Not just on Twitter, but out there in the real world, people ask me questions that stop me in my tracks: “How do I become a writer?” - “How do I get a publisher or an agent?" or nowadays “How do I publish an eBook?”
On all of these questions, the problem is that they are huge! I could easily give some one-sentence answer that in later years – when I become rich or famous or both – would be quotable. That would be cute and witty, but would do the questioner no good at all. Neither would a sincere half-answer filled with “you shoulds.” The problem is these inquiries are too big to answer, and here’s why:
· Becoming a writer, finding a publisher or agent or even self-publishing, takes years of trial and error, writing, hard times, writing, disappointments, writing, do-overs, re-writing, studying, and editing.
· There is no way – beyond penning a book about writing or any of the other big questions, each separately – that any of them can be adequately answered. Even then, the manuscript would simply reflect the author’s own journey plus whatever opinions of others are also included.
· How-to books are always subjective. There are no hard and fast rules about how to do anything anymore. What makes one person a gigantic success doesn’t work for the next.
· The most important reason of all is that if a person asks a question as all encompassing as these there is every indication that a basic understanding of the world or the process is missing. As much as I hate this analogy, it holds true – it’s like being at a restaurant with no prices on the menu: if you have to ask what the prices are you can’t afford to eat there. The same is true of a question like “How do I become a writer?” If you ask that question, you may lack the basic drive and curiosity required to break it down into questions you can answer a bit at a time for yourself.
When people ask about becoming a writer - I’ve learned to point people in the direction of Julia Cameron, the author of The Artist’s Way. Her book outlines such a simple process for awakening the artist inside that I figure anyone can read it and figure out if they are truly a writer (or painter or musician, etc.).
Regarding getting an agent or publisher – I point out that years ago, I actually obtained and chose between two different agents for my screenwriting and collected 127 rejection letters in the process, which I point out here to prove 1) it can be done and 2) it ain’t easy.
If there’s a definitive book out there about self-publishing or creating eBooks I don’t know about it. I would recommend two books, however, to get a feel for the culture of self-publishing – John Locke’s How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months! and The Path To Self-Publishing Success by William R. Hicks. Both of these books taught me a lot about the process from concept to marketing.
I’m spending the next two weeks developing a YouTube video list for "how-to" in Social Media, which I hope will help other writers. I will publish the list here.
I believe the best strategy when answering the “Big Questions” is to lovingly offer a starter tip and hope the person who wants to know will take it and run with it. And perhaps, learn to break these giant queries into much, much smaller chunks.