(Source: dollarsandsense.sg) #1 The Secret Of Becoming Mentally Strong (Speaker: Amy Morin) “Good habits aren’t enough. It only takes one or two small habits to really hold you back.” Amy Morin starts off by sharing how everyone has a friend that seems to have a perfect life, and how we kind of don’t like that […]
Virginia Woolf: “The psychic risk of a novel such as Woolf’s The Waves is vast – particularly for someone for whom psychic risk was so potentially debilitating.” This article is Written by Toby Litt who is a London-based writer. Hospital, his latest novel, is published by Hamish Hamilton. ( A reblog from 2015)
Bad writing is mainly boring writing. It can be boring because it is too confused or too logical, or boring because it is hysterical or lethargic, or boring because nothing really happens. If I give you a 400 page manuscript of an unpublished novel – something that I consider to be badly written – you may read it to the end, but you will suffer as you do.
It’s possible that you’ve never had to read 80,000 words of bad writing. The friend of a friend’s novel. I have. On numerous occasions. If you ask around, I’m sure you’ll be able to find a really bad novel easily enough. I mean a novel by someone who has spent isolated years writing a book they are convinced is a great work of literature. And when you’re reading it you’ll know it’s bad, and you’ll know what bad truly is.
The friend of a friend’s novel may have some redeeming features – the odd nicely shaped sentence, the stray brilliant image. But it is still an agony to force oneself to keep going. It is still telling you nothing you didn’t already know.
Bad writers continue to write badly because they have many reasons – in their view very good reasons – for writing in the way they do. Writers are bad because they cleave to the causes of writing badly.
Bad writing is almost always a love poem addressed by the self to the self. The person who will admire it first and last and most is the writer herself.
When Updike began writing Rabbit, Run it was either going to be a great technical feat or a humiliating misjudgment
While bad writers may read a great many diverse works of fiction, they are unable or unwilling to perceive the things these works do which their own writing fails to do. So the most dangerous kind of writers for bad writers to read are what I call excuse writers – writers of the sort who seem to grant permission to others to borrow or imitate their failings.
I’ll give you some examples: Jack Kerouac, John Updike, David Foster Wallace, Virginia Woolf, Margaret Atwood, Maya Angelou. Bad writers bulwark themselves against a confrontation of their own badness by references to other writers with whom they feel they share certain defense of worthy characteristics. They write defensive admirations: “If Updike can get away with these kind of half-page descriptions of women’s breasts, I can too” or “If Virginia Woolf is a bit woozy on spatiality, on putting things down concretely, I’ll just let things float free”. If another writer’s work survives on charm, you will never be able to steal it, only imitate it in an embarrassingly obvious way.
Bad writing is writing defensively; good writing is a way of making the self as vulnerable as possible. The psychic risk of a novel such as Woolf’s The Waves is vast – particularly for someone for whom psychic risk was so potentially debilitating. When Updike began writing Rabbit, Run all in the present tense, it was either going to be a great technical feat or a humiliating aesthetic misjudgment. (Excuse writers aren’t, in themselves, bad writers; not at all.)
Often, the bad writer will feel that they have a particular story they want to tell. It may be a story passed on to them by their grandmother or it may be something that happened to them when they were younger. Until they’ve told this particular story, they feel they can’t move on. But because the material is so close to them they can’t mess around with it enough to learn how writing works. And, ultimately, they lack the will to betray the material sufficiently to make it true.
Bad writers often want to rewrite a book by another writer that is written in a different time period, under completely different social conditions. Because it’s a good book, they see no reason why they can’t simply do the same kind of thing again. They don’t understand that even historical novels or science fiction novels are a response to a particular moment. And pretending that the world isn’t as it is – or that the world should still be as it once was – is disastrous for any serious fiction.
Any attempt to write fiction in order to make the world a better, fairer place is almost certain to fail
Conversely, bad writers often write in order to forward a cause or enlarge other people’s understanding of a contemporary social issue. Any attempt to write fiction in order to make the world a better, fairer place is almost certain to fail. Holding any value as more important than learning to be a good writer is dangerous. Put very simply, your characters must be alive before they seek justice.
Bad writers often believe they have very little left to learn, and that it is the literary world’s fault that they have not yet been recognised, published, lauded and laurelled. It is a very destructive thing to believe that you are very close to being a good writer, and that all you need to do is keep going as you are rather than completely reinvent what you are doing. Bad writers think: “I want to write this.” Good writers think: “This is being written.”
