Last night I caught INSIDE THE ACTOR’S STUDIO and the special guests were the talented creator and actors behind one of TVs most popular series, MAD MEN. If you aren’t familiar with the 1960s period drama about an advertising executive who is a portrait of duality, no worries, this lesson won’t be lost on you.
Towards the end of the episode, during Q&A, a drama student recounted her experiences in amateur productions, explaining how invaluable she found the weeks and weeks of rehearsals her troupe participated in before a performance. She asked how much rehearsal time the MAD MEN cast had before they shot their scenes. The answer shocked her and most of the audience.
There were no rehearsals on the MAD MEN set.
Jon Hamm, the show’s star, explained that they participated in a weekly table read (think middle/high school English class, where everyone takes a role and reads Shakespeare aloud from their desks), then the next time they got to practice was during the lighting set up right before they shot. No true rehearsal, just a chance to familiarize oneself with the material, then go home and make sure you knew your #&$* before the cameras rolled.
As important as that fact is, it pales to the reasoning behind it. Matthew Weiner, the show’s creator, explained that every minute they’re on set costs money, so there’s no time to waste. Although he pointed out that if a guest actor doesn’t know their lines, he will fire them (at costs of up to 100,000 dollars for the time it takes to replace them and reshoot) because unprepared people cost more in the long run.
Consider that. The amateur actor (that’s not meant as a dig, just pointing out that the student who asked the question is not yet a professional) admitted that extensive rehearsals increased her comfort. The pros let her know that they don’t get that luxury. Yet, MAD MEN is one of the most critically acclaimed, award-snatching shows on television. A lot of that has to do with stellar scripts, but without talented (and prepared) people to do the work on a tight schedule, the scripts wouldn’t mean a whole lot.
How’s this relate to you, dear writer? After all, you won’t be dressing up in a retro suit and pitching ads for LIFE cereal and Vick’s Cough Syrup. You’re not performing.
That’s where you’d be wrong. You’re not an actor, but your profession requires that you perform on demand. Or, it will. When you crossover from amateur to pro. Think about it. Deadlines. Proposals. If you want to be a book-a-year writer, then you have to be prepared to write fast, fast, fast.
You have all the time in the world to write book 1, your baby, that masterpiece your Muse faxed you from Heaven. As soon as you sell it to Massive Publishing House X, you’ve got people to answer to. Deadlines to hit. It’s a role you better damn well know.
If not, you will be replaced. It will cost them less in the long run.
But, if you can manage to do the job in the time allotted, not second guessing, and trusting that preparation is better than comfort, then who knows…maybe when they come up with INSIDE THE WRITER’S STUDIO*, you’ll be able to shock a few amateurs with what you’ve accomplished.
*Yes, I’ve fantasized about it. And yes, I’m the first guest.
I just read this incredible NY Times article on Samuel L. Jackson and felt the need to wax philosophical on the benefits of preparation.
It was a quote by director William Friedkind (Rules of Engagement) that stood out to me initially (a lot in the article stands out and I could base a series of posts on the phenomenal actor’s life, but for now…), “Sam is a director’s dream. Some actors hope to find their character during shooting. He knows his character before shooting. Sam’s old-school. I just got out of his way. I never did more than two takes with Sam.”
I put the emphasis on ‘before’. For a reason.
For Spring 2012, Jeremy Lin has been the international poster boy for ‘readiness’, the idea of maximizing a singular opportunity even when you’re at the low point of your career. It’s a great in-the-moment story, but it remains to be seen if we’ll be discussing Jeremy in the same breath as the greats (or even next year).
Sam Jackson’s longevity stretches back 40 years. HE DIDN’T GET HIS BIG BREAK UNTIL 1994! But he’s maintained the same level of preparation and professionalism through feast AND famine. Let’s be real…the last 2 decades have been a fantastic feast for him. He averages 4 movies and 300K in residuals per year, he’s the highest grossing actor in history, this guy could phone it in for the rest of his life and still be a BAMF (go to any crowded theater/fanboy flick and anticipate cheers if he should pop up…it happens every time).
