Ta-da! It’s the final day of the A to Z Challenge! Can you believe that? I’m not sure I can. I really, really wasn’t convinced I’d manage to post every day, but somehow I did it. Apart from that one day when the blooming post didn’t publish – I don’t know what happened there but we won’t dwell on it. I caught up and that’s all that matters.
So here we are on Day 3,000,723 of the A to Z Challenge and the letter is Z. My smile has just faltered. Z? What on earth am I supposed to write about that begins with the letter Z? I really didn’t think this through, did I?
Update: Two hours later. Z? I can’t think of anything beginning with Z! Er, Zebra … the way beautiful zebra stripes inspire writing …?
Update: Two hours later. Z? Seriously?
Update: Two hours later. Are you sure I have to do this last letter? Z? Really?
Update: Two hours later. I can’t think of anything. Z? It’s impossible. I’m exhausted. I just want to … Zzzz ….
BINGO! No, that’s not the cat’s name. At least, I don’t think it is, but who knows?
Z is for Zzzzs.
Now, you may be forgiven for thinking that Zzzz is a bit of a cheat. What a swizz, I hear you say. That’s not even a word. And you won’t get any arguments from me because you’re absolutely right. It’s not a word and I am cheating. But you know what? It’s my blog and I can do what I like. Also, there is method in my madness, honestly. Zzzzs in this context stands not for sleep, but for all the things that are so boring or mean-spirited that they make me yawn. See? It sort of works. Cut me some slack, okay? It’s been a long hike through this A to Z Challenge.
What I’m talking about today is, in essence, being a good writer. Not in the way that I’m going to sit here and lecture you on grammar or punctuation, because that’s a different subject entirely. I’m talking about being – well, I suppose – a good person.
In general, I’ve found the writing community to be a smashing bunch of people. Most of them are modest, funny, warm and friendly. Just occasionally, though, I’ve come across someone who makes my toes curl with their rudeness. What I want to say is, don’t be that person. Don’t be the one who makes sarcastic comments just to get one over on someone else. Or the one who puts another down to make yourself feel better. And don’t be the one who jumps onto another person’s post and hogs the whole thing. I’ve seen posts where someone has been feeling really upset and low about their writing career, and another writer has commented with how well their own career is doing. Well, whoopee doo! Good for you, but is that really the time or the place?
Don’t Be Pushy
There’s honestly nothing more annoying than accepting a friend request from someone on Facebook or Twitter, and immediately getting a private message asking you to like their page or buy their book. Talk about pushy! It’s the equivalent of offering to buy someone a drink in a bar, and when they accept, you immediately shove an engagement ring on their finger. (I was actually going to say something else there but I’m far too polite.) I mean, why? At least buy me dinner first …
Actually, there is something a bit more annoying than that. Posting your book on my timeline. I don’t even know who you are and suddenly you’re telling all my friends to buy your book? Rude. Oh, and here’s something even ruder. I had a Facebook page boosted post running when my latest book, To Catch a Witch, was up for pre-order. Someone jumped on it and put a link under it to someone else’s book. This is a boosted post so the comments on that will be seen in a LOT of places. Basically, it’s free advertising for them. Now, if this had been an author I knew, I might not have minded, although I think any author I know would have asked first! But I don’t know this author, or the person who posted the link. She hasn’t even liked my page!
I hid the comment. A little while later, they’d done it again! They must have got someone to check or looked at it incognito or something and seen I’d hidden it. This time, I deleted the comment. I mean, how rude can you be? I’m all for helping other authors, but there is such a thing as manners, you know. Which brings me to:
Despite what I said in the above paragraph, I really do like to help other authors. I can’t abide bad manners, but that aside I’m happy to promote other people’s work whenever I can. You should, too, and here’s why. Other authors are not your enemy. They are not your competition. They’re your colleagues, simple as that. We’re all in this together. Yes, I know we’ve heard that a lot lately, but it’s true in this case. It doesn’t really matter what level of success you’ve achieved; if you’re only just starting out and haven’t got a clue what you’re doing, or if you’re a best-selling author with dozens of awards and regularly appear on television to chat about your latest million-copy-selling tome, we’re all part of one great profession.
I mentioned jealousy earlier in this challenge, and I think it’s a natural reaction to someone else’s success, but it doesn’t have to fester. Let it be a fleeting emotion. Acknowledge it then put it to one side and get on with your life. As I said then, another person’s success is a cause for hope and joy. It means people are still reading books, still buying books, still loving books. That means your turn might come, too. One day, you might be the person sitting on the sofa in the television studio, while journalists rave about your novel. You just can’t predict what’s ahead.
And it works the other way, too. Some people, sadly, will happily befriend and help “top” authors, but will ignore and belittle those just starting out. Don’t be that person. Share posts, retweet tweets. Review books. Congratulate people on publication day. Tell others about their books. Read their posts when they’re doing the A to Z Challenge *ahem*. If you have any advice to share, share it. If someone asks for help, give it. There’s nothing that makes me smile more than putting a smile on someone else’s face. I know so many authors who feel the same. Be one of them!
Do you know something? Even if you never reach those dizzy heights, and let’s face it, most of us won’t, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a blooming good career from writing, just the same. And if you love what you’re doing (and if you don’t, why are you doing it?) then what more can you ask for? I’m not on any bestselling lists. My books aren’t reviewed in newspapers and magazines. I’ve not even got any books in book shops or supermarkets. But I’m making a living doing what I love to do. I spend my days making up stories. I’ve made some fantastic friends through this career. I have more of a social life than ever (even in lockdown my social life’s better than it used to be!) and I feel more in control of my life than I ever have.
Best of all, I get the most wonderful messages from people who’ve read my books and enjoyed them. I’ve had readers telling me my book helped them through depression, which made me feel truly humbled. Someone told me one of my books helped them recognise that they were in an abusive relationship. A few readers have told me that my books are helping them cope with anxiety during this pandemic, which just blows my mind, to be honest. There is nothing more fulfilling than that.
I’ve just spotted this link that may be of some use to those of you who self-publish, or are thinking about it. A very useful post from The Alliance of Independent Authors on the best self-publishing services – and those you should definitely be wary of.
Well, that’s it. My final post of the A to Z Challenge is done. It’s been a lot more rewarding than I imagined, and I really hope some of you have found it useful. That’s been the entire point of it, after all.
I hope you enjoy the rest of your week. Stay home, stay safe, save lives! Thanks so much for reading. You’re all stars.