Non Writing Essentials for Every Author

The time has come. Many months ago I put writing the sequel to FIRETOK on hold. I was and am still trying to figure out all I did wrong when I "did" FIRETOK. I intentionally use the word did instead of write. Why? It has not been about the writing. It is about the unending "everything else." I can see winter is here and so is the end of the year. Is it time for a wrap up? Maybe. I have officially gotten back into writing the second episode of FIRETOK. Does this signify a breakthrough in my journey? Have I figured out everything I did wrong? Not exactly. But I have learned a lot and it's time to move on. What have I learned in the last year?

My biggest question is this, have I learned enough to get back into writing the sequel? This led to many other questions but I have broken it down into a top four "everything else" list. What are the most important "everything else" elements? Sometimes you need to define the problem in order to construct a solution, that's kind of what this is. It is more a definition of my problem so I can seek treatment for a cure. As always I love nothing more than these posts to create a conversation. If you read on and find something worth talking about, by all means let me know.

Publishing. Get an agent or should I say, try to get an agent. Self Publish, wait, now I know of another option, independent press. What is right for me? I have no idea. Would I love to find an agent ready to take the FIRETOK franchise through the roof? Hell yes. What a stupid question, right? This subject has earned its own posts and will continue to, so I will leave it at this, which method is right for me? I don't know. At the moment I could see all three of these options being perfect with a whole mess of additional effort. Having the backing of a huge publisher sounds more appealing than being backed by my own back...but... I will stop right at the edge of the abyss before my footing gives.

Editing. Editing is not writing, right? So it makes it to the big list of "everything else". I write and I write like mad and it makes for abundant editing. One of the things I wanted to fix - my lack of "style" - I don't know how to spell CHICAGO MANUAL OF STYLE much less write "properly". In my rough drafts I overuse words, I use the same words in subsequent sentences. I have sentences that last for pages. My grammar knowledge is abundantly obvious, I could go on but I won't right now. Have I fixed this? No, kind of, I don't know, can I get another question? Some of it. I cannot even say how many times the original FIRETOK manuscript was re edited, yet after printing I still found imperfections. Seriously. This is something I never thought I could fix since it was a done deal. I am fixing it. I am getting some very generous help, but it is getting fixed and for no other reason than knowing it is fixed. The book will be relaunched likely in the next couple of months, reedited, reformatted and maybe some other re words I will think of later. Things I never thought possible will be fixed. In the meantime, I am trying to remove the word 'that' and everything to do with the word 'had' from my fiction vocabulary. Will this change my bulk writing? Hopefully not. I don't want to be slowed down for such nonsense when I am letting it out. But editing is a pretty important part of the "everything else."

Platform. I hate this term enough to use a second word before it which rhymes with any word that ends in     -ucking. The magical platform. As an author I am supposed to build this platform upon which I climb to crow about why you should buy my book or something like that. It reminds me of the RobRoy quote, "Love is but a dung hill and I am but a cock which climbs upon it to crow." I am not sure how appropriate the quote is to the subject but it's definitely what comes to my mind. Cock a doodlely doo. I am afraid my platform looks like an old timey western gallows, trapdoor and all. My platform the judge built just outside the courthouse so he could overlook my hanging without having to leave his office. Or was that a Clint Eastwood movie? I am making light of what is supposed to be a very important component of an author's success. I have a good reason for that, I don't think I have it, not sure I completely understand what it is and am pretty sure I haven't fixed it yet. I won't be surprised to find out I should have spent much more time on this down the road, but for now I am just going to leave it here untreated or I might consider self medication. Shot of Jack, anyone?

Promotion. Oh really, could it get worse? If I hate platform I might have to use two -ucking words here or go back to my military training of stacking them up for effect. Alright. I get it a little. It's not one thing. It will need to be a bunch of things. As much as I hate the "buy my book, buy my book" method of promotion, I have heard many say it works. How disappointing. That is just about as appealing to me as picking up a day old road kill skunk to have for dinner because dude says it tastes good.

I mean seriously, when all the debate was going on about waterboarding, I think they were testing the "buy my book, buy my book" Tweets as a less controversial torture replacement. I still abhor it, but bottom line is this, someone, somehow, or even some way, promotion has to happen. The fantasy about "getting discovered" is truly fantasy. Whole books have been written on this and advertising isn't necessarily the answer, it might help but this will need to be a multi-faceted approach. Do I have this fixed? Can I get another question yet? No. I don't think so. Have I learned quite a bit on the subject? Yes. I have seen extreme examples in both directions. I have been pestered by people I have no idea who they are to "buy my book, buy my book" and I have seen people totally unwilling to promote their book as well. Which option makes the most sense? Would you like me to stick a screwdriver in your right ear or would you prefer the left?

I am confident there is no bestseller fairy with magic dust floating around my house. If she were I would get a net or whatever it takes to trap her if the dogs didn't get her first. Until that day, here is my top 4 "everything else" list, editing, platform, promotion, publishing. What does this all mean? I don't have the answers. Do I know enough? Am I really ready to write my book? My grandma had 9 kids, one of which is my mother. She told us many times if she had waited till she was ready to have kids she would never have had any of them. Nine kids, I wouldn't have a brain cell left... back to books. Will I ever be "ready" to write my book?