My point: this isn’t a guy who shows up on set hungover, with an assistant making up cue cards because he doesn’t know his lines. He could. But he doesn’t. He’s still treating the work like he’s struggling, like he’s not the most memorable character from Pulp Fiction, or Mace Windu, or effing Nick Fury.
After all his massive success, he’s still ready BEFORE.
My friend Aimee Salter recently posted a year-by-year breakdown of what it took for me to score a book deal with HarperCollins. It’s a lengthy piece, though, and I’m often contacted by people who are looking for more condensed answers. I’m going to tackle a few of the questions I’ve received lately (look for some of this to make it to the FAQ section of this site), and I’ll continue to do the these brief Q&As as I get more diversified questions. Here we go:
I can’t say for sure yet. I’ve been selling fiction for a little over ten years, I’ve been an independent publisher for less than a year, and since my YA Thriller Whispertown won’t debut until 2013, I won’t know how that’s going to measure on the success scale for awhile. Also, the term ‘success’ is relative. I won’t feel like I’m successful until I’m generating full-time income from fiction. I’ve got a long way to go. However, some writers are happy to see just 1 of their stories in print. There’s nothing wrong with that. Just understand that you first need to define success before you can achieve it. Anything else is a dart game in a pitch black room.
The most obvious answer is ‘write a book’. But, that’s a smart ass response and more than a little condescending. I bring that up because I remember being a teenaged newbie and having the opportunity to ask a respected writer about the mysteries of being a novelist. The guy was a total jerk. He actually called me a stupid college kid who asks silly questions which were a waste of his time. He’s still respected among his peers, but I never bought another of his books (I didn’t like his writing that much anyway). My point: I will never treat you this way, Dear Reader. You’re not stupid and there’s no such thing as a silly question. If you ask, I will try to answer. Please note, if you ask me a question that I get a lot I may refer you to the FAQ…it’s just a matter of logistics; I’m not blowing you off. Now, about writing that book…
There’s no concrete method. It takes persistence and consistency, and much like success, you have to define what that means to you. When I’m in the middle of a project with no deadline I shoot for 1,500 – 2,000 words a day, written in the morning under the influence of 1 cup of coffee until it’s done. Once I have a 1st draft I print it, revise on paper, then key in changes until I have a clean 2nd draft. I send the 2nd draft to a handful of trusted readers, wait for their notes, then make more changes. I keep at this until I’m satisfied. I speed it up and write in the evenings if a deadline is pressing. Your mileage may vary.
This is one of those questions where the answer seems so simple to me that I have to be careful how I answer it because I may SOUND like the jerk I described above without meaning to. The problem I have here is that everyone sees the world through a slightly different lens, and it’s easy to fall into a trap of thinking your lens is better than the next guy’s when nothing can be further from the truth. There’s no better or worse…there’s just ‘is’. So, when I hear writers say they have trouble finishing projects, I see the problem through my lens, and from that view the answer reads like this: You don’t want to finish.
It’s not fair to tell others what they want or don’t want, for only they truly know that, but I do believe action is a better indicator of a person’s desires than what they say. In this regard, I’ll speak about my own actions, and the times in my life when I had trouble finishing projects.
When I was in high school I was more concerned with my clothes, shoes, and girls to spend time fully fleshing out a project. In college I had to study and maintain my GPA. After college I had a job and that bit into my time. Through all that, I kept saying to myself and others that I really wanted to write a book. I’ve got good ideas. I’ve started stories. I have the tools, but…I’m just so busy.
I wasn’t too busy to become the best NBA Live player in my college apartment. Wasn’t too busy to catch a movie at the cineplex every weekend, or buy (and watch) the hottest DVD release every Tuesday. I made sure I caught all of my favorite TV shows. And I was always well-rested, 8 to 10 hours of sleep every night.
