Focus on Writing a Great Book

ExcellenceIt seems in the last few years, dialogue about all-things-publishing has been focused on platform, marketing, increasing output, distribution platforms, technology, and self-publishing. (This blog is no exception.) But as I noted in this post at Author Media , I think it’s important to call our attention back to the work. 
It may be easier to get published these days because of self-pub and the proliferation of indie publishing options. But it’s not any easier to write a good book. 
In fact, it may be even harder to write a good book than it was in days past, because both you and your reader have more distractions. You’re tempted by the Internet, your ability to concentrate for long periods of time has been compromised, and deep focus is more challenging. Meanwhile, your reader has infinite sources of information and entertainment. So a book has to be darn good to to keep both your attention and your reader’s. Now is the time to make sure we’re not minimizing the importance of mastering the craft.
Yes, platform is important if you want people to read your stuff. But ultimately, great writing is the best platform. A million followers are meaningless if you don’t have something worthwhile for them to read. Marketing challenges, evolving technology, and competition will always be with us. But it’s irrelevant without a good book.
I sense, out there in writer-land, an increasing focus on writing more-more-more. Many want to publish as fast as possible. Volume + speed = more money, or more success, or some such equation that I can’t quite wrap my mind around. But I do understand that this environment is leaving some writers feeling insecure, thinking they’ll be left behind if they don’t join the fray.
This agitated state of the collective mind is caused by information overload. Too many stories floating around out there, and no way to know the exact truth of each one. Anxiety comes from hearing about the accomplishments of 1% of writers and not the 99% who are slogging away in the trenches, many experiencing their own kinds of success.
And while more-more-more seems to be the mantra for some writers, readers can only read so much. They’ll have shrinking patience for works that feel sloppily crafted and hastily written.
The only way forward is the same as it ever was: run away from the noise, hunker down and wrestle mightily with your prose. Writing your best book is what matters, regardless of how many people ever read it. And in a nice bit of synchronicity, it’s what will make people want to read it.
As an agent, I’m here to help with the “other stuff.” Only you, the writer, can do the most important part. Write that book. And make it great.
Let’s collectively settle into 2014 remembering that mastering the craft is the best object of our focus. There is a time for considering various publishing routes and promoting our works, but only when we have in our hands a book that is the absolute best it can be.

So where are you on this? Are you mainly focused on craft, or do you spend a great deal of energy focused on other aspects of publishing? What is the right balance?

Comment below, or by clicking: HERE.

Let’s go into 2014 focused more than ever on the craft of writing. Click to Tweet.
It’s harder to write a good book today – you & your reader have more distractions.  Click to Tweet.
A million followers are worthless if you don’t have something good for them to read. Click to Tweet.
Anxiety = hearing the success of 10% of writers, not the 90% toiling in the trenches. Click to Tweet.
Image credit: kbuntu / 123RF Stock Photo


  1. I totally agree with you that it is important to write a great book. Even so, these important words from one of my favorite writers have served me well over the years:

    “It’s better to do a sub-par job working on the right project than a great job working on the wrong project.”
    — Robert J. Ringer

    In other words, if there no or little market for a book, it doesn’t matter how great the book ends up being. Having said that, of course a great book will create word-of-mouth advertising, which is the most effective marketing a book can get — bar none — if there is a market for the book.

    Here is a bit about the importance of writing a good book from Joe Konrath. For the record, I am not a big fan of Konrath because of his constant criticism of traditional publishers. Nevertheless, I do admire and acknowledge the success that Konrath has achieved. I particularly agree with this item from one of Konrath’s blog postings:

    “Write a damn good book. This should be your main priority. It’s also one of the hardest things to do, and the hardest things to judge for yourself if you’ve done it. The problem is, most writers believe their books are good. Even at our most insecure, we believe complete strangers will enjoy our scribblings enough to pay for the privilege.”
    — Joe Konrath

    Fact is, most writers don’t have the critical thinking skills to figure out what a good book is. Like over 85 percent of car drivers thinking that they are above average drivers, the large majority of writers think that they have written a much better book than 85 percent of other books or a much better book than 85 percent of other writers are able to write.

