What this writer has learnt in 2016

Another year has almost been and gone, zoomed past. I’m sure someone is stealing days and weeks from me and replacing them with vague memories (perhaps there’s a story there.)  Anyway, as 2016 draws to a close it’s time to look back, before looking forward.  So, what have I learnt?  What sage nuggets of wisdom (and some not so sage) will I be taking forward into 2017.  Here goes:

1)  Planning

Earlier this year I paid some money and took part in the James Patterson master class series.  Was it worth it?  Yes, I think it was and one of the main things I learnt is the art of planning.  I use the Scrivener writing program, which is a good start and makes planning a lot easier.  Also, I already had an idea for a novel based on a few short stories featuring (my now) main character.  This was a great opportunity to apply James Patterson’s regime.  So, I spent more time on detailed planning than I have before.  I divided the story into many more chapters than I do normally which worked well.  I played with them, moved some a round, added others and took some out.  All this meant that by the time I came to writing I was confident with the plot.  Reaction by some early readers has been great and I will be publishing early in the New Year.  If you want to read more on the James Patterson methods I wrote a number of blogs on my experience, starting with this one: My writing – I’m going back to basics.

2)  I knew there had to be a reason:  Farting helps reduce high blood pressure and is good for your health.

3)  That first…

Oh, and while we’re on, one more thing from the Master Class:  Pay attention to that first sentence, first paragraph, first page.  A reader must be grabbed in that first page on Amazon, if not, the chances are they’ll move on.  That’s the way it is now, everyone can sample the book before buying so hook them early.

4)  Sorry – this one just appealed.  The reason the taste of banana flavoured products doesn’t taste like bananas is because it is based on a type of banana that was wiped out by a plague in the 1950’s.  OK, you have to ask why?  As in why not come up with another one?

5)  The Slight edge

I read Michael R Hicks book on self-publishing this year.  He is a great scifi/fantasy writer in my opinion (I hadn’t realised he was self-published).  One of the things that changed his writing life was the book, a “The Slight Edge” by Jeff Olson.  The premise is that successful people are successful because they do the small things well and more importantly, consistently.  Things that are so small that individually they have little impact.  However, over weeks and months those small acts add up and do make the difference.  OK, I’m still reading it, but I see where Michael Hicks is coming from.

6)  Apparently, Viagra, when dissolved in water, makes cut-flowers stay erect for up to a week longer than they usually would. I wonder who tried this first?

7)  Blogging

I used to blog ever week on a variety of topics.  I have changed that to every two or three weeks.  Why?  Because, ultimately, I want the blog to help me sell more books.  Not directly, however, I want people who read my blog to be interested in what I’m writing and over time perhaps interested enough to give my books a try.  So now I’m blogging, less often, but on topics that are closer to my work.  I still have to make them relevant and entertaining.  I’m not just spouting buy my book, buy my book.  Anyway, if you read the blog, you’ll understand.

8)  The entire internet is stored and delivered on 540 billion trillion (no I don’t know what that looks like either) electrons, which togther would weigh about 50 grams, about the weight of one medium sized strawberry.

9)  Write what you love

This was brought home to me this year by my latest writing venture a detective story set in Northumberland, with a supernatural element to it (it’s me it can’t be that straight forward).  I grew up in the county and although I now live in the South of England I still love it.  I’m certain this comes out in the writing as my character visits some of my favourite places.  This is not to say that I don’t like writing scifi, which I do.  However, a change is as good as a rest as they say.

10)  The body of the 18th and 19th century philosopher Jeremy Bentham is stuffed and kept at the University of London.  Again, why?

11)  Marketing is the difficult bit

I suspect almost every self-published author will agree with this.  I re-launched my book ‘Bleak – The story of a shapeshifter’ this year with a new cover.  I paid for some promotion.  Was I successful?  Not really, as in the additional sales (which there were some) did not return my investment.  Now I need to see what else I might do and assess where I’m going wrong.  Oh, and apply the Slight Edge principles – see above.

12)  The Apollo astronauts foot prints will remain on the moon for 100 million years.  There is no atmosphere or water to erode them.

So that’s it, just a few of the things that I’ve learnt this year and some that I need to carry through to 2017.  As always, I need to learn from the past without getting hung up on it.  I will keep writing, because it is part of who I am.  And I will keep trying for that illusive success and by that I mean selling enough books to make a small profit.  Those positive comments book reviews from readers are what keep me going.  I would just like more of them.

As always comments are welcome.

Ian Martyn

Author: Ian Martyn

Science Fiction Writer

7 thoughts on “What this writer has learnt in 2016”

  1. Great collection of lessons learned (still trying to figure out the banana thing…), and good luck for next year.
    As you say, marketing is the hardest, but unfortunately utterly important. Last month I invested in some more expensive ads which mostly ended up costing more than I spent, but at least I know which ones not to try again. This is the first time I’ve ended up out of pocket on a marketing spend in the 3 years since I first self-published, but because a few of the ads brought great returns, not by too much.
    I will be sharing the results from this recent promotion later this week on my blog, so if you care to take a look, you’ll see which sites worked for me. Obviously it might be a little different, as yours is SF and mine, fantasy, but you might find something useful.

    1. Thanks for this – Look forward to seeing the results of your latest promotion. I have that new book coming out early in the New Year (unless I can get an agent interested – here’s hoping). It’s a different venture for me – a detective story set in Northumberland with that supernatural element to it. We’ll see how it goes. Have a good Christmas.

  2. A nice reflective piece Ian. We all need reminding from time to time to focus on what’s important. I like the “little things consistently” that’s what I try my best to do. Cheers and compliments of the season to you.

If you have a view on this, let me know: