Saturday, December 10, 2016

What Year of "Writing School" Are You In?

Scott D. Parker

I was listening to the always entertaining and informative Creative Writing Career Podcast this week and the guest was Michael Anderle. Michael is a unique case study in the independent author world. A little over a year ago, he published his first book. Within 90 days, he was making $10,000 with his SF series, the Kurtherian Gambit. Yeah, really. He founded the group “20BooksTo50K” as a place where he and other indie authors compare strategies and build each other up in this highly competitive environment. He’s been a guest on many a podcast including The Author Biz, so if you’re interested, head on over to either of these sites.

This week’s episode was a follow-up to an earlier episode. The hosts wanted to see how Michael was doing with sales and other interests in book writing and marketing. All of this is prelude to a comment Michael put out there as basically a throwaway line. When asked about his success in this, his first year of publishing professionally, Michael commented that he was merely in his freshman year.

That concept immediately struck a chord with me. I have been listening to podcasts, readings blogs, and buying books on how to publish, how to market, and how to get ahead in this new environment. I’ve often referred to it as school. But when Michael used the freshman reference, I started envisioning this “schooling” like a college degree program. As such, I’m nearing the end of my sophomore year. My anniversary month is February since I published my first book, Wading Into War, on 18 February 2015.

The more I thought of it, the more my education started to take shape. My freshman year was publishing two novels and three short stories. Largely, it was figuring out how to do those things, the nuts and bolts of formatting, how to get covers, learning to use the Adobe illustrating software, and just getting things up and running.

My sophomore year was, oddly, less productive on the publication front—two novels, only one short story—but the intricacies of doing those tasks proved easier. Late in my sophomore year—I just finished this week—I took two writing workshops with Dean Wesley Smith. The results of the Speed and Depth workshops really opened my eyes on my own writing and what I have to do moving forward.

Now, I’m about to start my junior year in this writing business. I have a few goals that I’ll let y’all in on come 2017, but the idea of a 4-year “degree” program in writing has stuck with me. That framework has solidified a certain way of thinking for me. Like a regular university program, the junior year is when the upper-level courses really kick in. You start to focus solely on your major, with all those pesky required courses out of the way. It gives all college student a renewed focus, just as Michael’s comment did for me.

It also has me looking to my “graduation” in 2019. What might my senior thesis be? Will I graduate cum laude? And, like every college senior, will I have a job after graduation? All good questions, and more will certainly follow. But for now, I’m realizing I’m about in the middle of my education, well, my formal education. One never truly stops learning in a profession like writing. One merely absorbs new data and incorporates it into existing processes.

Do you envision your writing career in this manner? If not, how do you see your ongoing education?

P.S., I wrote and posted this on my iPhone because the Internet is down, so if this post ends up looking wonky, my apologies.


Erik Arneson said...

Great post, Scott. I'm most assuredly a freshman. My first book (a collection of short stories) came out in October 2016. Hopefully 2017 will see the publication of my first novel and who knows what else. Here's to the future!

John Hagen said...

"Entering my fifth year of the 'Writing School,' I've honed my skills, but exploring fiction medical books adds a fascinating dimension to my literary journey. Invaluable insights await!"