chalkboard-459256_1280In the first post in this two part series I talked about some of the lessons I’ve learned in the first year as an independent writer.

The four lessons I’ve boiled it down to are:

  • Writing is the easy part
  • Control your own destiny
  • Manage your time wisely
  • Don’t read reviews

Writing really is the easy part, its the expressive part of the art form and I think it’s a good way to know if you should be writing. Controlling my destiny is a hard learned lesson. After putting a lot of effort into Facebook, I find that we are heading down different paths, and I should have been putting more effort blog posts and building an email list.

That leaves us with managing my time wisely. I’m making a run at finishing up the last few chapters of Smuggler’s Dilemma today, but instead of actually writing I’m finishing up this blog post series. Is that good time management? I certainly have wrestled with that, but in the end I believe it is. It’s one way that I can connect with readers and hopefully help authors who come behind me and need a bit of encouragement.

We all struggle with time management. No one that I know ever says, ‘there are too many hours in the day.’ As a self-promoting, independent writer it is easy to get distracted. How much time should I spend getting involved in the hundreds of communities, forums and chat groups to talk about other people’s works? For me I’ve come down on the side of 90/10. That is I can do whatever else catches my fancy as long as it doesn’t exceed 10% of my writing time (so, yeah, I’m on the clock here, and my boss will get on me if I don’t get finished up).

In that 10% I’ve prioritized; monthly book promotions, book giveaways and social media. Am I perfect at achieving this? Not at all, but for me having a guideline on the amount of time to invest is extremely helpful.

Finally, perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned from the last year, is to not read reviews. For most authors, myself included, reviews are like crack. Once I start reading them, I can’t stop and the more I read the more harm they do. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good review. It’s immensely satisfying to hear that someone likes your work. The problem is the flip side of that. A handful of people will dislike your work. For me the most insidious review is the bait-and-switch, where the review starts with some light praise only to turn into a belittling, self-aggrandizing complaint. I figure they put the nice words at the front to draw the praise hungry author to their trap so that they can avoid being dismissed as a troll.

Writing as an independent requires a thick skin or getting really good at sticking your head in the sand. Turns out, I’m the latter. I can’t take the criticism, it’s not constructive and I have no idea if the person writing it has any leg to stand on. If you want to see what I’m talking about, go to any book that has 100+ reviews on it and pick out a few of the 1 and 2 star reviews, click on the link that allows you to see what else that person reviewed. You can pick out the trolls easily, because they’re trashing everyone, their standards are so impossibly high that no one meets them.

So now with a new year starting and those lessons under my belt. I’m looking forward to a productive 2015. I’ve spent my 10% in non-writing tasks and I must get back to the story. Now where was I …