    There is also a lot of wisdom behind these words:

    “An amateur author writes what he or she wants to read. A professional author writes what other people want to read.”
    — Unknown wise person

    In short, you will know when you have written a good book. Once published, it will create powerful word-of-mouth advertising so it sells well for many years. Results don’t lie, in other words.

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    International Best-Selling Author
    “Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 200,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working’
    (Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

  2. Guest says:

    Thank you for this reminder. I am stepping away from the noise and back to my desk.

  3. Jan Cline says:

    For me it’s all about the craft. I have pared down my social media time quite a bit so I can read more, be taught more and pay attention to whether my writing is getting better. I think once writers become satisfied that their work is “good enough” we all lose. From a readers standpoint, I don’t want to buy a book and then toss it in the garbage because it is poorly written. From a writer’s standpoint, I would cringe to think a reader might do that to one of my books.
    I have a foundation for platform, but I can work on building that later when I’m closer to publication. I want to tell good stories, ones with meaning and purpose. That comes first to me and I appreciate you saying how important it is.

  4. Jen Weaver says:

    Thank you for this reminder Rachelle! I’m working to find the right balance, including social media, building a platform, and developing my craft. Thank God I love it, otherwise this would be a stressful season.

  5. JeanneTakenaka says:

    It’s tricky finding that balance, but I know I need to get back to spending more time on studying craft and writing. I have chosen not to become involved on lots of social media sites because I don’t have time if I still want to actually write. I’ve cut back my blogging to free up more time for writing. I enjoy blogging, so I don’t want to quit it. But, I want to write more. I’m still searching for the balance.

  6. Lanny says:

    Rachelle, I’m on board. I think your post is one of the best ever! It was said in a recent Salinger documentary that he spent most of the ’40s resolving his “Catcher in the Rye” draft. My goal is to have a viable second draft on my desk by the end of 2014.

  7. Leanne Sowul says:

    Great post! I have a hard time balancing the “quick” and the “slow” of writing. I think both are important- the fast pace of blogging and sharing on social media, and the slow pace of writing a novel and working through several drafts. It’s easy to give into the “quick,” but it’s in the “slow” that the depths of creativity are found. I have faith that the hundreds of hours I’ve sunk into my novel will eventually pay off. Thanks for the reminder that craft is king!

    • Cecelia says:

      Your comment hits the mark Leanne – ‘it’s in the “slow” that the depths of creativity are found.’ While working on my first novel I realised the characters could easily continue into a series. I finished the first and second and began working on the third when I knew I was doing it the wrong way. I needed to edit, and edit again and again to tighten the first, strengthen the characters and take the knowledge gained into the writing of the sequels. It’s been a slow journey but I’m improving every time I begin again from the first line.
      I also work with ‘faith that the hundreds of hours I’ve sunk into my novels will eventually pay off.’ All the best Leanne and God bless your efforts.

  8. Heather C Button says:

    I really think the “more, more, more” view comes from two areas: self-pubbed authors who know that putting out more than one book a year gets them a better and steadier stream of income, and from fans of truly great authors, who absolutely hate to wait a year for the next book to arrive. If we have fans, we want to keep them, not let them get bored waiting.

    That said, I appreciate the authors who have pulled back and said, “look, I could write this book as well this year, but I’m not happy with it and you won’t be either.” And they hold back and focus their energies on creating really great books. I would much rather read a crafted book, than a rushed book.

    Also, I think there’s a learning curve to apply too. First and second books may take longer as you perfect your craft, but you may be able to speed up the process the more you write.

    • Christian Masters says:

      Great points! I recall Stephen King (yes, prolific) speaking about Thomas Harris (and I confess, I’m probably paraphrasing horribly), “Five or six years between books, what the hell is he doing with his time?” (Not to disrespect Harris, as I appreciate that he has his own life to live, but I as a READER/CUSTOMER ask the same question!)

      As readers, we are selfish – we are impatient, and don’t understand why you, the writer, can’t produce Part 2 right NOW, as I’ve finished reading Part 1. “I’m ready, why aren’t YOU?”