Underneath all those distractions was the core of the problem. I was afraid that I’d spend years and years toiling away on writing (and I did) only to fail (which is still a risk based on my definition of success), so I avoided the fear with manufactured tasks and too much leisure at the expense of my writing time. I didn’t really want to finish because I might then come face-to-face with my own inadequacies. At some point I had to ask what’s worth more to me? My prowess as a gamer, being up to date on the latest film and TV, or achieving my lifelong dream of being a professional writer (meaning I actually wrote things to completion then sold them)? Once I understood that the potential reward outweighed the risks, I had no problem finishing projects. That’s not to say I didn’t have slow days (or years), but I got over the first stumbling block of simply not writing enough, and once I started I quickly got over the second stumbling block of thinking I’m not good enough. Newsflash: there will always be someone who thinks you suck. Take constructive feedback from these people when it’s there, otherwise focus on those who like your work.
Once I flipped that switch in my head, I was on my way. It started with a question: what is my writing worth to me?
If you’re having trouble finishing projects, I ask you the same. What’s it worth to you?
Like I said, I’ll probably condense these and get them into the FAQ at some point. I hope you found some of this helpful. Feel free to send more questions to lrgileswriter [at] gmail [dot] com, or hit me up on Twitter. Later, gang.
I’ve got a real treat for you all today. Good friend and stellar author Terence Taylor has stopped in to chat a bit about his Vampire Testament series, his experiences in publishing, and his latest project QUITTING CHRISTMAS.
A little background: Terence is a novelist and a television writer whose work has appeared on PBS, Nickelodeon, and Disney. I met him back in 2004 when we both signed copies of the original DARK DREAMS anthology at Zane’s (yes, that Zane) bookstore in Maryland. Right away Terence was a stand out, the warmest and most energetic guy in the room. He gave accounts of his experiences in TV (as a 24 year old self-professed comic book geek he had me hooked the minute he mentioned writing an episode of the Spider-Man cartoon series) and gave a memorable reading of his short story “Plaything” (my personal favorite from the collection).
His work appeared in the DARK DREAMS sequels and you can currently find the first two novels in his Vampire Testament series (BITE MARKS and BLOOD PRESSURE) where ever books are sold. Folks, I can’t recommend these novels enough. There’s a reason why they’re both enjoying a 5-star average rating over on Amazon. Terence Taylor is the kind of writer readers often wish they’d stumble upon. And he’s the kind of writer I want to be when I grow up.
Without further adieu, the man himself:
LRG: Terence, thanks for taking time out to answer some questions. What are you working on now?
TT: Something wildly atypical, but very personal…it’s a satiric social comedy about a wildly varied group of bohemian friends in Park Slope, called “Quitting Christmas”, about a guy who lost his life partner ten years ago on Christmas and decides he can’t face the holiday with all its relentless cheerfulness again that year. He announces to all his friends by drunken e-mail that he’s quitting Christmas — they have to deal with his absence from their holidays as they realize that the only thing that’s kept them in one piece for the last ten years was holding him together. So as he sets off on a journey of self-discovery and healing, they all have to face feelings they’ve suppressed about his lover’s loss, their friend, as well.
It started out as a highly fictionalized story about the emotions behind losing my partner of six years 17 years ago, but grew into something bigger as I passed the halfway point. He died a day after Christmas, and for most of a decade after that I was a basket case every year from October, when he started fading, through the end of the year. I was working on the third novel of the Vampire Testaments, which is set twenty years in the future, and extremely dark. When the anniversary depression came up this year, instead of sinking into it, I decided I was finally ready to tell my story, even if through a fictional character’s eyes. I started writing everything I was feeling and going through as I worked out my setting, characters and their histories. I plowed through the first two hundred pages in two months.
