Sam Hawken Posts

Postive and negative ratingsThis could be the shortest post ever, because my point is perfectly encapsulated in the title of the entry.  I do not read Amazon reviews.  I used to, but I stopped years ago.  Similarly, I stopped reading reviews on Goodreads and so forth.  The only time I ever see them is when my publisher or readers send them to me directly.  I post them here, and move on.

Criticism is a real thing and can be incredibly useful.  By and large, however, what one finds on sites like Amazon isn’t criticism, but complaining.  Why isn’t the book like this other book?  Why did so-and-so have to die?  Why so many F-words?  Why is this so long?  Why is this so short?  The packaging on my shipment was lousy and my book got damaged!  And yes, you can find stuff like that last all over Amazon, because people apparently don’t know there’s a way to contact Amazon customer service about damaged or lost orders, and the author has nothing to do with that process.

I love hearing from readers, and have provided a way for them to get in touch with me via this site, but I won’t read what they have to say on Amazon, or anywhere like Amazon.  Because there’s a converse element to this which can’t be ignored: if one considers compliments valid, one has to consider complaints valid.  And, as I said, complaints are useless.  A well-reasoned critique is invaluable.  Grousing is not.

By all means, if you feel strongly about my books one way or another, post those thoughts wherever you like.  At the same time, don’t expect me to see them.  It’s not that I don’t care about getting better as an author, or continuing to do whatever it is I do well, but public reviews are more harmful than helpful.  And this goes for both writers and readers alike.  Everyone has an opinion, after all.  And what do we know about those?

Writing

Social MediaThere’s a school of thought which insists social media is an essential tool for writers.  As advertising budgets at publishers have shrunk, the attitude has been that authors should pick up more and more of the slack, constantly entertaining the world via clever tweets, perfectly filtered Instagram photos and pithy Facebook updates.  I could not care less about any of that, and I respectfully suggest you consider taking this stance.

At best social media is a time-wasting distraction.  Every minute you spend reading tweets, looking at posts or perusing images is a minute lost.  No work has been done.  And if you’re not working, then by definition you’re goofing off.  For someone like me, who depends on a steady income from producing fiction, goofing off is literally something I can’t afford.

This isn’t to say entertainment must fall by the wayside, or that one must work all the time.  However, I’ll ask you this: would you rather spend your time scrolling through a feed (of whatever kind) that’s been shown by objective study to cause depression (link), or is it better spent reading a book, taking a walk, playing a game, talking to someone close to you, or simply watching television? I know my answer.

If you’re a writer and your publisher says you have to use social media to sell books, tell them no thanks.  If your friends or family or coworkers insist you get a social media account to “keep up with everything,” don’t do it.  There is no good to come of being on these services that outweighs their negatives.  You are better off doing almost anything else.  Your Twitter feed isn’t going to sell books.  Your friends can send you a text if they want to go out.  Your relatives can pick up the phone.  You don’t need to see pictures of someone’s vacation, party or food.

And that’s why I don’t use social media.

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ClockI work quickly.  I don’t do this because I have a desperate need to release a book every three to four months, as so many self-publishing gurus suggest, but rather because I have a lot of stories to tell and a finite time in which to tell them.  Some believe it’s perfectly okay to take years to write a book.  If they only have a handful of stories in them, that works.  If the opposite is true, they need to get a move on.

There is no secret to writing quickly.  I’m sorry to be the one to break the bad news.  The only real way to write quickly is to write a modestly ambitious amount five days a week.  There is absolutely no need to write 5,000 words a day, or more, no matter what anyone tells you.  There’s no reason to spend twelve hours slaving away on a treadmill desk, churning out fiction.  If you want to finish a book in what many would consider record time, write about 2,000 words each day, five days a week.  That’s it.

Yes, I know, some of you are saying, “Two thousand words a day!?  Are you insane?”  Short answer: no.  I figure about 80,000 words for a novel, broken out by forty days (eight work weeks), which reduces to two thousand.  Two months is more than fast enough for anyone’s purpose and, really, two thousand words is nothing.  As of this sentence, you’ve read 250 words, and it’s only been three paragraphs.  Write another nine paragraphs and you’re done.

At first you’ll take some time to hit this rate.  I started slowly back in the mid-oughts, writing just those 250 words a day.  It didn’t take long until my writing energy exceeded that count, so I increased to five hundred a day, then seven-fifty… you see how it goes.  Right now I can do approximately 1,500 words in an hour, which means I’m done with my daily count in an hour and a half.  Do you have an hour and half to spare?  I’m willing to bet you do.

Note that this doesn’t include time for revision once the book is done.  I set aside another twenty days for that, as revision is a more labor-intensive process.  But, again, three months to finish and polish a book is nothing in the scheme of things.  If you have stories to tell, that makes all the difference.

Writing