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WHEN YOU DON’T SELL A THING REVISITED

August 11, 2021

            By the time this gets published, I’ll have just participated in my first book event since COVID hit. It’ll be interesting to see how things panned out. It was called the Local Author’s Literary Fair and was conducted at the main public library here in Las Vegas. Will I have been successful? If so, I’ll tweak this accordingly. In the meantime, I think it’s a good time for a revisit.

INTRO

For those of you that’ve published books, by whatever means, there comes a time when you have to get out in the world and sell them…or at least attempt to.

            If you’re like me, you still have to work for a living. Even if not, you likely as not try to stay local. That means signing up for as many (or as few, depending on how active you want to be) book signing events as you can. If you live in an isolated area, that may mean zero events, but let’s consider a reasonable in-between situation.

            These events can be invitation only, or sign-up-until-there-are-no-slots-left.

            I can tell you they’re almost always a mixed bag. You never know what kind of crowd, if any, you’re going to get.

PRE-PUBLICITY

            At an event I attended a few years ago, while sitting around waiting for people to show up, we discussed pre-publicity. We were not sure how the organizer publicized the event for us, but as authors, we did our parts as much as we could. However, what does this mean?

            As for myself and many of my co-authors, we relied on social media to put out the word. The flaw with this idea is that we pretty much preached to the choir, to borrow a well-worn cliché. What does this mean? It means that we basically advertised to friends, family, and people that have already bought our book or books! At best, we might see a few of them at the event for moral support, or they might actually buy a book from another author. There’s that possibility.

            On the other hand, I mentioned in an earlier article how I spent significant bucks on pre-publicity on Facebook for my book signing at the local Barnes & Noble. Though it was a successful event, not a single person who showed or bought my book heard about it through Facebook! I know, because I asked.

            That begs the question: Why spend money on a social media blast for an event where there’s a good likelihood nobody at all will show up? I think the gamble would be better at the local slot machines (I live in Las Vegas, after all).

THE CROWD

            Sometimes you can just tell when you’re setting up that things are probably not going to go well. You always hope for the best, but since I’m a glass is half full type person, I get the mindset that I’m there for networking. Then, if I sell one book, it’s a better than total success.

            When and if people start showing up, your job is to get them to your table. This is where reading them comes in handy as well. Standing around your table yelling at them to come over doesn’t always cut it. Some people you can just tell have no interest in your stuff. You can wave at them, say hi and invite them over, but if they give you that “look,” don’t press it. If they surprise you later and wander by, fine. If not, move on to the next person, if anyone comes along at all.

            Sometimes, the crowd is so sparse, you end up with other authors wandering by to say hi. This is the networking aspect of the event. Take advantage of that so the event isn’t a total loss.

            If someone stops by to look at your stuff, be prepared! Show interest, have your pitch ready, and make sure to give them your business card(s) and try not to look too disappointed when they nod and move on.

            As I’ve said before, just sitting there twiddling your thumbs, reading, or with your face in your cell phone isn’t going to attract people. On the other hand, even if you have a big crowd of people traipsing by, you can say “hi, what do you like to read” until you turn blue in the face, but if they just walk on by, avoiding eye contact, or make a bee-line to a certain author, don’t press it.

            Oh, and don’t forget the candy bowl, or something to entice them to stop by. At this particular event, I had plenty of takers.

THE PERSON PARTNERED WITH YOU IS MAKING A KILLING

            We’re a diverse bunch, we writers, and nobody writes the same book. That means, if you’re sharing a table, or sunshade, or booth with another writer, don’t be surprised if your partner sells like hotcakes and you don’t. It goes with the territory.

            Just remember that it could very easily be the other way around, and one day it will be.

            One time it just happened to be his day and not mine. I was very happy for my friend. He well-deserved it.

            On the other hand, at this most recent event, we tied and both sold two books.

WHAT TO GET OUT OF A NO-SALE EVENT?

            Folks, when you’re a no-name author, which unless you’re with the big six, or on the New York Times best-seller list, face it, that’s you, pretty much, you’re going to attend book events where you’re hot and cold.

            I’m sure in comparative ways, this even happens to the big names at times, and it certainly did when they were starting out.

            When any author sells nothing at all, what to do?

            No, and I mean NO event is for nothing.

            Why?

            You were there.

            Your name was on the marquee or publicity flyer.

            People saw you there.

            Other authors saw you there.