      Now as WRITERS, we must remember that our part of the relationship is fluid – and painfully, I admit, in BOTH directions. We can either go tell the reader that we’re “not ready, go read something by ___(fill in the blank with your key competitor — and if you don’t know who that is, stop reading now, and accept that you have some “How-to” books to buy and read before you proceed)” or provide a teaser, something to tide the voracious, wallet-waving reader/customer over. I’m still buying Clive Barker content, even though nothing he’s produced in the interim lives up to “The Art”. But as an artist/author, he hasn’t QUITE alienated me as a customer/reader just yet.

  9. Heather says:

    It’s true that the need to focus on “author platform” has got me a little distracted. I honestly would rather spend time just working on editing and writing. But it seems that ship has sailed, right? I mean, we have to be pragmatic as well as artistic if we want to catch the attention of the agents and the public who will pay attention to our work.
    While I love the notion of art for art’s sake, I don’t want to toil alone. I want to share my work – I want to know if my ideas and the characters I work so hard to draw actually resonate with other people. And it seems in order to get that attention, I must blog, tweet, and self-promote.

    • Christian Masters says:

      Heather, I’ve heard similar sentiments so often. Certain vocations, or professions, do seem to attract specific personality types, and many artists, not only writers, tend to the introverted end of the continuum. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, though you bring to light an important point. If the artist toils in solitude, creates a brilliant piece of work, then self publishes it to no fanfare and no promotion… Who ever reads it? That person’s family or close friends?

      The argument that a great book will find an audience is interesting…though like many anthropological artifacts, it begs the question, “How?” How will I, a voracious readers, who rarely reads fewer then three books simultaneously, and has a books budget comparable to many people’s cable bills (if not their utility bills) ever even learn of your book, or any brilliant book produced by a genius artist in sublime solitude? Believe me, if your book is great, and it’s brought to my attention, I and many others will read it. Though aside from participating in book clubs, agents’ blogs, and actively soliciting recommendations, how will we learn about it?

      Marketing! Marketing targets prospective buyers for the title in question (hopefully it’s targeted – I think for myself, so anyone who preaches a dogmatic worldview to me had better be prepared for a dialog, or at least be willing to field some tough questions and challenges!) Though in this day, we have no excuse for shotgun approaches to marketing. Google has shown us that targeted marketing works. Hint: If I sign up for your newsletter or for a login on your site, I’m a prospective customer.

      By the way, I have found the “hidden gem” in used book stores. (The majority of books I buy are from and b&n bricks and mortar, though I’ve learned that you will rarely find such hidden gems there.) For these precious artifacts, you must peruse the stacks at used book stores. In such places, I’ve found amazing works that were simultaneously remarkable for the work, as well as for the fact that no one else seemed to notice. In so doing, noticing that is, I did feel special, fortunate to have found this gem. But I have to also admit, after searching for further work by the author, and finding none, I had to wonder what the hell happened – which dulled the luster of the gem just a bit. If the book is so great, and yet I’m the only one to notice, I can prominently display the book on my shelves, though social proof demands that I challenge my own assessment from time to time.

      If the tree fell in the forest, how many people had to hear it before we can agree that it made a sound? Seriously, play with that koan/question a moment. Social proof demands that we hit a critical mass of readers who like me discovered this hidden gem in the stacks of the previously overlooked and forgotten. However, let’s just say that I’m the ONLY one to have discovered it. I’m excited, I’m stoked, I want the world to know: I’ve blogged about it ( and I want every serious reader of the genre to know: this is a great book. Presuming you love this genre, you will, I place my reputation on it, LOVE this book.

      This is a part of marketing. A very complex and fragile form of it (all if takes is one aspect of that cognitive chain of associations to fail and the whole thing fails), but it’s marketing. And I as a voracious buyer and reader of good books insist that you market your work well to me. If I’m convinced it’s good, I’ll buy it. If after I read it, I still agree that it’s good, I’ll tell the world: Marketing objective achieved.

  10. Rachel Wojnarowski says:

    A to the men.

