I spend so much time on my work for Novelty is that, in doing so, I get to help other writers. I get to share my experiences and put an honest, yet motivational spin on writing advice. It’s a tough gig. The majority of writers don’t get paid to do what they do. I don’t make money doing this. Numbers aren’t important to me, unless I’m trying to measure growth, and how many people I am able to help with each daily post.

That’s how we improve. As writers and as humans. We look at where we used to be, so we can motivate ourselves to continue to improve.

Our number of readers is slowly, but steadily growing. I really do appreciate the kind comments you all take the time to leave in that handy dandy little box down there. I’m here to help you, but really, we help each other. I don’t always know the kind of content you want to read, but I’m learning. I’m learning that change is actually one of the many keys to successful growth, in anything.

We are growing, which is great. But if I just kept doing what I’ve been doing the last seven months, that growth will eventually level off. I don’t want things to stay the same. And I’m sure you don’t, either.

That’s right, Noveltiers. Change is coming. And it’s coming soon.

Our flow of content and the content itself will stay the same. I’m not going anywhere. It’s still my mission to help you put your ideas into words, whether I’m talking about a literary concept or time management or just motivating you to keep going and stay strong when you want to burn all your manuscripts (don’t do that). But I think this blog, website, whatever you prefer to call it, can do more than that. I want to do more than that, for you.

You’ve given me a lot, over the past seven months. I owe you.

So starting next month, for the first time in the history of this blog and all its transformations over the past six and a half years, I will be sending a weekly newsletter straight to your inboxes. This newsletter (one of many “novelty” add-ons coming your way) will contain weekly top favorites, for those who don’t get the chance to visit daily (I don’t expect you to, that’s a lot of reading). And plenty of more exciting updates, both about my personal writing updates and more stuff you can apply to your own crazy awesome writing life.

There’s only one thing you need to do to get these updates. You guessed it this time. If you sign up for my weekly newsletter by tomorrow, you’ll receive the first-ever weekly issue, in which you’ll get even more news about what I’m planning. Including the exclusive option for you to guest post and a preview of an upcoming project I will refer to only as “Brain Rush.”

If you want to take any guesses as to what that might be, go ahead. Guess. You might even get it right. And I might even have a special prize for you.

That’s all you get. It’s free. It’s written by me. But it’s not for me or even really about me. It’s still all about you. That’s what I’m here for. If I only did this for me, quite honestly, I would have stopped a long time ago. I have a lot of ideas. All I want is to be able to share them with you, in hopes you’ll be able to get something out of them, too.

Check back in tomorrow for some tips on how to stay healthy during NaNoWriMo, and if you hit that signup button, you’ll be hearing even more from me then, too.

Until then, though – write on!

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and health. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist, Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

How to Find Your Writing Niche | LET’S GET PUBLISHED

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It’s time to get serious, aspirers. If you want to be a writer, there are some requirements.

You need to want it, and we mean really want it. Editors and readers alike can tell when your heart’s not in it.

You need to know why you want it.

You need to know where you fit in the publishing world and carve your name into it, because a lot of people—a lot of people—want what you want, for the same reasons you want it.

You need to stand out.

How do you stand out? By finding a niche and, basically, dominating it.

How do you do that? This week we’ll show you how to find the place to chisel your name onto the wall. Next week we’ll show you what to do when you’ve found that wall but there’s no room left for you on it (yet).

 1. Write about a lot of different things

Wait. That seems a little backwards. Aren’t we supposed to be finding our niche? Exactly right. How do you expect to find your area of writing expertise if you haven’t tried writing on different topics, for different publications and audiences?

In the beginning, write what you can write. Write what you enjoy writing about, but don’t hold yourself back from branching out to different topics. For one thing, it’s helpful to get your name out there, but everyone’s trying to do that at the exact same time. What you really enjoy writing about might not even end up being your exact niche—hold on, let’s dive a little deeper into that one.

 2. Figure out your “mission”

You don’t have to have a blog or a business to have a mission. Personal mission statements aren’t just for college applications: they’re part of establishing your brand, which you should start doing if you haven’t already, if you want readers to be able to figure out who you are if and when they do find you.