            You talked to other authors and networked.

            You may have connected with and caught up with old friends.

            You must’ve learned at least ONE tidbit of info that may or may not be useful to you in the future.

RESULT

            I just had a two-book sale event. All of the above was true as well. Since I sold two books instead of just one, I consider it a resounding success, instead of just a success. Two is better than one is better than zero.

            Until then, happy writing!

DEPICTING RACES IN A FANTASY WORLD

August 4, 2021

            This article isn’t about what we would normally consider race in the real world, such as African American, Latino, Asian, etc. While it could encompass that, this is more about employing some of the classic races or creatures, or icky bugs such as elves, dwarves, fairies, and such, drawn from Lord Of The Rings, Dungeons & Dragons, or other fairy tale and/or fantasy lore.

            A question that comes up a lot is people asking about portraying these (or even more) creatures accurately.

            Accurately? In a made-up fantasy world? Are you serious?

STICKING TO CONVENTION

            When it comes to world building and research, this can be a two-edge sword. When writing fantasy, to me, at least, it’s kind of the point to make up the world. Therefore, any research involved is not so much races and creatures, it’s realistic physical things like castles and flora and fauna and sword fighting and geography, and basic science UP TO A POINT.

            To me, in a made up world, you well…make it up. The only catch is that you have to have some basis for reality as a starting point before you can go off the rails, then it has to make some kind of sense. When you make up rules, you have to make sure these rules are based on logic and you stick with them. That requires you have at least an inkling of the real world before you bend things for your fantasy world. That’s where convention veers into fantasy.

            When it comes to fantasy races and creatures, there never was much basis on reality in the first place! Therefore, why in the world are you bothering with convention in your made up world?

FANTASY RACES HAVE LITTLE BASIS IN REALITY

            This is the biggie.

            Fantasy races and creatures have little to no basis in reality. They all came from fairy tales, legends, and most were just plain made up.

            A few were obviously based on reality such as dwarves. Then again, given the way they’re portrayed in fantasy, they’ve gone far astray of reality in many cases.

            If you’re building a world and are sticking to convention because you don’t want to be called on it, my question is why?

            It’s your world! It’s fantasy and is totally made up! There are no rules that say you have to stick with Lord Of The Rings or D&D tradition.

            You don’t have to stick with Grimm specifics for your story.

            While it may be fun to research this stuff, why get uptight about it or freak out because your elves don’t have the correct shaped ears or hair the correct color?

            Why worry because your fairies don’t have the correct color wings or don’t weigh the correct amount?

            Why worry because the dwarves in your world aren’t all miners and some practice magick?

            Why worry if your dragons can’t fly?

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

            In a completely made up fantasy world, even urban fantasy, which is based on fantasy mixed with the real world, you have a free reign to do what you want. There ARE certain conventions you have to follow.

            The biggest one is that IT HAS TO MAKE SENSE, whatever you do.

            That’s it.

            Does it have to comply with Rule #17B of the D&D Monster Manual (I just made that up – not a direct quote) or Lord Of The Rings, Chapter 37, paragraph 44?

            No, it does not.

            Get over it.

SUMMARY

            The reason the genre is called fantasy is because that’s what it is.

            Fantasy.

            It’s a made up world.

            It only has to make sense, and the writer, YOU, has to set rules based on some kind of reality that you set. The biggie is that these rules have to make sense to the reader.

            Sure, they may have to follow convention to some degree, but that’s the physical aspects of the world. The populace doesn’t have to comply with any of that.

            If you’re going to have an elf that’s eleven feet tall, that might be a stretch. Or, maybe a dwarf that comes in at five hundred pounds? Both of these examples compared to normal sized humans are pushing it. Then, you might want to think of another name for them. I’m just saying.

            Happy writing!

NEW IDEA PREDICAMENT

July 28, 2021

            Over the course of the past year or so, just to pick a timeframe, I’d say the subject of working on multiple projects at once has come up at least a half a dozen times on the various forums I participate in. While not the most popular question, it still comes up often enough.

            My usual answer is to stick with one and finish it before you move on.

            Why?

            If you work on multiple projects at a time, you can lose focus, and therefore, the quality doesn’t necessarily win. It’s plain as that. Plus, you can have issues with mixing up stuff between the projects, to the point where you can’t recall which is which.

            How do I know this?

            I’ve done it very early on with short stories.

