Writers: You Can Only Control the Process, Not the Results

Every writer wants to sell more books.

Every writer wants to find more readers.

But if you are writing for the purpose of results, you’ll be frequently disappointed in this cut-throat, highly-competitive business.  The faster you realize that, as a writer, the only thing you control is the process, the faster you’ll be at peace with the results – whether good or bad.

I figured this out long ago. I began novel-writing and play-writing because I couldn’t contain the creativity that started bubbling over in my brain. It became my release and eventually my passion. When I eventually decided to start putting my works out in the public eye, I received a rude awakening – not because the results were bad, no, because the results were good.

My first novel started to sell some. Then reviews started coming in, positive reviews, and before I knew it my first novel had racked-up 80+ reviews on Amazon. I was floored and even thought quietly to myself that this isn’t so hard after all.

Ha. That’s when my rude awakening began to seep in. I suppose it was more gradual than rude, but it was certainly real nonetheless. Book two, for some reason, seemed more difficult to market. Then the rules changed at Amazon, and certain big promotion sites changed the way they did business. Everything got more competitive, and before I knew it, I had no idea how to sell books anymore.

Well, it turns out that I didn’t know in the first place. When I think back upon it, I have no idea how my first book did so well in getting reviews. Am I doing anything different now? Yes, actually. I’m better at marketing now. I work harder now. And has it led to more results?

Not really.

So what’s the deal? For me, the deal is that I don’t know how to sell books. But who cares!

Not me. I know what I can control and that’s my writing process.

So I ask myself these questions:

Am I writing the stories I want to tell?

Am I putting the proper time into revisions: 2nd, 3rd, 4th drafts?

Am I meticulous in the editing process?

Do I have an editor helping me improve my book?

Have I recruited beta readers to give me early feedback?

Am I purposeful when thinking about cover design and book layout?

Do I put time and effort into recruiting reviewers who will post honest reviews?

Do I market with variety in mind?

Am I trying new marketing avenues?

Am I adjusting to new trends and reading up on new developments?

Am I reading other blogs to get feedback about process and the book industry in general?

Am I striving to be better?

If I can answer “yes” to every one of those questions above, then I simply do not care about results because I can’t control them anyways.

I can, however, control the process. If I can look back without regrets and say that I’ve written the book I wanted to write and I marketed it in the absolute best way I know how, then I think it’s safe to say that I have successfully fulfilled the requirement of my passion for writing.

How about you? Are you concerned with results or process?

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That Sinking Feeling that a New Novel is Almost Ready

I spent part of the afternoon looking over some edits I received back from my proofreader for my third novel, The Reach of the Banyan Tree.

As I was polishing some language and grammar, I found myself analyzing every word I had written. Sudden angst welled up within me, and I started to think that perhaps this novel isn’t ready for a readership yet. I started doubting that I was ready to finish the publishing process with this book. I started wondering if it was any good and if anyone would like it.

In other words, I found myself in the exact same place I had been before just a few months before the release date of my other novels. That thought gave me some comfort that perhaps I needed to calm down and trust the process.

No book is ever complete. I could tweak and rewrite and manipulate this novel for another five years, but what would that prove? Very little, really. I finished writing it about ten months ago. Then I took it through a dual editing process. I sent it to beta readers and received a lot of great feedback. I let it sit for a few months and came back to it again at the first of the year. I heard from some more readers and then went through another editing process in order to bring it to my final round of proofreading.

I’m still not satisfied. I still have that sinking feeling that something is wrong and no one will like it. But I have the good sense to ignore fleeting doubts and move forward. I won’t allow myself to be paralyzed by something that may or may not happen. It’s time to release the novel.

So once the edits are complete, the formatting will begin on the paperback, and I’ll be sending our ARCs to a bunch of reviewers leading up to its release.

But you can be sure in the meantime, I’ll probably sneak in one more read-through just to satisfy me.