I was asked, at Ravencon, just what makes an indie writer successful. I think they were hoping I’d know some great secret to success that I could tell them. The truth, unfortunately, is that the key to any form of writing success is nothing more than hard work. For some reason, no one wanted to hear this <grin>.
It’s a blunt truth that the first work of any writer, me included, is awful. Writing is a skill that can only be learned by doing. Eric Flint asserts that the first million words a writer produces is worthless and he’s probably right - I have several completed manuscripts on my hard drive from my early years that will never see the light of day. The key to turning your desire to become a writer into actual success is practice, practice, practice … and learn from your experience. Get beta readers, get editors; I cannot stress enough just how badly you need someone looking at your work, someone who doesn’t have any interest in keeping you happy. (Your mother may say you’re the next JK Rowling, but treat her opinion with extreme caution.)
I know, I know; it hurts to have your work criticized. There’s a strong urge to start telling the critics just why they’re wrong, because you know they’re wrong. But you’re the one responsible for explaining to them just what’s happening in your world - if they don’t get it, the fault lies with you, not them. Grow a thick skin - believe me, you will be savaged out there - and learn from the critics.
Far too many indie writers have self-destructed because they have not taken that to heart. They get out on the review forums and blast reviewers, rather than learning from them. Most of them, as far as I can tell, put their first work online, then expect the plaudits, movie deals, etc to simply start rolling in. That, alas, is an unrealistic expectation. It takes time to build any sort of reputation - and failing to learn from the critics is a good way to lose any reputation (or gain a bad one).