Thursday 18 October 2018

Book Review | Write Smart Write Happy by Cheryl St John

Review by Iola Goulton @iolagoulton

I thought Write Smart Write Happy was going to be a book about writing—and it is. And it isn't. It isn't what I was expecting (which was something about how to write better). It is about writing, but it's not about the craft of writing. It's more about the mindset behind writing—what it takes to be a successful multi-published author. One of her big points is to focus on what we can control.

A publisher declining your manuscript is out of your control. But there are two things you can control:
  1. The quality of your work
  2. Your attitude and strategy in selling
I listened to a podcast last week where the author said she made $3,500 in book sales in August, and wants to be making $5,000 a month before the end of the year. That, according to St John, is not a good measure of success because it's out of the author's control (I also read a blog post today that points to more weirdness in the Kindle store, and I've seen many reports of authors seeing a huge drop in Amazon income from August to September. So this author's $3,500 in August may well be a happy blip, not an upward trend).

We can't control whether an agent will take us on or whether an editor will acquire a manuscript. 

If we traditionally publish, we can't control how many books we sell or know what marketing activities result in sales. (Self-published authors have a little more control in that they can see their daily sales and therefore make a connection between daily sales and marketing activities).

Defining our success by matters outside our control is only going to lead to stress and unhappiness. Instead, we should focus on what we can control: how much we write, how many submissions we make to publishers, how many books we write (and self-publish, if that's our chosen path). St John says:

We only fail when we neglect to set goals and work towards them.

St John goes on to say:

Saying I want to write and traditionally publish a bestseller is like saying I want world peace. If we set goals that are nearly impossible to obtain, we're setting ourselves up for disappointment and frustration.

We can't rely on external factors for our writer happiness. That's not smart and it won't make us happy. Instead:

Our self-esteem must come from a job well done and having given our best.

The book is also full of inspirational quotes from other writers, such as this line from Ann Landers:

Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don't recognise them.

St John is full of handy tips to write smart, and write happy, such as changing the font colour to white if we want to write freeflow without the internal editor getting in the way. Clever.

Being a successful writer is work. Hard work. 

There is no Secret Handshake, no secret key to success, no information that the successful published authors are withholding. But there are blogs and books like Write Smart Write Happy which share many valuable tips (e.g. all the different types of editing a traditionally published novel goes through).

If you're looking for a book about how to write better, then Write Smart Write Happy isn't the book for you. But if you're looking for some encouragement in your writing journey, or tips on how to be a more consistent and productive writer, and how to set (and achieve) realistic goals, then Write Smart Write Happy might be right for you.

Thanks to Writers Digest and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About Iola Goulton

Iola Goulton is a New Zealand book reviewer, freelance editor, and author, writing contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist. She is a member of the Sisterhood of Unpronounceable Names (Iola is pronounced yo-la, not eye-ola and definitely not Lola).

Iola holds a degree in marketing, has a background in human resource consulting, works as a freelance editor, and has recently introduced an Website | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter

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