    • J.D. Maloy says:

      Rachel, oh my word, thank you for the giggle right now, hehe.
      Right before the new year, I had a recent reminder about the purpose of writing. Why do I write? Story. It’s about making the story the best it can be since it comes first. Period. And the process to achieving that takes time, patience, blood, sweat and tears and many other happy and not so happy growing pain. But how it’s worth the journey!

  11. Thank you, Rachelle. You have encouraged me greatly.

  12. Facebook User says:

    Rachelle: Once again you are
    right on target. The I’m-being-left-behind feeling has raised its ugly head a
    few times in the past three years as I diligently pursue creating a
    five-book-series. (Three are done-working on the fourth). But every time I get
    that feeling I’m reminded of why I’m writing the series in the first place:
    because I enjoy doing it and I am amply rewarded in the doing and having done.

    John J Blenkush

  13. julie coleman says:

    I love this post, Rachel. I’m in 100% agreement. Even writer’s conferences are aimed at the marketing/platform end. Workshops on content are far and few between. This year, after releasing a book, was all about marketing. I hate it, but realize it is a necessary evil. But I slowly realized that writing another book was effective marketing as well. A second good book will sell the first. And so I stopped feeling guilty for taking time away from marketing to write.

    It’s hard as an author to not feel frantic every time another author announces a multi-book contract or a new release. It’s a battle for me to keep my eye on the goal. God has called me to write His truth. Finding it takes time and a lot of work. If I am to write quality, which I am determined to do, then I need to stop worrying about time and hunker down to work.

    The whole marketing/platform emphasis is so shallow, when compared to the richness our writing can have when we take the time to do it right. Reminds me of a speaker’s conference I attended some years back. Most of the workshops were on things like how to get booked, wardrobe, and other superficial concerns. We need to concentrate on what God is doing in us and through us. Otherwise, as you put it, it’s just noise.

    Thanks for this post. I hope many writers read it!

    • Laurean Brooks says:

      Rachelle, I agree with you. “Writing” a great book is the most important aspect. I would rather take a year to create a book readers will love than rush to get get three out without giving it my best. But…even then it’s no guarantee that an agent will accept it. I sent a book proposal to a certain publishing house (at their request) then started an agent search. At his/her request, I also sent the same material to the agent. He/she seemed to like the story. Until he/she asked for sales numbers from previous releases. I was honest, but maybe this time honesty wasn’t the best policy. (Kidding.) Since I’m a new author, the sales numbers were less than impressive.
      The agent’s reply? “At this time, I will have to decline your
      manuscript. But, if “so-and-so” publishing house (the one I sent the proposal to) decides to take it, shoot me another email and I will take another look at it.”

      My question is, how do you obtain an agent if your sales numbers aren’t good enough for him/her to take a chance on you? And how do you interest a publisher if an agent won’t consider you without impressive books sales?

  14. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser says:

    Craft, definitely.

    The overload problem is out there, but I believe that there is always room for a good story, told well.

    It’s kind of like auto racing. The ‘other stuff’ is maintenance, but writing is driving, and if your don’t bring your best to the track, the best wrench-turning in the world isn’t going to help.

  15. 1hollyrobinson1 says:

    Thanks for a much-needed reminder of what’s important. As someone who has published both indie and traditional–I’m currently a novelist signed by NAL/Penguin–I do feel that “more-more-more” pressure from myself as well as from my indie friends, who remind me that it’s all about the bookshelf and the “gateway book,” i.e., readers who read and like one of your books will return for more. Indie authors can publish several books a year, whereas traditional publishers are moving quickly if they publish ONE of your books each year. On the other hand, that book will probably be a better book because of the number of hands and eyes polishing it for the presses, so I’m willing to work at that slower place. In his comment, Ernie says there’s no point in working on a book if there’s no market for it, but I disagree: the market is fluid, so you’re better off writing a book you can throw heart and soul into than a book you’re writing just because “the idea will sell.”

  16. Terry Shames says:

    Wow, did I ever need this today. I’m working on book 3 and can’t seem to find its focus. It’s due with my editor Feb 1! By pointing out all the distractions a writer has, you’ve reminded me that I need to hunker down and really embrace my story.

