Publishing… And All It’s Difficulties

Hello readers!  This time I’ve got a video for you about the publishing process.  The guy talking is George Wier, author of the Bill Travis Mysteries.

 

I think this topic is interesting in that there are a lot of ways you can approach it, yet the conclusions you can reach at the end are actually few in number.  Wier makes the point that the “traditional publishing route” is extrememly hard and long, but it’s the “normal” way, and it’s the established/proven/”safe” way.  What I mean by “safe” is that you know you’re doing someting right when you try getting published that way because (to continue the analogy) it’s a well-traveled path – lots of people had tried it and failed, and a few have tried it and succeeded.  The facts say that the chances are stacked agaist you whether you’re a genious writer like Terry Goodkind, or just someone trying to make their living as a writer by putting in their very first novel for publication (i.e. someone like future-me…).

And yet, who’s to stop you?  I mean, Wier talks about two other approaches to publishing (but leaves out the whole idea of self-publinshing…), but what’s wrong with simply having hope and trying your best?  Yes, yes – *sigh* – I know I’m sounding very naive right now, but what’s wrong with makeing a plan for your life based on the future success you think you can acheive?  I know this post is starting to sound more like a pep-talk now, but I think this needs to be said: there may be facts.  There may be odds.  There may even be – wait for it – opposition! But why should that discourage you (I mean, us) from doing things the way we can and want to do them?

I happen to be one of those people who thinks that if you want to succeed at something, you should educate yourself as best you can and then try to do your best to succeed in that endeavor by and means that are available until you do succeed.  In this case (in my case), that means trying the established ways first, and then, if those established ways prove to fail, the less conventional ways.

In other words, if I want to be a successful, published author, I should get myself as prepared and trained as possible and then try to get myself published through the ordinary, traditional way first.  If that doesn’t work, then I’ll try other means, working my way through my list of options until I find one that works.

What I’m trying to say is, if you want to do something, TRY IT before you get discouraged.  Don’t freak out from the first moment you hear the oppostion and odds…  That’s just a recipe for failure – in fact, doing that gets you a day or two’s travel down that road already.  I think that is what we can learn from this video more than anything else.

Advertisements

When Books Die…

They won’t.  I understand that a lot of people (especially authors and writers) are freaking out because, since the rise of technology has been swift and steady – and is predicted to continue rising, at an ever faster rate – print books, like so many print magazines and newspapers nowadays, will eventually die out.  I do understand that fear: I felt it too, for a while.  But then I realized that, as long as there are people like me who love books – the real, printed things with musty pages and rich-smelling ink – the book industry will never die out.

Of course, it’s unrealistic and impractical to pretend and claim that things won’t change.  I fully expect the publishing industry to evolve and adapt to the changes that are happening as of now, but that’s natural and normal.  Of course things must change as time goes on.  On the other hand, I think that some of the changes will mean that the number of people and books being read online, or on other things than printed pages, will increase, and that change, in term, will cause some major changes in the writing and publishing industries.

There’s actually a debate going on right now (http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/checking-it-out/checking-it-out-part-i-reading.html) about whether reading from a page or a screen is “better,” but conclusions about the matter are mixed and… well… inconclusive.  Personally, I hold to the belief that people (including myself) read things slower and with better content retention when we read it from a printed page, as opposed to a document or page on a screen.  We’ve “conditioned” ourselves that way, to use a psychology term: that is, we’ve trained ourselves to read faster, skimming more, with more impatience and emphasis on speed while reading from a screen, while we’ve learned and trained ourselves to believe that sitting down with a book or looking over a page in hand is more intimate and meant to be slower, with better retention and attention.

Anyway, to sum up my argument, I think that the industry will change, yes, but I don’t think it’ll change so drastically that printed books will cease to exist.  I far, far prefer to read off a page than from a screen, and, as a writer who hopes to become published someday, I think that my role as a writer might also change somewhat.  It’s becoming more and more popular to self-publish now, and though I don’t think I’ll be doing that for myself, I am definitely involved with numerous online sites where I can post my work for publicity and critique/feedback.  So while I like some of the perks that Internet networking can provide, I don’t think it will replace printed books.

Words + Grammar = Writing?

Do they?  Is it that simple?  Is writing but a mix of the right words and correct grammar, maybe with a little style added to make it more than mundane?  Or is writing “Words + Style and Inspiration = Writing” with maybe a little Grammar mixed in to keep it understandable?

