Saturday, March 20, 2010

My fifty cents

Yeah, I know, a little more than two cents…

I’m quite proud to say that I have done everything, as a writer/author/artist and a Human Being I was told not to do.

I have recently been asked, repeatedly to give my advice to young writers/authors and artists in general. Here it is:

Don’t take the established path. This is true no matter what you do in any society, in my opinion, but as an artist it’s surely the death of you as a creative and free person.

I don’t believe for a second that it can be dubbed a success if you go through an established publishing house or an agent or rely on heavy, outsourced editing on your way to a given audience. On the contrary, the only thing you will achieve by that is to kill your story, to make it something stale and mediocre. To get accepted through established channels you have to submit to stupid and destructive guidelines. The truth about a given established publisher is that they want to publish their story, not yours. When they get their hands on you and your story, they’ll ruin it, as certain as day follows night. It’s the same with an agent: What you must do or be to get accepted by such a horror will ruin you as a writer and human being.

You can sell millions of copies, I don’t care shit, and you shouldn’t either. If you’re in it only for the money you should become a stock broker or something equally soulless.

BTW in the UK a writer gets 0.5 percent of the sales price on a given unit these days. Established publishers ARE frauds.

They will pick and choose pieces of your novel or work, keep what they like and remove everything else.

Writing my eleventh novel, Alarums of Reality made, if possible all this even clearer to me. Every piece of a story points to somewhere else in the story, or even several places. That's one reason why editing is such a disaster, and most books or films don't make sense. The story is usually a coherent whole when it’s delivered to an established publishing house or an agent or an editor, but when they are done only garbage in and garbage out remains.

You know what’s best for your story. No one else can even approach the mindset dominating you when you wrote it. The people at a given established and/or traditional publishing house are merely pretenders and conmen, fooling you into believing they know best... which they don’t, don’t do at all.

If anything my first year on Twitter has opened my eyes further to all this. Most of the writers and nebulous writers/artists there speak with stars in their eyes about how to approach an agent or a publishing house, and waste time and energy doing so, even now, in this great age of self-publishing.

I self-published before it was even approaching fashionable and what I learned was this:

You get true artistic freedom. You decide everything that’s going to be in your book or CD or movie and quite simply sidestep, discard completely the part of the «business» that has always been detrimental to free expression. If you can’t have free expression, can’t do something original, do your thing, don’t do it.

It’s only the best selling authors or artists that get any advantage, any advantage at all of publishing through established channels, anyway. The rest of their «stable» is usually left to rot, to fend for themselves.

Self-publishing today is everything, everything from preparation, printing and world-wide distribution, executed inexpensively through POD (Print on Demand). You get whatever good things you get through established channels and none of the bad.

To prepare a book for printing you need to be able to use two computer applications: Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Acrobat Pro or its equivalents. That’s all.

As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, you take advice, from people you trust, people that know you, but in the final analysis you decide what goes and what doesn’t. You need to get people to proofread your work. You also need at least two independent opinions of the story and its coherence and stuff. But you should frown at editing, even though you will always eventually end up doing some editing yourself, but it’s very healthy to have a skeptical approach to it.

An all-purpose personal assistant is great, if you can afford one. If not, you’re on your own, and that’s how it should be, anyway.

You may cooperate with other artists of similar bent, if possible. Cooperation can be a great asset to you, if it works. There are many ways of doing it, many ways to approach it. You may read each other’s work, help each other doing advertising and such, and part ways without hassle if it doesn’t work.

A certain prominent member of the traditional publishing business said that a current bookstore looks and should look like a modern convenience store. A very telling statement that. That, too.

I’ve discovered I don’t really have that much in common with most other writers. There is some of the basic stuff, imagination, creativity, inspiration, of course, but it shows that I have never attended any writing classes or classes anything beyond basic «education», and on the contrary shunned it like a plague. I learned writing first by reading (and learned reading by reading) and then by writing, writing, writing and my advice is certainly completely different from what other stuff is out there. The others usually tell you everything you shouldn’t do. Don’t use adverbs, don’t use too many adverbs, don’t break the rules, know the rules before breaking them, while the truth of the matter is that if you study the rules rigidly you are ruined by them, by them, too. The right approach is to discard the rules, as if they aren’t there at all.

And then, they tell you, as a matter of course to take the established route, with established publishers and agents and fucking shit, not even questioning its validity.

I don’t write a «draft» in what I imagine to be in a traditional sense, since what I write down has already been written countless times in my head before I commit it to «paper» (that’s an archaic word for you). What I write down is generally speaking the end result, with exceptions, not the other way around. I frowned at editing from night one, just like I frowned at people just mindlessly repeating the thoughts and actions of others.

You need to keep the immediate of your art (yes, writing is art).

In case you’re wondering. I don’t really have a favorite author, even though I can’t say I haven’t picked up a few things here and there. I learned a bit from Harold Robbins actually, mostly how it shouldn’t be done. His method of writing was copying his previous successes to the point that most of his stories were completely alike. Only names and scenery changed. You can say that he inspired me, in a backwards sort of way to what was to become one of my important tenets: that every new novel or story should be different from the previous, both in form and content.

Robbins and others taught me to be bold, though, to move past accepted social behavior, and don’t give a fuck about what others may or may not think of me or my work.

Strange that I should pick Robbins of all people here. My favorite of his novels btw remains The Lonely Lady, the only one, as I recall that deviated significantly from the formula.

Then there is the matter of genres and labels in general. Don’t get me started

You avoid them and deny them any life in your head. It doesn’t matter whether or not the reviewers or stores or «the market» tell you to adhere to them. Very few stories made within the confines of a genre or any labels are worth the shit they are created on.

An artist, a Human Being for that matter is a Seeker, not a bill collector or a salesman. You don’t sell yourself short or sell yourself at all. You are not into prostitution, in the true meaning of the word. Most people today sell themselves and cheaply. You shouldn’t! You’re better than that.

The filmmaker David Chronenberg, in his early bold, independent years said, in essence something like this: any society has a set parameter of accepted behavior, of «morals» people are taught to adhere to. It’s any true artist or human being’s duty to push past those limitations.

What’s the point of living? Is it only existing, or is there something far more and profound to it?

That’s all there is to it, really.

I worked a lot with this, waited for the words, flow and inspiration to come, and hope everything is here. I want there to be.

I’ll probably end up editing it…

Some specifics that I’ll probably return to later are left out.

Feel free to ask questions.

I consider all the articles pointed to in the links as an integral part of the class in session...


Anonymous said...

Sub species mortis, I'm loving it.

Darla said...

More than anything else, reading what I had to do to get published stunted my writing.
When I first started, I looked into what was needed to submit, the time frame, the rejections, the cover letters etc, and I was like a deer in headlights.
Frozen. Already writing with an editor in my mind. It effectively stopped any meaningful writing for a long, long time.
I realize better now.
and you've confirmed that.

Amos Keppler said...

I never stopped, even though I paused, and I had very unrealistic expectations of what the publishers could and would do for me.

But for me the end result was great. Rejection made me set out in new and unexpected directions.

But "stunted" is a very good word here.

A.C. Moore said...

As a new author, I probably spend more time trying to market and get discovered than I do actually flexercising my craft. Sad.

I'd be interested in getting your opinion on my current book, I self published. Even Angels Need Miracles hope to hear from you.