  17. Lindsay Harrel says:

    I’m sure there are different times in our careers where we need to shift our focus slightly. During a book launch, for example, we need to focus more on marketing and getting the word out there about our book. In the past, I focused heavily on social media. However, right now, I’ve scaled back a bit — still maintaining and trying to grow slightly, but without it becoming my main or even a major focus right now — and am focusing on revisions. I guess I see that if I don’t have a great product, I have no reason to be marketing myself. So producing a quality book is my No. 1 priority — and hopefully it always will be.

  18. jennie nash says:

    This is so true and so smart. Every writer needs to hear it!

  19. Denise Willson says:

    You are Queen Bee, Rachelle.

    Denise Willson
    NA author of A Keeper’s Truth and GOT

  20. Lori Schafer says:

    I think the current publishing environment also, in a backhanded way, makes it easier to disregard craft. I mean, if you intend to self-publish, you decide when the work is done and when it’s ready to go to market. It’s like getting to bypass all of the formal education and go straight to the final exam. Except that then if your work doesn’t pass, you often have no way of knowing if it’s because your book was no good or you simply didn’t market it well enough. You still need to write a great book in order to succeed – but you have more opportunities to slide on craft without necessarily being conscious that you’re doing it.

    • Ann Averill says:

      Absolutely correct. When you choose to self publish, the gate keepers aren’t there, but as Rachelle mentioned in another blog, the gate keepers are there to help you produce your best book. In my case, a solid writing group, small, trusted, and skilled, acted in a similar way. They pushed me to rewrite and rewrite and rewrite again! I Couldn’t have published my Amazon Kindle, Broken, 180 Days in the Wilderness of an Urban Middle School without them!

  21. Rachel Leigh Smith says:

    I completely agree with you! It’s all about craft.

    I have yet to successfully make my way through a self-published novel. The reason? Lack of attention to craft. The premise may be great, the characters may be intriguing on the surface, but without fail I encounter major issues. Usually in regard to character GMC, or the writer relying on a trope of some kind instead of digging deep for the character gold.

    I’m writing in the ultimate niche genre now, banded together with a group of authors determined to take paranormal romance’s place in readers’ hearts. It’s not easy. And it’s compounded by a lack of attention to craft by many people. There’s a ton of trash out there, and it makes finding the good stuff difficult.

    It’s all about craft. If your craft is amazing, eventually you can sell that novel no one knows what to do with.

  22. Robin Patchen says:

    Amen! What’s the point of a platform if what you’re selling is sub-par? My biggest fear in this writing venture is that I will publish something that I will later be ashamed of. How do you keep that from happening? Focus on craft.

    • Christian Masters says:

      That’s also a really great point, Robin. I saw a similar argument when Joe Hill was interviewed on The Tonight Show, following the announcement that his novel Horns was being made into a major motion picture. He was asked his reasons for using a pen name instead of capitalizing on his famous father’s name (Stephen King). He kept the fact even from his agent.

      He said that he was afraid that, due to his connection with Stephen King, he would not know whether his books were being published due to their actually being good, or whether some indirectly ascribed form of nepotism was at play. He feared that due to the famous name, even garbage might have been snapped up, and heaven forbid, sell. Then with older and wiser eyes, he might have to endure the mature realization that it was awful.

      I also absolutely agree with your solution to the problem – “focus on craft”.

  23. I agree. So much of my attention is on marketing, social media, blogging, etc. I got wiped out at the end of the year, and took a break from all of it. Now I’m back, and my writing feels stronger. Your post has emphasized how much I need to focus on that, and not focus so much on the “marketing.” Thanks for the reinforcement!

  24. R.T. Edwins says:

    Speaking of synchronicity, I was literally just yesterday feeling a bit of anxiety about the fact that my second novel is getting ever closer to being published a year apart from my first novel. In my mind the thought of having to spend a whole year writing/editing from one book to another in the same series was a bad thing. This misconception was, in no small part, influenced by that very equation you mentioned: “Volume + speed = more money, or more success…”

    Since I’m a relatively unknown indie author, with only about ten thousand readers the thought of making them wait a whole year to read the next book feels like I have a great risk of losing interest. But you are completely right, focusing on making the book as good as it can be will help me much more in the long run than if it is published 9 months out instead of 12.
    Thank you for your insight and opinion.

