[Reblog] What I’ve Been Reading And How It Disproves Some Common Self-Pubbing Wisdom

I’ve commented on this quite a lot myself.
I don’t believe that a great many bits of “self-publishing wisdom” are anything but nonsense.

I’ll admit, I’ve a photographic memory, so I don’t have to hear of something multiple times to remember it.  And hearing about something multiple times doesn’t make me read it.  I’ve heard of Name of the Wind several times.  My wife has a copy and has informed me repeatedly that I really ought to read it.  I haven’t yet.  I intend to because aspects and quotes from it seem interesting, and I’ve found Pat Rothfuss to have a rather charming and engaging way with words that I hope translates into his fiction (not everyone’s does; I rather like John Scalzi‘s blogposts more than his fiction, for example).

I strongly suspect that, in reality, most people select a book because

A) Someone whose tastes in books they respect recommends it.  This is why I read about half of what my wife recommends to me: she has peculiar tastes that sometimes overlap mine.  I give her time to tell me enough about them first.  I don’t know why she so rarely reads what I recommend as she is wont to loving anything I finally convince her to.

B) They notice it because it’s interesting looking.  AKA: Browsing.  Neat cover art, catchy title, whatever.  It calls to them.  I suspect that, unless the person has disposable income to actually impulse by us$10+ that this works better in libraries, or bookstores conducive to sitting down and finding out if you like a book first (yay ebooks and the sample thing!!)

C) They saw the movie/tv series.  Hey, it’s why I read Game of Thrones.  Now, I need to get around to reading the second book … though it’s been a few years since I read the first or watched the first season … as in … did I ever watch series 4?  I know I haven’t 5 and 6 and what are they on now?  It was back then I read it.

D) They love the author.  I love Terry Pratchett and search for his books when I’m eager for something to read.  I have other authors with books I love that I approach with caution because they have books I do not love.  Spider Robinson, J R R Tolkien (I really don’t like LotR that much, except for Fellowship of the Ring), and others.

E) I forget.  I’ve been ill and my head aches so I’m going to just stop writing, format this, and go have some coffee.  Don’t forget to read Ms Haddock’s blogpost which inspired this, excerpt is below and there is linkage to the rest … which is about 3-5x the excerpt … no, seriously, it’s a little long.

What I’ve Been Reading And How It Disproves Some Common Self-Pubbing Wisdom

(Damn, am I good at short and pithy titles or what?)

Long story short, I live in a place that is not exactly conducive to either reading or writing. To somewhat mitigate the negative effect this has on my sanity, I’ve been spending a couple of afternoons a week at the library.

Now, was my OCD still completely out of control, I have no doubt what I’d be doing is working my way through my over 1400 book long “to read” list on Goodreads. Since my OCD is more-or-less managed right now though, instead I’ve been wandering pretty aimlessly through the library and reading whatever grabs my interest at the time.

So, here’s a list of books I’ve either read or at least read a significant portion of in the past few weeks (There’ve been others I’ve tossed aside after a chapter, usually non-fiction that was blatantly stupid or dry enough that the subject matter would have to be something I found very interesting for me to push past it to read the damned thing.) (Goodreads links included, in case any of my readers may wish to find out more about any of these.):

Source: What I’ve Been Reading And How It Disproves Some Common Self-Pubbing Wisdom

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Ready or Not on sale now

Ready or Not (concept only)Ready or Not is now on sale!

This does not include the print edition, sadly.  I’m having arguments with the layout for no reason that makes logical sense.  It should only be another few hours to couple of days.

Too the various ebook retailers take their own variable time-frames to put the book on their virtual shelves.  If your favourite doesn’t have it yet — give it a few more hours.  If it isn’t there by 6pm US/Eastern then please contact me.  Odds are I already know about it, but can’t hurt to make sure.

 

Available now for us$3.99 (and various proportionate prices in various other countries and currencies) from:

smashwordsibooks-button-graphicallromanceebooksdt-fiction3dwebnookkindle-logo

 

 

 

Which character is the author?

Among the many odd questions an author is often asked one of the oddest is some variation on “Which character is you?”

