Killer Year–The Class of 2007

Writing is the most important thing
February 10, 2007, 1:40 pm
Filed under: Dave White

JT asked me to cross post this from my own blog, so here goes. I’m going to edit it a bit to make my point clearer. What’s ironic to me is this group, Killer Year, is used mostly as a promotional tool, though lately it’s become more than that, which I’m glad about:

I’m tired. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s been late nights and stress and thinking too much, but I’m tired.

So why am I tired? Because some of this stuff has gone on too long and it’s time to say something.

I just want to remind you all, we’re WRITERS.

So why don’t we talk about books and craft and how we write more? Why don’t we talk about the best way to tell a story? Or why multiple POVs seem to work better than first person these days? Or why Author X’s book worked so well? We don’t talk about that on these blogs enough.

When we review something it’s seen as promoting a friend or a fellow writer. It doesn’t come off as honest to me. And that’s because there’s a trend, at least since the advent of writer blogs, and that trend is PROMOTION.

That’s what 90% of these blogs are about, it seems. It’s WHO I hung out with at a contest. Or how I walked into a bookstore and swooned the booksellers into pushing my book. Or what my plan is to make my book a bestseller.

You know what my plan is? To write a good book.

And then write another good book.

We are writers and writing is the MOST IMPORTANT thing. Writing well, is the MOST IMPORTANT thing.

Too many people, it seems, are worried about getting their name out there. Yeah, that’s important. But isn’t part of that making sure you’re proud of the book your name is on?

I will go out and sign books. I will hang out with booksellers. I’ll do the leg work because I enjoy it. But I don’t want to have to feel like no matter where I am I should be peddling my wares. I shouldn’t be harassing people with business cards telling them how good my book is all the time.

My focus should be on the work. I should worry about how well I’m writing and if it’s going to resonate. If I write a good book, then the chips should fall into place. I gotta think it’s easier to sell a good book to people and keep them coming back for more good books.

I think the problem is, the business is finite. It’s easy to come up with a few answers and go out and do it. Writing is infinite. There are hundreds of ways to do it and we’re afraid to talk about it because it might be wrong. But there is no RIGHT WAY. I don’t know anything about writing from day to day. I never know if what I’m doing is right. And that scares me. And I think it scares a lot of other people, which is why we don’t talk about it.

But we should.

Yeah, people have to find out about the book somehow. That’s where the legwork comes in.

But is it the most important thing? I don’t think so.

Writing a good book.


The craft.

That’s the most important thing.


And if that doesn’t work out, I’m still a teacher.

I feel like I’m not sure if my point is getting across. Yeah, promotion is important and it’s definitely something I have to learn about and get good at. I’m going to have to promote my book. And in all honesty, I’m looking forward to doing that.

But at the same time, isn’t one of the best ways to start promoting a book, writing a good one? Why can’t we talk about different ways to get better and exchange thoughts about how to become BETTER WRITERS and better promoters? Isn’t there a balance to that? Somehow, I feel like writing the book should be the MOST IMPORTANT THING, but when I read blogs, it isn’t.

Maybe I’m in a different mindset than a lot of people. Do I want to write for a living? Yes, I do. A lot. And I will do what it takes. I’m dedicated to being successful. But if it doesn’t work out because of things out of my control, I can still write short stories and remain a teacher, a profession I love.

So the question becomes, what can I control? The words on the page. I can write a better book. I can do what it takes to learn how to write consistently well and become better and better at it. And then I can go out and do the signings and schmooze the booksellers and wine and dine publicists.



7 Comments so far
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I did ask Dave to cross post this, and encourage everyone’s opinions. Do you think we’re over promoting and under introspecting? Killer Year is a group of writers allied specifically to promote. Along the way, we’ve developed bonds of friendship that transcend the marketing and move into the process. As we grow closer, the aspect of creating, of making that book length magic time and again becomes more important than getting our names out there. At least it does for me. : )

Yes, marketing is fun to talk about. Some of us know more than others, and it falls to those people to fill in the gaps for the ones who are learning the ropes.

But isn’t talking about whatever funky little quirk that allows us to put 100,000 words together in a mindbending story that strangers and friends will read and comment on MORE fun? I know that I feel a wild freedom in my soul when I sit down and talk about writing with other writers. People who get me, no matter what. It’s intoxicating.

Damn, I guess I should just save this for Friday at Murderati and shut up now.

Comment by JT Ellison

I don’t think anyone is holding a gun to Dave’s head to post about promotion or selling on his blog.

We’re all allowed to write about whatever we want on our blogs. I tend to write a lot about the writing process because it interests me and I’m still in the writing, rather than promoting stage of my career. Joe Konrath and MJ Rose, on the other hand, tend to write more about the promotion side of the business because that’s what interests them.

As far as conversation goes at conferences and whatnot, I tend to hear more talk about sports, or gossip, or the publishing industry in general than talk about promotion or writing. And that makes sense. If you go to a hardware convention the bulk of the people will be talking about hardware and the hardware industry because that’s what they have in common.

At a conference like Bouchercon there is a collection of people who, if they didn’t have writing or mysteries in common, probably would never have occassion to meet. So it only makes sense that most of what they talk about would be the biggest thing they have in common.

Comment by Bryon Quertermous

That is the beauty of a blog. Since according to the experts they aren’t selling books, why should we have any rules at all? Especially if it’s a personal blog.