It slowed down by the time I’d written enough to hit my mid-novel crisis. I see now on my third novel that it’s an inevitable stage when you’ve written enough to realize that what you’ve done so far may not be what you started out to write. I went through an almost paralytic month of organizing my notes and completed pages, fully outlining and re-evaluating the whole thing before I decided it was still the book I started, but that I’d taken on a bit more than I intended to at first. I’m back on track now, but more realistic about what it will take to finish. I had this crazy idea that it was a fast book I could knock out over the holidays — it’s turned out to be a massively therapeutic experience, as I’ve had to put everything I’ve learned about dealing with the loss of a loved one at a major holiday down in a way that makes sense, tells the story, and in the end, reinforces for me all the things I need to remember each year at that time.
It’s been a trip — it’s my first “non-genre” novel, and I feel like I’m working without the safety net of those conventions to save me. In a horror, sci-fi or fantasy novel there are certain marks you know you have to hit, certain plot points you know you have to write if you’re stuck on a chapter that’s more subtle, or needs work. There’s someplace to go. Of course, after I’d been writing it for a few months I read reviews of other books that reminded me I’m still in a genre — it’s just not paranormal. It’s both the “getting over grief” and “Bah humbug, wait I love Christmas after all” genres…so who knows, maybe I’ll wake up in a year to find myself transformed into a black gay Nicolas Sparks…I could do worse. I am looking forward to getting back to book three of the Testaments, though, and finishing that story. So I haven’t abandoned horror.
LRG: The Vampire Testament novels span several decades, from the recent past to the very near future. If you look at a similar time frame, how have you seen your writing evolve, and where do you see it going?
TT: I suppose my last answer says something about that…the biggest difference in my fiction writing in the last decade is that I consider myself a storyteller now, rather than a wordsmith — the language of my work is tighter, leaner, smoother, and says more with less. When I wrote scripts I used to tell the story as cleanly as possible, and describe everything clearly enough to be built, cast, propped and shot from my script, essentially so that anyone reading it could see it in their heads. I kept some of my work habits from then when I moved into fiction, but used to be more concerned with the right words, the proper phrasing. It’s only now as I answer this that I realize that all I’ve done is apply the priorities I applied in scriptwriting to my fiction — tell the story well, make the characters convincing, and give the readers what they need to see it in their heads, with as few words in the way as possible.
As I move forward I want to get better at that — I like writing that involves me, sucks me into a world so deeply that when I’m done I feel I’ve been someplace else. If anything, that’s the direction I see my work going in, getting better at that, and expanding the kind of story I write. I’d like to do more social satire, and there’s an epic fantasy novel I’m planning to write after the third Testament novel. If I‘ve learned anything else in the last two years of seeing my first novels come out, it is that you have to keep moving forward. Once a book is out, it’s done — you have to be on to the next book by then, well into it.
LRG: Many of us writers have big ideas of what our careers should be, but those ideas sometimes clash with what the publishing industry really is. What’s been your biggest reality check during your time in the industry? And, on the flip side, have there been any major positives that were totally unexpected?
TT: Don’t write to get rich, that’s the first thing I always say to any aspiring writer. Love it or drop it. If the actual act of writing isn’t payment enough, move on. There are so many other things I learned since “Bit Marks” came out…the biggest is that there’s only so much you can do to sell your novel, and if you make promotion a full time job, you lose track of the real job — writing. I spent last year freaking out over sales and trying to jump through flaming hoops of PR to the books, and got half the third novel done.
There were lucky accidents that benefited me — like a friend loaning Whoopi Goldberg her copy of the first book, and having her love it enough to mention it in People magazine. But there was also the almost empty reading for the second book at Hue-Man, and other experiences that just wake you up that the road ahead will not be smooth, downhill, or dry of tears. Friends get tired of cheerleading and stop showing up, book readers don’t come out to readings until you have a following, and it gets exhausting trying to cover all the bases of social media. There is only so much I have to say to Facebook or Twitter.