It’s so very strange to be asked this – because depending how you look at it, either all of them or none; unless, of course, I happen to have a character who is a shy author named Jaye Em Edgecliff that lives in Georgia and writes teen fiction.

On the one hand, they are all me.  They do, after all, come from my own hand and head.  They may be inspired by any number of things from notions and ideas to other fictional characters I encounter in my reading or watching a movie to real people I’ve met or seen or read about.  In the end, though, they’re my perceptions of those people.  Even if we assume the ficton view of reality wherein all of these characters are very much alive and real somewhere, it doesn’t change that the story on the page is my perception of those very real people.  By that measure, all the characters are me.  They’re all my perceptions of right and wrong, my perceptions of beauty and kindness, my perceptions of humour and sorrow, and so on.  How I narrate the story is going to highlight those perceptions – they’ll paint who is or isn’t supposed to be a villain and who is or isn’t in love with whom.

More accurately, though, they are a part of me.  My own dreams, desires, thoughts, feelings, experiences, darknesses, prejudices, anger, sorrow, laughter, and all go into shaping the words on the page and little pieces of those go into each little person in the dreamworld of the fiction.

In that sense – unless one of the characters shares my name, my description, etc. none of them are me.  I don’t share a religion with any one of my characters; my political and philosophical viewpoints do not perfectly align with any one of my characters.  Yvette and Lucas like eggplant, Lauren does not – neither do I, but that doesn’t make Lauren me.

I’m not sure what the point in asking such a question is.  I have written characters who share nothing with me, personally, beyond morphologically – they’re human shaped, not even actually human, just shaped this way.  I often write characters with different beliefs, different outlooks on life and everything else; major and minor characters, protagonist and antagonist alike.  I assume that this is mostly true of many authors.  I suppose we all, somewhere along the way, do write our views and thoughts into things.  This character or that one will say some brilliant line that perfectly parallels our own views.  Sometimes, if we feel strongly on a matter, we might write a protagonist who shares fully in our outlooks and thoughts; still, I do not believe that means the characters are ourselves – I’ve yet to meet any author who is writing purely from personal experience, using the Dragnet names changed and slightly tweaked reality to write their novels.  Oh, they exist, certainly, but I believe there’s a good reason they’re rare:  most people who live that interesting a life write memoirs, not novels.

So, in answer to the question – no, neither Lauren, Sally, Yvette, Lucas, Allison, Sarah, Lisa, Lucy, nor anyone else you have met or ever will meet in my stories is me, unless there’s ever a quiet author named Jaye … then maybe, but she’s shy and avoids the narrative camera like it’s carrying a plague.

5 more stars!

For those suspicious I’ve made this up, you can see it for yourself at Amazon here and here.

It really is lovely to see things like this.  It’s very heartening to see when the characters evoke something within the reader like this.

I may have mentioned the one from October already — I suddenly can’t recall.  I know I’d meant to, so I’m mentioning it now to be sure.

The newest one is something that is very uplifting to an author.  Just as with my three star review, I’m very proud of this one — not because of the rating (though I can’t say I’m displeased with it ;)) but rather because it’s nice to know that one has created something that really jives with certain people’s lives and experiences.

And yes, I know the story is a little hard to believe.  That’s the point of fiction, though, it’s always a little hard to believe; I mean you have to swallow a lot of coincidences of one form or another — but then again, life is full of those coincidences.  It’s why people say truth is strange because fiction has to make sense; trouble is, the odds don’t normally work out so conveniently in regards of both good and bad, so the job of a writer is to balance the amazing coincidences with the day-to-day expectations to make them ignorable, or to play magician and keep distracting you from them by sufficient waving of wands and flashing of shiny things.

For those awaiting Ready or Not will be happy to know that it is, so far, still on track for release between Easter and June.  I know that’s a frustratingly vague range, but I promise to do all I can to have it somewhat more specific date by the end of January.

5.0 out of 5 stars None, October 29, 2013
This review is from: Love or Lust (Now & Forever) (Kindle Edition)

Wonderfull book. I could not but i down. I have read it twice now i love it so much. Hopefully the next one come out soon. Can’t wait to see what happens next.

