Ben Smith & T. L. Criswell
Who is Ben Smith and why should you care?
His name is Benjamin C. Smith but most people call him Ben. He and I have worked together for over two decades. Not only is Ben one of my closest, and dearest friends; he is also my mentor, writing coach, and my advisor.
He has a major in Political science and History and taught inside a classroom for fourteen years. However; he’s been teaching all his life. Some of his proteges are successful in the fields of politics, law, and the arts.
In 2011, I approached Ben with a manuscript and asked for his help. He was highly impressed. Before he accepted, he asked one simple question. “Why do you want to write a book?” I spoke from the heart. “Ben, I’m writing for our youth. I just really want to make a difference.” He nodded his head and smiled, as he offered these few simple words of wisdom.
1. If you write to make a difference, the reward would be so much greater than financial.
Being a writer does not necessarily guarantee financial success. Many famous writers like Zora Neal Hurston, (There eyes were watching God), Herman Melville (Moby Dick), Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allan Poe, O. Henry, and countless others all died poor. However, their great works still stand the test of time.
2. Check your Ego at the door.
Ego is part of what made you want to become writer in the first place. That’s good. Learn not to let it get in the way of constructive criticism.
3. Know your audience
Every reader is not your audience. Once you target your audience, read as many best-seller books as you can in your particular genre and take notes.
4. Study the Greats
“If you want to be like the masters, you must first study the masters.” Writers like William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell, Toni Morrison, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling along with countless others are considered to be the greatest writers in history. Read and study their work. Learn from them.
5. Be prepared to fail
“Failure teaches more than success.” Successful authors like J. K. Rowling, John Grisham, Stephen King, Stephanie Meyer, and so many others all failed before they succeeded. Success rarely happens over night, and in most cases, it can take up to five years before your book will take root. Be patient. “Cream always rises to the top.”
6. Focus on Quality
“It is better to sell a thousand books 4 times, than to sell 4 thousand books one time.” Don’t be in a rush to publish. Use as many Beta readers, and test readers as you can and listen to them. Family and friends are not always the best critics. They love you, and they are proud of you; they will not tell you that your work sucks!
7. Book Cover
Book covers should be centered around the theme and offer clues as to what the book is about. A serious book, should have a serious cover. It should be enigmatic, ambiguous, and thought-provoking. The reader should have a better understanding of the cover after they’ve read the book.
In many cases, the title should come last. The title is usually somewhere inside the book. Once the manuscript is complete, read it over, and look for key words, or phrases, and that’s where you will find your title.
9. Be a great listener
If you want to grow, you must learn to be a great listener. Try and learn as much as you can, from as many people as you can. “You must also learn to listen to those who you don’t always agree with.” You’d be surprised at what you might learn.
10. Remember to have fun
“All glory is fleeting” Learn to sit back and enjoy the ride.
These few words, metaphors, and phrases, has been such an inspiration to me. They are only a fraction of the wisdom, and knowledge that Ben Smith has continued to feed me throughout the years. If I were to jot them all down, I’d have to write a 500-page book. Never the less, I am forever grateful. They have helped me on this writing journey, and I can only hope that some; if not all, will help you as well.