Monday, May 02, 2011

For what it is worth

If I happen to see a list of «25 things a writer should know», in a given «advice» article I would probably disagree with every single thing. It’s noticeably outdated, but worse than that still peddling to the established publishers’ cruel hold on most writers.

And 25 things? The sheer quantity of the «advice» is anathema in my eyes. C’mon, why not hundreds or thousands? How detailed, how rigid should the creative process be, in your humble opinion?

The first thought going through my head when I read such shit is usually «what the fuck».

For what it’s worth, here is my much shorter list of advice to writers:

Be independent, even fiercely so. If you aren’t, what’s the point? Then you can just as well be a clerk or languish in some other nine to five job. Being truly independent means self publishing. There is no way you can remain independent if you surrender yourself to the ruthless, oppressing regime of established publishers. If you truly work hard at it, your book will also be better than ninety-nine percent of everything published by those before mentioned established publishers. It will be superior in so many ways, be different, original, interesting and the most important of all: It will be your work, not a carbon copy of virtually anything else on the market. Self publishing doesn’t assure quality in a given publication, but increases the changes of it dramatically.

Supporters of the old system keep spouting the party line that it is the establishment that will encourage quality, of course, but that has never been true and never will be.

I would stair away from editors and agents for the same reasons listed above. Hiring a proof reader, if you can afford one might be a good thing, but I begin to doubt the wisdom in even that, after currently checking the version of the upcoming re-release of my novel Dreams Belong to the Night. It isn’t just about checking for mistakes, but also about making the final changes as you go along. All in all: the clearly defined line between various invented necessities the old system operates with just isn’t very feasible. It has no bearing on the true reality of a creative mind.

«Everybody uses editors», the «established pro» (and/or editor) snorts, and then proceeds to list a long line of famous authors that have done so. I’m not impressed. It’s just more bullshit, of course. Far from everybody has, but everybody caught in the mire of the oppressors has.

Editing, generally speaking is censorship, of free thought and expression. You can excuse it all you want, but that is what it is.

Don’t take any classes, for the same reasons listed above. It makes you predictable, makes you the same as everyone else and teaches you the language of the oppressor. Work with yourself with a passion, do so from the very start and learn the «craft» from the ground up. Surrendering your work for others to review is also a kind of laziness you could and should do without.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take advice from people you trust to give you honest counsel, just that you shouldn’t treat it as anything else than what it is and act accordingly, retain your confidence in your Self and your art. If the advice makes sense to you, consider using it. If it doesn’t, reject it and move on.

Take your time, especially after you’ve completed your story. In my opinion a given book should be published years after what some writers call «first draft» is done. It should be reread and pondered several times before you’re done with it. You should aim to not do first drafts, though, learn to edit in your mind before putting anything on paper (or the screen). I’ve never been a fan of completing anything in just a few months and I use about two years of spent time on average on a book or on 175 000 words that has been my approximate, preferred size to this point (I have one at 87 000 and another at 300 000, though). Then add two more years of infrequent checking and pondering. The general «rule», which I actually agree with, is that you get back to it about six months after your previous screening, except just before sending it off to printing. Then you should proofread it both intensely and with detachment at least twice.

Focus on the story. Content is far more important than form and technical prowess. Don’t set out to break all rules of storytelling. Write from your heart, follow your instinct and inner drive and you will break them, will gloriously smash them to pieces.

Don’t write genre. Don’t even accept it as a guideline. It is an industry-imposed and self-imposed limitation that quite simply is completely ridiculous and destructive.

One more crucial, urgent appeal, for your benefit: Don’t set out to copy your favorite writer or do any sort of «homage» to him or her or use lots of quotes. Tell your story, not repeat others. Seek your own, unique «voice»/expression.

That’s it, really. There isn’t much more to it. The rest will come to you, as you search for and discover, little by little your personal approach and preferences. The practical woes and pleasures of self-publishing I’ve covered extensively in other posts listed below.

One final note: Stop watching TV, stop completely. When I did that my creativity exploded from an already high level.

The story so far:

Poet's word

Sites supplementing my books

Making covers

True artistic freedom - Stage 1 to 4

Hysterical and fanatical grammar defenders

Doing it yourself - technical advice for self publishers

Kill the dog one of the very best advices when it comes to writing fiction...

True artistic freedom - stage 4

Author's word - Night on Earth

Author's word - The Slaves

Celebration mighty and true


Author's word - Your Own Fate

True artistic freedom - stage 3

True independence


Modern slavery

The Storyteller

True Artistic Freedom (II)

Reading it again

The chores of an independent author/artist

My fifty cents

True artistic freedom

Labeling and genre writing

Alarums of reality

The difficulties in describing a complex storyline

Other links:

Firewind - my stories, art and poems on the Web

My writer «CV»

The Janus Clan


Louise Broadbent said...

There's one piece of advice I have for other writers: what works for you might not be what works for anyone else. You have to find your own way. This is also true of your advice - it works for you and that's great but not every writer is the same. We all have different goals for one thing. Some writers' only ambition is to be accepted for publication by an established publisher. It gives a validation that you can't get from self-publishing because anybody* can self-publish - there's nothing to stop a terrible writer from self-publishing his/her book. Then again, going through the traditional system is also not for everyone - I understand that it's not for you and that's fine.

I guess my point is you begin by advising your readers to be independent and then tell them to be like you. that's not being independent - it's being independent from the mainstream and traditionally published books, yes, but it's not being truly independent.

*When I said anyone, I of course meant anyone with the money available to pay for the service and the time and resources available to market. A lack of these is another reason many writers choose traditional publication.

Amos Keppler said...

I think it's pretty clear that I am speaking my mind, since everybody does.

Almost everybody can self publish today, which is a great thing, since, as stated everybody should do it.

Self publishing is being truly independent. You decide what shall be in the book, period.

Nobody should crave that kind of "validation". As stated, it's a mirage, a rotten deal, period. This isn't about that "being for everyone" thing. Self publishing is for everyone, even for poor people (though not for starving people).

So, no, a lot of the reasoning behind your reply is just plain wrong, I'm afraid.

As stated, the terrible writers are publishing through established publishers. That "quality" will vary between SPs, too is a given.