    • Christian Masters says:

      Your point is valid, though as an avid reader myself, I respectfully suggest that a year between related titles is not unreasonable. Unless you happened to have created the series, unpublished, only to decide you’re ready (and the work is, as well), it will take time to produce something of merit. In the other, unlikely, scenario, you may be able to publish two titles in six months, as the lion’s share of work is complete.

      There are, of course, examples of an author taking this too far, as in George R.R. Martin, and… As an avid reader of Clive Barker, I’m still waiting for Book III of The Art. His website in 1999 promised that title by the turn of the century. Silly me, I thought he meant the then-UPCOMING century!

      You can of course also entice your readership by offering chapters in a newsletter, or hints and teasers on your web site. I actually had to draw back on the number of teasers on my site because a few readers pointed out that I was giving spoilers away. After all, Book 3 of my own series The Necropath, may involve a piece of what by then is common knowledge to readers, but until they’ve completed Book 2, it’s a true spoiler, and deflates the suspense of Book 1. So take care with that one.
      Kudos on having developed a readership already, and keep up the work!

  25. Jane Gaugler Daly says:

    You’re right. If you don’t write well, and continue to improve, your success will be difficult to quantify, since it’s a moving target. Even though I love writing fiction, I continually look for opportunities to write, mostly unpaid – for my local newspaper, my Chamber of Commerce newsletter, church magazine, and the occasional paid gig. When my writing reaches the level of the excellence I desire, God’s timing will bring it to fruition…or not. His plan.

  26. I love the process of writing, but I also love the process of promotion. This is why I chose to go into book marketing and publicity — I want to help authors find the right readers. I want to help spread knowledge and creativity. Writing is such a personal thing, but it can also greatly inspire. Both are important.

  27. ladybgood says:

    I’m not there yet. I’m not ready to publish, but everytime I click off one of the instructive sites on how to publish I feel like I might be missing something really important to my publishing ambitions, Then I remember I don’t have anything to publish yet, at least not worthy of my lofty goal of delivering something worth reading. So I don’t allow myself to be distracted by missed opportunities, I go back to to improving my craft and know that when I am ready the right opporrtunities will still be available. I tell my self to stay focused on the work. Amazon and others are not going away.

  28. Jacquie Biggar says:

    I also agree with you Rachelle. I’m just beginning my career as an author but have been an avid reader most of my life. In recent years, and maybe this is because I’m more focused on the writing aspect rather than storyline now, I’ve noticed a real downward spiral in the quality of work being placed before us. I like free and cheap as much as the next person, but when this includes all kind of errors from grammar to plotlines, it makes us as readers take a step back.

  29. Tara Therese says:

    I’d say writers should spend about 75% of time writing and 15% marketing, but I’m no authority on this!

    I have a different take on the more syndrome. Writers can get heaps of story ideas, so some just want to get them all out for others to read! But I agree with this post; a good book is very important.

  30. Michael Dayes says:

    What a great post and point to be making: Write your best book. Bunker down. Get away from the noise. This, for me, is the priority now. Thank you for the reminder. For me, it needs to be the best book that I am capable of writing for now. And it needs to be finished. Everything else is just a distraction.

  31. Sistergirl says:

    I agree as I try to focus this evening on my book. I can plan my writing time out and still get interrupted. Once I get focused, I have problems with stop editing. I get jealous of all the writers who say they complete 2 or 3 books in only 4 months and I’m like it’s taken me 3 years to get this thing just right, lol.

  32. Joanna Lloyd says:

    I felt a sense of relief reading your post. On a number of occasions, I have feared I am not fast enough with getting books out but am determined to improve my craft with each book. I will continue to make that my focus!

  33. Merran says:

    Amen. So true. Thanks Rachelle for yet another great post.

    My mentor told me that it takes at least ten years to become a fairly decent concert pianist and that the same is said about writing.
    We need to hunker down and simply write. And who cares if you don’t publish five books in one year. It means that when you eventually do publish something it will be thoughtful, worthwhile, better quality, and all the more special because you’ve put in the effort to get there.

