Tuesdays with Terry – Part 4

Notes From a Twenty Year Almost Career. The guest musings of Indie Author Terrance Foxxe

Part Four

Writing is a craft. It’s an art form. It’s not what you say, but how you say it. Writing well is the key. Technique. Form. Talent. Dedication. Blah, blah, blah.

 

I believed this nonsense. And it is nonsense. Others will argue this statement to the death, but for me, this declaration rings true. It’s nonsense; up to a point. Where does it stop being nonsense, you ask? Read on and figure it out on your own. You see, the answers are different for us all. My conclusions will not necessarily be yours.

“Getting published is easy. Writing well is hard.” – Gary Provost.

My ass. Getting published by the big boys is hell-on-wheels in this day and age, and writing well is much easier than you think.

There is a Catch 22 when it comes to getting published by the big boys. I bumped heads with it for years. It is: You have to be published, in order to get published. Or, to put it another way; you don’t have any credits until you get published, and publishers want to see your credits before they risk publishing you. And on and on and on.

A nasty, endless circle of twisted logic that really doesn’t make any sense. You see, me and several of my writing friends have great credits. Published many times at the semi-pro and pro level, and we got nowhere. When it became truly possible to bypass the clearinghouse, fee-charging self-publishers, I decided to take the Indie Author path. I’m much happier these days, despite doubling my workload.

The fact is, within monolithic publishing, crap sells. I don’t know why, but it does. Agents and publishers know this. Think Snooki, Paris’s dog, and so many others.

Great books, wonderful stories, they get turned down every freaking day. The gatekeepers think only in dollars. If they think they can make money off of you, lots of money, you’re in. But, they don’t know what will sell oodles of books. They simply follow trends, and then they beat those same trends to death.

With us, thinking publishing as a business, and you’re one of those people who think your finished first novel is gold, good to go; do yourself a favor and put it in a drawer for six months. Don’t touch it, don’t even think about it. Six months. Write another novel. At the end of that six months, pull it out and read it again. If you still think you have gold, and be truthful, without having to rework almost every page for some reason or another, do whatever it takes. But, like I said, be truthful to yourself, first and foremost.

Twenty years of reading everything I could get my grubby hands on about writing and publishing has taught me a lot. It taught me even the best storytellers out there today may never, ever, get a contract. Future Pulitzer Prize winners may never see print by monolithic publishing, until after they win a Pulitzer. Indie Authors, some of us are magnificent storytellers. We care about our readers. We care enough to try to be the best there is out there today, in content and quality. Not getting published by monolithic publishing means nothing in terms of the quality of our stories. Nothing!

“It’s not what you say, but how you say it.”

 

Bullshit!

It is what you say, and how you say it!

Writing well is the key.

 

Creating an exciting story that’s exciting to read is the key. The lock that key goes into is writing well. Keys are shaped to fit locks. Locks are mechanisms. You can learn to understand the mechanism, but if you study the lock, can you tell what shape the key must take? Try saying all that three times real fast.

Technique. Form. Dedication.

All of this can be learned by those wishing to learn it. Don’t sweat it. Not yet. Don’t ignore it, either.

As I said, my first novel had some great ideas in it. The plot was simple. Good vs. evil. What my characters did and said moved my plot along. How they acted, reacted, how they reacted to other’s actions and reactions, all brought me, and them, to the end of the book.

I added to it where I thought it lacked, thinking all the time how I could get more excitement into the story. I took away all I thought didn’t belong, hoping what I was removing was the boredom. It still lacked something. It was tenderly tucked into my file drawer with one or two regrets I quickly swallowed. There was a moment of depression I immediately gulped down, too. I’m a writer, and there is no time for mental masochism.

I dumped whatever I felt about it out of my mind and wrote my second novel. Again, horror. Good against evil. This time something was different. This time I ignored the much touted writing advice from all of my books, and let everything I was vomit out my fingertips, and had a lot of fun doing it. I wrote what I wanted to read, how I wanted to read it. This time I did something right. I wrote a good book.

My novel was full of gritty real-life drama. It didn’t pull punches. I hit below the belt when it came to my character’s reality. I had made my horror, real. Some passages bordered just this side of being pornographic, but reality, the reality I built for my characters, was art. Any fellow writer who I could convince to read the story, gushed over its brilliance. They weren’t yanking my chain. They would have told me, diplomatically, if it had sucked.

