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Month: April 2016

3 Writing Myths

Myth #1: Someone Will Steal Your Ideas

This little ditty comes mostly from newbie writers who haven’t published a thing and still don’t know how this weird wild world of publishing actually works. They think of the idea as the important thing, when in reality, it’s the execution that counts. Ideas are a dime a dozen. The average writer has more ideas than they’ll ever be able to do anything with.

So when these newbie writers want an editor or agent to sign a nondisclosure agreement before looking at their work, they’re only showing what an ignorant noob they are. Editors and agents are in the business of finding new writers. And if they are writers, they have a ton of ideas themselves, all of which they think way more highly of than whatever precious concept you pulled out of the ether.

Myth #2: Writing Fast Equals Writing Crap

Both Dean Wesley Smith, whom I got the 7 day novel idea from, and myself ran up against this myth during our experiments. Not in ourselves, but from other people. You can read about Dean’s encounter here.

Someone commented something similar on Facebook in response to my own 7 day novel writing journey, though he was a lot nicer and more sane than Dean’s guy. But his point was the same: that writing fast means you are throwing quality out the window. This is completely untrue and unsupported by evidence. Let’s take a walk through it logically and analyze where this myth comes from, shall we?

As far as I’ve been able to deduce, this myth comes from our high school and even college English teachers, as well as traditional publishing.

In school we’re taught to go through a slow, excruciating process to write our magnum opus. We were taught that’s how guys like Faulkner and Hemingway and Dickens did it, whether that was actually true or not. Traditional publishing continues to support this myth, mostly because it supports their timetables for getting books out. You taking a year on your masterpiece gives them plenty of time to publish and market the other books in their catalog, as well as to get ready for your book’s launch. The top authors, like Stephen King, John Grisham, and Lee Child are well compensated under this book a year model, which gives them the freedom to write one book per year.

That’s hunky dory for them, but what if you’re the new guy trying to break in, and the publisher only gives you five grand for your book? Well, you’ve got two choices. You can keep (or get) a day job, or you can crank out more books.

This myth also makes the bold assumption that everyone who abides by this output method types The End and immediately throws it up on Kindle. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Well, to be honest, some of them do. But those aren’t the ones you hear about making big bucks with self-publishing. Their books sink like a stone, never to be seen again, and rightly so. No, you still have to edit and revise. No one said anything about uploading your first draft to the masses. And if they did, they’re idiots. But editing doesn’t have to be an excruciating, six-month affair either, the poor writer snapping red pencils in half, while pulling his hair out trying to select just the right word for is. By writing fast, you can also cut your editing time by a goodly amount, and still get it to market quicker. And another advantage of writing fast: You fail quicker, leading to better writing faster.

Myth #3: Every Book is an Event

I’m guilty of this one. Dean Wesley Smith has helped whip this one out of me. By reading his blog more or less daily for the past year, and figuratively watching over his shoulder as he writes book after book, story after story, I’ve learned that every book is not some big event, some major achievement. It’s simply another book, another unit of product for your shelves. One of many you will (hopefully) produce throughout your life.

Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re saying now. “But James, books aren’t product. They’re High Art. Maybe while you’re writing them. But once they’re done they are product, a piece of intellectual property that can earn an income for you for the rest of your life plus 75 years. Don’t like it? Then print your manuscripts when you’re done with them and put them in a trunk somewhere. No skin off my nose. But if you actually want to get published and make a living as a writer, you’re going to have to learn business. Writing is a craft and an art; publishing is a business. Got the difference? Good. Then you are well on your way to letting go of these top three myths in publishing.

Entropy Strikes Back: My Novel in a Week Update

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Well, if you’re not seeing fireworks at the top of this post, it means I did not finish my novel in one week. The plan was to write 3,000 words starting on Sunday, and then add another 1,000 words on top of that number all the way until Saturday. I failed. Miserably.

But does that mean I’m a failure? Hardly.

I still clocked over 12,000 words, and counting. Before I started writing this post I just added another 531 words. And I will keep going until the book is finished. I didn’t finish it in a week, but I will finish it. It’ll just take a lot longer. No biggie.

I’ll see how much of it I can get done throughout the month of April. That’s on top of finishing up a work-for-hire nonfiction e-book for a paying client. So we’ll see. But just because I didn’t pull it off this time around doesn’t mean I can’t do it eventually. And I learned some things from the process. I’ll be talking about those things–and some interesting backlash that I and, to a greater extent, Dean Wesley Smith received as part of this journey in another blog post.

