Reader Friday – Good and Bad Investments

Reader Friday – Good and Bad Investments

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What is the best investment you ever made to grow your writing career? (Doesn’t have to be monetary.)
For me: Going indie.

What about the worst?
Not firing my agent.


36 thoughts on “Reader Friday – Good and Bad Investments

    • Agreed, TL. My pen doesn’t have copy and paste. I remember writing college papers where I literally cut them apart and taped them back together in the “right” order.
      I didn’t start writing until computers were a thing, and I can’t fathom having to do anything longhand. I can’t read my writing anymore.
      I also print out every chapter after I finish it and take it to bed to read in a different environment.

      • It’s so refreshing to hear that others now have unreadable handwriting, but great keyboarding skills! I had someone comment on my “Foot writing.” When I questioned the statement, they smiled and said, “You didn’t write that with your HAND, did you!!”
        Yeah, I also wouldn’t write if not for my computer.

  1. While it can be an avoidance tactic if you’re not careful, my best investment is all the hours I’ve invested in learning about writing from conferences, books, articles, and websites. With online content, I started out years ago trying to keep up with many different writing-related websites, then honed it down to just a couple, including TKZ (my thanks again to all contributors and commenters).

    I don’t have a “bad” investment that I can think of, but I will say that because of the time I’ve invested in previous learning opportunities, I rarely go to a writer’s conference now unless I’m absolutely sure they’re delivering new-to-me content that I know is going to take me to the next level.

    • Everyone at TKZ thanks you, BK. Well-directed time is golden, and I agree that I’ve cut way back on spending money on conferences and classes unless there’s a very good educational value. Or, if I’m allowed to present, where I hope I’m providing content for attendees.
      (So, JSB and Gilstrap–you’re the reasons I spent my money on those 2 Colorado conferences)

  2. Best: hiring an editor and a formatter and a cover designer, because these are things I can’t do well on my own. Also, as above, time (and sometimes money) invested in learning the craft, i.e., conferences, craft books (nod to JSB), online events, TKZ. Also, getting to know other authors and learning to help each other.
    And practically speaking, a stand-up portable desk.

    Worst: I can’t think of an investment I’ve made (time or money) that had no redeeming value. I probably will, though. 🙂

    • You can type standing up? I absolutely can’t. And those who can type while walking? Hat tip to you.
      Another good monetary investment was an ergonomic chair.

      • While I can type standing up, I can’t write standing up. My brain simply won’t go where it’s supposed to. At least I didn’t buy an expensive desk to learn that. lol

        • I have trouble writing on my lap, too. I want my desk and my adjustable chair. And a full-size keyboard. When I take my Surface to conferences or to travel, it’s typo-city. And I have tiny hands.

      • I have intermittent knee and hip problems *blast & botheration*, so the way I use my portable desk is to stand for 30 minutes, then sit for an hour or so…rinse & repeat. Works for me.

        (And I can’t write standing up, either.)

    • Thomas Wolfe, LOOK HOMEWARD ANGEL, was so tall that he wrote standing with his typewriter on top of his fridge. (They were shorter than now.) My back admires his and your strength in being able to stand that long.

    • I used to type while doing my stair stepper. My portable stepper was just the right height to stand at the kitchen counter with an adjustable laptop desk (similar to the bed desks) and my fingers would fly over the keyboard. Great distraction to get my exercise in and some writing. But my husband complained the stepper was too noisy and I had to stop. 🙁 Oh well, adjusted and moved on.

      • Sheesh, Cecilia. Kudos to you. And shame on your husband. I couldn’t even read while using the step machines or ellipticals at the Y. Switched to a recumbent bike so I could exercise and read sitting down, but actual work? Can’t fathom it.

    • I’m with you on writing software. Started writing in Word (although I used Word Perfect a lot, but hadn’t started writing yet), still find it’s comfortable. Tried Scrivener. Nope. Too much effort for the teeny bits I was using. Word and an Excel spreadsheet are all the “tech” I need.

        • Word preferred here, too, despite my girlfriend’s best attempts to move me to something “new.” Word has stood me well through many a transition and, as the old saw goes, “If isn’t broken, don’t fix it!”

  3. Best investment: a computer and printer (dot matrix) and 4 writing retreats where I learned what show don’t tell means (among other things). TKZ is time well spent each morning, too.