5.0 out of 5 stars Great read, December 8, 2013
By
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: Love or Lust (Now & Forever) (Kindle Edition)

Great story even if it is a little hard to believe. This book really hit close to home while reading what “Pixie“ was going through. Just about every gay person goes through having those fears and freak out a as she did. I really hope their story does continue into another book. I know I’ll be watching for it.

Show & Tell

Show, don’t tell” it’s something you’ll find a certain class of critic and some writers repeating over and over.  It sounds good too; I mean, if I only tell, the story will be rather short.  To tell Now & Forever: Lauren and Sally meet, they fall in love, there’s some crap because they’re lesbians in modern America and because they attend a religious private school, they overcome it, they graduate and live happily ever after.

Not too exciting is it?  Needless to say, I’ve got some showing to do.

Like most writing advice, ‘show, don’t tell’ is a fantastic guideline.  It, like everything else, cannot be a hard and fast rule.  Even the Rules of English Grammar, high and mighty they may be, are malleable in the crucible of creativity; just be sure you violate them on purpose, not by mistake.

Writing is a game of show and tell.  Humans are visual and auditory creatures.  We are not predesigned to communicate by little glyphs on paper or monitor, we just have the capacity to discuss a codified system of describing our natural communications methods in a symbolic fashion – we call this ‘writing’.

You’ll see mention of ‘invisible words’.  There are no invisible words.  There are words more or less obvious in the course of a sentence, but ‘a sentence’ versus ‘the sentence’ holds different meaning.  ‘Said’ is not invisible.  If I ‘say’, “I am going to the store,” then you will picture in your mind a different volume, tone, and such than if I ‘yell’, “I’m going to the store,” or ‘exclaim’, or ‘shout’, or ‘scream’.  Each word conveys a different context.  I show the dialogue “I am going to the store” but I tell the description of how I say it.  When writing fiction, you use the same language you would use to tell a story to your friends face to face – you will use it slightly differently, yes, but there’s a reason that both practices are called ‘storytelling’.

Some say it insults the reader’s intelligence to tell how something is said, others just simply don’t like adverbs so will use an adjectival phrase that has precisely the same meaning as the adverb.  The adverb is brevity, it’s pacing.  ‘She asked coyly’ is the same as ‘in a coy tone, she asked’.  One just pads the word count out a bit.  True, in some cases, the latter might hold a better sound or rhythm, so you may well choose it over the former, but the opposite could also be said.

The key to writing, and it doesn’t matter what you’re writing, from an IM to an epic series of novels, you are engaging in symbolic human speech.  You must consider how your punctuation, use of formatting, use of word choice, and – when need be – use of adverbs and adjectives will come across to the reader.  If you have no specific in mind, then you can keep some things neutral:  ‘I’m off to the store,’ she said.  But if it’s important that all readers hear that line in their minds the same way because it is critical to the moment you might try: ‘I’m off to the store,’ she sobbed.

You’re not insulting the readers’ intelligence by either confirming what they suspect, or by guiding them subtly down the infinite branches of probable scenarios that something could contain.  “Stop it,” she growled as the man kicked her harder.  Is different than “Stop it,” she whimpered as the man kicked her harder.  In this case, clearly the context up to this was a fight; this poor woman is being beaten.  In the former example, she is getting angry, she is hurting but she’s pissed and likely about to retaliate; in the latter she is in suffering in pain, pleading for succour from her assailant’s aggression.

The language we use in our storytelling is vital.  We must paint our scenes, scenarios, and situations for an audience who is not privy to the inner workings of our own imaginations.  Even when writing non-fiction, there should be an eye to what the reader will ‘hear’ in their mind as they read as you still must be certain that your text conveys with it the meaning equal to the lesson you’re providing.

