Sacha Black’s Top 10 Writing Tips
Welcome to week 6 of our Top 10 Writing Tips by… feature. If you’ve missed any of the other top tip posts you can find them all HERE. Please feel free to pop over and connect with the wonderful authors who have taken part.
Next up for the challenge is multi-genre author, Sacha Black.
Sacha Black has five obsessions; words, expensive shoes, conspiracy theories, self-improvement, and breaking the rules. She also has the mind of a perpetual sixteen-year-old, only with slightly less drama and slightly more bills.
Sacha writes books about people with magical powers and other books about the art of writing. She lives in Hertfordshire, England, with her wife and genius, giant of a son.
Sacha is a developmental editor, writing coach and launching her brand new podcast The Rebel Author Podcast: Books, Business and Bad Words in fall 2019. When she’s not writing, she can be found laughing inappropriately loud, blogging, sniffing musty old books, fangirling film and TV soundtracks, or thinking up new ways to break the rules.
Sacha’s Top 10 Writing Tips
- Treat it Like a Business
If you want to write fulltime (and not everyone does), then you absolutely need to treat writing like a job and view your writing as a business.
That means showing up even when you’d rather fork your eye out. It also means sometimes you have to put your business hat on and make hard decisions; like knowing you’re going to lose some money marketing and experimenting.
If you can, try to set things up from the outset to help yourself. For example, start a new current account and keep royalties in that. Business for Authors by Joanna Penn or The Business of Being a Writer by Jane Friedman are excellent guides on this.
- Understand it’s All About Mindset
Writing is hard, no matter whether you’re Stephen King or J.K. Rowling herself. There are going to be hard days. But you only lose when you quit. Whether you’re a sceptic or not, I honestly believe half the battle is about making the decision to commit. Once you make a real decision, the universe falls into line and helps. One of the best mindset books I read was The Success Principles by Jack Canfield.
- Multiple Streams of Income
I don’t believe in the poor artist myth. It’s bullshit. We work hard for our art and as long as you treat your work like a business, there’s no reason to be poor. However, if you’re traditionally published, then you might only earn 20-30p per sale. If you’re an indie author then you might be lucky enough to get $2-3 per sale. Either way, earning your entire income from sales is going to require you to sell a metric boat-load of books.
To earn $25,000 a year as a trad author, you’ll need to sell in the region of 80,000 books. Even as an indie you need to sell 12,500 books.
A tall order.
Which is why you need multiple streams of income. But that means more than just ebooks and paperbacks. Make sure you have audiobooks, write in more than one genre. Add services to your repertoire if you can. Or, if you have past career skills, use them. Consult, wait on tables, sell courses, run workshops. Do whatever you can to have financial stability that comes from more than one source. And don’t rely solely on sales until you have no debt, have several months of consistent royalties to be 100% sure you’re stable.
- Get Comfortable Experimenting
Whether it’s trying new locations to write, or attempting writing sprints, experimenting is essential.
I know, I know. I kick and scream at first too, especially when I have to learn something technical.
I’m still trying to decide whether I’m a plotter or pantser. But the only way I can discover which one I am, or if I’m somewhere down the middle is by experimenting. Likewise, with marketing. It’s a toughy and learning how to master advertising and book blurbs will only come through experimentation.
- The Pursuit of Excellence
Marketing is important, but craft is essential. If you truly want a career writing, then you need to continue developing your craft.
That means more than just reading lots of books. As Malcolm Gladwell says, it’s not just 10,000 hours of practice, it’s 10,000 hours of purposeful intentional practice. You need to intentionally try to develop your craft.
Read craft books *cough mine*.
- Read consciously.
- Notice when you think something is written well or badly.
- Then assess why you think that.
- It’s all about the details
I loathe details because I’m a big-picture girl. But the more I develop my craft, the more I realise how vitally important details are.
Emotion comes not when you name an emotion, but when you describe the intimate details of body language, and the symbolism in metaphors and the layers of feeling.
Characterisation comes from the tiny details he or she notices that no other character does.
And if you want to crack advertising you have GOT to be on your data game. The only way to earn big is to get nitty-gritty on ad data.
- It’s the Journey Not the Finish Line
This is one of those fundamental truths. We all – me included – get frustrated when it takes longer than we predicted to reach our goals. Especially when you’re in pain at the day job etc.
But here’s the thing, when you get to the end and you’ve achieved your goal, it’s all over. There is no more.
The only thing we have is the journey. Try to appreciate the highs and lows, the tough days and the good.
- Pay it Forward
- Karma is real.
- Trust me when I say, you know more than you think you do.
So help others, be kind, thoughtful, give advice, share your wins and your losses. Pay it forward because when you’re a good egg, the help and support is repaid. When you’re an asshole, the universe tends to make a point of shitting on you.
Humans are run by habits. Worse, it’s super easy to form bad ones and a total bitch to form good ones. Read up on habits, how to break the bad ones and how to form the good ones. The point is, forming a habit is strenuous work. But once a habit is embedded it becomes automatic which means it takes less energy.
- Be Kind to Yourself
Another one I struggle with. But you know what, sometimes life gets in the way, sometimes we don’t hit our goals, sometimes we’re so tired we have to work in our PJs.
IT’S OKAY, PEOPLE. IT’S TOTALLY OKAY.
Be kind to yourself, you only have you and your body, and if you want it to achieve big things, you have to be big amounts of kind to yourself. After all, it’s the one that’s going to do the work. So give it massages and chocolate and frequent orgasms or whatever tickles yer tingle.
Woah! Lots of fabulous advice to process here. Huge thanks to Sacha for sharing her top tips with us. If you want to check out her books or find out more about the author you can find her here:
Keepers (YA fantasy #1)