            Luckily I’ve never had to worry about this with novels…yet.

            Why do I say yet?

MY PREDICAMENT

            Currently, I’m working on a new Meleena novel, Rumblings.

            I’m also doing an edit to my very first novel The Cave.

            Plus, eventually, I need to get back to book #3 of the Meleena series, Across The Endless Sea, which I finished, but which I set aside for a few months, more like a year now, to start the fresh-set-of-eyes edit.

            That’s three projects on my mind.

            As Lloyd Bridges infamous line from Sea Hunt goes, “And then, it happened.”

            Yup, Thursday, a week ago, out of the blue, I came up with a super duper, ultra-spiffy idea for a new icky bug. A supernatural thriller that takes place in Las Vegas. I’d tell you more but I’d have to kill you. At least right now.

            As this idea formulated on Thursday and Friday, I wanted to drop everything and start writing furiously at my new icky bug.

            The issue?

            I had not completely formed either A nor B.

            As of that Friday, I had not decided on a title.

            All three of those things are a big no no before starting ANY story, novel OR short.

            Well…that Friday evening, as I was lying down for bed, about to go to sleep, the title hit me. I also had inklings on how to begin (A) and just the beginnings of the ending (B).

            As of that, Sunday, I still didn’t have a fully formed B yet.

A CROWDED HOUSE

            My plate is already full.

            Okay, The Cave has been sitting since 1995, so if I let it slip for another year or two, it’s not going to matter that much.

            Rumblings is another matter. I’m on a tear with it, creatively. I’m just getting started and my characters are deep into the beginnings of that adventure.

            Across The Endless Sea was the next book to be on the slate for my publisher. Eventually, was going to have to hold off on Rumblings, book four, and get back to Sea and get it ready to submit.

            Oh, and one other thing. Not long before the pandemic, I’d submitted another icky bug, The Greenhouse to my publisher and still had not heard word. After this long, I had a suspicion that it was a big no, but until I got final word, I had to be prepared to make a go with that one if I suddenly got the go ahead to get it ready for publication.

            Then, last week, things got turned on their head. After talking to my publisher, they want me to go back and dig up book number three of my Gold series, Palmdale Gold!

            That’s right, I need to drop everything Meleena and concentrate on the next Detach adventure. The advantages are that I’ve already read Palmdale Gold to the writer’s group, but it was in 2011 or 2012! That means I need to look at it with a fresh set of eyes and a whole lot more experience! Plus, I based it on a real lake. Because it’s privately owned, I needed to get hold of the caretaker. Ever since I wrote the story, I’ve wanted to use the real lake in the story, but the owner didn’t want me to. To avoid getting sued, I changed the name and location of the lake.

            Then, guess what? With another tweak, the publisher also wants another crack at The Greenhouse!

            That means dropping everything else and taking on two books at once. So, while I’m not exactly starting from scratch with either one, that’s still multitasking, just with a slightly less workload.

GENERALLY SPEAKING – MULTITASKING?

            There’s nothing wrong with multitasking. However, how much can you take on and still keep your creativity and originality?

            Since this is a passion and not a hobby, and let’s not get into the differences, which is an entire different discussion, I love to write. I do it because I need to, I have to, and I love to. That all goes without saying. Yet, I also don’t write on any phony self-imposed deadlines, or schedules.

            Now, if you think all of the above sounds like a schedule or deadline, self-imposed or otherwise, it isn’t really. My publisher isn’t pressuring me for the next release. It’s something I want to do, in my own time. I just want to get some things completed because they’re almost already there, but at the same time, I also want to start something new. In the case of both Palmdale Gold and The Greenhouse, I called and asked what they wanted next, so I solicited them. There is still no deadline, but since I just published Spanish Gold early this year, I figured it was time to see what I could get in the pipeline.

            Can I multitask?

            That is the big question.

            Can I multitask and still keep the creativity original and fresh?

            Can I find the TIME to work multiple angles?

            Or, should I stop one thing dead in its tracks, and concentrate on something else, one at a time? If so, will I forget or lose steam on the other stuff?

            Obviously, I can’t stop everything and work on this new icky bug when I now have Palmdale Gold and The Greenhouse to get ready. However, it looks like I’ll have to shelve Across The Endless Sea, Rumblings, and The Cave at least for now due to time constraints, if nothing else.

MY ANSWER MAY NOT BE THE SAME AS YOURS

            Time is not a factor when it comes to my enthusiasm or commitment.

