"" Rob Parnell's Writing Academy Blog: September 2009

Thursday, September 24, 2009

To Pay or Not to Pay

This week I've received lots of correspondence from my esteemed subscribers over the issue of whether writers should have to pay for writer's resources - including market listings.

I thought the topic worthy of discussion, not least because there are so many writer's sites out there that do charge fees - for almost everything from agent contacts, representation services, and the old chestnut, vanity (now often called POD or partnership) publishing.

It's interesting to me because it seems to be an issue that is unique to the Internet. Writers feel no similar qualms over paying for writing services and market listings off-line. It's only on the Internet that writers seem to think everything should be free!

Why, I'm not really sure.

I guess it's because once, a long time ago, there was an idealistic notion that the web would one day become a resource for humanity, free to all, forever...

Whilst a fervent minority bought into this cute idea, vast money driven corporations like Amazon, Apple, Google and our dear friend Mr Gates had no such heady plans to work for the good of mankind. No, theirs was a more basic driving force - the oldest of them all - the lure of profit.

And make no mistake - the Net is a commercial enterprise.

Note: Is. Always was, always will be. It's up to us, the consumers, to adjust our thinking back to this harsh reality. Face it:

Without business, the Internet wouldn't exist.

Advertisments (read: sales) - just like on TV, radio and in magazines - are what keep the Internet going.

Without commerce (read: people like you and me spending money) there would be no incentive for anyone to exist or persist online.

In the Good Old Days...

Writers are often reminded of the old maxim that when it comes to getting published, money should flow one way only - and that is towards the writer.

Good advice for the unwitting writer desperate for publication.

However, this does not necessarily mean that everything that a writer needs - and needs to do - will be free.

Writers have expenses, just like any other professional.

Doctors do not expect their tuition to be free. Nor do journalists or bricklayers or swimming instructors. People accept nowadays that you pay for further education. You may get grants and other pecuniary help - as do writers - but most people know that any kind of serious training is never going to be free.

Professionals need to pay for their tools - and to access their customers. They pay for premises, for supplies, for employees...

Professionals pay for listings in the Yellow Pages - or to advertise their services in public places or in newspapers and magazines.

Books containing lists of publishers, agents and writer's markets cost money - for both the advertiser and the consumer. Professionals may pay hundreds for a listing. And consumers may pay anything from $50 to $300 and more to buy those listings - in book form.

As full time writers, Robyn and I have shelves full of market listings in publishing, screenwriting and paying writer's markets from all over the world. These Writer's Guides have cost us, over time, literally thousands of dollars.

Given our need for this information, we don't complain about buying these guides. So why would we complain about paying for education, markets and opportunities on the Net?

It's a double standard, surely.

Should Information Be Free?

In today's world, hundreds of thousands of people are involved, every minute of every day, in the compilation and dissemination of information, the majority of whom are paid employees.

In the old days volunteers and enthusiasts gave over their time to put lists on the Net - and quickly realized (within a year or two) that this was a one way street. Having a web presence costs money - and without money coming back to the list owner, where's the incentive?

Many people think of the Internet as free.

This is purely an illusion. An Internet connection, a phone line even, can cost hundreds of dollars a year.

The Internet is an expensive, muti-million dollar operation.

Machinery, hardware, software, all technology has a price. Even time, as the cliche goes, is money.

Expertise is expensive. Information, services and financial guarantees cost time and money to provide, update and promote.

Simply put: you can't survive on the Net nowadays unless you approach it like a business.

But Where Does That Leave Writers?

It's a question of perspective. Professional writers, in fact, pay for everything anyway.

Look. You pay to have an agent. Around 15% of what you earn (before tax!) goes into your agent's pocket.

You pay to get published - traditional publishers take around 90% of your earnings, and give you only what is left over.

That's because publishers pay to get your books on the shelves.

Typically, even after publication, you will spend money to promote yourself.

Everybody pays...

So why should being a writer make you different?

The fact is, if you take your writing seriously, you have approach it like a business because, at the end of the day, that's the only way to survive in the long term.

In our experience, writers who pay for courses, information, editing, proofing, etc., get ahead more quickly than those who do not - because having professional feedback can make a real difference.

Those who buy writing tuition get ahead - because they're learning about what the market requires without having to learn it the hard way through experience, trial and error.

Even people who pay to self publish, tend to get publishing deals later on.

It's called making an investment in your future.

If you're serious about your writing, why wouldn't you want to position yourself - especially given that the writing industry is so fiercely competitive nowadays that the chances of you achieving your goals through luck and talent alone is next to slim.

Wouldn't you want to know everything there is to know - even the stuff you have to pay to find out?

Free stuff can only help you so much.

The rest is up to you.

Be a professional.

Accept that, as a writer, you will often need to spend money to make money - there's nothing wrong with this premise.

You can never hear good advice too often. And paying for it, let's face it, often makes it stick!

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell
Your Success is My Concern
Rob Parnell's Writing Academy

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Finding Your Genius Within

Rob Parnell

Below is an article I wrote way back in 2002. It's been reproduced hundreds of times on the Net and in books and courses. I guess that means it's kind of famous!

Take a look - it's still inspiring!

Understanding genius is a three-stage process.

First, you need to break down your preconceptions about what you think being a genius is.

When you call someone a genius, what do you mean?

That they display characteristics that seem to be above the common herd? That they think ahead of their time? That they seem to be able to create perfect art with little or no effort?

Einstein was a genius they say. So was Leonardo da Vinci, Shakespeare, Beethoven and Van Gogh. Why? Because they displayed a unique way of thinking that separated them from the mainstream.

Did genius just bestow itself upon these individuals?

