The worker bee buzzes from flower to flower collecting nectar and pollen to make honey, but that’s not her (yes, a worker bee is female) only job. She builds the honeycomb and keeps it clean. She makes wax. She cares for the babies and protects the hive. When she finds a good source for nectar and pollen she buzzes back to the hive and communicates the good news. She is a social creature that shares her discoveries for the benefit of the hive. She collaborates with others to make something sweet. She is a very busy little bee.
So how is the life of a writer like a bee?
The days when a writer could simply collect thoughts and ideas and write a novel (as if writing a novel were simple) are long gone. No, writers, that is not your only job. You need to do your homework.
- Read books on the art of writing.
- Read books on formatting your manuscript, query letter and synopsis. I’ve read a dozen or so over the last few years and recently ordered several more.
- Read the top rated novels. I started a project over a year ago to read the Modern Library’s Top 100 novels and recently merged it with Time Magazine’s Top 100.
- Read current bestsellers.
- Read books within your genre.
- Read books outside your genre.
- Research the submission process.
- Research agents too. Read their blogs and get to know their likes and dislikes. After all, you hope one will represent you some day.
- Read the blogs of authors they represent.
- Read those authors’ books too.
- Read…A LOT.
Of course most of you know that already, but did you also know that you are expected to market and promote your work? I’m sure visions of book tours and interview flash across your mind as you think, “Uh, duh. I knew that.” Let me rephrase that then. Did you know that you are expected to market and promote your work before your book has been published?
I didn’t know that. I neglected to read anything on social media. I skipped those chapters in the books I read. That comes later, after you’re published, right? Wrong. A writer needs to create a buzz, a following, prior to becoming published. In this technology driven world the best way to do that is through social media. Agents are more likely to take a chance on you if you can show that you have a presence on the internet.
Take a lesson from the honey bee. She visits several different sources (species of flowers) to make honey. Writers should do the same when writing and publishing a book. Don’t trust just one source for information. Read about the mistake I made doing this in my post, Word Count for Novels. Be social, like the bee. Flutter among the cyber flowers (blogs, online forums, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, author and agent websites, etc.) and make friends. Collect all that you have learned and create something that, like honey, lasts. Then go back to the hive (the internet), do the crazy bee “waggle dance,” and share what you’ve learned.
If you don’t have a blog yet, start one. I know. It’s a little intimidating at first. Creative people tend to be more introverted so this “social media thing” can push us out of our comfort zone. You may wonder if anyone will be interested in visiting the microscopic spec in cyberspace that is your blog. If you are like me, you may feel more like a bumble bee: poorly designed for flight. Sure, it may be a little difficult to get off the ground at first and you may wonder if your paper-thin wings can support your awkward body. You may fumble a bit, but remember:
“Aerodynamically, the bumble bee shouldn’t be able to fly, but the bumble bee doesn’t know it so it goes on flying anyway.” Mary Kay Ash
Defy physics and reason and soon you will be soaring high. Plus, I’ve learned that writers, by nature, are generous people. The followers will come.
Oh, and by the way, my name means “honey bee.” So, you see, I have been a very busy bee, indeed.
How doth the little busy Bee
Improve each shining Hour,
And gather Honey all the day
From every opening Flower!
How skillfully she builds her Cell!
How neat she spreads the Wax!
And labors hard to store it well
With the sweet Food she makes.
In Works of Labor or of Skill
I would be busy too:
For Satan finds some Mischief still
For idle Hands to do.
In Books, or Work, or healthful Play
Let my first Years be past,
That I may give for every Day
Some good Account at last.