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Stuff You Do Not Have to Do as a Writer
I’ve been going through a season of figuring out what I really like (turns out—running!) and dislike (turns out—very noisy places!) and allowing myself to like and dislike those things vocally and outwardly, instead of swallowing it so not to inconvenience people. Growth! Progress! And that has lead me to amassing (mental) lists of things I Can Do and things I no longer Have To Do. As a writer, there are a lot of things you also Can Do and no longer Have To Do, or ever do at all! This is my carte blanche permission to fully ignore these things if they do not serve you.
Make a mood board for your book
A mood board for your book is a digital or physical collection of images that capture the look/feel/essence of your characters and setting. I have never fully done this though can see the appeal and its usefulness. But to me, it feels like yet another task and one I’m going to forget to look at when I sit down to write. So I don’t do it! You don’t either if it’s not going to work for you!
Making a playlist for your book
I know so many people who do this! On Spotify or the like! I have listened to their playlists! They are great! I have never once felt the need to do this for my own book. I cannot listen to music with words in English when I write. And that is ok. I am absolved.
Never tweet is pretty good advice I have never once taken. If you do not enjoy Twitter or it is actively harming you, then you can stop. S T O P. If you are leaving behind a pretty big platform, and your book replies on your platform, there may be consequences, as in your publisher might be disappointed you aren’t promoting your book there (you can still send a few tweets to promote the book without being Very Online) but in general the world will not collapse if you are not on Twitter. Your book will not tank in proportion to your Not-Tweets. Could there be consequences? Sure—but I don’t know how we would measure them because it’s not like we can directly measure what tweet lead to what book sale. Social media can definitely sell books (see: TikTok) but it’s unclear (and/or unquantifiable) how that is directly related to an author’s tweets vs people organically just talking about something (because it’s good or noteworthy or bad or cringey or whatever reaction the subject elicits). Twitter only feels big/important/vital when you are on Twitter. The rest of the world cares very little. (You can sub TikTok, Goodreads, Instagram, etc as needed here.)
<Kate takes a deep breath> You don’t have to outline. There I said it! You don’t have to! If pantsing completely works for you, you can do that! I give you permission! Personally, I must outline, at least somewhat, but YOU, you can do what works for you. (Maybe just don’t tell me. My anxiety can’t take it.)
Send people swag
Maybe this is waning because of the pandemic and ~~in this economy~~ but there was a while when I was getting a lot of questions from clients like do I have to send swag? how do I send swag? Is there swag people really like? who pays for swag? Swag is anything from a bookmark to a branded water bottle to cookies printed with your book’s cover on them, packaged up in a pretty box with that crinkly paper stuffing and a copy of your book or ARC, just waiting to be instagramed. And that is the point of swag—to make a pretty picture to be shared on social media. This is not a bad thing! I love getting swag! It makes me feel special! (Do not send me swag as a way to get attention for your query. That is not the point here.) But the thing about swag is that after you open the box, you have this STUFF lying around and be honest who here needs another water bottle/tote bag/sticker/fidget spinner? Food/alcohol is tricky to send for a million reasons. (But man oh man am I jealous of my friends who work in/around TV/movies who get like suitcases filled with champagne. Still I imagine those friends have 600 whiskey rocks and branded tumblers they never use.) Swag might be useful for an initial bump of promotion, but the logistics and costs of it are hard for most authors without a huge following and budget to make work. Most authors don’t do swag. You can be most authors.
Have a Hot Take
There might be something happening on Twitter or Insta or in your Discord or Slack! A kerfuffle! A to-do! A scandal even! And GUESS WHAT???? You don’t have to have a (public) opinion about it. You can have any opinion you want about it—in your mind or to your cat or partner or group chat or God. But you are not required to post about it! No one is waiting for what you think! This isn’t punitive—it’s FREEING! You are liberated from the Take Machine! It does not hold you! You can just keep scrolling.
Get a Beta Reader
I have shared my novel(s) with readers before—aside from my agent—and it’s been a great help and boost to my confidence. But other novels, I have not. And that’s ok. Beta readers (i.e. people who offer constructive criticism on an unpublished work, for fee or not) are very helpful! But you may not have them on hand or know where to get them. That’s ok! Do the best editing you can do and keep moving forward.
Publish your book
!!!!!!!!!!!!! SHOCKING I KNOW, especially coming from me!!!! But no one says you have to write everything for publication. You can put it on your website (unless there’s something in your contract that would make this unwise—talk to your agent)or Patreon or print it out and leave it on park benches! You can just write it for fun! For YOU! You can also very much desire to be traditionally published and that is ALSO ok. But once you realize that you don’t HAVE to publish every word you write, you might realize it takes the pressure off, well, every word you write.
You have my permission to leave behind anything that doesn’t serve you. You can pick it up later or not at all. You can find new things to replace them or not. It’s ok. It’s your work.
PANEL ALERT! Saturday, March 26th at 3pm PT/ 6pm ET I’m participating in an online GISH Book Bash panel on book publishing! Join me, Loryn Brantz and Karen Walrond as we talk about, what else—BOOKS! Sign up here!
Short stories are usually ok in this case. It’s usually novels that might have some kind of conflict in a book contract in this situation.