            I wrote the original draft of The Cave in 1995. As I started editing it a few months ago, even bit by bit, the original excitement was still there even after 26 years. It has not ebbed one iota.

            As I’ve had a somewhat erratic writing schedule with Rumblings, has my enthusiasm or creativity waxed or waned when I sat down to write with it?

            Not one iota.

            Time is not a factor for me.

            I could take off a few months or even years to write on any one of my latest masterpieces (ha ha).

            The question is, could you? Could you stop everything and concentrate on your latest, greatest idea? Or, could you multitask and do both?

            Would working multiple projects suck the life right out of your creativity?

            In the case of Palmdale Gold and The Greenhouse, they are both FINISHED manuscripts that just need tweaking. Tweaking is a whole lot different than creating from scratch. Those two can be multitasked just fine.

            My advice still stands for most writers writing entirely new stuff.

            Complete one project at a time. That way you will have at least completed SOMETHING first. I’ve seen way too many writers create half-cocked fits and starts of stuff and in the end, never finish ANYTHING.

            That’s my biggest point.

            There are way too many writers that are great at starting stuff but way too many of them never finish anything.

            Don’t be one of them!

            Happy writing!

TYPOS REVISITED

July 21, 2021

            I last talked about this in 2017, but due to a recently formed forum on Facebook, and through several others, with similar posts, I thought it warranted a revisit. I’m including the original post, tweaked to include the latest info.

I originally blatantly copped this inspiration from a Facebook friend. He ranted that several of his “friends” complained that though he was a writer, some of his posts were full of typos. What gives?

Most recently, another poster who is a total stranger ranted about people who corrected grammar when people speak. This is irritating to the extreme. I’ve seen it in movies and TV, and in real life. It’s like your annoying friend who has to show how intellectual they are.

            Back to regular texts, I’ve talked about typos in past posts, directly and indirectly but in the context of editing.

            In this article, I’ll just talk about typos specifically.

JUSS CUZ YOU’RE A WRITER…

            Maybe this goes back to the days of pen and paper or something. Think technology.

            When people had the time to manually write something with pen/pencil and paper, they had to think about what they were doing in a long-form manner. It took manual dexterity and physical ability, effort to form those letters and words. Because of that, more immediate in-the-moment thought went into every word. An experienced writer, if not on a tear, was more likely to spell correctly way back when.

            Well, maybe. Given some of the hand-written letters and manuscripts I’ve seen, that’s not always a given. There are plenty of examples of glaring typos in manuscripts. Let’s just say, sometimes an author getting on a hand-writing tear could’ve been an example of being in slower motion than in today’s world of the computer keyboard.

            Today, with keyboards, where you can type a mile a minute, it’s a lot easier to create typos. If you don’t go back over every word, every sentence, those little nasties slip by. Sometimes, EVEN WHEN YOU DO go back over what you wrote, something will slip by. This doesn’t even include thumb typing and auto correct on phones. Aaagh!

            There’s an old adage. You see what you thought, not what you wrote.

            You can be the best author in the world, or to be more realistic, the mostest, biggestest most best-selling author in the world. However, by that, you’re that way because you have an army of proofreaders and editors to back you up before any gibberish you write ever gets to print!

THERE’S SELF-EDITING AND THERE’S SPONTANEOUS

            When you’re speaking through writing, off-the-cuff, it comes with all your baggage. We all have typing quirks, no matter how good a typist we are. Some of us are a lot better than others when it comes to tapping keys. The better we are, the fewer “tot he’s” we make (that’s “to the”) or “form” instead of “from” and such… leaving letters off etc. Now, knowing or not even knowing all of our typing quirks, how many make a spontaneous burst, like on Facebook, then go back and self-edit before hitting SEND?

            Yeah, I thought so.

            How many are so sure we already did self-edit and can’t see the forest through the trees?

            How many type with their fingers or thumbs on a phone and have auto-correct as I alluded to above? Have you tried to edit some of that crap and just gave up in frustration when the app keeps trying to correct it back? Yeah, I could rant all day about apps.

REAL-WORLD EXAMPLE

            Back when I originally wrote this article in 2017, I had just launched a new Facebook page to get ready for the first Gold Series novel Lusitania Gold. The page is called Detach And His Search For Gold.