Until then, keep watching the skies.

Q&A Video

Here’s the first of hopefully many videos I’m going to do. In this one I answer some questions about writing and comics from some of my Facebook friends. Enjoy.

Spitting in Entropy’s Eye: How I Plan to Write a Novel in a Week

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Yes, you read that right. I said a week. I may not be able to do it. In fact, it probably will take me much longer than a week to write an entire novel. But that’s not the point. Let’s get right into it, and I’ll explain.

The Novel in a Week Structure

I got this idea from longtime writer Dean Wesley Smith, who is not only writing his novel in a week right now, but is creating a book about the experience. I got the basic formula from him, and it goes a little something like this:

On the first day, write 3,000 words. Then add 1,000 words to that total every day for seven days, up to 9,000 words. So at the end of the seven days you end up with a 42,000 novel. Which still isn’t long as novels go, depending on the genre. But it’s still firmly in novel territory, and pretty good for a week’s work. If you write door-stopper epic fantasies where 42k doesn’t even get you to the first plot point, then you’re still going to have quite a ways to go, but for the rest of us, knocking out a short novel this quickly can be a game changer in so many ways.

And for my hypothetical epic fantasist, banging out 42k words in a week’s time is still nothing to sneeze at, and you’ll get your next book (or your first) out that much faster.

But Why?

That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? And a reasonable one to ask. After all, writing a book is so beyond the mainstream for most of us. Tell someone you’re getting up and going to work and nobody bats an eye. It’s what you’re supposed to do. But tell someone you’re going to climb a mountain, write a symphony, or give shoes to poor kids in Africa, and all of a sudden you’re some kind of a weirdo.

Well, I’ll tell you why.

I’ve always been fascinated by people who do cool shit for no apparent reason. Maybe they wear a funny hat to work, or they cook every dish in Julia Child’s cookbook and then blog about it. Maybe they scale a mountain or write a symphony. Or write a symphony about mountains while scaling fish. Whatever. The point is that they do something, and in so doing allow this crazy old world to make just a bit more sense.

I love writing dares, as I call them, for this reason, because they combine my love of writing with this kind of weird public or semi-public spectacle. Like Harlan Ellison writing stories from scratch in bookstore windows. Or Ray Bradbury writing a short story a week for an entire year in order to learn how to write. It’s impossible to write fifty-two bad stories in a row,” he reasoned. And I think I’ll have just as much to learn from my novel-in-a-week writing experience as a young Bradbury did writing short stories all those years ago about carnivals and dwarfs and jar babies and dinosaurs and Halloween.

Kill the Mystique

I’ve been reading the aforementioned Dean Wesley Smith’s blog for a long time now. I’ve “watched” over his shoulder as he runs his writing and publishing business with his wife, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, which includes writing workshops and one–soon to be two–retail stores. I watched in July how he wrote a short story per day for most of the entire month. I’ve seen him bang out books in record time. While we disagree on some of the particulars (I’ll get to those in a minute), one thing Dean is always saying is that writing books is nothing special. A book is not an event. It’s just a book. One of many throughout Dean’s own 40 plus year career. It doesn’t come fully formed from the brilliant writer’s fevered brain after a lightning strike of inspiration from on high. It simply is. Maybe the writer writes it to pay rent and put food on the table. Maybe he writes it because he must. But whatever the reason, that book is just one of many. And nobody needs that fact drilled into their skull more than this guy right here.

I need to take the ego out of the equation. I need to get the idea of a book as a major event out of my head. I need to get the book I want to write out of my head and onto the page. Because nothing else happens until that occurs. If I am going to eventually make a viable business of this, I need product on the shelves. And that means writing a lot of books. One after the other.

Because Why Not?

This is a crazy world we live in. Things fall apart. The center cannot hold. The old gatekeepers are dying, replaced with faster, sleeker predators ready to eat their lunch. People are running off to join ISIS for crying out loud. Well, I do not believe we need to destroy the world in order to save it, or that the only way to fix things is by turning it into a mirror of our own egomaniacal image. I believe we need to add value to the world by creating something beautiful. Something that outlasts us.

I want to spit in Entropy’s eye. I hope you will join me, or just hang out over my shoulder to watch the fireworks. So grab some popcorn and get comfy. It’s going to be interesting.

Stay tuned for a few tips of how to do something like this yourself. Post your writer dare in the comments.