To go from being a competent writer to being a great writer, I think you have to risk being – or risk being seen as – a bad writer. Competence is deadly because it prevents the writer risking the humiliation that they will need to risk before they pass beyond competence. To write competently is to do a few magic tricks for friends and family; to write well is to run away to join the circus.
Your friends and family will love your tricks, because they love you. But try busking those tricks on the street. Try busking them alongside a magician who has been doing it for 10 years, earning their living. When they are watching a magician, people don’t want to say, “Well done.” They want to say, “Wow.”
At worst, on a creative writing course, the tutor will be able to show you how to do some magic tricks; at best, they will teach you how to be a good magician; beyond that, though, is doing magic – and that you will have to learn for yourself. For what a tutor can’t show you is how to do things you shouldn’t be able to do.
Toby Litt is a London-based writer. Hospital, his latest novel, is published by Hamish Hamilton.
I found this intriguing post to be eye-opening and I found myself weighting the pros and cons of this kind of litigation against independent bookstore owners. What do WordPress bloggers think? K D
Book Passage is a quirky little bookstore situated in the Bay Area of California. Sure, it sells books, but it also does so much more. Every year the shop hosts over 700 author events. During these events, authors often sign books, and if any signed books remain after the crowds have thinned, Book Passage sells copies in the store. Because the shop wants to keep these items accessible to everyone, they sell autographed copies for the same amount of money as the mundane editions to books.
This practice is a wonderful one, but Book Passage may soon have to stop selling autographed books all together.
Image via Wikimedia, Adam Jones, “Bookstore Display for Gavrilo Princip – Assassin of Archduke Ferdinand (1914) Belgrade, Serbia, 17 November 2014.
Late last week I saw a troubling press release put out for the Book Passage by the legal group the Pacific Legal Foundation. On…
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The world awakes each day,
Wet with tears of morning,
And in the silent dawn,
Upon the earth’s sweet tears,
The world begins a new,
For with the promised sun,
The earth renews its hope,
In life itself,
And dries its tears,
In the morning air,
To begin again,
For what have we,
On this earth so rare,
Is to forgive,
And be forgiven.
By: Brian A. Klems | April 20, 2017
There are a lot of challenges and rewards to being an author, and one of the greatest (and sometimes brutal) challenges is getting published. I think we’ve all seen people magically picked up by publishers out of nowhere, but my experience is that they usually know someone in the business. For me, it was a slog that took more than ten years and hundreds of rejections from agents and editors.
Then, in the past two and a half years, I signed contracts for fourteen books with three different publishers. Eight of the books are out now, and the rest will be out shortly. When people think that because I started selling books in my twenties I must have somehow cheated to get ahead, I tell them my history: I started submitting to agents and editors when I was in middle school. I was already writing novels then, and despite having a growing readership and being highlighted by the Los Angeles Times at the age of 14, I was still up for years of constant rejection. That’s how hard of a business this is, and it shows that if you want to write, never give up.So, if you’ve been submitting and not getting anywhere, here are some suggestions of things you can do instead of giving up, and all these things can help you on your path to publication.
One of the most important things I learned — and one of the things I used to resist most — is revising. If your book is being rejected, it might not be because it’s a “bad” book. It might just be it needs some revising, because all books do. For me, revising often means cutting back so that the prose moves smoothly. Don’t say something in a paragraph you can say in a sentence. It sometimes can also mean adding to a scene because its full meaning isn’t there yet. There are freelance editors out there (some of whom worked as professional editors for publishers beforehand) who will help you edit. This can be expensive, though, so there are also options of joining writers’ groups in person or online. You can also talk to people you know who are knowledgeable about your genre, as long as they’re also willing and able to give you good constructive criticism.
- Publish elsewhere
Even if you can’t get your book published (yet), that doesn’t mean you can’t publish elsewhere to build up your résumé. When I was in high school, I started writing for a local newspaper. I’d take these articles and send them to bigger places, showing them that I was a professional writer and could work for them, too. By doing this, I eventually worked my way up to writing for MTV, CNN, The Onion, Publishers Weekly and Booklist, among other places. Once agents and editors see that big-name places are willing to hire you, they pay more attention. (A lot of these places I got into initially by writing about manga for them — I have an interest in Japanese comics and they needed people to cover this. Your interests might be what you can sell, which is win-win.) But keep in mind I didn’t reach MTV overnight — I started out with that local paper and kept moving up. Blogging is also a way to potentially get your name out there. It doesn’t necessarily have the same oomph to publishers as a paying market, but if you get enough followers, publishers ought to take heed.
