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Writing Is Work (Guest Post by Ty Johnston)

As a way of promoting his new novel Demon Chains, fantasy author Ty Johnston’s blog tour 2012 is running from February 1 through February 29. His novels include City of Rogues, Bayne’s Climb, and Ghosts of the Asylum, all of which are available for the Kindle, the Nook and online at Smashwords. To learn more about Ty and his writing, follow him at his blog

Here at the beginning, I would like to say thanks to Aaron for allowing me to appear on his blog today. This is my second blog tour, and the reason it is my second is because I had so much fun doing the first one last November. I got to meet a lot of new people online, and I discovered a lot of blogs and writers I had not known before. I love blog tours.

Aaron’s is a blog pertaining to advice for writers, and as a fiction writer myself, I think I can pass on a little advice to my fellow writers and to those who are considering a career in fiction writing.

My first piece of advice? Always remember that writing is work.

I run across far too many beginning fiction writers who seem to think they can spend a day or two on a short story, upload it to Amazon for the Kindle, then sit back and wait for the big bucks to come rolling in. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

Admittedly there are success stories, big success stories. For those of you playing the let’s-have-a-drink-every-time-he-mentions-a-famous-indie-author game, I’m sure you’ve heard of John Locke and Amanda Hocking. Just to name a couple.

Okay. Done with your drinks, yet? All right. The truth is, both Locke and Hocking did indeed get lucky, but they also put in a lot of work. Amanda is a fast writer and can pump out a novel faster than I can sneeze, it seems. Locke was a professional entrepreneur before he became an indie author, and he had a detailed business plan in mind before he even sold a single digital novel. Neither of these two famous indie authors woke up one day, spent a few hours typing, then became rich over night.

Success takes work. Yes, some luck is involved, but if one has not set themselves up for success, then the potential for success falls flat.

Look at me, for instance. I consider myself a success, though I have nowhere near the readership (nor the money – drat it!) of Hocking or Locke. As I’m fond of saying, “I’m not getting rich, but the bills are getting paid.” What little success I have did not come to me out of the blue. I have had to work for it, and work is what it takes.

Patience is a key. Beginning writers often have a lot of concerns and fears, and admittedly they do have some things to learn, but experience will provide. Education and professional advice are always a boost, but when it comes down to it, a writer becomes a better writer by writing. When a partial or complete manuscript is ready, take it to a critique group or put together some beta readers who are willing to lend a hand. Spend some time reading slush for a fiction magazine. Read, read, and read some more. Then read again.

In other words, put in the work necessary to make you a better writer. We don’t expect lawyers and doctors to be experts without education and experience, so why should we expect the same from novelists and short story writers?

I am fortunate in that being a former newspaper journalist, early on I gained some of the skills that would help me as a fiction writer. Grammar, spelling, punctuation, the basics. But there is more to writing fiction than being able to construct a sentence, and those skills I had to pick up mostly on my own over the years. Back when I was first beginning to write fiction, there were no websites such as Aaron’s where you could go to get help. At best there were a handful of books each year from the Writer’s Digest company. In other words, the advice was limited, and even if one could travel to conventions and workshops, often the professionals there had little time to work with individuals. So, for the most part, I picked up fiction writing by writing and reading, a lot.

I still don’t consider myself a great writer, but I am, at the least, a competent writer. I can entertain my audience, and perhaps that is all one can ask for. Success is what we make it, but to achieve it in the first place we have to be willing to work for it. Everything else will follow.

4 Responses to “Writing Is Work (Guest Post by Ty Johnston)”

  1. Ty Johnston says:

    Aaron, thanks for hosting me today!

  2. Keith West says:

    Great advice, Ty. I don’t know how many pros I’ve heard say that time and hard work, plus a bit of luck, are necessary to succeed. Some people, and I tend to lean this way, say you make your own luck. You touched on this when you talked about setting yourself up for success. I think that’s what it means to make your own luck. Being prepared when opportunity presents itself. And the way to do that? Hard work.

  3. Amen to that. Seems I have to scratch and claw for every move forward, which is why I’m irritated with myself for doing virtually nothing on my last couple of days off. I did need some rest but I sure did waste some time.