Publishing your first book changes everything and nothing. It’s rare that a first book will sell so many copies that the author can sit back and write on that dime for the rest of their lives. By the same token, you’re not the same writer you were once you’ve gone through the process of completing, selling and publishing your first novel. It’s like dating. Once you get a good one under your belt, you can’t wait to get out there and do it again. It’s addictive, and if you’re a “real writer”, that is, someone compelled to tell stories and keep telling them, that first taste of exposure will only encourage you to continue.
The only way to keep my writing going in the direction I want it to go, which would be one day actually supporting me, is to write my ass off. The more I write, the better it gets, and the better the chance that one day I may write something that sends everyone back to see what I wrote before. The worst thing that happened after the first book came out is that I didn’t write a bestseller that got me rich so I could lay back and relax. Nonetheless, it was still a damn good book that thousands have enjoyed, with a second that maintained the same level of storytelling — if not better, because I learned lessons the first time. The best thing that happened is that I wrote a book that a major publisher printed and got into bookstores and airports across the country, and they paid me to write the second within a year. Doing that proved more to me about what I can and can’t do than anything else on the journey. I said after the first book was done that I wasn’t a novelist yet — I was a guy who had written a novel. Writing the second and working on my third, I now feel that I am a novelist because I can repeat the process and produce new books.
I returned to New York in 2001 to finish the first novel, after decades of picking at it. Coming out of the last ten years with two novels done and published — that feels good. I mean, I came back to Brooklyn with a goal that I exceeded…I can’t complain. I can only hope the future keeps bringing pleasant surprises.
LRG: What’s your take on all the recent buzz surrounding eBooks and independent publishing? Would you ever consider going indie?
TT: It makes me wonder what word on the street was when Gutenberg invented the printing press and started turning out bibles like popcorn… People committed to the past always fear progress. It’s the reason there’s so much conflict in the world today. The old guard is desperately trying to hold on across the board as the world grows beyond them.
Leslie “L.A.” Banks talked to me after the fun “Beyond Blacula” group reading (which I promise to get up online soon) about a YA novels series she was working on and thinking of releasing as an e-book on her own. She asked me what I thought, and I said, you go girl, because she’s a best-selling author with a loyal readership who could totally do well with that, and get all the dang money instead of a 10-15% royalty on sales that are hard to track. Zane used her success to start her own publishing house, for her own books and those of other writers she can promote. Why not go straight to e-readers?
I’ve had a free serial novella up on my site for months, quite a fun one, but have no comments or sign that anyone’s reading it. For me to put a new novel of mine up online and hope for the sales I got for the first book through St. Martin’s is certainly possible, but it takes a lot of work to fan the flames of demand. I think Leslie and other popular authors could so ace online sales or e-books, as Zane could, and am amazed some of them aren’t dropping out of the existing system to do so. I think James Patterson may be releasing a new book only electronically…maybe someone else. The modern age allows almost anyone to find a way into print — what we forget is that all writers are not created equal, and that some shouldn’t be in print yet. The system of agents and publishers did filter that flow, albeit to their own advantage.
All of that said, I have many stories I’d love to do online, in various forms — audio plays, short films animated and live-action — and have a site registered for that. I see this as an age of change in all media — publishing, film and television — and all because of digital media and web access. Anyone can do almost anything today and have it seen, and I’m still amazed that so few seem to be getting that and taking advantage of it — though they may be and we just aren’t hearing about them yet. I think in the next ten years we’re going to see a massive paradigm shift after the dust settles, in all entertainment media except maybe live shows. This is a rare time when people with talent and tech skills can get in there, do what they do and get it out there. So I certainly see releasing a novel independently as an e-book or vook, but I also like the network of distribution and major reviews a major publisher can command, so I wouldn’t cut that option off entirely, either.
I’ll keep writing novels and sending them to my agent, trying to get others to publish them and pay me, but I also intend to explore new media options. I’ve worked in TV for years and can shoot and edit, and while I’ve lost interest in most broadcast media in the age of “reality” bull and complex competition game shows that pit contestants in assorted fields against each other until one’s left standing, I find myself more attracted to the possibilities of digital media and what you can do at home. So as I continue telling stories, I think how I tell them will expand beyond printed fiction, and I’d rather control my own content by airing shorts on a website and soliciting others’ work than try to get a series on TV.
