WILR is “What I Learned Reading…”
Lately, I’ve been digging deeper into writing basics. I want more success from my books.
The truth is: I tend to come up with a book idea, and do a casual check to see if the market is viable. Then, I study the top few books – at least their book blurbs and some of their reviews.
At most, I spend about two or three hours on this.
Then, if everything looks good, I write the book.
If it’s nonfiction, I’m quick to push the “publish” button. I can practically write nonfiction in my sleep, so completing a book isn’t difficult.
If it’s fiction… that’s another matter. I tend to reach the midpoint. Then, I realize that I hate my book, hadn’t thought it through, or I have some other Very Good Reason to stop writing.
So, I quit, thinking I’ll get back to that book, later. Maybe.
And then I move on to the next project, usually following the same pattern.
This is not a healthy career path.
So, I’m reading (and sometimes re-reading) books, studying courses, watching videos, and generally re-educating myself about writing. (Especially fiction, but I’ll talk about those books in later articles.)
In the WILR series, I’ll talk about books (etc.) that I like, those that I don’t, and what I’m learning from each.
Note: These will not be summaries of everything in each book or course. I’ll talk about the points that made a difference to me. (You mileage may vary.)
The first book has to be Productivity for Indie Authors, by David Lee Martin. For me, it’s the book that recently changed everything
about my writing career.
It’s the book that started me on my current re-education path.
David is minister, a successful author, and a long-time friend and someone whose integrity I trust. (You may know him from his free report, Published Is Better Than Perfect.)
When David offered to send me a beta copy of his productivity book, I dropped everything to read it.
It was time well spent.
This book really does live up to its title (and subtitle).
Here are a few things I learned, reading it.
First of all, I’m not a great writer. (This may not be stop-the-presses news to some people.)
I’m a storyteller.
Before reading David’s book, I didn’t realize the importance of this. Or even the distinction.
Then, in his book, I read:
See, to be truly productive we do not need to just be producing more. We need to be producing more of the right thing.
Then, he shared insights about identifying that right thing.
That made me pause. I had to go beyond looking at individual books’ sales, or even which book categories performed well for me.
My discovery: every one of my successful books, no matter how badly written, was written in a storytelling style.
When I write something that’s “just the facts, ma’am,” my books tend to fall flat.
Well, they still sell like hotcakes to data-hungry readers who don’t care if the book is well-written.
But, for anyone looking for something written with style, eloquence, and few typos…? Umm… no.
That can severely limit the size (and enthusiasm) of my audience.
This was a h-u-g-e “ah-HA!” for me, and it led to further discoveries.
It was the beginning of my current reading-and-studying binge.
In addition, I read The ONE Thing, which is a more general book about focus and productivity. David had made several references to this concept, and I wanted to know more.
While some of The ONE Thing was intended for a different audience, many of the suggestions applied to how I work, as well.
The ONE Thing brought me important additional clarity. But, I’ve talked with several friends who said they just couldn’t get through the book. So, you may want to see if your public library owns a copy you can borrow. (They probably do. For at least a year, it was a very trendy book.)
The rest of David’s book, Productivity for Indie Authors, delves into productivity tips and hacks. Many of them weren’t new to me, but the way David talked about them made a difference.
In some cases, he explained a fresh way to use things like templates, and how to apply the 80/20 rule, and so on. At other times, his context was something I previously hadn’t considered.
In general, I’ve been delighted to streamline more of my work with the ideas and tools he suggests.
But, for me, the biggest takeaway has been the new way I look at my writing career.
That triggered a rather large overhaul of how I do… well… almost everything.
Uncovering the storytelling ingredient was vital. It was the initial key.
(That may be unique to me. It’s not as if David said “this is the answer.” It just happened to be my answer, and I found it by thoughtfully reading David’s book.)
Regarding productivity, David began his book by explaining, “productivity will look different for different people at different times and stages in the development of their business.”
He’s 100% correct.
For me, some of his productivity advice was useful immediately. Other suggestions will be useful in the future.
But, the biggest thing I learned from reading Productivity for Indie Authors is what works (and doesn’t) in my writing career.
That led to me analyzing which things to do more of, which to do less of, and the areas where I need to develop better skills. (That’s one area where the 80/20 rule applies.)
In some ways, this has been humbling. I’ve had to admit to being a slacker. I’ve been looking for shortcuts. Too often, I’ve followed advice in lots of books, reports, and courses that assured me those shortcuts were viable.
Well, yes. They did work, short-term.
Long-term… not so great, and I got tired of constantly scrambling to write & publish new books to make up for the faltering sales of older books.
Now, I’m confident about the decisions I’ve made — and the new path I’m following — after reading David’s book.
I recommend it to any author/publisher at any level of expertise.