I will tell myself I know more than I did and I need to get my book written. Can I tell you honestly it was worth the time away from the book for the knowledge I gained? No, I can't. Yes, I can. So many incredible things have happened along the way, it has definitely been worth it. In addition to the wonderful people I met, I have also learned so much. Each of these subjects is a bottomless pit of learning. I feel I have not scraped the surface on any one of them enough to make a difference, but I still need to write my book.

One of the best quotes of the year I read on Twitter and can't remember the author but it was something like, "the difference between a writer and an author is an author sells books." Ponder that awhile.

What do I say?

An unwritten book requires no editing.

An unpublished book needs no promotion and an author who "is gonna write a book someday" needs no platform.

As I recently told my good friend, "finish the book." With that said, keep an eye out as it gets colder for FIRETOK to reemerge in an improved state and if I appear to be a little less visible online you will know where I am.


Will Singourd said...

And - a very amusing post.

Galling, isn't it? The old Pub House system, like the old HOLLYWOOD studio system, was horrific, but at least it existed. Now that method is a thin, thin shadow of what it was, and might as well be called today - "the Vintage Method".

All the newer methods are substandard Lotto gauntlets, Herculean in scope. Piss!

You are doing the right thing. Tweet book, but not too much. Blog like a tugboat on fire. Hope for the lovely virus.

Having said this, do you participate in a writer's Crit Group? If not, why not start your own? Twice a month will suffice. Fewer, no.

And/or: If you have $35 to spend (yes, well!) you might consider these pro editors. This gets you an in-depth critique of at least 10 pages. They suggest the first ten. (And no, I have no association with them...)

Will Singourd said...
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Gordon A. Wilson said...

Thanks again for the feedback, a writer's crit group? No I haven't or don't, not formally but thanks for the idea. Figuring out things is what I attempt here, every bit of help is welcome.

Riva Zmajoki said...

Seeing all the "buy my book" tweets is demoralizing. But I say just press on. You'll find your level of comfort.
I like your style. It's forward and honest.
And for the sentences that last pages, I feel you. But in time I discovered that dots come in handy ;)

Will Singourd said...

Hello, again. What I suggest is nothing novel, haha. As a business owner, I don't know how much you get involved in sales directly, but you must certainly have some "face time" with your customers or suppliers.

THERE IS NO SUBSTITUE FOR F2F.(Face2Face). Tone of voice, body language, including eye contact or straying, the palpable sense of attention (or not) - all these are present F2F. Over the phone? Not so much. On Twitter? Hardly at all.

Get me right - Twitter, the blogosphere, Goodreads, etc. are ubiquitous (if onerous) tools in today's writing/publishing environment/habitat. These habits must be kept up.

But as with business, the writer's world can be opened up to a perhaps surprising degree by an F2F critique circle.

Having said this, I see that your experience with readbacks from others has not been especially pleasant. Good! Writing is like weight training. No pain, no gain. (THEY would be surprised.)

Now, maybe I'm wrong here. Maybe your business requires NO F2F, in which case the comparison value seems lost. But I'm not, and it isn't. IF you know others in business who have F2F, they'll tell you so.

I see you are about to relaunch FIRETOK. Great! The vessel sails again, for far shores, and near.

This new effort will require the famous redoubling, so I'm not so sure starting a Crit Group at this moment would be a net benefit in resources or time.

Having said THAT, there is an absolute value (and, oddly, a kind of raw power) in dousing four or more strangers in your lifework on a weekly basis.

It is not clear to me that being so doused myself x4, is less revealing...

At some time such a group will be invaluable.

Best regards,

Will Singourd said...
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Gordon A. Wilson said...

This is turning into quite a fantastic discussion. I think I will look more into a crit group, I have no knowledge here and that is exactly what I seek. Riva thanks as well for pitching in. As demoralizing as that promotion appears, it works for some. Grrr.

Wil Forbis said...

I'm curious about your point that some people claim the "BUY MY BOOK" spam actually works. I can't see myself trying this but who is claiming its success? No big deal if you don't recall.

Enjoying your posts.

Gordon A. Wilson said...

Keep your eyes open and keep reading Wil, I have seen multiple authors who are actually selling books who have admitted it works. Its not a myth, just hard to believe.

Mill said...

Well, I know one thing, Gordon. I read your blog and learn from your posts, and I enjoy your writing style. And of all the spammy messages I get telling me to "buy my book", I haven't bought one.

I agree with other commenters here that the right writers group is an invaluable asset. One gets informed feedback, inspiration. There is nothing like testing ideas out on real people and getting the rough corners rubbed off. I joined Holly Lisle's free "Flash Fiction" forum and learned all about producing very short stories. What I gained there was like finding the Holy Grail for me. I learned a lot about fiction.

I also highly recommend KM Weiland's book, "Conquering Writer's Block and Summoning Inspiration"--even if you don't have writer's block. I write for a living--non-fiction, with which I have no problem: I can honestly say that writer's block is the very least of my problems--but that book is probably the best one I've ever read on writing in all its facets. (All of her books on writing are pure gold. So are Holly Lisle's.) Both Holly and KM have many published novels between them.

And I think I'd rather be a writer than an author anyway. To me, a writer writes because he/she lives to write and loves to write. It's all about releasing stories. You send 'em out like kids into the world, but you can't control how people receive them. To me it's telling the stories that is important. I'm still hoping to catch up to mine and do them justice: Meanwhile, I don't mind learning from blogs such as yours one bit, because then I am alive and connected with life.