I hate that phrase. Why did I just use it? Because, that's how I feel sometimes when I sit down to work on upping the wordcount and spend an hour on Twitter talking with other authors. Or researching locations for a scene I'm writing. Or working on my query materials. Or blogging.
At the same time, though, that's work, too.
Being a pre-pubbed author can be a full-time job in and of itself depending on what you want for your writing career. And that job doesn't exist solely on the page. Here are some of the things that I do regularly as part of my job.
I read books in my genre, books by authors that inspire me with crackling prose or dimensional characters. But, I also read online newsletters, agent blogs, writer blogs, fiction that other writers post...anything that will strengthen my knowledge of the business. I try to stay away from things that talk about trends, honestly, because that shit will drive you crazy. I'm neurotic enough and have my own moments of crushing self-doubt. I don't need more foisted on me with fickle hype.
Some of my favorites include Janet Reid, QueryShark, Vickie Motter, GalleyCat, Chuck Wendig and the many fine stories at BookCountry.
As part of "building the platform", I've got this blog. It's a place for me to share fiction, every day stuff and connect with readers, professionals and colleagues. It's also a place for me to keep my writing skills fresh away from the Word Document and Work in Progress. And I get to vent here. I know some people shy away from blogging about political/sociological views when building a platform so as to not alienate half of a potential audience, but I've got opinions and have never been good at keeping them in.
Scour the interwebs for agents/agencies, publishers, editors. I learn as much as I can about guidelines, preferences, proper formatting, response time averages. I do everything I can to get ducks in their rows before I send a query. I also, double and triple check this research and update my spreadsheet (yes, I keep a spreadsheet with agent info... don't you?) to make sure everything is up to date. Nothing is worse than querying your dream agent only to find she's no longer in the business. Also, it pisses people off. Just ask Colleen Lindsay. ;)
When researching always always always include Preditors & Editors, WriterBeware and any guild sites (RWA, SFWA etc).
This this this. A thousand times this. Networking is priceless. Also, it can be a glacial process. In a time of instant gratification, direct messaging and emails traveling at the speed of thought, it might be hard to think of things online still taking time. That's the nature of friendships, though. Yes, you're building business connections, but at the root of that is genuine likeability. If you're a total assclown, I'm not going to give you the time of day no matter how good your writing is. Follow Wheaton's Law and don't be a dick. It's that simple.
Also, "networking" is not code for "stalking". Keep it professional kids.
Use writer hashtags on Twitter (#amwriting #writing #WiP ... the list goes on), follow agents and authors. Get in on the chats they have. For instance, the Knight Agency just had a fantastic and informative hour long chat with all of their agents answering questions. That's gold, right there. Also, BookCountry has a chat every Thursday. A lot of times agents will spontaneously generate #askagent sessions. Twitter is an amazing resource for the emergent author. Not just because it helps you build your platform, but it helps you build strong industry connections. Sometimes, the most surprising people end up in your corner.
Twitter, QueryTracker, AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler...these message boards are exactly that: our water cooler. We can't all go to lunch with publishing professionals, or writer/writing/book conferences or fan cons. These sites, while no substitute for genuine interaction, are a great place to start building your network of minions friends in the business. I cannot stress this enough. If there's one piece of advice I ever had to give to someone wanting to "break in" to publishing, it would not, in fact, be RUN!!!! It would be "make friends". Pick the sphere of influence you want to inhabit and go there. Don't wait for an invitation. Jump right in, don't be a dick and introduce yourself. And some people say, "Fake it til you make it." I amend that to be "make it up as you go along, but be genuine." Be yourself.
Alright, that could turn into its own post. I'm just that passionate about it.
Anyway, these are all parts of the job. I have been actively doing all of the above since 2008. I know that some of you might be thinking, "Well, if you've been at it that long, why aren't you bigger than the Hunger Games by now?" To which I snort, pat you on the head and move on. In all seriousness, though, the work I do takes time. Not just the writing, editing parts. Not just the months of querying at a time. All of it. Besides, the aim of all this work, the end goal I'm striving for, is not some elusive Holy Grail called Publication. I'm not just in this to say I published a book and you can buy it on Amazon. (If that was it, I'd be self-published, wouldn't I?) No, this is about being a better author, having a career and constantly growing.
And that takes time.