            I worked at a furious pace, did all the preliminaries, uploaded a few images, set up an initial story and had everything set. Then I sent it out and invited a bunch of friends.

            Guess what?

            After inviting what I figured was all my interested friends, I happened to glance at the title of my page.

            Deatch And His Search For Gold.

            Aaaagh! In my haste and quick edit, I misspelled Detach, the main character’s name. I’d just invited a whole bunch of friends to my page and couldn’t even get the spelling of my main character right.

            I was an established author with one book, #2 on the way, and I made a big blunder.

            Typo.

            Aaagh! Double aaagh!

            I fixed the error after going through a process with Facebook to figure out how to do it. Apparently, it wiped out all my invites and I had to do them over again. Maybe those invitees got the invite twice and thought I was dogging them. I don’t know.

            My rush, or maybe forest-through-the-trees mentality caused a semi-embarrassing typo.

            It was semi-embarrassing because I’ve been at this long enough to know that this stuff happens. You can’t beat yourself up about it.

I repeat.

            You can’t beat yourself up about it – stuff happens. So don’t let others.

DON’T LET ANYONE BEAT YOU UP FOR TYPOS, JUSS CUZZ YOU’RE AN AUTHOR

            Just because you’re an author doesn’t mean you can write letter-perfect.

            If that were the case, why would there be editors?

            I rest my case.

            Happy writing!

EVERYTHINGS A CLICHE

July 14, 2021

       I’m sure I’ve talked about this plenty of times in the past, but especially after a movie I watched the other night, everything has been done before and everything is cliché.

            Does that mean that you have nothing to write about?

            Far from it.

            Read on…

THE FIRST ORIGINAL IDEA

            Maybe the first original idea, that we know about, was chipped in stone, or painted on a cave wall. Then again, who’s to say, those authors didn’t cop the idea from someone else in the telling?

            Was their such a thing as influencing, plagiarism, or copying other’s works back in the stone age? Did anyone care?

EVERYBODY INFLUENCES EVERYBODY ELSE

            I have to digress back to rock and roll for my most memorable example.

            One time during an interview, guitarist Richie Blackmore was asked where he came up with some of his guitar licks. He said he stole many of them from other artists.

            That’s right, guitar shredder and god Richie Blackmore admitted he stole licks from other guitarists just like everyone else.

            The same is true for every artist no matter the medium.

            Whether it be directly or indirectly. We all beg, borrow or steal ideas or influences from our mentors, peers, or heroes. We emulate and are influenced in style by those we admire.

THERE’S THIS MOVIE…

            There’s this new movie that just came out.

            It’s loud, full of monsters, and full of cliches.

            It cops a lot of things from a lot of different movies.

            The critics are having a field day with how many things it stole from other movies.

            Those that loved it, including me, don’t care.

            This movie reminded me that once again, not only is everything cliché, but there are few if any original ideas. It’s a matter of how you shove everything together into your own unique blend and make it your own.

            This movie did in such a way that some thought was too close to several similar movies in the past.

            Some people took offense to this. Others could care less.

THINK OF ALL THE BOOKS

            People don’t seem to get so bent out of shape when you have thousands upon thousands of books that come out every year that do exactly the same thing. They all have a plot, they all have characters, they all have some kind of genre. They’re all full of exactly the same things you find in a thousand other similar books.

            Why aren’t people getting so upset about books doing the same thing the movies are doing. Music?

            Okay, in music there are those that sue and in very few cases, they make a case. A melody can go only so far before it becomes a complete copy. In a few cases, the artists demonstrated to a court that the twelve notes, who can be combined in a finite way, were combined in such a way as to be a direct copy. In a few cases, the court was not convinced those same twelve notes were similar enough to be considered a direct copy.

            However, when it comes to thousands upon thousands of words, there are a lot more combinations, which given the much more limited number of plots, genres etc, would seem to still give way to the same thing as music. Plagiarism. However, the big difference between melody and words is voice. I don’t mean vocal quality, but author voice.

AUTHOR VOICE

            There are a finite number of plots, then when you add in genre, it’s those same finite plots just with the face of a genre thrown in. However, what makes every single one of them unique is author voice.

            Author voice can’t be duplicated.

            What can be duplicated is the exact same place, characters, and phrasing. THEN it becomes plagiarism.

            That is so extremely rare as to be almost nonexistent.

            It can happen, but not often. I’ve never actually seen it.

