"" Rob Parnell's Writing Academy Blog: February 2008

Friday, February 29, 2008

Writing and Marketing - the Dilemma

If you want people to buy your work, you need to let them know about it. And you have to balance that with how successful marketing can seem a bit vulgar sometimes.

Like the ads on TV - we don't like them but we know that deep down, TV wouldn't exist without ads. It couldn't. Nor could magazines or newspapers - or, more especially, the Internet.

(Sorry to burst your bubble on this but if you think the Net is in any way free, you're kidding yourself. For a start, how much do you pay AOL for access per month? And how exactly do Yahoo, Google and Microsoft survive as the big three - it ain't charity, Bub, I can tell you that much.)

We'd like to think, as writers, we can be quiet, reserved, indeed anonymous - and people will somehow hear about us and buy our books - by word of mouth perhaps. By luck or by other people's promotional skills. Alas those days are over - if they ever existed in the first place!

Publishers are just as concerned about marketing as they are with publishing nowadays - (often the marketing department is bigger than the acquisitions department) - and they need to know that writers have the capacity and the willingness to go out there and promote their own work. To understand that success is a competition of sorts - you just can't hide your light under a bushel any more if you want to be taken seriously by the public - or the writing industry.

Something to bear in mind when promoting yourself, perhaps.

Besides which, I've never understood why it's okay for Coca Cola and Nike to get in your face and come across as big corporate bullies - but somehow it's unseemly for writers to be anything less than demure. Unless you're Jack Canfield or Bryce Courtney of course - both writers that everyone loves now because they, like an increasing number of successful writers, refuse to compromise over the need for self publicity.

And anyway - the way I see it is that I'm not really promoting me - just my writing - which is not really me, the person, but me, the writer - two close but not entirely the same individuals - does that make sense?

I'm shy as a person, afraid of criticism and easily hurt but when I put writing proposals together or movie treatments or anything I use to 'sell' my writing - I know I can seem super confident to the point of being almost 'brash'. But that's not really me - it just helps my career. A lot.

I try to teach this aspect of writing to others - because I know it can help writers get around this problem of having to seem self confident, worldy and wise in the ever more competitive marketplace that writing has become - when all you really want to do is sit at home and write.

I think Robyn and I show that this can work. You can be both.

Like all those (apparently) insecure Hollywood actors who look good in the media but secretly crave solitude and only do all the media stuff because it's what enables them to do what they love.

It goes with the territory. Even as a writer.

To ignore the need to publicize yourself is to cut off your nose to spite your face I think. In order to make money, you need to get yourself - or at least your writing - out there, or you simply won't be able to afford to keep doing it!

It'a very modern dilemma.

Anyway, again I apologize for my apparent brashness sometimes - I'm perhaps really only trying to set a good example for you, my writer friend.

Thanks for letting me speak to you.

Rob Parnell's Writing Academy

Friday, February 22, 2008

Ready, Get Set, Write

Writing short pieces - say up to around 5000 words - is fairly straightforward. You can, in most cases, just start writing and keep going until you've said everything you wanted and then go back and edit for sense.

If you've missed something out, you can slot it into the text. Or, if you've overdone a section - or the writing is bad or unnecesary - you have good friend in the delete button.

Writing longer pieces is different. Having a lot to say will take time and effort - the two things a writer cannot afford to waste.

So what's the best way to approach writing longer works?

It's all about preparation. It's about knowing where you're going and having some idea of your destination.

Some writers say they can't write using a plan - or even knowing what the ending is. They cite Stephen King - who says he doesn't know what the endings of his stories are going to be when he starts out. It's deliberate he says because he wants to write his characters into impossible corners - and then work out how they're going to survive.

Obviously this works for Mr King. He says the only book he wrote using a pre-written template was The Dead Zone - but he says he found the book depressing to write because he knew the ending!

Fair enough - but I'm not sure this approach works for every writer - especially new writers who really need to get that first novel written - all of it, down on paper, existing - to help them get that sense of 'yes, I can write a novel, I have proof.'

Most new writers never get to feel that because they stumble during the novel writing process - and the book goes unfinished.

There's really only one way to get a first draft down - and that is to write quickly. Write the first draft before you change you mind about it. Before you 'grow' a little and have a different viewpoint on the world and therefore your story.

It's easily done. You're all fired up with a story and can see its significance and importance - and then half way through - several months down the track - you wonder why you were so excited. Or you begin to change some character motivations slightly and, before you know it, the story doesn't work anymore and you have to bin it or start again.

Get your first draft down fast is always my advice - especially if it's your first novel. It doesn't matter how it reads. The first novel is a learning experience - an invaluable one. It will teach you more about the writing process than any other experience - and will stand you in great stead for the future.

But in order to write quickly you need a plan, a template you can refer to as you write - so you can push through blocks and keep on writing till the end.

The template can be a series of dot points, chapter headings or a detailed synopsis - it's up to you.

But that's my advice. If you sincerely want to write your first novel - make a plan. Know your characters, know your plot, know your story and its ending, before you start.

And then, keep writing - as fast as you can!

Rob Parnell's Writing Academy

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