I’ve been watching the Olympics, and I realized there are a lot of similarities between a successful athlete and a successful writer. Athletes who want to compete at the highest level practice. Most do this daily or almost daily. They don’t let illness stop them or family events. Because they want to improve, they find and hire coaches they know will take them to the next level. They watch videos of past performances to learn from their mistakes and find ways to improve. When they compete, they present themselves in the best way possible, either through their grooming or their uniforms or their attitudes. They do everything they can to look like and be winners.
Writers who want to succeed must do the same things. Simply wanting to write a book and have it published is not enough. Writers—good writers—write and rewrite. This is their practice, their training. They read how-to books, join critique groups, and learn from their mistakes. They find or hire professional editors—not simply friends but editors who can “coach” them to become better writers. When submitting for a contest or to an agent or editor, they make sure their submission is in the best form they can achieve. (It’s formatted as required and error free.) If self-publishing, they get professionally designed covers. And if along the way they are rejected (don’t receive a medal), they continue competing and improving their submissions. If their self-published story starts getting a slew of poor reviews, they’ll pull it and work on it until they correct the problem.
My fear is that nowadays many writers aren’t taking those steps. With self-publishing, both in paper and e-book form, so easy and inexpensive, way too many writers don’t want to do the work that’s needed, don’t want to spend the money for a professional editor or cover design. They consider themselves published if there’s a book listed on Amazon or with Barnes and Noble with their name on the cover. How long, I wonder, will readers be willing to pay money, even small amounts of money, for stories filled with errors?
If I’m told Michael Phelps is going to swim, I leave my computer and go watch because I know I’m going to see a good performance, win or lose. That’s my goal: to make sure when someone mentions a book written by me that readers know, if they take the time to read it, it will be worth their time.