Writers dedicated to the craft are like that, by the way. They love good reads just as much as you do. They love pointing out your mistakes, even when they misunderstand your intentions, and you must forgive them, because they are trying to help you. Most want to tell you things without hurting your feelings, because they don’t like getting their feelings hurt when they, in turn, show you something of theirs that bites.

Nope, my second novel did what I set out for it to do. In 1995 Leisure Books looked at it for eight months, then turned it down. A very agreeable, handwritten rejection letter. Everybody else sent the form rejection letter within the specified time limit. But that letter from Leisure Books told me something, even if I had to read between the lines to figure out what it was.

I had a book with potential, it caught someone’s attention, but they eventually turned it down. I set it to the side for a while because I had to. I figured I was too close to the problem. When I did pick up the manuscript again, six months later, the answer hit me upside the head, hard.

I screwed myself to the wall by not producing a highly polished manuscript, and I mean that high-gloss foot-deep shine. I was an unpublished nobody from Iowa, of all places, with a less than perfect manuscript. I cut my own throat.

The manuscript was as rough as sandpaper, and needed a lot of top-coat polishing. It was up to me to have a mistake-free manuscript, and I failed. I failed myself. The problems I ran into were many. I was relying too much on my word processing program. Bare, bear. I can’t bear a bear with a bare butt. Get it? I now bracket words I’m not sure of as I edit, and run my manuscripts through three independent word programs. I double-check everything again with a freakishly big dictionary, that human factor, relying on me to catch what the machinery or software didn’t.

Indie Authors, take note. I had a great story, but I had a badly written book. An author with a badly written but great story isn’t going anywhere. Your readers will judge you, and your sales are their verdict.

Where was I? Yes. I applied this same simple principle of writing heart and soul to all of my short stories. I wrote what I wanted to read. I had fun. I cleaned up my punctuation, my grammar, the gaps in my logic, and I did that for every short story and novel I wrote. I added to them where I thought they lacked, and took away all I thought didn’t belong. I fixed all I could fix, and made sure my stories were as perfect and exciting as possible. More rejection slips arrived, but I also received a few acceptance slips. I made some money, too.

Talent.

 

Some people have natural talent. Most can learn.

I love to read, but made the mistake of not reading anything when I was writing. I didn’t want what I was reading to influence my writing. Well, the flaw in that logic is: published words from talented writers will influence your own words. You want that to happen. You need to learn from those who came before. It’s a good thing. That’s how you can build up your own talent.

******

Terrance Foxxe is crazy enough to share everything he knows about catering to readers, because readers matter most to the Indie Author of today, and tomorrow. He had two books published under his real name, only to discover publishers really suck. After being royally ripped off and then some, he is the Indie Author of A Post-apocalyptic Story of Love, $2.99 USD & In The Dreaming, $0.99, both for the Kindle. Links provided. He’s now a happy man. Buy his books. Read them. Write reviews.

Post Apocalyptic Love Story

The Dreaming

He blogs at http://terrancefoxxe.blogspot.com/

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3 Comments

  1. I battle with statement makers like these every days.
    It’s like (though slightly off point) those people who tell me i should focus all of my efforts on one thing, otherwise i will always be a jack of all trades and master of none.
    I ask them exactly what they think multimedia art is. lol
    It’s like writing, only a publisher or aristocrat, published simply because their name has good standing like a rich businessman daddy would make such a statement.
    My father is published and still cant get publishers to touch him. crazy.

    Reply
    • I’m with you on that one. I go back and forth between visual art, writing, poetry, etc etc and every now and then I start to cave into the idea that I *should* focus (God knows it would certainly be easier to do that!) but I can’t. Each one is a part of the other. Even as I am writing the book I am planning out the jacket and the art to go on the website etc etc. it all flows into one big thing.

      That’s one of the reasons I enjoy your blog so much (though I need to get caught up on posts!) because it has such variety, and so it makes each thing more rounded because of it… like someone who does just music or just art or just poetry will look at things and see them in one way, but someone doing them all will look at things and see them from so many different angles. It doesn’t become ‘how can this be a poem?” but rather “how can this be a poem, a story, a song, a painting?” etc etc.

      Okay, now I am rambling!

      Reply
  2. I am really starting to get into this Terry stuff. Yes!

    Reply

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