Friday, August 21, 2015

The Balancing Act

There's a true dilemma that writers face on an on-going basis - what's more important, writing a great novel, or mastering social media. Both of which, on some levels, can be equally important.

When I search through my list of articles for writers that I want to read, I find most are about social media than what I truly deem important - writing skills. You can be successful with social media, drawing people to your sites and enlisting those buyers, but unless your book is up to snuff those sales will drop in the long run. Not just from the fact that your book has outlived its shelf life, but because you've disappointed readers and they won't invest in your latest novel.

So, in other words, your book needs to grab readers and keep them turning the page. Without those skills necessary to write a great story, your readers will skim and maybe even set your book down, never to return.

Most of the time readers don't know why they've set down your book, only that it's hum-drum, inconsistent, or too many plot holes. So for me, creative writing skills is the place where you need to expend most of your energy.

Yes there is a "skill" to mastering social media and can be equally as tough, but unless you write a clean, tight novel you will lose fans in the long run.

Recently I've been reading a series from a New York Times best selling author that at one time was all the rage. I love the story, don't get me wrong, but the author's skills are, let's just say, lacking. The problem is these books were written a while ago, some as long as back in the 70's, but it sometimes amazes me that this author made it as far as he did.

I know back then creative writing skills weren't outlined like they are today, but the fact that he uses very little dialog and just tells the story, and hops from one character's head to the next, makes me wonder how the books became so popular. Yes, story is important, obviously, but most of you out there aren't a NYT best selling author and you need to grab your reader right away. 

With the overabundant competition out there, your book needs to shine in order to survive. Although it is true I am constantly working on my craft and have a long way to go to mastering great writing skills myself, at least I'm putting forth the effort. I would never dream of publishing my work without a lot of revisions and critiques. Nor would I publish work without an editor, but I do see a lot of writers doing just that.

So if you really want your hard work to be evident, take the time to do it right and leave the social media to 10% of your writing time, instead of 90%. You'll be glad you did in the long run.

What are some of the challenges you have with balancing social media and writing? Have you been sucked into the marketing circus? 

Have a great weekend everyone and I hope it's filled with lots of reading, or writing!

Love, Lisa


  1. When I had the time and energy to write daily, I didn't even give 10% to social media. To this day, I still have book sales here and there, so people are finding my books despite having next to no social media presence. If I had more books (or at least a completed series) and I decided to do a small bit of marketing, I could probably get a major boost to sales that could domino one of the books.

    Hopefully, once we get our office up to full staff over the next month or so, things can get a little saner. That and more book design referrals. I've got 2 or 3 jobs in September and a couple in October already from current clients and new clients and their referrals (it's amazing to me that before I've finished work for a client, they've already referred me). If that trend keeps up, I could be doing book design for a living by next year with much spare time to boot.

    There's a certain level of balance required even craft-wise. What makes one person keep reading makes another person put the book down. You can't please everybody, so there's only so much work you can do to any one book before you should move on to the next one. A lot of the best-selling self-published authors out there write a book (cycling), give it to a line editor, and hit publish. Granted, they've usually written a fair number of titles already. But one thing they do often note is that you improve your storytelling more by writing new stories than working on old ones. It makes some degree of sense. A balance must be struck.

    Unfortunately, we can't all be crazy prolific, like Dean Wesley Smith. He continues his Writing In Public blog posts on his site. Even though he is currently taking a break from writing, the man is a story-writing machine. He wrote 32 short stories in the month of July and averages around 100,000 words of original fiction every month. I've done close to that velocity around NaNoWriMo, but have never kept it up for more than a few weeks. It takes a lot of practice and the ability to set aside the critical filters we beginners use in our effort to "write well."

    Which of course leads to one other place we need to strike a balance, and this is more from a practical side than anything else. Writing quality versus story quality. Ideally, we want both. I know a lot of folks who are wonderful storytellers, but are terrible writers. They need line editors something fierce. But I truly believe that we, as writers, are capable of writing clean prose. Writing itself isn't normally too complicated; it's all based on logic. Storytelling is the greater facet of what we do. It is far more complex than writing itself and is what people are looking for when they pick up a book. It doesn't matter how clean your writing is if your story is in shambles. So one must find balance while they are writing. Clean prose, great story. You can do both, but if you find yourself stumbling, err on the side of story. Worst case scenario, you hire an editor. :D

    1. I agree Ryan, a good story does trump bad writing skills, but great story or not, if your readers are skimming the majority of your book because of info dump it's time to reassess your skills as a writer. The story needs to move along and keep the reader wanting to turn the page, not count to see how many more pages it it until the real stuff happens (which I am doing in the NYT best seller book I'm reading now). It makes it tough to continue. I know this guy had editors, and like I said it was written a long time ago, but with the competition for writers today, I do think it's best to try to out shine others.
      Although it is true, enough is enough with critiques and edits, at some point you just have to publish, but if you are being told that you need to fix some major issues and your not doing it, well then it's your own fault if your not getting sales. Just sayin'

      I think there are a lot of writers out there that think they can write, and really they shouldn't, and I think there are a lot of them that just need to learn the basics before they publish. It take a long time to write and publish your first book, on average 4 years. If you are writing your first book and you publish it within a matter of months, I believe you are kidding yourself lol.

  2. Hi,
    I agree wholeheartedly. I don't know how many books that I've read where the story could have been a good one, but the lack of writing skills made me close it without completing the read. Reading good fiction and non-fiction and writing tools are a necessity for a writer.

    1. Hi Pat, sorry I'm not getting your comments in my main page of my email. I just saw this. Yes, i have closed books and I've even given them a chance, but they never got any better. Makes me wonder how they not think they should get their books at least edited lol!