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The Career Author Podcast: Episode 74 – Things Authors Say That You Don’t Have to Believe

There isn’t one process that works for everyone. There isn’t a formula. Zach and J. tackle some of the most commonly heard piece of advice and then take them to task.

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15 thoughts on “The Career Author Podcast: Episode 74 – Things Authors Say That You Don’t Have to Believe

  • Hi guys. Very British intro talking about the weather 🙂 Great way today J. Love the topic guys. Sorry to disagree with you but my faves are:
    You must get an editor.
    You must get a professional cover designed.
    No, no and thrice no. You don’t have to. You have to pay money for them, which you might not have at the beginning. And yes I know for some, an editor will make your writing better and a good cover may help you earn more money. But that doesn’t make it a law. The way people saw these things we are scaring beginners away.
    And here is one of my most annoying sayings. In answer to the question “How much does it cost to self publish?” Many “experts” give a shopping list of “must-haves” adding up to between $1,000 to $30,000. No, no and thrice no again. Self-publishing costs nothing, zero, zilch etc.
    The reason I have these strong views is that they scare beginners away. Why are we creating these fake barriers to entry? I have seen comments in FB like “Oh dear, I can’t afford to write yet I need to save up first…” Indie writing is amazing for being friendly and inclusive. By propagating this stuff we are creating an illusory “membership club” for which there are membership fees and I don’t believe we should.
    I suspect many of today’s “great” Indie writers published their first book for free with no editor etc as part of the learning process and how amazing and motivating was that? Are we trying to deny that feeling to starters? Everyone has to start somewhere.
    Imagine telling a friend “no point in splashing about with that paint unless you get a professional art tutor” yet many professional painters started without tuition. And you are both musicians. Would you ever tell someone “no point in picking up that guitar without getting professional lessons.” I bet both of you know brilliant musicians who never had a lesson in their life.
    Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying paid professional help is not advisable or not helpful. I am saying it is not a “must”.
    If one adds the caveat “..to maximize your earning potential” then fine, but nobody ever adds that.
    Let’s allow people the joy of seeing their book on Amazon even if only their Mom and their Auntie are going to buy it. Let’s not create barriers to entry – you know, like those Gatekeeper people who used to prevent us mere mortals from getting a book published. We are Indies. We are friendly and inclusive and we encourage beginners and we will help them if and when they want to take it further. Otherwise we are hypocrites and will be scaring away potential writers by creating our own gates to prevent people from being able to become a member of our special exclusive club.
    Apologies if I sound a bit strong today 🙂 but these sayings do annoy me. Be interested to learn what sayings annoy others. Great show.

    • We clearly disagree and that’s fine. We’re encouraging open and honest dialog here. I’d like to hear what others have to say as well.

      How’s the weather there today, my friend?

      • The weather’s great here thanks. 20 degrees C which is 68 Fahrenheit in old money. This is t-shirt, shorts and sun tan lotion weather here (camo design optional).
        Hope all is well in your universe. (MUM).

    • I get what Christopher’s saying. If someone wants to do this as a hobby or try it out or write that one book they’ve always wanted to write, then spending thousands of dollars shouldn’t be a requirement for them. And it’s really awesome that Amazon lets people do that. I remember hearing about self-publishing on Amazon back in ’09, but I wasn’t driven enough to finish anything at the time. I was super jazzed that it was possible though. I could finally be a published author and make my dreams come true!

      However, if someone wants to make money writing books (The Career Author), I think the advice on the show is correct. Did any of us do it that way? I sure didn’t. But if someone starts out today following the advice of holding back books and saving money and spending on things that matter (covers and editing), I really think they’re starting out with a bigger advantage than anyone else. Frankly, I’m kind of envious of people who got all the information first and are planning to do things the “right” way business-wise. And besides, everyone can afford to write. Maybe not everyone can afford to publish YET.

      If someone really wants to try out publishing and doesn’t want to wait, I’ve also heard the tip of publishing that first book under a pen name just in case it bombs. Shrug. That’s an idea too.

      • “And besides, everyone can afford to write. Maybe not everyone can afford to publish YET.”

        ^^That is a very important distinction. Writing and publishing are not the same thing.

  • Loved this episode and the “original” title…”situational” is def the key word in reference to advice given by others in any arena…that being said, one area I wanted to push back a little is the night writing. Totally agree with you that the romanization of writing should not be the reason to write at night. But, chronobiology would be a good reason. This research has been around for decades in the medical community…but would refer you to Dan Pink’s book “When” to further expound upon the subject in a relatable fashion and how the research can be applied to creative routines. He specifically talks about insight tasks vs tasks that need vigilance and timing during the day/when to do these tasks based upon chronotype. If you are chronobiologically a verified night owl tendency (not just a romanization version of one)…you definitely need to adjust writing patterns a bit… if you’ve read the book, would be interested to know which writing tasks you would classify as insight versus analytic vs admin…some are obvious..others maybe not so much. Kudos on the events doing great, Zach sorry you have to put up w humidity, have a great weekend! 🙂

    • Yes, I’ve read Pink’s book and I do remember the “when” being a huge part of his take on productivity. I don’t deny that there are some who are their most creative at night. However, I suspect over the general pop those folks are outliers. Not saying it’s not possible.