- Build a Platform
Publishers and agents often say they want to see a platform. In other words, they want to see you brand yourself and have followers. While working on your book and submitting, find good ways to get yourself known. Publishing elsewhere (see above) can be a useful move for this part, but it’s not limited to that. Some people also use social media to build their own platform by finding an audience there. Other people have gotten attention through important work that they do. This is quite limitless.
Book conventions are a great place to network, because there unfortunately is truth to “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” However, I couldn’t afford to travel and go to conventions, and I know many writers have this same issue. So almost all the networking I did was online, and LinkedIn was especially useful. I would ask someone to link with me, and if they did, I’d send a brief and polite message thanking them, telling them a little about myself (a sentence or two will due) and saying I’d be interested in networking. Don’t just make it about you — help them, too. A lot of times I would help publicize work of theirs I admired for one of the places I wrote for, so it’s mutually beneficial. The best business, I believe, comes from helping one another.
- Have More Than One Project
I was writing full-time for MTV, freelancing for other publications and submitting a YA novel through my agent . . . when I sold my first book, which wasn’t the YA one. It was actually a book on manga, based on my background reviewing, reporting, adapting and editing manga. Sometimes the things that get you in the door are not the things you expect. Have an open mind and have some fun!
- Remember You Are Not Alone
Sometimes after getting rejection letters, it helped to hear from other writers experiencing the same thing. I worked toward being an author every day for years, without break, and it was often exhausting and demoralizing. Believing in yourself doesn’t mean you think everything you write is perfect and you can do no wrong, but it means you know you can make this work. Rejection is not a sign that it will always be rejection. The writers who get published as the ones who don’t give up and who keep bettering themselves, not the ones who get rejection letters.
- Love Writing
Because being a professional author can be such a challenge, always remember the number one thing: you want to be a writer because you love writing. Now get out there and show them what you’ve got!
From the of author of a dozen thrillers, use these tips from entrepreneur Mark Dawson suggests:
1. have at least one free book on offer;
2. build a loyal following via interaction;
3. have a well thought out and researched marketing plan before you begin to spend your budget.
From the Founder of the Alliance of Independent Writers, Orna Roberts suggests:
4 . develop your own email distribution list as one of your key pillars in your marketing plan,
5. speed up your operation by using a database manager like Mail chimp and
6. don’t start spending money on advertising until you have at least three books out there.
7. So far, there have been two other Amazon Academy events on this side of the pond: one previously in Dublin and this one in London. And there will be one more in Newcastle coming soon! After that, Amazon will review feedback to see if they will do it again.
8. And I, for one, hope they will.
Writer’s Digest, guest post is by Chuck Wendig. Wendig is the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Aftermath, as well as the Miriam Black thrillers, the Atlanta Burns books, and the Heartland YA series, alongside other works across comics, games, film, and more. A finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and the cowriter of the Emmy-nominated digital narrative Collapsus, he is also known for his popular blog, terribleminds.com, and his books about writing (including The Kick-Ass Writer). He lives in Pennsylvania with his family. http://www.writersdigest.com
- Swift Cellular Division
The days of writing One Single Thing every year and standing on that single thing as if it were a mighty marble pedestal are long gone. (And, if you ask me, have been gone for a lot longer than everybody says—unless, of course, you’re a bestselling author.) Nowadays, it pays to write a lot. Spackle shut the gaps in your resume. Bridge any chasm in your schedule. This doesn’t mean write badly. It doesn’t mean “churn out endless strings of talent-less sputum.” It just means to be generative. Always be writing.
- Painting With Shotguns
The power of creative diversity will serve you well. The audience doesn’t come to you. You go to the audience. “One book is less likely to find an audience than three?” Correction: “One book is less likely to find an audience than two books, a comic, a blog, a short story collection, various napkin doodles, a celebrity chef trading card set, and hip anonymous graffiti.” Joss Whedon didn’t just write Buffy. He wrote films. And comics. And a web-series. The guy is all over the map. Diversity in nature helps a species survive. So too will it help the tribe of storytellers survive.
