Feeling Ranty About Writing (Again)

The next person who tells me The Best Way To Write That First Draft is to “just keep writing, don’t edit, don’t worry about changing anything until you’re done all the way to The End” will be figuratively hit over the head with all seven completed novels I successfully wrote while self-editing like a mad fiend.  I will grant two of those novels were hopeless dreck, but I got better. I know  how to finish. I know what the fuck I am doing.

Yah, sure, I sometimes piss and moan about my struggles with this writing gig, but I’m sick and tired of getting chirpy-happy brightsiding advice in reply. Gaps in my happiness are not openings through which to insert boilerplate one-size-fits-all Writing Advice. Do not poke my process. I will bite those fucking fingers off.

<deep breath>

I am not pissing on other ways of doing. I adore reading “How I Did It” stories. I enjoy peering down the roads not taken and trying new tricks and stretching my skills–at my on speed, and in my own oddball way. That’s discovery and exploration.

But slapping the same information into my online space as responsive commentary (or throwing it unasked in my face in person) is like reaching for a tissue and getting sandpaper instead.

Suggestions to “Try X, it works for me/my friend/this famous person” erode my emotional defenses. Those offhand remarks, however kindly intended,  carry implicit messages of disapproval of whatever I’m doing now. They scrape me raw.

When I gripe, I need comfort, not Perky Writing 101. Gnashing my teeth over uncooperative prose indicates desire for commiseration, empathy, and/or demands for productivity. It is NOT an invitation for correction of the many, many, flaws in my writing craft.

I already know the way I write best is not what’s recommended by successful/ commercial/ profitable writers or taught in any workshop. I have been to workshops. I have taken classes.  I’ve tried the tried&true. It. Doen’t. Work. For. Me.

And yet, hard as I march to my own rhythm, the drumbeat never drowns out Common Wisdom.  Why so stubborn?  My brain whispers in this annoying little voice it uses when it’s being a shit. Try it that other way. Do that other thingYes, last time changing up your writing stopped you cold and killed your spirit, but maybe this time it’ll be different. Why do you keep pretending you know better than all the experts and teachers, you egotistical hack?

That annoying whisper is hard enough to silence without unsolicited advice giving it a megaphone and amplifier.

I self-edit constantly, I don’t outline in detail or make character sheets or do ANYthing I’m “supposed” to do, and yet left to myself I can produce a clean, editable novel manuscript in as little as few months…

…or as long as several years. Why such a range? Here’s a confession:  I write only when I can delude myself into thinking that someone else actually-really-truly wants to pick up what I’m laying down and wants it RIGHT NOW.

The right now part is critical. I’ll likely miss every deadline laid down, but having them does motivate me. But I can’t set my own deadlines.  I’m good at deluding myself, but the idea that anyone else (in the larger sense of The General Public, not in the sense of my loyal couple dozen fans…) wants my writing NOW? That’s too big a bouncer for me to swallow.

So. I stop writing when being constantly hounded about process AND when I think nobody else really cares if I ever finish or not. Fragile, frail flower, that’s me. Piss, moan, stomp, stomp. Oh, look. I’m griping again. Life as usual.

 

NO I AM NOT ASKING FOR ADVICE. I am just sulking here in my internet corner, much the same way my cat grumbles to himself when he’s settling into his blanket for a nap.

This isn’t my first rodeo. When I’m bucking and and growling all over the ring to work off my temper, don’t step in there with advice. You’ll get stomped on like a baby chick. If I want advice on how to ride the bronco, I promise I will ask for it. I will even use interrogative phrasing and proper punctuation to make abundantly clear that I am making questions.

Otherwise cheers and hollering and applause from the sidelines is what I actually need. In case anyone was wondering.

Titles ready for their stories

I’ve been doing title research for my Work In Progress novel because its working title is nothing to make hands reach for the buy button.

None of these quite fit it ( or so I think at this point, I could be convinced, feel free to make a case) but titles can’t be copyrighted anyway,  so I lose nothing by sharing.

If any of these speak to you, grab and create.

  • All The Days In Darkness
  • A Handful of Tranquility
  • Chasing the Whirlwind
  • The Heart Of the Wise
  • In the House of Mourning
  • A Crackling of Thorns
  • The Heart Is a Trap
  • Her Hands Were Chains
  • What Wise Hearts Know
  • Sagging Rafters, Leaking Souls
  • Like Clouds After Rain, The Days of Trouble Come
  • Break the Golden Bowl
  • Cut the Silver Cord
  • A Wheel Broken At the Well

What Publishers Do (a grumpy rant)

Time to revisit a topic that irks me hard: indie authors dissing useless “publishers.”  I use scare quotes because publishing options have  grown right along with self-publishing.  Back in the day author choices were limited to three–the Big Publishers,  a predatory vanity publisher, or self-publishing–but today complaining about “publishers” is a lot like complaining about “food.” It’s so broad a category it’s meaningless.

And yet people do it. Four times in the last week I’ve seen posts  that were all variations on this: “Why would I bother working with a publisher when they don’t promote/market/support me or my book?”

YAARRRGGHHHH  <I would insert hair-pulling-out graphic here but I am too lazy>

Pull up an orange crate to the cider barrel, and Old Curmudgeon Karen will tell you a tale about publishing. First off, the word publish refers to making a book, not about what happens afterwards. The majority of what a publisher does is NOT marketing.

PUBLISHERS DO A LOT OF BORING HARD EXPENSIVE THINGS FOR YOU SO YOU CAN FOCUS MORE ON WRITING. If I was being published by someone else I would not have to:

  • locate all the right developmental, copy & proof editors for each of my works, negotiate with said editors on fees and schedules, or chase after them about deadlines. Plus I wouldn’t have to PAY them.
  • all the same issues for interior ebook formatting & for print
  • same-same for cover design

That’s a lot of time, money, and trouble avoided right there. I ALSO would be leaving to someone else the following tedious, expensive hassles:

  • the PITA of getting books logged into the ISBN & copyright databases
  • ditto the actual production of print books & posting to various sales
  • ditto-ditto double-checking the results in same for errors

Yes, I would lose some creative control. But I would gain lots and lots and lots of time. And reduce stress.  That is a trade-off.  One I would gladly make, TBH.

Even in the old days, the big publishing houses were never big into promoting books or authors outside NYC/the literary community. Until the late 80’s, major book promotions really were not a thing period. The book industry kind of backed into major marketing efforts way later than most entertainment businesses.

Publishers used to release most books the way mama turtles have babies. They made ’em, laid em out there, and the babies either swam or got eaten by seagulls.  If an author was already a big name–or impressed the heck out of Everyone at the Company–their book would get ads in the industry mags or the New York Review of Books or some targeted professional publication and they might even get a book tour. BUT.  BUTBUTBUT.  This was rarely an expectation for debut or midlist authors, at least not in the “all expenses paid” way. Unicorn rare.

Most books got entries in the “new release” section of industry mags, were listed in the indexes, and might get promoted word-of-mouth by sales reps to librarians & booksellers. Those people would read and pass on recommendations of their own to book groups and local newspapers, and so on and so on.

Do major publishers now give authors less marketing support after publication  than ever before? Absolutely. Is this a bad thing? YES. They also take on fewer authors, pay them lower royalties and engage in a slew of other practices that beggar the book world. That’s kinda beside the point.

The point is, marketing never has been the fundamental core of publishing. Ignoring that reality is petty and shortsighted. And pettiness irks me.

Okay. Rant over.