I would argue it is the latter.  Why?  Because writing with too much attention to the grammar and syntax and rules and correctness and perfection and order makes a piece of writing – no matter its form – boring.  I don’t believe in the old idiom “rules were made to be broken,” but in this case, I think we can make an exception.  The very definition of style is to be distinctive, unique – so how can we be unique if we all write the same, correct, stiff, perfect way?  The simple answer is we can’t.

Now, does that mean we should shun all lessons about grammar?  Well, no.  As I said before, a little grammar is necessary if you expect – and want – to actually be understood.  The skill of a writer comes with knowing the rules, and them breaking them beautifully.  So we should at least learn some grammar, but it should not be something that is pounded into our heads until its shouting drowns out the creative whispers of inspiration.

So, if I were teaching a class of Literature or Writing students (…which I very well might), I would not focus on grammar as a keystone of writing; I would mention it, spend a little time on the basics and the necessaries, but then I would let it go and allow my students learn the rest – including how and when to break those rules – by reading the writing of those that have mastered the art.  When they are assigned writing, I would correct their mistakes and continue to remind them of the fundamentals, but I would not be so strict as to let those mistakes stifle their own developing style.

Many people may disagree – and I expect them to! – but I speak from my own experience.  My own teachers drove those lessons into us like nails… large, sharp nails.  And the presence of those nails kept me from finding my own voice and style until much, much later.  I don’t regret knowing what I do now, but I do regret not being given the chance to grow in my own style while being taught the bare bones of the necessary rules.  So Writing does not = Grammar + Words, it =’s Words and Style.

Influences and More Influences

I seem to get asked this question a lot – how does one thing or another effect my writing?  Well, this time it’s technology. Wow, what a topic.

In a lot of ways, it’s made publication much easier to achieve. People can communicate in more ways than they ever could in the past, so getting agents and publishers is also easier than it ever has been. Also, word processing has made writing faster and more convenient, though I think we all still love the feel of a pen in hand and the satisfaction of watching a paper fill up with ink. Social networking, including Facebook and blogging, as well as the many self-publishing websites bow enable writers to reach a wider audience with their work, both to seek more readers, but also to acquire critique and pursue improvement through online writing communities.

Although I can’t say that I’ve used any of our many kinds of communication to interact with agents or publishers, I can definitely say that word processing and social networking have had a huge impact on my own writing, social networking in particular. I can type faster than I can hand write anything, so word processing has been a great convenience to me, especially since I;m also a very organized person, so that organization is also an asset to me.

Social networking, however, has definitely influenced me a lot in the past few years. I’ve had three blogs and two other self-publishing sites up and running over the last two and a half years, and they’ve had a great influence on my improvement. The discipline of posting regularly and keeping up with all the different sites forced me to keep writing, and as I wrote, as I kept asking for critique and feedback on my pieces, I steadily improved. The writing communities I encountered also helped me to become more involved with the social side of writing, which also served to cause my passion and love for writing to flare and burn brighter than ever.

So yes, technology has immensely impacted and influenced me and my writing – a fact that I am happy to admit.

Femaleing and Writing

(Yes, I know I made up a word. I think it’s quite clever, though…)

Sometimes I think too hard about the fact that I’m female and that there are actually other human beings on this earth who are…..well…..male. Different…….other…….opposite……  If you think about it hard enough, it’s kind of mind-boggling!  To be honest, though, I’d never thought deeply about what differences might show up in writers of different genders until now.  I mean, of course I knew there would be differences there too, just as there are in real life, but it didn’t really hit me until now that such differences are, in truth, irrelevant.

Yep, you read that right: irrelevant.  Here’s my thought on this: why should we have to do anything more than just be able to recognize that there are some differences between writers of different genders?  It’s just a simple, unavoidable fact, so should it actually change the way we read someone’s work?  Ok, the author is male – so?  That won’t keep me from admiring his extraordinary description and sparkling dialogue.  And that author is female?  No matter; I can still appreciate her beautiful use of simple diction and uncomplicated plot-line. I realize that there are all kinds of stereotypes out there about men and women – many, if not most, based in truth, I’ll admit – but how in good conscience can we make generalizations about male and female writers based just off those stereotypes?

People are too complex, too individualistic, too diverse  for us to actually be able to classify them in any real way, so why should we do so with male and female writers?  We might pick up a book and notice it was written by a female writer, but I do not think that this fact alone should prompt us to start judging what we’ll expect to find within it.

In short, gender does not define us on such a degree and in such a way that our writing must be defined by our gender.

