99.5 Golden Rules for Writers (& why you should ignore them all): #1 Don’t read this Post

Golden Rule #1. Don’t Read this Post

People today are in danger of drowning in information; but, because they are taught that information is useful, they are more willing to drown than they need be. If they could handle information, they would not have to drown at all.
– Idries Shah – Reflections

Every single day, the web floods with  2.4 million Facebook posts per minute. With the optimal Post word count being (a disputed) 89 words, that gives us 213,600,000 words per minute, or a number of words per day so large my iPhone calculator has to render it in a formula I struggle to understand until I spin it to landscape and the calculator assumes its more brainy incarnation.

If only 0.5% of these posts relate to the craft of writing, that gives us (me and you, fellow writer) 3,075,840,000 words a day to read.

Even using the speed reading techniques reported by Tim Adams in The Observer last weekend, that’d rule out any chance I have of keeping up to date with Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, The Football League Show and Homeland, my dogs would leave due to a lack of walks and ear rubs (reporting me to the Retired Greyhound Trust) and bang goes any chance of writing my next novel.

It’s impossible for a writer to sift through such an unprecedented landslide of information. Where to start? With the helpful structural tips, the psychological insights and solid practical marketing advice? Or with the spurious opinion, SEO witchcraft and shameless plagiarism?

And if you can’t sift through everything, how do you know you’re getting to the good stuff, the stuff that will allow to write more compelling books and sell more of them?

How indeed?

The answer isn’t simple and evaded me in early days when I was planning to publish ALL THE DEAD THINGS on Amazon. I watched in paralysed horror as my Inbox and social media streams became sclerotic with words and I spent increasing amounts of time thinking about doing things (a new marketing idea! I must act on it! … as soon as I’ve acted on the earlier three hundred, I’ll be all over this like marzipan on a Christmas cake) but not actually doing them.

The answer for me turned out to brutal filtering. When I found a blogger (I use this in the widest sense to include those who use Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter as a ‘blog’) who imparted solid, valuable and actionable information, regularly, I remained subscribed. Those that didn’t meet these criteria I axed. My total number of subscriptions declined rapidly. No more wading through endless e-mails looking for a gem of a marketing idea. I found a group of bloggers who I thought I could learn from and stuck with them.

Reducing the flow meant I started to read more the chosen few properly, to explore their suggested links, to actually experiment with some of their ideas and tactics.

They’ve not made me into a best selling author overnight, but they allowed me to refocus on developing the craft of writing, and the science of indie publishing. Because of their solid ideas I actually feel like I might be able to find a way for my posts to be read among those 3,075,840,000 words.

These are my go to recommendations for indie authors (and thriller fans). They all offer useful free training videos as a sample of their offering:

Nick Stephenson: Author of the Leopold Blake thriller and guru of Your First 10K Readers.

Joanna Penn: Thriller writer (writing as J.F. Penn) and scribe behind The Creative Penn.

Mark Dawson: Author of the John Milton thrillers and high lord of the Facebook ad.

And why you should ignore golden rule #1: if you didn’t read this post, you wouldn’t know you shouldn’t read it.

Next time: Golden Rule #2 Don’t Be Too English.