Indie or No?

kdp-logo-stacked-aNot plugging KDP in particular, but that’s what I used when I couldn’t stand my Middle Grader any more and had to publish it so I could move on. It has two sequels, but maybe we’ll talk about them later. This post is about whether you want to publish your own work, or go the traditional route. There are arguments either way.

With Indie publishing, of course, the advantage is just what I wrote about above: you can publish the damned thing and go on to another project. But, just having a book published does nothing at all for sales, does it? Look on Amazon at the sales rankings for various books. Most don’t have any. Because they, basically, don’t sell. Messy Meisner doesn’t sell. But I don’t really care, because I had my own reasons for publishing. Besides getting the thing out of my brain, it allowed me to concentrate on a YA romance, working title Jake and Diana. Diana is a Spanish name in this case, so pronounce it accordingly.

Jake and Diana is, I believe, a good book, with romance, danger, aggression, Goals, Motivations, Conflicts, some humor, you know, all that stuff you want in a book. I plan to pitch it to an agent and an editor at the RWA conference in a few weeks. Because, yes indeed, I want to go the traditional route with it. I’m hoping that success with an YA will make it easier to market the Middle-Graders. It could work, right?

At the moment I’m drafting another YA romance. I’m not sure if I even have a working title for the working title, but I do have a rough outline and a few chapters out on my cloud drive where I can get at them easily. Jake and Diana is currently being (I fervently hope) beta read. I hope the readers say some nice things about it, so I can use those things in my pitch. I really like the support you get from RWA, so I may stick with YA romances, although I do like a good Middle-Grader. Time will tell. Another thing I don’t know is whether I’ll publish traditionally, or Indie. It may come down to whichever pays better, and how much I want to handle the sheer business of promoting books.

If you’d like a cogent discussion of just what Indie means, really, try this article from Fiction University.


Feeling a Draft?

The important thing about being a writer is writing, obviously. If you want to tell a story, the only thing to do is to start telling it. But, nobody that I know of can write a good story in one pass. Sure, you’d like to think that Shakespears knocked out Hamlet over a weekend, but in fact it took him a very long time. Which means that the thing you are going to knock out over the weekend, or week, or month, or however long it takes (longer than any of that for me) is your first draft.

The salient feature of my first drafts is that they are terrible. I try to keep the voices consistent, but I’ve yet to actually do that. I try not to have contradictions in the action, but, well, you know, I’ve never done that either. So, in essence, although a first draft can be a lot of fun, and I truly enjoy putting up things for my characters to (usually) fail at, the result of all that fun and games isn’t anything I’d want anyone but myself to read. Ever. Of course, unlike, say, Twain, who revised right on the original manuscript, I save versions as Word files as I go along, so I suppose that at some point in the future, unless I get up the ambition to delete a lot of stuff, future generations of scholars will marvel at my sheer incompetence. But, that aside, nobody reads my first draft. Nobody.

The second draft is usually the one where I actually do work on the characters’ voices until they are consistent and in character. Honestly, the first draft sounds like I’m at a read-through reading all of the parts. Not that interesting. But, hey, things improve with age, including my revised manuscripts.

With the second, and consequent, drafts, I keep adding things that weren’t in the plot, or the characterization, the first time through. Honestly, sometimes what’s finally ready to be reviewed and critiqued looks like a completely different story, written by a completely different author. And it still, of course, is not ready for prime time.

But, lucky me, I’ve learned to enjoy the revision as much as the origination. Sure, it’s fun to make up new stuff, but it’s also fun to hone it into something folks will want to buy. (Oh, please, let them want to buy!)

If you have a drafting and revision quirk you’d like to share, put it in a comment below. I approve everything that isn’t obvious spam. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Shakespeare in the Original English

Photo by Steve Fey Doggerel by Wm Shakespeare
Photo by Steve Fey
Doggerel by Wm Shakespeare

First, here is a link to click.  Click it and you will see two English Shakespearean actors, father and son, discussing, and reading, Shakespeare both in contemporary English, and in the English of, roughly, 1600.

I noticed a couple of things. First, Shakespeare really did write modern English. In his own dialect it sounds sort of Gaelic, but I had no trouble knowing what was being said.

Second, Shakespeare is better in the original dialect. Instead of the overly dramatic reading that too many players give the material, it sparkles with a whole lot of word play that, too bad for us I guess, simply doesn’t work in our dialect. I won’t spoil it, but there are quite a few dirty jokes in the text. There are dirty jokes anyway, but when all of the puns work as intended it gets considerably funnier.