Comment by JT Ellison

Some very good observations, Dave. So, why don’t you get us started. Why do multiple POVs seem to work better than first person these days?

Maybe you could do a “question of the week,” on your blog and make it a writing question. See where the discussion goes.

Comment by John McFetridge

The problem I personally have about writing about writing is that it starts to feel incestuous to me. And I’m not entirely sure that readers out there really care about the processes, at least not in the sort of detail that writers can delve to, and then it becomes a real question: what is the point of the blog? Not just this blog, but any writer’s blog.

I think writer discussions are fascinating, personally. I think writing an excellent book and then trying to do an even better one the next time out presents writers with a host of challenges and it would be both fun and useful to talk about those. But is that of any interest to our readers who aren’t writers? I dunno. I know there are some writer blogs out there who do talk about this process, and do it well (Rob’s is one I would hold up as an excellent example, as well as Murderati), but I’ll read theirs, think they’ve nailed the point and then feel like I have nothing to add.

Nor, let me make it clear, do I think it’s particularly interesting to be all marketing, either. Again–boring and seriously, readers aren’t going to care if the book isn’t great.

So, then, what do writers talk about on their blogs? Their personal lives? Probably taboo for most. The ups and downs of the business? A quick way some writers have gotten themselves into big trouble with their houses, if they tell the truth. What’s left ends up being the conversations at conferences or hanging out at the bookstore. Or those late night refrigerator raids.

I think a question of the week could be interesting–because what works for a dark thriller isn’t necessarily what works for me for a caper/comedy. So a nice round-house discussion could work, but then, is that going to get too claustrophobic where we appeal only to other writers? Because no offense to the other writers out there reading this blog and writing their own, but if we all only appeal to each other, then we might has well just have formed a closed list-serv and have had a workshop.

In other words, I have no answers. Which is why my poor blog has been sadly neglected of late. But I don’t think that talking about marketing necessarily means that we don’t realize that the first and foremost necessary element before all others is to write a great book. I just don’t know how talking about that isn’t going to be perceived as another form of marketing (said tongue in cheek).

Comment by toni mcgee causey

It is amazing how many good novels never see the light of day. They get rejected by the major publishers and if picked up they never get the publicity and the distribution to make very much money. I am not a writer, I am a reader. I guess I should make that confession first. My second confession is that I came across your blog looking for places to comment so I can leave my web site URL on a high ranking PR page. Having admitted my under handed deed I do have some comments because the discussion intrigues me. I am a crafter so I do share some of the same processes as a writer. I love to create my crafts and that is primary to my existence. Marketing, selling and promoting are secondary and are a nuisance because the take me away from my craft.

Unlike a lot of trades and jobs, we are in a unique situation that many would envy. Our job is something we love to do. Our job is who we are. Maybe ‘job’ is a bad choice but it is an accurate one.

Ok, here is my 2 cents worth. The music industry is destroying itself and there is a lot of reasons. Like writers, there are a lot of musicians who are passed up and never get the time of day. They have learned to bypass the music industry and have gone direct to the public through the Internet. The really good ones are making a living at it and doing quite well. Think about it! They don’t have to invest much money to do so. There is very little cost involved in doing this. They give away free music and attract attention. People go to their web site and buy their downloadable MP3s. The only cost involved is the hosting fees for the site. Writers are now doing the same thing. I heard that Steven King even released a book on the Internet bypassing his publisher (I’m sure he had an agreement to do so).

I would much rather go online and purchase a downloadable book for half the price of what the going rate is for a paperback. I have done just that. Books in digital format of course will eventually be the way of the industry and are slowly creeping that way. Digital books downloadable to Palm Pilots and the like sell very well as well as audio books. The number available is very low but increasing and that is because the publishers are trying to control that market as well.

Anyhow, I am sure you all know this and I am beating a dead horse. (Sorry PETA). If I where a writer I would create my own bookstore along the lines of the major books stores like Books A Million and the like except this would be a consortium of writers looking to get their work out to the public and bypassing the publishers. I don’t know of anything like that on the Internet at this time. With a little publicity it would probably take off. This is specially true among the younger generation who has only known the digital world. I believe this would work for all genres of writing. Well if anything it’s a free business idea for someone willing to take the bull by the horns (PETA gonna hate me) and make it work.

Comment by Elizabeth

Best as I can tell, conferences are about discussing swears and hookers, not necessarily in that order.

As for process, after thinking about this a bit over the weekend (after your original post, Dave), it occurred to me that people talk about what’s safe. Promotion, that’s easy. A lot of us don’t know anything about it, but it’s something we need to do. Since we’re writers, it’s a given that we don’t know anything about it. What’s safer than discussing theory of a topic about which you’re expected to know nothing? It’s brilliant, really.

But writing. Well, once you’ve got a book contract or, gracious, a book, well you’re an author then. You must know something about writing, right? Except don’t we all continue to struggle with process and self-doubt. Many of the Killer Year members are in the midst of that second novel, also known as the At Last The World Will Discover What A Fraud I Am novel.

As soon as you start discussing writing and process, there’s a risk that someone will come along and say, “Yeah, well I read your shitty book and you don’t know shit, shithead.” Then there is no choice but to commit sepuku.

Still, I’m going to make a point of taking some chances in my own blog in coming weeks, and it’s because of you, Dave. You’ve inspired me. Here’s hoping I live through it! šŸ˜€

Comment by Bill Cameron

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