LRG: If you fell asleep Rip Van Winkle style, and woke up in the distant future where no one knew what a book was, what 3 pieces of literature would you want to have in your knapsack to show the people what they’ve been missing?
TT: Sounds very Eloi, a planet of the blond, beautiful and dumb with libraries of crumbling books and spinning talking disks. Hm. George Orwell’s 1984, one of my favorites, because it addresses the reader directly right up front, pulls you in, and encompasses a full range of human emotions, good and bad. The same applies to Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, which changed my life when I read it at 26, the age of the protagonist, and got it like a mind bullet from his brain to mine. And a copy of something magical and optimistic — The Wizard of Oz, or Alice in Wonderland…you’d have to balance the Orwell and Ellison.
Terence, wow, what a great interview. Thanks so much for stopping by. And that epic fantasy you plan to write when you’ve finished The Vampire Testament…can’t wait, man. Hell, can I volunteer to be a beta-reader? (Yeah, I put you on the spot in public…LOL!!)
I’m starting something new here on the blog. I’m reaching out to my favorite authors, authors I’ve just discovered, and any author in between to participate in a quick Q&A session just for the hell of it…
I LOVE talking shop with anyone who’s willing to listen (most of the time that’s other writers) and I know there are people who like to know more about the process from the inside.
I hope to feature a different author AT LEAST twice a month. Most of the writers I’ve met are gracious, open people who like exploring new forums. Maybe over time, this can become a favorite hang out for notable wordsmiths. The literary version of Inside the Actors Studio.
Without further delay, our first author, Brandon Massey…
LRG: A lot of writers have a goal of getting published. Beyond that they tend to target sustainability. I would say you’ve accomplished both, so what sort of goals do you set for yourself now?
BM: My primary goal these days is keep growing as a writer, and for me, that means writing pretty much every day, reading constantly, and seeking out new life experiences and insights. That last point is especially important. I’ve found that I get my best ideas by ripping a cloth from something that I’ve personally experienced or have some knowledge of, and using that as the basis for a story.
LRG: What has been your greatest accomplishment during your time in the publishing world? What about your biggest disappointment?
BM: Probably my greatest accomplishment is that, for the most part, I’ve always written exactly what I wanted to write, and I’ve managed to find an audience for my stories. That is extremely gratifying. I’ve never paid much attention to following the fads. I write the kind of stories that I’d like to read, and fortunately, a number of people other than myself enjoy them, too.
Biggest disappointment? Definitely realizing that traditional publishing is basically like gambling. Talent and hard work has very little to do with success in that realm. It’s all about the numbers and someone’s subjective (and unproven) opinions of what’s worth publishing.
LRG: eBooks and Independent Publishing…a lot of people make it seem like we’re living in the Publishing End Times. What’s your take?
BM: I don’t think the so-called Big Six Publishers are going anywhere. I think they will adapt to the new delivery models. Furthermore, so long as there are writers who want to be taken care of, who want to avoid the business aspects of publishing, traditional publishers will always have a crop of writers from which to pick.
With that said, I do think you’ll see independent authors continuing to carve out a niche for themselves, simply because the channels have been opened. A few will earn fortunes, a number will earn a good living, and still more will make “hobby money.”
The most gratifying thing of all? Writers finally have options now.
LRG: You fall through a time warp and land at the feet of a younger version of yourself as they type “The End” on the first novel they/you will ever publish. What would you say?
BM: Start on the next book. Immediately. Don’t get hung up on one project. Keep moving and building momentum.
Brandon, thanks for stopping by and giving us a little insight into what you do.
Remember everyone, COVENANT, is the new novel and you NEED to add it to your collection. It’s available in paperback and on your favorite eReader.