But, I’ll let these two actors explain how it works. Just click and check them out!

Into It?

*** I was into enough yesterday that I forgot to post anything of my own. Thanks, Leslie and Andrew, for filling in. I guess. ***

Actually, I forgot that it was Wednesday. I get distracted easily, which is one of the drawbacks of the mostly positive thing misnamed ADD. Disorder, my foot! But, be that at it may, it does illustrate the theme of this post.

A few days ago I started drafting a new book. I’d forgotten how much fun drafting a new book is! Even though parts of the process can be tedious. Namely things like outlining, describing characters, and other things that just turn out to be a Word document on my hard drive. Of course, after I’m famous, and gone, archivists will have a wonderful time sorting through all of my old notes, so, really, besides developing a novel, I’m performing a public service!*

But, truth be told, writing the first draft is the most fun. I’ve read quotes from a bunch of folks to the effect that you write with your heart, then revise with your head. And I’ve never liked rules, so getting to follow my lies around by heart makes me feel good. And frequently what comes out is written very badly, but it’s a story. Once I have a story, I can tweak it (oh, twenty times or so) until it’s told well enough that someone might actually pay for the privilege of reading it. (I only write commercial prose. Somebody else can plumb the depths of the human experience.)

So I’m feeling pretty good this week: off on a new adventure with some new people who are, as they always do, doing more of what they want to do than paying attention to what I need in the story.

Where do those characters come from, anyway? <grin>

The Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge
Image is in the public domain (Pixabay)

*If you believe that, check out the bridge I have for sale!


Where do your ideas come from?

Somebody asked me that a couple of weeks ago on a boat to Isla San Jorge off of Puerto Peñasco, Sonora. That was right after I told him what I did for a job.

And it’s a good question, because I honestly don’t know. But I get them. And the world is absolutely crawling with sources for new ones. I’ve mentioned how I steal plot set-ups from a certain English playwright at times. That’s one way. Then there is simply paying attention when I’m in a group of people. I mean, everybody is the hero of their own movie, right? So, by observing people being themselves, I can get in on some of the plots.

Then there’s the simple “what if?” As in “What if Superman was having sex with Lois Lane and crushed her by mistake?” Or maybe “What if your junior high principal really was a demon from another dimension? What? You never thought that about your junior high principal? Liar!

So what I say is that middle bit, that the world is full of story ideas, which is true. But, you know, honestly, sometimes I think some devil does give me ideas. Like that demon from another dimension thing? Who’d ever believe that?

Besides every Junior High student in the country, I mean.

Crotch-Punching The Creative Yeti: Exploding More Writing Myths « terribleminds: chuck wendig

I like this guy’s advice. You can subscribe to his blog after you click this link (can’t fool me, huh?) This post explains how writing is a job (no duh) and explodes some common myths about the profession. Good stuff, Maynard!

Crotch-Punching The Creative Yeti: Exploding More Writing Myths « terribleminds: chuck wendig.

Grammar, Syntax, and Rules

Much has been made in recent years about the Oxford comma. In the UK, one always puts that comma before the final item in a list. And, if you aren’t terribly skilled at hearing what you’ve written, I imagine that that is good advice.

I say fairly often that I don’t care about commas. And I don’t. I do care about clarity. So, I would not ever, as in an example I saw on Facebook recently, declare Nelson Mandela to be an 800 year-old demigod and a dildo collector. Also there is the famous Panda who eats, shoots, and leaves. Remember that one? So there are times when I care about commas very much.

The proper sentence for Mandela ends with “. . . Nelson Mandela, an 800 year-old demigod, and a dildo collector.” That Oxford comma must certainly be there, or you are defaming the memory of a beloved leader.

But what if it doesn’t need to be there? Which mostly it doesn’t. What if the list contains items that obviously exclude each other? “For our vacation we packed the car with our clothes, toys and every bit of swimwear in the house.” You could use the final comma there. In fact, depending upon where you used that sentence, maybe you’d want to in order for it to “sound” right when somebody reads it. But with or without that comma, the meaning is exactly the same.

So, the question becomes not “do you always use the Oxford comma?” Rather the question is, “Does the list convey the meaning you wish it to convey?” In order to put a point on my argument, here is my favorite quote from Pablo Picasso:

You must know the rules like a professional so that you may break them like an artist.

Thank you, Picasso.