It’s been said, and it might be true, that prose has suffered in the age of the word processor.  In the days of longhand and typewriter you would carefully narrate your tale, leading to accolades of the brilliant prose and resulting in your story reading as though some invisible storyteller were, indeed, speaking your words.  In the age since the word processor – both the devices (for those old enough to remember them) and the software – we treat our text as pieces of a mosaic, something we can shuffle around and turn and tug until we have the picture we desire.  I can’t say, myself, my approach is the same regardless how I compose the text, but I can say that there seems to be a distinct difference between the average piece of fiction of old compared to one of today in regards to how comfortably it can be read aloud … though I will say that some of the books of greatest impact seem to read more like older tales, than newer, and have a more tangible voice in the narrative.

We each write like that which we most enjoy reading, but the thing to keep in mind is that there are no rules.  If you don’t want to show something, because it isn’t important beyond the acknowledgment: this happened, then just tell.  Remember, if your character’s reaction, tone, expression, etc. is important, then be certain to say what it is.  Show and tell, we cannot communicate in the written English without doing both.  Not all people see the same body language, the same situations, from the same point of view, be sure to tell your audience just what is going on.  The argument that “no one on TV says, ‘I’m really upset now’” is a very daft argument about text; on TV we can see and hear that they are angry, and you can bet that the script has something like:  Helen:  Angry with Jillian.  Can we get the hell out of here now?!

Keys to characterisation

I’ve discussed charactisation before, but only in reference while discussing other thing — I think.  Honestly, by now, I’ve got enough posts it’d take me days of reading to be sure what all I’ve discussed already.  Not really sure what that says … hopefully something good, though.

Still, characters are important to a story.  Characters can give you a plot, they can give you conflict — if you have your characters and know them well, you absolutely have a story, because your characters will wander hither and yon to various adventures you never once dreamt you might find yourself writing.

How, then, do we get these characters?  These beings which live and breathe and carry the story for you such that you need only hang on to your pen for dear life whilst trying to keep up?

Believe in them.  Well, that’s step two or three actually.

Stan Lee‘s advice on this subject is good:  Start with a name.  I don’t always do this.  Sometimes I start with an idea.  This isn’t quite a description.  I might start with ‘video game playing nymph’ or ‘teen half-vampire’ or ‘high school aged ballerina’.  Then I … I suppose one might say I hold auditions.

Meet your characters.  Really.  Don’t force anything.  Don’t tell them, ‘your hair is green.’  Don’t tell them, ‘you hate chocolate.’  Never do this.  Let them tell you, ‘I dye my hair green.’  Let them say to you, ‘ugh!  Chocolate is disgusting!’

Why?  Maybe they’re allergic to chocolate!  Maybe their favourite colour is green.  Maybe they’re into punk rock.  Maybe they like to dye their hair green, then frost it, spike it, then put on a flannel & jeans to go out two-stepping to the latest by Tim McGraw, or jam to some reggae.

Of course you know what kind of story you want to write.  So you’ll guide them along, but more to the point — let them guide you along.  They’ll take a simple plot concept and give it depth and complexity, if you let them.  They’ll give you little touches, you’ll find yourself adding a scene of a game of poker, or a conversation about the merits of Astroglide versus K-Y.  You’ll learn that strawberries are ambrosia.

In short:  don’t build your characters, let them build themselves.  Tell their stories and describe them as you go along.  You might learn things abou them that don’t belong in the story — jot this down in a notebook for later — you’ll learn things about them that the reader will learn with you.  Somethings you’ll learn and will become more relevant later — you knew it before the reader did, it happens.

Does this sound crazy?  Possibly a little nonsensical?  Maybe it is.

Thing is, most things will go into long, long disserations on characterisation and how to build a good character, how to build them to be believable.  They’ll do things like say ‘you must give them three flaws’, or ask stupid questions about what’s in their pockets or refridgerator.  What’s in their rubbish bin, and other stupid nonsense.

Honestly, that gets you nowhere and gets detrimental.  If you have a complete dossier on your character before you ever put pen to paper (beyond that which was necessary to record said dossier, of course), you run a major risk — you could be inclined to try to use all of that data.  You could info-dump this dossier into your book.  Bad move.  I’m not saying you can’t, if you’ve the kind of mind that likes to gather all the data and such before you start — planning just isn’t my cuppa — but you must be cautious to a) remember to dole the info out only as it becomes important, relevant, or interesting — don’t offload it in chunks needlessly and b) don’t build it from a template, gather the dossier the same way an FBI or CIA agent might, by spying and observing.

