Joe Konrath is a genius. Some may argue with me about that, but I don’t care. Joe Konrath is a genius.
Let me go ahead and say upfront that I don’t know Joe Konrath personally. I’ve never had a conversation with him live or on the phone or through Facebook or any other social media. Joe Konrath could be the biggest jerk on the planet, but I don’t know that. He could be the nicest guy on the planet, as well. Again, I don’t know that, because I don’t know Joe Konrath.
But I do follow his blog, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing. There hasn’t been much to follow here lately because, well, Konrath has been writing. That’s what writers do.
Painters paint. Athletes play sports. Lawyers practice law. Doctors practice medicine. Cops practice safety and justice and catching bad guys. Judges rule on cases. Politicians… well there are exceptions to every rule. Garbage men pick up the trash. Mechanics work on various vehicles. Engineers build things. The military protects us. That last one is massively important, and to get off topic for a second: If you know someone in the military, thank them. If you see someone in uniform, take a second to say thank you. Trust me, they won’t mind.
Back to what I was saying… err… typing.
Each year Konrath does his New Year’s Resolutions for Writers. This year was no different, though he only posted one new resolution. Upon reading them all (dating back to his first one in 2006) I saw things that I agreed with, things that I have done, things that I have said or thought. Let me give you a couple of these:
I will finish every story I start (2006)… yeah, I have failed at that. Miserably.
I will refuse to get discouraged, because I know JA Konrath wrote 9 novels, received almost 500 rejections, and penned over 1 million words before he sold a thing–and I’m a lot more talented than that guy. (2006)… I wouldn’t say I’m more talented than that guy, but talk about perseverance. Basically, this means never give up, folks.
I will stay in touch with my fans. (2007)… This is the one I really enjoy. Hearing from a fan is great. Hearing that someone enjoyed your work is a good feeling. It provides encouragement and gives you a bit of resolve to continue pursuing your goal. So, if you like my work, feel free to drop me a line in the comments section or at my e-mail address: email@example.com. As a writer, I love hearing from folks.
I will help out other writers. (2006)… In every business you have those who do for themselves and take for themselves, but don’t offer to help others or give to others. The writing community, though large in and of itself, is broken down into families based on the genres they write in. There is your Sci Fi family, which I liken to The Big Bang Theory. There is the Fantasy family and Romance family. There’s your uncle in the closet, the Bizarro Family (which also is one of your funnier, less inhibited families). There is the Lit-Fic family, The Poets (yes, they just go by The Poets, no family added to the end there). The list goes on and on and on because there are so many genres and sub-genres. I belong to the Horror Writers Family and it is a very tight-knit group. We watch out for each other and airtight bonds are formed after just a few conversations. Sure, we have our quacks as well, but the vine that is the horror writers family is not easily severed.
Any horror writer will tell you that things are tough in this genre. The editors are tough and it is extremely hard to get published by reputable publications. It’s also very easy to be cliché and very hard to be original. It’s a tough market. Horror writers, for the most part, are very good about helping each other out, giving advice, helping with editing or beta reading or informing each other about the markets our there or just encouraging each other.
Every year I make this one of my goals: to help other writers in some way or shape. Interviews or pimping their wares or trying to help boost the confidence of others. That’s the one thing I do fairly well. If you’re a horror writer, help someone this year. It will make you feel good, knowing that you did, not only for yourself, but for someone else as well.
I will not get jealous, will never compare myself to my peers, and will cleanse my soul of envy. (2006)… How many of us fail here? Raise your hands. Come on. I know I’m not the only one who has failed at this. Many writers are competitive exhibitionists. Go ahead and laugh, but it’s true. We have to be a little bit exhibitionists to just put our work out there. But, so often we see others do well and we’re like, ‘Really? He got published by them?’ We spend more time being frustrated that we didn’t get published by someone that published something from another writer that we think is not as good as us, that we forget all about what we should be doing: writing. Wow, that was a bit of a tongue twister.
Keep an Open Mind. It’s easier to defend your position than seriously consider new ways of thinking. But there is no innovation, no evolution, no “next big thing” unless someone thinks differently. Be that someone. (2007)… This is me. This is the way I view writing. I choose not to write like everyone else on purpose. Forward thinking and all that jazz aside. I don’t like all the action, action, action stories with very little build up or characterization, so I don’t write that way. I write my way. You want the next big thing? You’re reading him.
Find Your Own Way. Advice is cheap, and the Internet abounds with people telling you how to do things. Question everything. The only advice you should take is the advice that makes sense to you. And if it doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to ditch it. (2007)… I especially like ‘the question everything’ part of this. I do that and probably too much, but not everything (meh, not half of the advice given by writers and experts I find helpful). If you want to learn, you must ask questions. If you don’t understand something, ask questions. If you don’t agree with something, question it. If you want to know why the sky is blue, ask and someone might be able to give you an answer.
I Will Use Anger As Fuel (2008)… I’ve already done this… several times.
2011 gave two of the great ones for this day in the publishing world:
I Will Self-Publish and I Will Not Self Publish Crap. Here’s the problem with e-books. Anyone can publish a book online and call themselves a writer. That’s the truth. ANYONE. The key is to not just self publish, but to NOT self publish crap. There is too much out there that belongs on the bottom of shoes. Don’t do it. Don’t. Do. It.
There are so many other resolutions in there I can touch on, but some of them are repeats of others, just worded differently, probably because they are in different years.
All those things that Konrath says means absolutely nothing. But, A.J., you said he is a genius. Yes, I did. As a matter of fact, I think he is a super genius.
Let it all Go. Spend your time working on your books. That’s the only thing that really matters, and the only thing you have control over.
Genius. It’s so simple it’s complicated.
Here’s what I take out of this: Be your own person. Don’t be afraid to try and fail. Don’t be afraid to try and succeed. Don’t. Be. Afraid. Believe in yourself, in your abilities. Above all else, let go of those things you can’t control.
We can’t control the markets. We can’t control the media. We can’t control the readers. We can’t control the algorithms that places like Amazon use to determine how to promote books on their site. We can’t control reviewers. We can’t control how many of our books sell.
In the grand scheme of things, we can’t control much. Writing every day. Reading. Editing our work to the best of our abilities. Submitting the work. Creating our own e-books for publication. Those things we have control over. It’s been said not to fret over what you can’t control. That is true. Let it go.
And write. Just write.
Until we meet again my friends…
P.S.: If Joe Konrath reads this, thanks for the resolutions–none more important than 2013’s… oh and you are a genius. And not the Wile E. Coyote type.