Influence and Inspiration

If I had to choose one person who has influenced my writing the most (as compared to other individuals in my life, not necessarily compared to other influences and sources of inspiration)…

I’d choose my favorite high school Literature teacher. I know, I know.  I’ve already rambled on about him in one of my last posts, but I honestly can’t think of anyone else who has influenced my writing more.  For me, the problem with choosing the one person that has most influenced my writing is that most of my top “influencers” haven’t been people.  If I think in the context of my creative writing, my influences include God, nature, emotions, my family, etc., but no specific people (unless you count dozens of book authors that I’ve never met…)  So I literally sat there, staring at my computer screen for a good 15 minutes before I finally decided on my old lit teacher.

Even though I’ve gravitated towards the creative side of writing for my whole life, I’ve only relatively recently begun to actively pursue it (only in the last two years, really).  In that time, there hasn’t been a certain, prominent figure that stands out in my mind as a big influence to me.  So, knowing that, I looked even further back: to the foundations of my writing skills, in my latter years of middle school and throughout high school.

As I said last time, the foundation of my writing skills (which led to seriously pursuing creative writing) began then – when I was first learning the tedious grammar and structure of sentences, paragraphs and essays.  It was then that I put in the immense amount of time and practice that resulted in the uncounted essays and writing assignments that gave me the necessary experience to pursue other types of writing that, of course, based themselves off of those skills.  And throughout this whole process, this man, my favorite literature teacher, was the one who taught and critiqued my writing the most.

I remember the times when he would smile at me as I grew enthusiastic while we discussed an assignment or point of opinion that we differed on.  He knew his was my favorite class, and he knew why – I simply loved words.  I loved reading, I loved discussing our reading, I loved story, I loved philosophy – and though essays often piled up and made me scream in frustration, I couldn’t deny the pleasure I felt when I turned in a finished paper and got it back with a high mark.  We both enjoyed discussing the fine points and individual mistakes in my papers because I also loved learning – and he could see that.

So, I choose him.  He not only taught me how to write, he taught me how to think.  Not only did he share my enthusiasm and love of words, he made it grow and mature into a passion and purpose.  Not only did he teach and mentor me, much of the time, I felt as though he treated me as an equal – as if my opinion really mattered.  I think that’s where my voice was born – because he listened.

And that, my friends, is the most important thing for a writer to have – a voice.  Without it, we merely spin words into complex jumbles that can only turn out dull and flat and lifeless.  With a voice, with a purpose and something to say, we breathe life and color into our work, no matter what it is.

I hope I didn’t bore you… But if you got to this point, then thank you for reading!

Feedback

It may seem surprising to you, since I’ve made it no secret that I am an avid and passionate creative writer, but I’ve never had the chance to take a writing class other than the one I’m taking now.  My high school didn’t offer any specific writing classes, and we only very rarely did creative-writing projects for our regular Literature classes. So, other than having one or two very close friends read the manuscripts of my novels and posting some of my other works online, I’ve not had the chance to get very much formal training or constructive critique from any sort of classroom environment.  As a result, the only experience I have to report on is the critique I got for the non-creative writing I did in school, and the critique and community I get from posting my creative writing online.

My high school literature class was amazing. I think I learned more in that class – about literature, logic, clear reasoning, philosophy, myself, etc – than any other during my high school years. My teacher was witty, good-natured and well-respected for both his writing and teaching. My fellow students and I would often say that we believed he could have been a great college professor if he wanted to, but he chose to stay at our little school and teach high-schoolers how to think well.  When I look back on my past of writing improvement, he and his class are the first thing I think of.  As I mentioned before, his class was always a place where I could learn how to reason clearly, and it is his tutelage that I credit when I get good grades on essays and other kinds of non-creative writing.

Learning how to reason and argue effectively in essays and research papers also taught me another valuable lesson that I could apply to my creative writing: to be thorough.  After you’ve been taught the rules of logic and reasoning for 6 consecutive years, it’s no wonder that even in my creative writing, I rarely leave a stone unturned.  In my stories, one thing that I always seek to remember and work on is to not leave a question unanswered or a dilemma unsolved.  Granted, seeming to do these things can be a powerful tool of story-telling, but I always try to make sure that I don’t accidentally or inadvertantly leave unanswered questions or yet-to-be-explored possibilities without some kind of closure – whether that closure means knowing they exist and choosing to answer or pursue them later, or only answering them partially.

As far as technical skill goes, I’ve learned a lot about my own style and process in the past year or so since beginning to post my creative work online and getting feedback from it.  I’ve begun to discover what I do best and why, as well as what I am weak in and need to work on. I certainly very much look forward to taking more writing classes, and I hope to never stop learning more about my craft.

Thank you for reading!