“Nobody likes a clown at midnight” – Stephen King
How can such a simple statement sum up why that man is so good at what he does? But I digress, the I-LOVE-STEPHEN-KING post I’ll save for another night. For now, let’s talk about Clowns at Midnight…or, to really get to the heart of it, Mundane $&*# that’s scary as a #*@$…
In reality the creepy old house in your hometown is probably scary. It’s dirty, it’s got rats and roaches, and if you poke around the foundation long enough with a stick, you’ll find some crackhead’s discarded underwear (or maybe that’s just my hometown). The problem is there’s really nothing compelling about that kind of scary. It’s obvious. There’s literally yellow tape on the door that says KEEP OUT.
Sure, there are a thousand movies where teenagers (really 30 year olds) go into this exact environment and die
deservingly horribly. They are dumber than us. That’s not scary. That’s Natural Selection.
What’s scary is the stuff there’s no warning for. The stuff you can’t reason your way around, or avoid. Or worse, the stuff you’re totally aware of, but someone more powerful than you drags you there anyway (like parents taking their kids to the circus to see those creepy guys in the white makeup and blood-red grins).
Stephen King built a career out of noticing when the stuff that’s not supposed to be scary is just about running someone out of the room. It’s not a bad observational skill to have, particularly in the wordsmith game, regardless of genre (I don’t care if you’re writing romance, comedies, or adventure tales…real people should exist in your stories, and real people have fears).
Here’s one of mine (my wife laughs and laughs at this): Wet Tissue.
(get your WTF moment out of the way)
I’m not really afraid of wet tissue paper. I just find it disgusting. It makes me cringe, with it slimy mushiness. By no means do I plan to write a novel about Evil Wet Tissue, but I can focus on the sensation it brings out in me. I can apply it to something else slimy (tentacles?), and I can make my character feel fear.
And maybe my readers, too.
Just something to think about. At midnight. While the clowns are surrounding you.
Do any of you have off the wall fears/deep dislikes? Let’s hear ‘em
I wanted to write something fun this week, but a more serious topic presented itself.
An author friend of a friend just had their book “accepted” by a “notable publisher”, but in order for them to move forward with the contract and have their book published, the author must come up with…wait for it…THIRTY THOUSAND DOLLARS by the end of the month. The author reached out to her contacts (one of which is a buddy of mine) soliciting donations to make her dream come true.
So, you’re probably wondering why I’m not naming this “publisher”. There’s a couple of reasons.:
1) What they’re doing isn’t illegal (but it should be) - Though they actually call themselves “Co-Publishers”, they openly admit to being a vanity press on their website, and as part of that admission they come right out and say you’ll have to pay if your book is “accepted”. So, no lies are being told.
2) If I have to call my lawyer, I better be having as much fun as Charlie Sheen - I don’t know if I’d be crossing any legal lines if I actually called the publisher out here. And I don’t want to find out, so I’m staying mum on names. That silence, however, brings me to the point of the post.
Writers…guys…you gotta listen when I say this. LEARN THIS BUSINESS. I know what it’s like to want to see your words in print, and I know how good it feels when someone who’s supposedly legit says you’ve got what it takes, but you gotta use common sense. In what world does a 30K Publishing contract that has THE WRITER PAYING THE PUBLISHER make sense?
Money should go TO the writer.
If you plan to pay (and there’s nothing wrong with that…particularly in the changing publishing climate) understand that you can publish your book for a hell of a lot less than 30 Grand.
Do your research, and don’t get all googly eyed at the first company that manages to slip the word “bestseller” on their home page. A good place to do your homework and filter out the scams is Preditors & Editors. Remember, no one cares more about your career or well being than you. Act like it.
This has been a PSA from your Friendly Neighborhood Writer-Man.
You ever see one of those masked magician shows? You know, where the guy tells you how magic tricks really work at the risk of being blackballed by other magicians across the globe (sidenote: being blackballed by these guys would seem much scarier if they were more like Voldemort and less like Penn and Teller…anyhow). Today, that’s me. I’m going to dispel some of the myths and murmurs I’ve heard over the years relating to what writing is and what writers do. Without a mask. Because I’m fearless.