If, in your mind, this person is a person.  Too complex to sum up.  If they live and breathe, if they have hopes, dreams, loves and hates, if they like to curl up with a bowl of cheesy popcorn and watch corny old westerns on Saturday nights …

Just don’t force it.  Don’t sit down with character questionaires.  Maybe sit down with them once you know the character, and see what they’d say if they were asked these questions (most of the time they’ll be much more flippant — Q: ‘what’s in your bin?’  A: ‘trash’).

People will disagree — to some, it’s important to build the character, that she grow according to a prescribed formula and that she be three dimensional according to very specific key rules.  C’est la vie, if there was any single right or wrong way to write all stories would be the same and one day a computer, fed a few data variables, would churn out novels in some production line fashion.

Now & Forever ABCs (Marcus)

Marcus Lee Jackson

5 February 1996
Discordian (Lapsed)

Marcus is a very flamboyant, and effervescent young man. He loves life, he loves to joke, and he loves confusing people.

He will happily inform anyone who cares to ask, and many who don’t, that yes — in fact — he is just as gay or more so than he acts, especially if the person is an attractive male. He, needless to say, has quite a sense of humour where his sexuality is concerned.

When he isn’t acting like the poster child for why and how Drugs are Bad, he’s a generally quiet and well-read boy. He’s not terribly academic, and his love of reading extends exclusively to fiction, but he reads a wide and eclectic variety of genres, and authors.

Like Lauren he plans to make dancing his career, though unlike her he has little interest in the theory of dance, only in the techniques and as such intends to forego college in favour of auditioning for a career on Broadway or, frankly, any stage that’ll have him.

Neil Gaiman’s 8 Rules

Gaiman’s 8 Rules

These, by and large, are really common sense,. But really that’s why I absolutely love reading Neil Gaiman. Not his books, though several of his are on my to-read list, the only one I’ve managed to get around to yet is Good Omens (very awesome, by the way), I mean him.

Really it does all boil down to: If you want to write, have a story or, better yet, have characters and see what story they present you and then try to keep up.

Write! You’ll never get your story told if you put it off.

Once writing, keep at it. I add the corollary of get the idea down, if not now, ASAP! You may truly not be able to get it down right as it happens. Maybe you’re making love, or driving, or cooking, or skydiving. Inspiration hits at inconvenient moments, but as soon as you can spare a moment get it down. Don’t wait. If you wait you’ll forget the tiny key that made it brilliant and you’ll be left with something flat and lukewarm instead of the vivid fizz that might have made that scene one of the greatest of all time.

Finish. See it through to the end. Even if you have to backtrack several times, even start from the beginning again and again. See it through. If you believe in the story tell it.

Write your story. Once upon a time a brilliant story would be published by someone. These days the major publishers are a bit hung up about genre and marketing and other things, but the beauty of today is you can put it out yourself or find a smaller publisher who is looking for brilliance, not trends. Jo Rowling, Stephen King, and Terry Pratchett should write those stories, you shouldn’t, and any agent or editor who tries to convince you to twist your story into that of someone else, fire them. Walk away and find another.

I love what he says too about having friends read it and how to take their advice. It’s quite true too. In one story I wrote, one friend simply asked questions about a scene – it was a scifi tale with odd paper, but she didn’t grok it. I looked at the scene and realised I knew what it meant, and some folks who were fans of certain SF, the newest example of which is Firefly did too, but to everyone else I had to explain the scene for them to get it. I rewrote it. More brilliantly than I’d had it. Another friend, though, pointed out specific passages and started suggesting changes. His suggestions hurt the narrative, broke the flow, and glitched the carefully wrought illusion of reality to bring the reader’s mind back to the fact they’re merely taking in words on a page. He was, in short, horribly wrong.

No matter if you read his work I do suggest one make a point to read his thoughts and anecdotes as much as you can. He’s almost always fun, and so often wise and … bloody brilliant. Take these rules for writing. Now extrapolate them. Make them apply to other things in life. See the wisdom yet?