I read a blog post today that bothered me. You can read the post here written by Andy Shackcloth. The summary of the post titled “Why you shouldn’t write your novel” is as follows:
– You need to be able to market before you should even think about writing your first book.
– You should try your hand at smaller projects first to get a feel for marketing.
– If you do this you will be ready to take on a novel.
I have a few issues with this.
While it is good to get to know the in’s and out’s of the “other stuff” (marketing) there is still valuable education to be had from writing your first book. How do you keep track of multiple plot lines and make sure they are resolved by the end? How do you create believable characters that a reader will want to follow? How do you build interesting worlds? What’s the difference between too much description and not enough?
Perhaps your first novel won’t get published. Perhaps when you are finished writing your first book you will have learnt so much it looks like one person wrote the begining and another the end. Why is that a bad thing?
I don’t believe that by writing something completely different, like Andy’s smaller projects, you can avoid the mistakes you WILL make in your first novel. You will make them. And not just in your first novel but in every book you write you will find a new flaw, and you will need to correct it in every subsequent book. Writing is a continually learning process, we become better the more we write, and that’s the way it should be.
In Andy’s post he uses the example of F1 racing and Go-Kart racing. An F1 race would be equal to a novel and Kart racing would be smaller projects like “a small collection of shorts, history of your town, review of the new British Olympic village, the plight of sharks”. I will agree that marketing is one of the big things that goes into publishing and selling your novel. With Go-Karting you might learn the rules of the track, some pit lingo, how to change the tires, etc. which are bonuses to F1 racing but better if you want to make a career out of Go-Karting. That said, you will never learn to race a Formula One car if you only practice on a Go-Kart.
There are other things that I would do instead of “karting”. Get involved in the industry, go to conferences. Talk to writers, editors and publishers (they aren’t as scary as you think). Be a slush pile reader for a publishing house that publishes the genre you want to write in. Get involved with a critiquing group – have people read your writing and read others. You will learn what works and what doesn’t. You will learn what makes a good story and what doesn’t. What readers and publishers want.
Let me ask thia: if you don’t have something to market, should you really be focusing your attention and energy on it? I know I’m guilty of answering yes to this question at times, but the more authors I talk to the more they tell me not to worry about it right now.
“Just write”, they tell me. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t have some sort of presence even before you have a book ready to hit stores. I have a blog and my website. I’m on Twitter, MySpace and Facebook. But until I have something to market, this is about all the “marketing” I should be worring about.
So I think you have write your novel first and then worry about the “othe stuff”. You have to jump into the Formual One car and take it around a few laps. It’s ok if it’s a crappy drive and your time sucks. It was just your first run. With practice you will get better. You just need the persistence and perserverence to keep going.