As far as I have had my blogs, and we’re talking a lot of time now, a lot of years, since nearly 2000 so that’s a lot of years and a lot of rambling and as much as I may like to think I have nothing but pearls of wisdom and deep thoughts to offer the fact really is that well, a lot of what I write is rambling. Especially in the early days. But then, there was a catharsis in it all. Blogs/journals were a place to exorcise yourself and it felt good if you were careful and not too revelatory. I can’t say I learned a lot from it but it felt good in the early days to know that some of what I was saying was reaching someone and was heard, because that matters. In an era where we are all struggling to be heard but rarely listen the blog has changed. It seems that it is more about Me and less about Us. It’s not about trying to connect but trying to differentiate as so many of us push to get noticed, to get seen, and to get famous.
The thing about fame is that it is a kiss without emotion. It feels good when you’re doing it but when it’s done, when it’s gone, it meant little and lead to nothing.
What I offer you, friend is not a path to fame, it is not a path to riches, but it is a path towards finding that part of yourself that we sometimes neglect and I offer that part water and light and hope.
Traditional publishing is dead.
Long live traditional publishing!
I come to you as a writer, an author, but not one of any great name or legacy but the thing is, that’s ok. I didn’t get into writing to become a legend, I got into it to amuse myself, to exercise my mind, and to just tell stories. And that is what matters to me, the stories. Sure, I want to sell some books, I want to make some money because this is Art but this is business too and you can’t forget that. You can’t. When you first start writing you have to be willing to ‘give it away’, as much as you can do because these are stories, nothing more BUT nothing less. A story alone may not have power but stories together gather a lot of power and a lot of strength. So you can give away a short story or poem here and there just so you can give people a chance to get to know you. Get to know your work.
Consider writing a job, even if it isn’t.
Sometimes you have to put in that training time to prove yourself, and to some people, you’ll never get hired but that doesn’t mean that you stop working at it, that you stop writing, it just means that you find a different employer.
Publishing has changed. It’s not hard to see it but that doesn’t make it any less shocking and worrisome. There are just not those smaller presses anymore that will put out the lesser and unknown authors. It’s too expensive to print, promote, and to release and ship these things and when the market crashed in recent years it was a way to clean house and that house cleaning meant a lot of smaller publishers died and others went wholly digital, and the rest, the rest focused on commodities. And there’s the rub – these stories, these books are commodities. They are ‘goods’. And as such you have to accept that some people will value your work more than others. It doesn’t mean that your work is better than anyone from Joe Writer that writes fan fiction for fun or any worse than Steinbeck, Hemingway, or King. It just means that the market bears what it bears and right now, in mid-2012 classy smut is in. Just as vampires were in, just as zombies were in, just as bios were in and on and on. If you have the right story at the right time you can make some good money (with a lot of work and a lucky break) but that doesn’t mean that your story is necessarily better than someone with the right story at the wrong time.
That’s the thing too, being a business, if you are going to pursue it seriously then you have to make the decision of why you write – for profit and fame or for fun and to tell stories? Either path is valid, believe me, but I offer that it’s better to do something you love and suffer than to suffer for something you’re doing for money because unless that money is coming in it’s going to be a waste of time.
Slowly I am inching towards something and that something is this –
If you love to write…write.
And write your ass off. Write as much as you can and stretch yourself. Write blogs, reviews, stories, poems, and keep it varied. Why? Because the more you grow and challenge yourself and your writing the better at it you become. Fall in love with writing. That’s the key.
Make your own schedule.
Scheduling is a big thing for writers and it makes sense because the further you get from it the more of the threads you lose. It can still be a good story but you’ll lose your passion for it and that’s dangerous. It’s easy to get distracted from writing and you need to learn the discipline it takes to see projects through. Everyone can write a story or poem, not everyone can finish those things and see them through to completion.
You have to be up for learning and the biggest thing you can learn is to edit. It will ALWAYS be helpful to get the opinions of others but the first opinion you need and in many cases the most important is your own because YOU need to feel that this is the story you meant to write, that you wanted to tell, and that it’s told how you meant to tell it.
For me I write, I let it sit, then I go back to it and go through it and see what I think and change and fix from there. My short fiction I am pretty picky about since I prefer to decide how that plays out but the novel, that thing needed other eyes on it. Had to have outside editing because it was so big that if I was missing some things I had to find them and fix them and make them work.
Now, this is where you are getting MY advice and most writers may disagree with me but to hell with them. I am telling you to publish. Now, this means a lot of things to a lot of people but for me it means this – get your work out there.
It’s great to publish a piece here and a piece there and it’s something to work on because you need to go through that and heck, maybe you break through with something and you can get started on things in a different way. But for me publishing has kept me going. I don’t know that I’d suggest doing it how I have done it but there’s something to be learned.
After you’ve been writing for a bit and have a body of work, and I think this works better with stories, then you need to start thinking about what you want to do with them. Stories work easier because if you write a novel and put that much time in you will want to pursue traditional publishing, just so you know you did. Stories are good because you can put a collection together of anything from three stories on depending on length and format and you have something valid. I cut my teeth with ‘zines and chapbooks but with services like Create Space and Lulu you have the chance to put out a professional looking book and that means so much more.
So why the hell are you doing this?
Because until you have that book in your hands, until you see why you do this, and until you have to start learning how to promote yourself and your book and how to market and how to price and how to sell your work you are just working with theories. Books make you move from theory to practice. And you need to know what you are working with and you need to learn what works and doesn’t. In essence, you need to learn to be a sales person because that is part of the deal now. And for me, seeing what it becomes, seeing what stories are meant to be, it really brought it all home and made it real and made me love it all the more.
Follow Your Path.
Every writer out there has THEIR way to do things and THEIR way to become successful and all that other crap but here’s the deal – this is your journey, your path, and you need to find your own way. Listen to what everyone says, even mopes like me, but in the end you have to decide the course you need to take. Once upon a time I let someone tell me I was no artist and I quit art for a looong time after that and that’s my fault. I can’t imagine where I’d be if I hadn’t listened to them. I may not have been a great artist but I may have been a happier person because I loved art and I shouldn’t have let someone talk me out of that love.
Write not because you have to but because you want to and you want to share your stories. There are so many options now. E-books, podcasts, open mic nights, chapbooks, self publishing, comic conventions, horror conventions, sci-fi cons, and on and on and on. There are so many options and so many resources and so many of us, so many of us writers out there that you don’t have to be alone. Remember that. It gets pretty lonely being a writer and that loneliness doesn’t go away easy but you are not alone.
You’re never alone.
This is your journey. These are your stories. If I can impart anything unto you it’s that you need to let yourself dream, let yourself be in love with the writing, let yourself struggle and strive, and finally, let yourself do this and see what happens.
No one promises us a future, we have to make it, and as writers that’s easy because we’re well versed in writing the future, the past, and everything in between, and we should be damned before we let someone talk us out of being in love with writing and pursuing our dreams.