      I know I’ll never be able to slam dunk a basketball but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible but I wouldn’t say working on your slam is what most aspiring basketball players should be doing 😉

  • Great show! It was fun to hear what pieces of advice you have heard and don’t agree with. I must say, Zach, that I really appreciated hearing someone else say that you’re not editing wrong if you aren’t cutting out half of what you wrote. 😊 I tend to have relatively clean “first” drafts, so I have heard writers talk about this sort of thing and have thought that I must be doing something wrong because I was not cutting, cutting, cutting. But my drafts don’t need that cutting.

    I also appreciated what J said at the end about not being six-figure authors and taking help when it is offered. Very sage advice. And not being a six-figure author really makes you guys more relatable to me. 🙂

    Now for one thing with which I sort of disagreed, though in essence, when considering your premise for the show is not so much a disagreement as it is a supporting argument. 🙂

    The clean drafts I mentioned above are written without an outline. I have never been an outliner. Even in college, I would write the paper first and then write the outline simply because one was required. My brain does not work in outlines, and I am one of those people, Zach, for whom outlining kills creativity. For me, outlining puts my brain into what I refer to as its critical space which I am not sure I can fully explain so I’ll just say that this critical space feels like a place that stifles free, natural expression as it attempts to corral everything into a set of rules or procedures. That’s not to say I do not consider structure and rules when I write. I taught grammar and composition for a number of years. I fully believe that structure and rules are vital to effective communication of ideas. (You can imagine how “fun” it was to teach outlining when outlining is not my natural bent.)

    While I am not an outliner, I am an analyzer. I can over think absolutely anything. It is this ability to pick things apart and question them which drives me to pass my work by an ‘editor’ because at some point I need someone to help me see what is good in my work.

    Not being an outliner does not mean I start writing without some idea of where I am going. I know what I want to create. I know what my destination is. I know what my main characters goals are. I know how I think they are going to change. I know what might stand in their way. I might even have some ideas for possible events/scenes brainstormed in a very untidy word web, but I don’t have an outline. Then with those few things in place (and usually only somewhat developed), I allow the story to unfold, and as it does, I create a chart on which I analyze each chapter after it is written for its purpose in the story.

    This analyzing style of writing works well for me. It meshes with how my brain works, and I think it comes back to the point you were putting forward as the premise of this episode. “There isn’t one process that works for everyone. There isn’t a formula.” I agree with that whole-heartedly, and this is why I think this is not so much a disagreement as it is a supporting argument from a different point of view.

    Currently, I homeschool my youngest son, but as I mentioned above, I am a former classroom teacher, and I believe that the writing process is as individual as the learning process. This is my son’s last official year of school, but we may do an additional year. This is not because he has “been held back” but rather a bonus year to meet some needs specific to him. You see, not every child learns in the same way. There may be similarities as to what works best, but one child might only need to listen to a lecture and review notes while another child might need additional support in the form of a tutor and yet another needs to rewrite those notes three times to get the content in their mind while his friend is drawing pictures next to the notes or using colourful pens and highlighters that help the information become more visual. So it is with writing.

    Each writer must find his or her own writing process from initial inspiration to final product. It is not one size fits all. While I need to write first, analyze after, someone else, such as J, might need to analyze and create an outline first and write after. Neither way is wrong unless it is the wrong way for you.

  • In my view, one of the only absolutes in indie publishing is “your book must be edited by a third party”. Almost everything else is negotiable (even if sometimes unwise), but editing is not.
    I’m a discovery writer – I write a book a month, never go down a dead end, make sure my books have a strong story structure and I write clean first drafts. Sure, having a deep understanding of how stories work is essential for any writer, but that’s just as true for a plotter as it is for a pantser – how do you write an outline without understanding structure?
    At least half of my favourite authors (both trad and indie) are/were pantsers – Jo Penn, Mark Dawson, Terry Pratchett, Bernard Cornwell, Isaac Asimov.
    It’s also wrong to imagine that a pantser has no idea where the book is going. I have that on my mind constantly, but I do it when I’m in the action, not as a separate process. I make sure that I know my main character well before I start – it’s usually this that forms the inspiration for the story.
    I don’t have any problem with outlining as a process. I have done it and continue to experiment with it. I suspect I’ll end up with a hybrid approach. But I wish plotters would accept that different authors’ minds work in different ways and that for some of us discovery writing works. It’s up to each of us to find a way that works best for our unique creative mind but I don’t accept that either approach is intrinsically superior.
    Writing has definitely become easier now I’ve published around a million words. My first books (while they have a special place in my heart) are my worst, but I don’t think they’d have been any better for having been outlined in advance. I know it’s a cliche, but I truly loathe knowing what’s going to happen in a book. I lose all interest.
    Overall, I completely support the topic of the podcast – there are no absolutes (except editing), so anyone who says “you must” or “you must never” can be safely taken with a pinch of salt. I just think that’s also true of outlining.
    Take care, guys.

    • Great comment, Kev. I totally agree with everything you said. Re: panters/plotters, my stance has never been that plotting is somehow better. Only that for most pantsers (not experienced writers like yourself) the first draft takes significantly longer and requires more discarded words.

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