In this edition, I want to talk about the idea that it’s just easy for (some) writers to knock off story after story like they’re a print factory (Cough-STEPHEN KING-Cough). Obviously, when it comes to personal experience I can only speak for myself, but I know enough writers, and have read enough about writers by writers to infer that what I’m about to share with you is pretty universal.
If there is a such thing as a muse, she’s a lazy $&#^*. She’s the equivalent of those people who find out you’re a writer and say stuff like, “I’ve got this great idea. [they tell you their idea and it isn't great at all]. You can write it, then WE can sell it and get rich. Just promise not to steal it.”
Oh, I promise, and my word is ironclad.
Anyway, the idea may come in a flash. In its skeletal form it might be the right mix of suspense, and comedy, and have a dog in it. That’s the fun part, the dreaming it up.
Getting it on paper legibly, with the words in the right order is another story all together.
You have to do the work (I’m in the midst of an anxiety filled revision at this very moment), and there will be times where it’s tempting to just do something less strenuous. But, the sense of fulfillment when you finish…the knowledge that someone may read what you slaved over and enjoy it…dulls the birthing pains.
It’s never NOT hard, folks. But it is worth it.
Hey, gang. Sorry for the MIA act over the last week and a half. Didn’t mean to leave you hanging, but life gets in the way sometimes. I know you come here to talk about The Job, and I’ll give you an update on how that’s going momentarily. Before I do, I wanted to impart some wisdom upon you.
Writing can be a number of things. Therapeutic, fun, relaxing, exciting…you get my point. But, it can also be something else that doesn’t sound so pleasant. Writing can become all consuming.
Each time you hit a goal it’s like a shot of some drug. Trust me, the first time I walked into a bookstore and picked up something that contained MY WORDS, I didn’t sleep for two days. It felt that good. Anyone who’s ever had too much caffeine will tell you that when you crash, you crash hard, and the type of jovial high I experienced was no different. As great as it is to see your words in print, the feeling doesn’t last.
You want to do it again. Each rejection you receive is like being denied that drug you want so badly, and if you don’t control you jones your mood can change, you can become despondent, other things in life begin to matter less. This is a bad place to be.
Here comes the best writing advice ever…
Live your life, don’t write your life.
I’ve been all over the emotional spectrum when it comes to putting words on paper, but what I’ve come to realize is reaching the next goal isn’t the same as reaching happiness. Things don’t always go your way in this business (in fact, they rarely do) but if you start hinging your emotional well-being, your needs, on how this industry reacts to you then you’ll soon be generating your own misery.
Thus, my hiatus from blogging this past week. I was living my life, and I may write about some of what I did one day. Probably not though. Some things you use to mine material, some things you use just to keep yourself sane. Know the difference, and know which is most important.
Now, The Job. As you know, I’m out on submission. And, I’m waiting. That’s all. Not the most exciting update, but there’s a lot of waiting in this business. I expect good news soon, though. When I hear something you all will be the first to know.
In the meantime my current novel is about 35% complete. This one’s been rough to write. Not for any emotional reasons, the words just feel thick in my brain. They’re coming out slow, like squeezing molasses through a pinhole. I will press on.
Next time folks, I’m going to talk to you about the various #litchat conversations happening over on Twitter. Good stuff that might be worth your time.
In the meantime, get away from the computer, take a walk, kiss your spouse. Live. If you can learn to get your high from the everyday stuff, then maybe you don’t ever have to come down.
However, if we can take a moment to think back on the less-than-savory exploits of our own past, we might find story telling gold.
It’s not an easy thing to do, to look in the mirror and see things as they really are, not as we wish they were. I don’t know if anyone ever does it successfully, but it’s the ugly moments that are most real, and if you can wring them for all they’re worth you can create real characters.
Real heroes (based on you).
Real villains (based on you).
Think about it. I’ll discuss this in a bit more detail next post…