There are no shortcuts to success

Thirty-nine weeks after the second day of the new year

When you become a writer, you need to make a decision. If you want to be a serious writer, an author who has published books—note the plural here, and if you want to be the kind of author the authors you yourself respect are, then you need to put in the work. All of it, without taking any shortcuts.

Even if you’ve read books your entire life, once you decide to write one you necessarily need to learn what’s required to make a book, to bring a story from thought to publication. From the length of a manuscript, through what needs to be in it in terms of content, consistency, and clarity, to how to prepare its layout for publication, make it look like all those books you’ve read. In the era of the internet and social media, we tend to look online for information on what needs to be done and how others do it. If you’ve done that, gone online to find answers, you might have come across the kind of articles that promise to teach you how you can write a novel in a week. Or fast and easy editing. Or how to format your ebook in an hour and then to turn your ebook into a print book in less than a day. You get the idea: articles that promise to teach you how to write quickly and get your book out there quickly and achieve success, you guessed it, quickly.

Here’s an alternative, and it’s the only one you should choose: get your work out there with quality. Stop looking at the clock, focus on doing the work. Writing, editing, and formatting your book for publication, that takes time. If you want to do it well, take that time. Don’t strive to get through the steps from thought to publication faster. Strive to do them better. That finished book at the end of the path is yours. You want to be proud of it. And you know what, readers know. They expect to be respected, they expect you to give them the best you can. So do what you do properly. If you’re out there looking on social media, searching the internet, looking to learn what and how to do, that’s not a bad thing. But don’t spend that time looking for shortcuts. If that’s what you’re doing, you’d do better to spend that time doing your work.

Look at your work, at what will eventually be your book. Look at how you write—do you stop to think, then think again if your original thought doesn’t fit the story, or do you simply not bother and just move on? Do you research or do you guess, write what you’re certain you know, what you heard from someone else without checking yourself, or perhaps you just write whatever, thinking no one will know, no one will check, and anyway it’s just a story so why not make things up indiscriminately, anything just so that you can get the day’s quota you’ve arbitrarily set for yourself done. No. Don’t do that. Your credibility is important. Your readers should be able to trust what you tell them. They should be able to trust you.

Writing is a lot of work. Writing a novel is a lot of work. And it should be, every book is a world of its own. It is both the story and the writer behind it. You’re that writer, that novel has your name on it. It reflects you. You want to be proud of it, you want to be proud of yourself. If you’ve just started writing a novel, right now it might look like a bunch of scribble-filled papers on your desk or a document filled with words on your computer screen. But the day will come when it is on a website or on a shelf in a bookstore. It’s going to be there alongside many other books. It’s going to be in the same place you yourself have gone to to buy other authors’ books, authors you look up to, authors whose next work you await. Your book will be among theirs. When you see it there, you want to know you did your best.

If you’re in this to get instant success, to make instant money, to be famous, to be a celebrity, to be like others rather than what you yourself can be, then you shouldn’t be here. This is where real work is done. This is where effort and time and a whole lot of emotion goes into creation. This is where writers build on their experience, know-how, name. It is where pride is in work well done. It is where elation comes from a reader’s favorable review. It is where strength comes from readers, your readers, asking for your next book. Fame isn’t the primary goal here. Being a good writer who writes good books and builds a solid reputation is. If you’re here because that’s the kind of writer you strive to become, then do what it takes.

Author and Sister’s tip for you this week: As with everything else in your life, the question is what ideals and practices you want to adopt. You can write quickly, superficially, without sufficient scrutiny of your work, or you can give your readers quality. The practices you adopt will dictate how you do your work, the quality of the books you publish, and how your readers will come to view you. They will dictate who you will be as an author. When you choose your practices, choose quality, not quantity. Choose scrutiny of your work, not the shortest path to completion. Choose invested effort and patience, and success will come.

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