No, every so-called genius is a craftsman first. They learn the basics. They study them, copy them until they are implicit. So that, when it's time to create for themselves, they know and understand their influences.

Good artists express themselves with honesty and skill. They also learn - and keep learning - from other artists. No influence is a bad influence. It all helps.

Genius is a not a thing in itself. It is merely a qualitative judgment made by individuals and critics - usually after the artist is dead!

What marks you out as a “genius” is your willingness to be true – to yourself and to your art. In other words, genius is really about having the courage of your convictions - the courage to be yourself....

Stage two: some practical advice now.

Clear your mind. To do this, meditate or go for a long walk in the country, undisturbed.

First, try to visualize nothing. No feelings, influences or distractions. Try to find that inner essence that is pure calm, joy and strength. It’s there, inside all of us. Get in touch with it.

Then, calmly tell yourself you’re a genius. Repeat the phrase to yourself until it becomes almost meaningless. I am a genius.

Do this about three to five times a day for five days. (You can do this with any phrase you want your subconscious to believe.)

For stage three, when you’re ready, take the plunge and write.

Write a paragraph or two about a character or a situation that you totally believe in – even if it’s fictional. Edit it afterwards until all the words represent that particular view of reality, as if it IS true, 100%.

Read it back. Is it convincing? If not, keep rewriting until the logic of each word and sentence is, in your mind, incontrovertible.

That’s the trick. Make your work totally convincing TO YOU on your own terms. Do not write for others. It doesn’t work. Be true to yourself and others will follow.

In the end, it's about how much you believe in your own vision of the world. If you don’t really believe in something then neither will your reader, no matter how clever you are with words.

In brief, to be a potential “genius” you must trust your instincts, believe in yourself and write from the heart. To do any less is to cheat yourself – and your readers.

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell
Your Success is My Concern
The Easy Way to Write

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Romance Course out on sale!

Hello everyone!

I have a special offer out today.

If you've ever taken an interest in writing,
and if you've ever taken an interest in love,
then this course is definitely for you!

You can easily write in the Romance Genre.
And best of all, it is a huge, lucrative business.

Check out this offer because it is truly a
one off great deal.
Do it now because this can't last!!

Keep Writing!
Rob Parnell
Easy Way to Write

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Be a Writer First

Be a Writer First

Rob Parnell

Writers often talk about their quest to be published. They talk as though it's the end result to their work - as though, when they're published, everything will change and be wonderful.

This is not exactly how it works for most professional writers. Getting your stuff published is often only the beginning - the starting point for a career that may, after a while, feel very much like where you are now - as in, working for a living!

You may improve as a writer. You may start to find it easier - though I doubt it. You may have success - whatever that means to you. But at the end of the day, wherever you may be in your writing career - a newbie or a seasoned pro - you're still in a constant burgeoning relationship with words.

I use the word 'relationship' deliberately - because I think we should see writing as a kind of mistress, toy-boy or lover.

Listen. Your starting point and your end point is to improve the way you communicate your ideas through writing.

And maintaining progress in writing is like the old joke about, "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?" The punchline is the same: "Practice, practice, practice."

Let's look at some ways to improve our craft.

Write Every Day

I know I say this a lot. But there really is no better way to improve and progress than to write consistently. For many reasons.

1. Writing every day creates a catalogue of work over time.

2. Daily writing improves your ability to immerse yourself in your fictional worlds or in the non-fiction books you're trying to write.

3. Regular writing gets rid of writer's block.

4. Regular writing improves your self confidence. You feel better about your writing the more you do it.

5. The more you write, the more your writing style improves.

Almost all of the problems that would-be authors associate with writing - or not writing - or finding it hard to get started - can be solved by a commitment to write every day.

Of course this is easier said than done for most. Especially if you have a day job or a busy life that gets in the way.

But think of it like this:

If you were a bestselling author, or even just a professional writer, what do you think you would be spending most of your time doing?

Writing, of course.

You'd get up in the morning, stagger to the computer and pump out a few hundred, or a few thousand words. To sustain your career, that would be what you'd need to do.

Clearly then, if you want to sustain a writing career, you need to start doing that first - now, before your success.

In the best tradition of self help advice, you act the thing you want to become. In order to become a serious committed writer, you need to be a serious committed writer in the first place.

This may seem obvious to you. It may not.

Many would-be writers don't understand the importance of this. They imagine that one day they will have lots of time and they'll be able to write all day - many would be writers spend their lives waiting for that time, only to find it never came - and they're still waiting.

Don't you fall into the trap of thinking that, when the publishing deal comes through, you will suddenly be in the position to write all day - the money's not that good at the beginning!

No, most newly published authors still have to find the time - and the inclination to write more.

Much better is to develop the habit now. Commit to writing as much as you can and constantly investigate ways of finding writing time.

You owe it to your future to get stuck in now - and do the work, as though you're already a published author.

Then, I believe, your inevitable success is assured.

The fact is publishers and agents like career authors who understand that rejection and rewriting, reworking your ideas and being able to take criticism, act on it and bounce back is all part of a writer's job.

If you're the kind of writer that struggles constantly with self doubt and is easily knocked back by the slightest criticism, you need to get over it. You need to show publishers and agents that you don't care what they say: you're going to do this anyway.

You write because you're a writer first and foremost.

In an ongoing relationship with words, your first love is writing.

And just like a real-life lover, you must treat writing with respect. You watch it, nurture it and study it, you can learn to appreciate it in different ways every day, and, most importantly, you do everything you can to sustain that love and benefit from the relationship.

Go for it.

Write every day.

'Til next time,

Keep Writing!

Your Success is My Concern
The Easy Way to Write

The Writing Academy

Welcome to the official blog of Rob Parnell's Writing Academy, updated weekly - sometimes more often!