    Worst investment: all the years I wrote in a vacuum, making the same mistakes over and over because I didn’t have someone to say what I was doing was wrong.

    • Getting those click moments on craft are invaluable. I found some writing buddies before I was taking my writing seriously, and they spurred me on. Glad you’re not stuck in that vacuum any longer.

  4. Best investment: craft books.

    Worst investment: Very early on I paid $300 for a consultation call with a former literary agent who claimed to offer his “expertise” but only blew smoke.

    • Agents. Yep, there are horror stories out there. I’m glad I made the decision to go indie and no longer have to worry about unreliable agents.

  5. Provocative question, Terry.

    Best – buying Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson kick-started my study of craft. I had an idea for a story but no idea how to go about writing it. Randy’s book provided an overview of story theory and a vocabulary I’ve used to mine deeper.

    Worst – I don’t know that I’ve made bad investments. But I’ve questioned my propensity for entering contests for which I receive no feedback other than *sorry, you didn’t win, keep writing*. Although I received several honorable mentions this year 🙂

    • I remember going to one of my first conferences and seeing all those books for sale that touted getting published, making a fortune, the best way to write, and I thought, why are there so many claiming they’ve got the answers? and didn’t buy any. Once I started learning the craft, I found “Self Editing for Fiction Writers” by Browne and King, and that started things rolling.
      Congrats on your honorable mentions!

  6. Great question, Terry!

    My best investment: Taking a private writing class, “Become Your Own Story Doctor,” with thirteen other committed writers, for eight Sundays, four hours each class, with lots of homework back in September/October of 2008. After years of writing, on and off, that put me on the “path of craft”. That class and its talented instructor, Eric Witchey, showed me that you can focus on one element of craft at a time to improve it, and then move on to the next. It also reinforced the importance of daily practice.

    Worst investment: All the writing books I bought before that class, which I skim read, not putting them into practice, not absorbing them. I love books on the craft of fiction writing, but you have to work through me 🙂

  7. Best Investment: Probably a balance of changing my mindset to treat writing like a business (not a hobby) and pay-to-play ads – no question there’s an excellent return on investment with ads on EReader News Today, Booksy, Fussy Librarian, Robin Reads, and BookBub. Oh, and blogging!

    Worst Investment: Hmmm… wasting time on social media 🙂

    • Social media is definitely a time suck, and rarely (for me) of any value other than seeing what my kids are up to.
      I agree some of those newsletter ads are great for visibility and I’ve always come out no worse than breaking even, usually much better.

  8. Best investment: time spent learning the craft of writing. It’s an ongoing investment!

    Worst: Facebook ads. I never figured out how to get them to work for me. Once I discovered the other promo sites (Garry mentioned some of them), I gave up on FB.

    • Yes, we’re always learning. Keeps things fresh.

      Agree with FB ads, and don’t think I’ve got the energy to learn Amazon ads. I tried hiring out for one, and they did worse than I did on my own.

  9. My writing has extended so far into the past, forty plus years, and I have so much hindsight about how my good and bad choices didn’t really matter in the long term, I think I’ll offer suggestions for current newbies.

    Best: Good writing teachers. Many of them are found online. A hands-on teacher can teach specific craft skills and can hone your craft far faster than plugging along by yourself. If they were available back in ancient times before the Internet, I could have cut over 10 years from my writing journey.

    Second Best: Sources to learn about the business side of writing so you can move forward safely in this sea of piranhas. I recommend Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s “Business Musings.” I’ve not been a member for years, but RWA, SFWA, and MWA used to offer lots of great info on the business aspects of a career. Ask around to see if they still do. Also, many of the pros here are more than happy to offer advice. Just ask.

    Worst: Self-publishing before your craft is competent. If that first and second book are dreck, no one will buy the next book. The rush of self-publishing also blinds some writers to the need to keep learning craft so they continue to publish dreck.

    Second Worst: Being so eager to publish that you hurt or end your career by picking the wrong agent or publisher, then signing a contract that will destroy your future. Also, don’t throw all your creative eggs into one media aggregator like Amazon Kindle who can casually destroy your career with a software algorithm glitch. Business knowledge is power, folks.

    • Thanks for sharing your 20/20 hindsight, Marilynn. I’m very much with you on your “worsts.” As the saying goes, “You only have one chance to make a first impression” and a poorly crafted book can kill your career right there.

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