    I think of the books that’ve stood out in history, on the bookshelves, in people’s memories, and reader’s respect, and they aren’t generally the flimsy, paperback, quick-summer-holiday reads with a plot as thin as the paper they’re printed on.

    I hope everyone reading this is able to shut out the noise and the pressure, and patiently write something worthwhile and lasting :-)

  34. Yvonne Osborne says:

    Good post.

  35. Jessica Rao says:

    Great piece, Rachelle. This is my first time on your blog, but posts like this one make me want to stay a while and look around. Motivating!

  36. Ann Averill says:

    It took me ten years to write my book, Broken, 180 Days in the Wilderness of an Urban Middle School. Many times I prematurely sent queries to agents, including Rachelle. I knew the contents of the book weren’t quite cooked, but with all the hub bub from blogs and conferences about getting an agent, I was in a hurry. But those ten years weren’t wasted. I was developing my craft, and with the help of my trusted writing group, I dug deeper and deeper until I knew I had it right and tight. In Oct. I self-published on Amazon Kindle, and am proud of my book! It is the best I could make it, and my readers say they can’t put it down; it rings true. If I never publish another thing, I have still hit the mark — expressing a life-changing episode in my life in a way that benefits others. Thanks Rachelle. Everything you said is true.

  37. David Jarrett says:

    Bravo, Rachelle! It’s about time someone with stature described a lot of today’s fiction for what it is — drivel. I have always enjoyed reading for personal enjoyment and to study other writing styles in order to improve my own, but lately I find myself putting books down when one-third or halfway through and giving up on them. It has become almost painful to struggle through a story whose human protagonist possesses abilities far exceeding those of any human, a plot that simply does not hang together, and events that could not possibly take place in the real world. The concept of offering enough reality in one’s writing that a thinking person could believe the story seems to have disappeared — I hope this disappearance is only temporary.

  38. Aubrey Talbert says:

    I am glad that I found this website. I just finished my 1st book and this whole publishing thing is all to confusing. An I honestly just want to get it over with so I can get to my next book. Any help would be great. An I wanted to share this in response to post.
    Do you think they ever talk about the journey in the place where the bridge gets built to the wild grass that grows into the beauty of the untouched land that is only seen an dreamed upon?
    I fear for the weak! That only the strong predestined shall embark upon talks of such an unspoken journey..
    Sorry I could not resist having fun with my comment on here. lol!

  39. Lauren says:

    Hi Rachelle,
    First of all, let me say thank you! I stumbled across your blog a while ago, and have enjoyed the educational posts. As a blog writer and also a non-published author, I find your content very relevant.
    This post grabbed me, and gave me the virtual kick in the pants to continue doing what I love and have so little time to do – just write.

  40. This is where my stage of life serves me well. I have three little ones at home, so with just a small bit of time available to me I must choose between my art and other focuses. I cannot do it all.

  41. Madoc says:

    Thank you for this and other services to the writing community. I’ve been writing the book for which I’m now contracted for twenty-five years of ministry. I sometimes feel dumb for working at it til I’m seventy! You helped. Maybe honing the words all these years wasn’t so dumb after all.

  42. Rachelle Ayala says:

    Hi Rachelle, I totally agree. As always, one has to “know oneself.” If I need more time, I’ll take more time. It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing. It’s 100% about the story and conveying it to the reader clearly. Time is the most precious commodity, and I am willing to spend it to make my story sing.

  43. Nancy Thompson says:

    Oh, how I wish this was true. I know for a fact it is not, primarily in the romance genre, where most of the popular titles sit. Even the big publishers don’t seem to care much about quality these days. They find a popular indie who sells due to provocative themes & snatch her up. Unfortunately, just because the publisher is bigger & better doesn’t mean the material is. It’s still crappy writing full of plot holes, telling adverbs, cardboard characters, and unbelievable scenarios. They just want volume to satisfy the voracious habits of the romance readers, who actually do not care all that much as long as they have a wealthy gorgeous book boyfriend to latch into for a day. It’s terribly discouraging for authors like myself who do focus on quality rather than quantity, who spend a year or more researching, writing, and polishing, all the while honing their craft. I’m not ever going to give up. I’ve experienced my time as a bestselling author and it is rather heady, but I won’t sellout for a buck. I have my pride and I enjoy my five-star column to be stacked rather than my profit column.