Creating your own mission statement will help you maintain a common thread throughout all the work you do, so that even when you’re writing on many different topics, you can still communicate your overall message to many different readers. It’s easier to define which niche aligns best with your goals when you know the specific goals you’re looking to achieve.

 3. Explore blogs, websites and forums that set you off (in a good way)

Eventually, as an “expert” you’ll spend less time writing random posts and articles and more time in your niche. Before you get there, though, you have to get involved. You can’t be an expert if you’re invisible, and if you’re not even sure how to begin building your brand and anchoring yourself in a specific writing niche, you might want to surround yourself with people and ideas who can help build you up.

Get out there. Read, comment, participate in conversations and writing challenges. Know the mantras of experts in the niche you enjoy spending time in and connect with them if you can. If you’re tempted to post multi-paragraph replies to someone else’s comment in a forum—because you want to elaborate on a point, not to be a troll—that might be your place to settle in and hang for awhile.

It’s not easy, being a writer. We know.

But you gotta start somewhere.

Find where somewhere is for you. Where do you fit?

And how will that change the way you write?

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Why Pitching “Bad” Ideas Is a Good Idea | LET’S GET PUBLISHED

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Before you scroll down to the comments section to scold us for our latest bite of advice, take a deep breath. Never judge a blog post by its title, right?

So far in our LET’S GET PUBLISHED series, we’ve covered how to choose the right publication to submit your pitches to and how (and why) to keep track of the pitches you do submit. Never once have we advised you to submit a story idea, to anyone, before giving it some serious thought first.

So why, then, are we screaming at you to pitch “bad” ideas? What’s that about, huh?

The thing is, nothing you submit is ever going to be perfect the first time around. Either it’s just not refined enough to make it past the first publication barrier or it doesn’t quite fit the mold of what that particular editor is looking for.

But sometimes, you have a pitch you’ve been brainstorming and fixing up for a little while. You know it’s not perfect. Keeping it to yourself just because you don’t think it’s ready, though, is only going to hurt you. Here’s why.

You are your absolute worst critic 

Have you ever noticed that it’s the ideas you think need the most work that other people grab onto the fastest? It’s always the idea you don’t think will make it to the next round that gets picked up first. There’s a reason for this: you spend a lot of time with your ideas, and after awhile, none of them are ever going to seem appealing enough to you to sell.

When we spend enough time mulling over our story ideas, we become desensitized to them. Have you ever just casually said to someone, “Oh, I’m writing a book/article/story” and wondered why they seem so intrigued? Is it really that big of a deal? It is! You’re just so used to it, it doesn’t look that way to you anymore. We face the same dilemma when pitching ideas. So when you don’t think something is quite good enough—pitch it anyway. Just do it.

You might get more helpful feedback than you expect 

It’s not always easy to predict how editors are going to react to your idea submissions. Some, okay, most, will pick the ones they like and spend their time pursuing those: they’ll just ignore the ones they aren’t planning on using, because they get hundreds, and they’re not robots. They can only do so much.

Some editors, though, particularly with small publications and newer blogs, will respond to your pitches even if they’re not quite ready to move forward in the publication process. You might actually get some decent feedback on how to revise your pitch to make it stand out more, broaden its subject matter or clarify its purpose. You never know, so it’s worth taking a chance regardless of whether you’re completely confident or not. Which, of course, leads nicely into our final reason to pitch, even when you think you have a “bad” idea. 

You never know until you pitch 

Honestly, if you never just “go for it,” you’re never going to get published, anywhere, no matter how much time you spend refining your skills. Pitching to publications is an experience in itself, so even if it feels like no one is ever interested in the ideas you’re throwing out there, it’s so much better than never pitching at all.

As we mentioned above, sometimes what you think will never make it will end up doing exactly that. The more time you spend worrying about whether so-and-so will “like it,” the less time you’re spending getting it out there for people to see, working on other projects and getting better and better at pitching, writing and selling as you go.

Have a bad idea? Pitch it. At least now you know what we mean by “bad.”

You can do it. The moment just before you hit send is the worst. Okay, waiting to hear back is pretty awful, too. But that gets easier to handle, too. We promise.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.