#2. Don't Get Ahead of Yourself
Are you worried about marketing, promotion, or traditional publishing vs. self-publishing? There might be a more pressing issue you're forgetting about: Do you have a finished fucking book yet?
You'd be astounded how many requests for writing advice start out: "I'm going to write a book, should I self-publish? How do I get an agent?"
Self-publish what? Your good intentions? An agent for what? Your nebulous aspirations? You don't have anything yet!
You have a vague idea and an impulse. You might as well tell me you're thinking about grabbing a burrito, but you want to know which toilet you're going to crap it out into first. You're concerned with a hypothetical future, and that concern is actively preventing said future from happening. Even if you're just sitting there staring at a blank page, you're still being infinitely more productive than the writer who doesn't even have a word processor open yet. As human beings, we are all very stupid in the exact same way: We procrastinate, but we know procrastination is bad, so we try to spin the act into alternate methods of productivity.
"I know we have a big case to prep for, but this is relevant, I swear: Do you think you could kill an intern with a paper airplane?"
"I'm not putting off cleaning the garage; I'm just practicing the Swedish art of planed space arrangement first!"
"I'm not putting off my thesis; I'm just researching which fonts are most efficient at conveying numerical data in low light!"
"I'm not putting off writing my book; I'm just trying to figure out what demographics are most interested in purchasing erotic island-themed horror for the Nook first!"
Yes, what you are doing is, at first glance, slightly more productive than playing XCOM until your eyes bleed, but it's still not accomplishing the task at hand.
#1. Stop Worrying About Originality
You know what nobody's done before? A gender-bending mermaid story that takes place entirely in cyberspace.
You're right. Nobody has done that before. And there's a very good reason for it: TranSplash: Open Ports is probably going to be a terrible book just as soon as I'm finished writing it.
Most new authors are extremely worried about novelty. They don't want to write something that's been written before or, God forbid, be accused of ripping off some other book. But as counterintuitive as it sounds, originality should be your last concern. Virtually every story has already been told. All of the major arcs and plot structures are several millennia old, and if you squint hard enough, even Die Hard 4 is just a palette-swapped Beowulf. Unless it's The Epic of Gilgamesh, your favorite book is probably not the first to put its core concepts into words. Good books are not gauged by their novelty, otherwise the most successful modern novels would just be random pictographs and artfully smeared feces. Hey, nobody's done an anthology of "don't walk" signs and poo before -- sounds like a best-seller!
Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty
"Like Fifty Shades of Grey, but with less crap!"
The problem is not uniqueness. It's earnestness. If you're worried that your pacing is too similar to Harry Potter, don't write it backward in a mirror; just try to be honest and respectful to your audience. If you're concerned that your main character is too similar to Italo Calvino's protagonists, you don't need to make your omniscient water molecule a midget, too. Just have the little dude speak with your voice, and tell any dissentin' bitches it was an homage. Nobody can dispute an homage.
That shit's like a literary force field.
Buy Robert's stunning, transcendental, orgasmic science fiction novel, Rx: A Tale of Electronegativity, right here. Or buy Robert's other (pretty OK) book, Everything Is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead. Follow him on Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook.