Monday, October 28, 2013

What I'm Not

I'm not a writer dying to be published. I already am. I am self-published and proud of it. Nobody forced me into it and I knew it would not be quick and simple. My biggest fear was never having anything read that I had written. I wanted my voice out there so I put it out there. I'm never going to apologize for that. I'm not a writer who is longing to be published to the esteemed New Yorker. I'm not a writer who feels that exclusivity is a bench mark and that rejection is a totem of climbing success. I'm not a writer concerned about how many degrees you have. You want to impress me? Turn a blank page into something creative.
That will impress me. 

I'm not a writer who toils for years on the perfect modern american novel. I used to think that was what a writer was supposed to be all about. I was highly misinformed. I'm not a writer who will tell you to quit or that there are too many books out there in the ether. I've read amazing stories and have been wowed in many unique ways a thousand times over. Sure there are a lot of books out there. But yours is not out there yet and it needs to be. I'm not a writer who will settle for the notoriety of having written something. I want to support my family writing interesting stories to the amusement of the masses. That's what I'm all about. And I happen to want to write a lot. 

I'm not a writer who will write the same predictable story again and again. I am always striving to write something different; to venture further away from my comfort zone. in doing this I've discovered that approaching each story with a different eye gives the material that much more vibrancy and life. Never be comfortable. Always be willing to change and try something new.

I'm not a writer who believes that you only have one good story in you. Count up all the times you've played the 'What If?' game in your head. I bet it was more than one time. I'm not a writer who will buy reviews, no matter how tempting that might be. You wanna review something of mine? Fine with me. If its a five star review, that will put a smile on my face for a while but it will do nothing for me in the long run. If its a 3 to 1 star review filled with constructive feedback I may brood over it for weeks but in the end I will dust myself off and try to win you back with the next title. I'm not a writer who will offer you runaround advice on how to write. I'm gonna give you exactly what I learned and when I learned it and tell you straight out that you might find a different formula but so long as words get on the page, you've done something right. I'm not a writer who will slow down and take it easy. People have been telling me to take it easy my whole life. If I wanna fill up my tank and take a journey through a landscape of words leaving behind a lengthy back-list of written works in my wake then who are you to tell me to slow down? 

I'm not a writer who will compromise on story. If a story is engaging and rips an emotion from you, then that story has become a part of you and I believe that someone else needs to experience that same visceral feeling. I'm not a writer who believes this is art. This is work. A lot of work. And you know what comes after all that hard work? An income. If you've published hundreds of short stories to countless magazines and in the end you are dirt poor, you need to start selling your stories on the streets. Maybe then, through stomping those streets, you'll see how much more profitable and rewarding it is to talk directly to readers about your stories. I'm not a writer who supports these "Get Rich Quick On Kindle Scheme" ebooks. They are taking advantage of you and are simply driving up their sales on the backs of desperate people. I am not a writer who will ever write a How-To Book on writing. A memoir of writing, perhaps that's in the cards. But how can I possibly tell you how to write a book when I myself am constantly learning new things?

I am not a writer easily dismayed by dwindling sales or lackluster feedback. You ignore me, I'm just going to keep showing up. I'm not a writer who is going to charm you. At the end of the day, if you are driven to read something of mine and want to talk about it or the act of writing itself, then you have my full undivided attention. I'm not a great writer. I would say I'm a competent one. I've weaved enough story ideas that when I explain them to people, they scoot forward and are nearing the edge of their seats. That's why I do this; for the thrill of connecting with readers.

I am not a lot of things. What I am is a writer with heart. And if you've just read this and feel inspired to start writing yourself, then I bet that you have some heart too.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

When To Bail Out

It's never easy but sometimes you have to recognize when to bail out of a story.
I have to admit there are times when I work really hard on the structure of a story...then come back to it six months later.
As a boy, it was difficult for me to learn cursive writing. I hated it. But I tried to stick with it and my teacher slightly frightened me when she said, "In cursive writing you must always keep your pen on the paper with every word. Do not lift up your pen in the middle of a word. You are essentially bailing out. If you do this, I will know it."
That haunted me for a while because keeping pen to paper was a challenge to me. But there were days when I did lift the pen. And you know what happened? My teacher never even noticed. I got good marks on my cursive and my little felony of lifting the sacred pen went unaddressed.
I'm not saying that that makes me an expert and that I should pursue a life of crime in forgery. I'm simply saying that if you feel that you need to bail out of a story, it is perfectly okay.
Either you have to bail out because you need to abandon the story completely because it doesn't work or you need time for the idea to settle and meld better so that you can come back to it later.
When writing my first science fiction novel, there were several times I had to bail out and walk away, promising myself that I would return to finish the story. In order to blend myself back into the story, I reread everything I had written before. So if I had 200 pages written, I'd sit down and read all of them before I wrote another word. It was tedious, but I felt needed.
There have also been times where I had to bail out of a short story because initially, the idea was interesting but it didn't come out on the page. I would actually say out loud, to an empty room, "What the hell is this? What was I thinking? This is just a bunch of words on a page. A word salad. There's no story here. Time to get outta this mess."
But I learned something crucial to writing: Always make sure that when you come back to the page, that the same passion, drive, inspiration and creativity come back with you. It will be a challenge but one that will ultimately be rewarding in the long run. And it will appear seamless. Like you never lifted the pen from the paper at all.