Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Writing Tip Wednesday: Writing Advice from Donya Lynne

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! We're on Week 6 of Writing Advice. Donya Lynne, another of my wonderful IRWA friends, is here to share some great tips!

Hi, Donya! Thanks for visiting with me today. What advice do you have for new writers?

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a magic formula to follow to achieve publishing success? Unfortunately, more often than not, what works ridiculously well for one author fails miserably for another. Some authors find success with blog tours. Some don’t. Some find that giveaways enhance reader traffic, while others find that giveaways are just a means to allow the crickets to sing. Alas, there is no magic button.

So, as I thought about this article and what advice I would give to new writers, I found myself rifling through three years of self-publishing experience in an effort to find that one grain of truth that all fledgling authors need to know before they embark on a writing career. Something they could latch onto for hope and inspiration while not sugarcoating the business and emotional upheaval it can cause.

I could preach the virtues of actually learning the craft of writing before publishing. I could warn you that you need to develop a skin thicker than an alligator’s. I could express that writing for publication is the hardest work you’ll ever do (and if you’re doing it right, it is).

Instead, I’ve chosen to emphasize that no matter what happens, you need to be true to you. You need to follow YOUR plan, not someone else’s.

I realize that sometimes you need to follow someone else’s plan (or a lot of other peoples’ plans) for a while as you figure out your own, but, ultimately, you need to find your own process and adhere to it. You need to figure out your own voice, your own method, what does and doesn’t work for you, and more importantly, what it is your heart wants. And then you need to shut out all the peripheral voices, including your inner voice that tells you that you should be doing this, that, or the other, and focus on your own path.

For over two years, I did what everyone said I needed to do. I did the blog tours. I did giveaways and bought swag and held release parties and signed up for some kind of writer event every weekend in October and November of last year (and ended up making myself sicker than I’ve ever been in my life, I might add, due to the stress). I thought that this was what I needed to do to be successful and find new readers. There was this voice in my head telling me that I was falling behind if I didn’t do these things.

All I did was spend a lot of money, overshoot my budget by an ungodly amount, and decimate my writing momentum in the process.

At the end of last year, as I recovered from the worst cold I’ve ever caught, I took a hard look at what I’d done for three years and what I wanted to achieve going forward. What I found is that my heart wants to write. I have stories to tell that aren’t getting told due to all the time, energy, and work I’m putting in on all that other stuff. Furthermore, I can’t afford to spend money that doesn’t produce results. No one can.

What I’ve found is that blog tours are a nice break, but I don’t need them for every single book release. Release parties are fun, but they are stressful and take a lot of time and work, so, like blog tours, I need to reserve them for special books. Swag is great for giveaways, but I don’t need to buy every trinket under the sun. Pens, desk calendars, keychains, and bookmarks are enough, and it seems that most readers like these items the best. Author events and book signings are a great way to network with other authors and meet readers, but I don’t have to attend every single one that comes along. Three to four a year is plenty. The message here is that everything is good in moderation. Don’t go overboard.

So, after reevaluating my goals at the end of last year, I decided this year was going to be all about the writing. I’m going to say no to things I’ve said yes to in the past. I’m not going to allow my inner voice to tell me, “You should do this.” No, I should be writing, because that’s my path, and it’s what my heart wants to do. I know that now. My focus will be on churning out manuscripts, not all that other stuff.

Your best marketing tool is your next book, not your bookmarks, not your appearances at signings, not your blog tours, not your giveaways. Your next book. Everything else comes after that. The more books you write, the more people will read them.

So, my advice is to let go of all that other stuff. Let go of doing all the peripheral mumbo-jumbo. Focus on your writing. And make it high quality writing. Learn the craft and write the books. If you haven’t published yet, the best thing you can do is to write, write, and write some more (while saving a money to hire an editor and a cover artist who can create awesome, high quality covers for you), until you have 6-12 completed books ready to go. Then publish one every couple of months as you continue to write more books. This will build momentum and a following.

Don’t get caught up in all the hype as you watch author after author doing huge promotions and giveaways. Plenty of authors hit the New York Times without ever doing a blog tour. But what they do is write. Write, and keep writing. Once you have a large body of published work, you can think about doing all the other stuff. It will benefit you more once you have several books published.

Best wishes!

Donya Lynne is the author of the award winning All the King's Men Series and a member of Romance Writers of America. Making her home in a wooded suburb north of Indianapolis with her husband, Donya has lived in Indiana most of her life and knew at a young age that she was destined to be a writer. She started writing poetry in grade school and won her first short story contest in fourth grade. In junior high, she began writing romantic stories for her friends, and by her sophomore year, they had dubbed her Most Likely to Become a Romance Novelist. In 2012, she made that dream come true by publishing her first two novels and two novellas. Her work has earned her two IPPYs, one gold and one silver, as well as two eLit Awards, also one gold and one silver. Donya has many more novels and novellas planned for years to come.

Thanks so much for sharing this great advice, Donya! Writing and the next book often get pushed aside for promotion, which defeats building a strong writing career. I'm off to work on the next book(s). See you next week!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!