- Sharing Is Caring
Make your work easy to share. This is triply true for newer storytellers: Don’t hide your work behind a wall. Make sure your work is widely available. Don’t make it difficult to pass around. I have little doubt that there’s a strategy wherein making your story a truly rare bird can serve you—scarcity suggests value and mystery, after all—but the smart play for creative types just setting out is to get your work into as many hands as possible with as little trouble as you can offer. This is true for veteran storytellers, too. Comedian Louis C.K. made it very easy to get his new comedy special on the web. And that served him well both financially and in terms of earning him a new audience while rewarding the existing audience.
- Value at Multiple Tiers
Your nascent audience doesn’t want to have to take out a home equity loan to try your untested work. If you’re a new author and your first book comes out and the e-book is $12.99, well, good luck to you. Now, that might not be in your control, so here’s what you do: Have multiple expressions of your awesomeness available at a variety of tiers. Have something free. Have something out there for a buck or three. Make sure folks can sample your work and still support you, should they choose to do so.
- Be You
The best audience isn’t just an audience that exists around a single work, but rather, an ecosystem that connects to the creator. The audience that hangs with a creator will follow said creator from work to work. That means who you are as a storyteller matters—this is not to suggest that you need to be the center of a cult of personality. Just be humble creator of many things. You’re the hub of your creative life, with spokes leading to many creative expressions rather than just one. Put yourself out there. And be you. Be authentic. Don’t just be a “creator.” You’re not a marketing mouthpiece. You’re a human. For all the good and the bad.
- Engagement and Interaction
Very simply: Talk to people. Social media—though I’m starting to hate that phrase and think we should call it something like the “digital conversation matrix”—is a great place in which to be you and interact with folks and be more than just a mouthpiece for your work. The audience wants to feel connected to you. Like with those freaky tentacular hair braids in Avatar. Get out there. Hang out. Be you. Interact. Engage.
- Head’s Up: Social Media Is Not Your Priority
Special attention must be paid: Social media is a side dish; it is not your main burrito. See #1 on this list.
- Hell With the Numbers
Just as I exhort you to be a human being, I suggest you look at all those with whom you interact on social media as people, too. They’re not resources. They’re not a number. They’re not “followers”—yes, fine, they might be called that, but (excepting a few camouflaged spam-bots) they’re people. Sure, as you gaze out over an audience, the heads and faces start to blur together like the subjects of a pointillist painting, but remember that the audience is made up of people. And people are really cool.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
An earnest plea to your existing audience to help you find and earn a new audience would not be remiss.
- Share Knowledge
As you learn things about the process, share them with others. Free exchange of information is awesome. Be open and honest. Be useful.
- Embrace Feedback
Reviews, critiques, commentary, conversation—feedback is good even when it’s bad. When it’s bad, all you have to do is ignore it. Or politely say, “I’ll consider that!” and in the privacy of your own home, shred the feedback with wanton disregard. When it’s good, it’s stellar and connects you all the more deeply to the audience. The audience is now a part of your feedback loop, like it or not.
- Do Set Boundaries
That feedback loop is not absolute. I’m not a strong believer in creative integrity as an indestructible, indefatigable “thing”—but, I recognize that being a single-minded creator requires some ego. Further, the reality is that once something is “out there”, it is what it is and there ain’t anything you can do about it. So you have to know when to turn off comments, back away from social media, or just set personal and unspoken boundaries for yourself.
- Don’t Wrestle Gators If You’re Not a Good Gator Wrestler
What I mean is, don’t try to be something you’re not. If you’re not good in public, don’t go out in public. If writing guest blogs is not your thing … well, maybe don’t write a guest blog. Again, this isn’t a list where you need to check off every box. These are just options. Avoid those that plunge you into a churning pool of discomfort. You don’t want to lose more audience than you earn.
- Take Your Time
Earning your audience won’t happen overnight. You don’t plant a single seed and expect to see a lush garden grown up by morning. This takes time, work, patience, and, y’know, earning the attention of other fine humans one set of eyeballs at a time. It’s why you put yourself out there again and again.
- Have Fun
Relax. Enjoy yourself. This isn’t supposed to be torture. You should have fun for two reasons: First, because people can sense when you’re just phoning it in, or worse, when you’re just moping. Second, because fun is fun. You should enjoy writing; enjoy putting your work out there.