One of the first pieces of advice a beginner writer can get is – build your audience even before publishing your novel.
That leaves most of us wondering – how in the world are you supposed to do that?
The second most common advice is to write daily.
Write whatever; a diary, a blog, a journal, short stories, poems, notes, braindumps, anything that keeps your juices flowing.
Given these two pieces of advice, what most of us end up doing is to write about writing. That makes me wonder, does it actually count as writing?
Technically, it does. You are putting some words on ‘the paper’, thus you are writing, right?
It’s not like you’re a fitness coach who writes about working out and never works out; or a health advisor who keeps smoking and eating an unhealthy diet. You are still doing the thing which you’re preaching.
But, all writing about writing and not creating a novel, or a poem, or a story whatever you intended to do in the first place, might put you in a false preachers category and I have several reasons for thinking like that.
While there is nothing wrong with writing about writing, there is a problem which most commonly occurs within writers; blogging and audience gaining become the most dominant tasks of our writing business.
Let me put this the other way around. Let’s say that you want to open a flower shop.
First, you do some research, learn some stuff about flowers and then you realize that you need to gain some attention from potential customers, even before opening the shop.
The second thing you do is to start a blog about flowers. It makes perfect sense. If you can attract all these flower enthusiasts and make them buy your flowers, you’ve got yourself a business.
But, does writing about flowers make you a florist? I guess not. It rather makes you a flower blogger. To be a florist, you actually need to have some plants which you produced, and a shop and a dozen other related things.
Now, let’s go back to writing. Does writing about writing alone makes you a writer?
It’s tricky, isn’t it?
I guess the right answer is yes and no.
Yes, you are writing something thus you are a writer.
And no, I don’t believe that your initial idea was to write about writing; I bet that you intended to write a novel, a story collection, a movie script, whatsoever, and you fell into this ‘building an audience trap’.
If you look around, there are many writers who don’t preach or teach writing and yet, they’ve built their audience by writing and publishing solid books or movie scripts.
I’m not suggesting that writing a good book and doing nothing about marketing is the right way, but it is A way of building an audience and in my opinion, it is the most difficult path because you’d need a really good book and a lot of luck in finding a suitable agent and a publisher who will put enough effort in promoting your work.
But, I guess that you do want a good book and creating one requires writing it.
On the other hand, you’ve got writers who have published a novel, or two, and after that, they entirely switched to teaching about writing in a form of blogs, seminars, creative writing webinars, non-fiction books on writing, and all sorts of different teaching mediums.
While there is nothing wrong with that, we can’t ignore the fact that they’ve completely neglected if not abandoned their fiction writing.
Yes, they might have found themselves in helping other writers, but I wonder what had happened with their desire to create fiction?
Did it dimish? Did they realize that fiction isn’t for them? Or something else had happened?
Before I move on, I must say that there are writers who successfully do both of these things; they produce as many fiction books as non-fiction, but these cases are really rare.
In my opinion, writing about writing is catchier. It takes less time. You can write a blog post in a single day, publish it and get some responses. You’ve got instant gratification. It feels like you have an audience, which is one of your goals, right?
So, the next day when you sit down to write, you put your blogging as a top priority because you want to be constantly engaged with your ever-growing audience and if you have a limited amount of time for writing, you start choosing to preach over an actual fiction writing just to avoid losing a contact with your audience.
Putting your fiction writing as a top priority, and skipping to blog daily about writing, kind of cuts you off from the world. Therefore, it’s easy to choose to blog about writing over fiction writing, because a novel can always wait.
If you really care about being constantly engaged with the audience, the other option is to choose Charles Dickens’s route and publish a chapter of your novel each week. That way, you could be engaged with your audience more frequently, and still write your fiction.
But, wait, don’t publish your first chapter yet.
Publishing a chapter of your novel each week might sound like a good idea, but it has its downsides; it would be hard to find a publisher, and it would be hard to do revisions because the moment you finish your book, it will be already out there.
So, think twice before doing something like this.
Finally, if your goal is to write a novel, my advice is to put it as a top priority; make fiction writing as your first task of the day.
And, if you want to build an audience by writing about writing, do it after you finish your daily fiction writing goal. Otherwise, you might end up teaching about writing and I guess, that’s not something you dreamed of.