I was having a conversation on Twitter last month about making writing your day job, and I sent this to the guys over at SPP:
@jacobchastain @seanplatt @thedavidwwright @johnnybtruant Key seems to be: Write well. Write a lot. Publish often. Engage readers.
— Crissy Moss (@crissymoss) January 11, 2013
I thought I’d expand upon this “simple” idea, because out of all the writing books, blogs, articles, websites, podcasts, and videos, everything distills down into these four points.
1. Write Well.
“Well” seems to be such a simple word. But it includes a lot of things. Grammar, spelling, characters, plot, and everything else involved with a story. It also involves knowing the difference between a workable story, and something that you should just let go.
You can always get help with the mechanics of a story. Workshops abound. Editors are for hire. You can even hire a ghost writer to write up the idea/plot/storyline you came up with and stick your name on it (not generally recommended.)
If you have a compelling story, with characters your readers care about, then you are headed in the right direction.
2. Write a lot.
Be PROLIFIC! I can not stress this enough. I don’t care if you are writing in your journal every day, but the fact remains the more you write, the more you will write. However, you shouldn’t JUST write things in your diary. Practice writing short stories, articles, blog posts, and anything else. Write as though you are writing to someone, expecting someone to read it.
Writing also helps you improve your ability to write. Grammar and spelling, as well as just coherence. This goes for reading as well. If you don’t read, or hate reading, then how can you write well?
3. Publish often.
Some of the best selling authors are there simply because they write a lot of books. The more books they write, the better visibility they have. The better chance someone has to see something they wrote that was great.
Here is a list of some prolific authors, many of which are well known.
4. Engage readers.
Email lists. Blogs. Fan mail. Twitter. Facebook. Websites… really it doesn’t matter how you engage your readers, but the internet makes it incredible easy to do just that. If you don’t do so, or come off as a grumpy old guy/gal who doesn’t give a half a penny for their fans then it is less likely you will grow your reading ranks.
Look, we live in a connected world. I actively talk to some of my favorite writers now. I send them tweets, or comment on their Facebook status, and they answer me. It’s awesome. I love the fact that they know their fans are their bread and butter, and they love interacting with me, and all the other people who love their work.
Kim Harrison got feedback for, and changed the cover for one of her new books. Sean Platt and David Write added three chapters to the end of their series to clarify their writing. Piers Anthony has answered every single fan letter he could, and even included characters, puns, and small plot lines to really engage his readers.
Will all of this get you tons of fans? Ultimately only time can tell, but these four things will get you closer then any one of them by itself.