    • Stephsco says:

      I think this quality issue may be related to hot trends in certain romance subgenres and not to romance as a whole. While I think many romances are well written (and I’m sure you’d agree, your comment doesn’t apply to all) I do see your point, which is most noticeable in certian romance subgenres (which I will not name). A few books/authors I noticed a lot of hype for online and at RWA’s national conference. When I read the book I wondered if an editor had actually gone through it.

  44. Mark Kennard says:

    Story matters most. Always has and always will. It gives writing legs.

  45. Colleen L Donnelly says:

    When I first ran up against the steep learning curve associated with social media, I panicked. Then I was blessed to hear Leigh Michaels say at a writer’s conference – First write a great book. So the hours I would have spent mastering social media, I invested in writing instead. I found my voice, I wrote a novel my publisher said she knew within the first few pages she would accept, and I’m happy I did it this way. As for social media…still learning, but I’m glad I crafted the automobile before I paved the road.

    Colleen L Donnelly

  46. Daniel J. Parker says:

    Thanks for this good, confirming word on giving your best. Polish…polish …polish….it brings out the richness and shine to the vessel. Like adding more sugar to fudge…it makes the fudge so much richer. After 31 years of “polishing” legal writing as a Georgia attorney in a small town, I created and polished, polished, polished a work of fiction. A profound comedy regarding childhood emotional wounding and adult healing titled “No Wound…No Pearl”. I am currently creating a canvas of historical fiction giving life and breath to the 3 “Magi” and the 3 gifts which they brought to the Christ child. I am polishing, polishing, polishing for that best shine.

  47. Stephsco says:

    At RWA nationals last year, with a few exceptions, I found the craft-focused sessions generally had more empty seats than sessions focused on street teams, marketing, how to self-publish. Part of it may be that the self-pub tracks were new to RWA so people were hungry for it. Also, RWA caters to all levels–new writer up to Nora Roberts.

    Those craft sessions were really, really helpful, and I wonder sometimes if we tend to get so excited about how to promote ourselves we skip over learning about writing techniques. At the panel discussions I go to, someone ALWAYS asks which social media platform is best. They always ask whether blogging is still viable and whether it translates to sales. I think that info can be useful, but it seems like it’s quite easy to come across that information if you’re connected at all online. A craft session taught by an NYT bestselling author, in person, with hands-on workshop activities, is what I want to pay my conference money for.

  48. Suzanne says:

    Amen. The more, more, more mantra is crippling the pursuit of quality. I don’t care about speed. I care abut quality.

  49. Dominick Foster says:

    I agree with your article. I have noticed on Facebook that there are a plethora of self-published authors who have rushed to get their materials published without learning or mastering the writing craft. Some of these authors are my Facebook friends, and they seem to manifest a negative disposition toward traditional publishing and literary agents. By the way, there are others on Facebook who masquerade as legitimate literary agents. But in reality, they are pseudo-literary agents with an ax to grind! These pretenders are financially exploiting naive writers who are desperately seeking literary representation.

  50. Cecelia says:

    Rachelle, thank you for waking us up to the reality of great writing.
    ‘Good things DO take time.’ I’ve stopped feeling pressured to have my first novel published, and I’m editing, again and again the first, instead of rushing into completing the third. The lessons gained will make it easier and quicker to polish the sequels.
    Thank you, I’ve needed this encouragement. I watch my Inbox for all your blogs. All the best and God bless you as you bless others.

  51. Cindy Mc says:

    I really love this line: “This agitated state of the collective mind is caused by information overload.” Nailed. It.

  52. Christian Masters says:

    Excellent post, Rachelle, and each of us is responsible for both honing our craft, so we produce excellent work, though also ensuring that there is a market for it (or we are prepared to CREATE that market). It’s been done before, and if the author is up for the challenge, it can be done again. Though it’s far easier to identify an existing market and write, and promote, with that in mind.

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