People often ask me how to succeed as a writer. That’s actually a difficult question to answer because the road to “success” tends to be different for everyone. Plus, success is defined differently by different people. However, it is easier to answer this question: How do I fail as a writer?
While it might seem silly to tell you how to fail, it’s actually a good idea. While success might be more nebulous, there are a number of things that almost always lead to failure. So if you learn and don’t practice those things, you’ll be ahead of the pack. Then you just have to figure out how to succeed.
How to Fail as a Writer
Here’s the easiest way to fail. Just don’t write. Don’t put in the hours. Talk about writing a lot, though. That always helps.
Argue with everyone.
If you want to fail, be sure you argue with everybody. Argue with readers who give you bad reviews. Argue with editors and beta readers who provide feedback. Make certain you argue with clients and bosses because what do they know? Most of all, be sure to argue with everyone on social media who does not share your political or religious beliefs. That’s a sure way to make fans.
Assume the rules don’t apply to you.
When it comes to things like querying or soliciting business, most people have prescribed ways they want to be approached. But feel free to ignore those. Send glittery resumes and stalk their offices. Enclose tchotchkes with your queries. Standing out and being annoying is sure to get you in the door.
Don’t worry about pesky things like grammar and typos.
Your work is so genius that others will fall over themselves to fix your mistakes.
Don’t kill your darlings. They’re yours, for crying out loud! And don’t delete repetition, unnecessary details, or paragraphs of exposition. People like those things.
Don’t bother about genre conventions or style guides.
Just because genre readers expect certain things from works in that genre doesn’t mean you have to give it to them. And if you’re working in non-fiction, treat anything like style guides, industry specific formatting, or any other limitations on your creativity as optional. You’re an artist, dammit. Those things are for the plebes.
You’re already a master. There’s no need to read the work of other greats. You already know all you need to know.
Treat deadlines as optional.
Art takes as long as it takes. Just because someone wants it on a certain date doesn’t mean you have to give it to them.
Skip the research.
Make stuff up. No one will notice or, if they do notice, no one will call you out on it.
Don’t make a plan or set goals.
Winging it will always get you where you want to go. Plans and goals just get in the way.
Never share your work or ideas.
People will steal it! The world isn’t ready for your genius! Make sure you keep everything to yourself and never share it or discuss it. No one can help you hone it into something better, anyway.
Refuse to try anything new.
You write in a certain genre, niche or form. Never change. It wouldn’t do to try a different genre, or gain some clients in diverse fields. Make sure you put all your eggs in one basket because that source of income will never dry up.
Don’t support other writers and be rude to established writers.
They’re the competition! Best ignore them, or be so rude that they want nothing to do with you. You wouldn’t want to form contacts for collaboration, support, or networking purposes.
Never promote your work.
Promotion kills the mystique. Stay off social media, don’t do appearances, and never advertise.
Remember that Mary Sue and Deus et Machina are your best friends.
People love them! They love characters that are secretly an idealized version of yourself. They love it even more when the story problem magically solves itself with a big surprise that no one saw coming.
Chase all the trends.
There’s plenty of room for everyone in trend-land. They’ll find a spot for you because you’re so awesome.
Be a diva.
Demand top pay for an entry-level job or a first effort for a magazine. Make sure you ask to work with the top editor at a publishing house, or with the busiest agent in the business. If they say no, take your work and go home. Bonus points if you can flounce while you do it.
Blame everyone else for your failure.
Your failure is always the fault of your client, boss, editor, publisher, reader, collaborator, or mother. It’s never your fault because you are perfect.
When someone criticizes your work or things get hard, just quit. Don’t try to solve the problem or improve your craft. Just walk away and tell the world they don’t know what they missed.
Follow my plan and I guarantee you’ll fail as a writer. If you don’t do these things, you’ll have a better chance of succeeding. It may be hard to find success, but it’s a least possible if you aren’t shooting yourself in the foot and damaging your name. The first step to success is getting out of your own way.
(Photo courtesy of JeongGuHyeok)