Now, I suggest that everyone quit worrying about whether a comma sequence is “proper” and concentrate instead on how well it conveys the intended meaning.

End of rant.


Kid Lit

I say I write Kid Lit. I put that on my name tag at the Las Vegas Writers’ Group meetings. But the thing is, I’m not sure that there is such a thing. Except, of course, there is such a thing. But it has nuances. Yes, my pretty, nuances.

I started concentrating on what used to be called ‘chapter books,’ but now is often referred to as ‘Middle Grade Readers.’ Whatever. I loved those books as a kid; in fact one of the greatest gifts I ever received was a subscription to the Weekly Reader Childrens’ Book Club. I got a selection of excellent stories delivered monthly for a year or two. Heaven, right? So, once the simple advice, “Write what you love,” finally sunk in, that’s where I started. But wait, there’s more!

Last year for NaNoWriMo I decided to tackle a Young Adult. (Now they’ve come up with ‘New Adult’ also, but frankly, I don’t care.) Young Adult is included in Kid Lit, the same as are Chapter Books and Picture Books, and (unfortunately) Tom Sawyer. But, are these books really written for children?

Well, sort of. Mine are written for me, mainly, because I like them. I hope they’re good enough that people will buy them. The ones featuring the fourth graders actually must be sold, of course, to elementary school librarians. So, in a sense, I write them for librarians. But not really, because at bottom, a story is a story, and no matter who is going to read it, if you want to sell the thing, you’d better have some ordinary person who wants something, but can’t get it, but keeps trying, and gets in trouble, and more trouble, and, oh, heck, you know that drill, right?

In terms of basic structure and craft, the chapter books and the young adult novels are the same. Exactly the same. And so are picture books. Think of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-good, Very Bad Day. Poor kid just wants a few simple things. Trouble. More trouble. Still more trouble. So much trouble he wants to move to Australia! Then even more trouble! Until, finally, bed. Aaaaaah!

See? Same basic structure. I know that some literary fiction purports to have a higher purpose. But, I ask, how many people read the stuff and get that message? I’ve read criticism of Huckleberry Finn because of the way he brings Tom Sawyer back at the end, and how that point could have been made more efficiently. Sure, if you want to screw up the timing and have nobody like the book, it could. Shakespeare didn’t try to write great literature; he tried to fill the house and create good roles for himself and his friends. (That is absolutely true.) But Twain, and Shakespeare, both knew how to structure a story; they had a sense of timing that was impeccable.

And so do people who write good Kid Lit.

So, if you like books for children, and you like to write, then by all means you should try writing some books for children. Just remember to apply all of the good old adult rules of storytelling while you’re doing it.

Know What Pisses Me Off?

Car ads! Hole – Lee – Shit, especially the ones for the “snooty” brands like Mercedes and Lexus. That quiet, condescending narration, the views of the product doing things that no courteous person would do, the price! The price! Well, come to think of it, only the “snooty” car brands use those techniques, because how else can they get you to spend fifty grand on something that you could actually get for twenty? Ah, marketing! In another life, I might have been a marketer. Seriously. Which is why those ads piss me off, because I can see what they’re doing. I think that most people can’t, so there they are, selling cars. Do the people who buy those machines act like the ads are telling the truth? (They aren’t telling the truth; they can not be.) Judge for yourself. Me, I drive a hamster mobile.

All of which is by way of introducing marketing as a topic. Writing is more than just swilling coffee in the morning and bourbon at night and sweating blood at the keyboard. There are quotes all over from famous authors about how to write, many quite clever (these guys were artists with words, after all,) and all irrelevant to selling the damned thing once it’s done. Selling the book is what you do, whether it’s to a publisher or as an indie on Kindle. And, once you sell it to the publisher, they won’t do much about marketing it either. It’ll be in their catalogue, maybe get a notice in Publisher’s Weekly, but that’s about it. What, you think they’re gonna book you on Fallon? Hah!

So, you have to learn how to market your own work. You’ll notice that I’m advertising my indie kid book here. That’s fine, but I don’t expect to sell a lot of them that way. In fact, I have other projects going at the same time (I could write a couple of posts on just that strategy) and the book for sale here is a part of a larger strategic effort which will, I hope, ultimately result in Messy and its two unpublished sequels getting into school libraries everywhere.

England would be great. I like England. I could visit schools there. You listening, England?

So, as you write, or maybe when you’re stuck for the day (it happens,) think about how you are going to promote and market your product (the book, fool) after it’s all finished.

You’ll be glad you did!