            I have seen many movies that are basically the same thing, yet they’re tweaked enough to be considered different. Same plot, a lot of the same phrasing, but different actors. That’s about it.

            A lot of music is homogenized so it all sounds the same. Same phrasing, same intros, same basic structure. The vocals all have the same quality. The words all talk about the same things. The only differences are a few twists and turns in the basic musicianship and the vocal qualities. Oh, and even many of the album covers look the same. Yet, they’re all just different enough to get away with it.

            Author voice?

            The last thing you should worry about is if what you’re writing about has been done before.

            YES, IT HAS BEEN!

            The last thing you want to get hung up on is whether or not your story has been done before. What you need to concentrate on is writing what you feel, finding your own voice, but also finding your own characters. If you’re not using generic character names, fine. If you are, it might be a good idea to get on Google, or whatever, and look those names up and see if they’ve been used before. A name change might be a good idea!

            The best cure for your trepidation is to read. A lot.

            If you’re writing noir detective, read a lot of noir detective so you not only get a good feel for the genre, but have an idea what you can do so it isn’t a direct copy.

            It goes without saying if you are inspired to write a particular genre, you must love it enough for some reason to be influenced by it. That means, you probably know it well enough not to directly copy someone else. At least I hope not!

            A good healthy mix of genres isn’t such a bad thing either.

SUMMARY

            The fact is that everything is a cliché. What you need to do is figure out what you want to write and forget about the albatross hanging over your head called “am I original?” Nobody is in the big picture. However, everybody is in voice. In a way, that’s really the big picture.

            When someone browses books at the store or online, they go to the mystery section because they love mysteries. They aren’t looking for some unnamed genre that doesn’t exist. They expect mysteries. Think about it.

            Happy writing!

USING FOREIGN NAMES AND TERMS IN YOUR WRITING

July 6, 2021

            Based on one particular forum I participate in, it’s hard enough working in your native language. Since I work primarily with English, I can only speak for that language, but I can imagine that same principle applies to any other language, yet I have no clue if there are perfectionists or language police out there in French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, etc., that culturally or socially allow such a thing as picking apart prose the way we do in English.

            Therefore, I can only apply this to MY native language, English. If your primary language is an “other,” and believe me, the “other” has more deep meanings to me than just language, then present it in your own blog.

            My subject today is using foreign words, or making up words that “coincidentally” happen to coincide with words or terms in other languages.

REAL-WORLD FICTION

            In real-world fiction, the chances are, you, the writer, are more than likely to use real foreign terms for whatever reason. Nothing wrong with that.

            However…

            Are you using that word in the correct context?

            Hmmm…

            For those of you with multi-lingual capability, maybe using such terms is perfectly fine. Maybe since you speak another language, you know the correct context of the word or phrase you are using. That’s fine.

            If you have maybe heard it before, maybe lots before and decide to use it, you have to be careful that the word or phrase you are using is and has been used in the correct context. There’s no law that says others have used it correctly. Certain words and phrases can develop stereotypes of wrong meanings. Therefore, be careful. These words and phrases can develop universally wrong meanings to outsiders, perpetuated by movies and TV and even ahem…books.

            That means, doing a bit of research.

SCIENCE FICTION

            With science fiction, a lot of the words are technical, which tend to not be an issue as much when it comes to foreign words and phrases. There can be coincidence, of course, but it’s all about the context. However, since a lot of science fiction is still rooted in the real world, you should still be careful.

FANTASY

            The world of fantasy is almost a free-for-all when it comes to names, places, and terms. The only caveat to that is that there are so many genres of fantasy, some are rooted in real places. Many of those places have cultures with names, places and terms where real words can be misused, even in a fantasy setting. This is where, despite a made up world, research may be necessary.

            On the other hand, if the world has no basis for reality, then the free-for-all of names, places and terms creates completely coincidental words that may occasionally be real foreign words, less likely phrases.

            Will any of these cause the author grief?

            What if a hero in the story has a name that means something obscene in Chinese? Russian? Laotian?

            How would the author even know if they don’t speak that language?

            The same for any other term.

            There IS no way to know when making stuff up out of thin air. You just have to go with it and not give it a second thought. However, the worst thing to do is try to cover it all up with unpronounceable names with lots of punctuation! Try to keep these made up words simple and don’t even worry about coincidence.

SUMMARY

            Unless using real foreign words and terms, keep in mind that there are millions upon millions of real words out there and you can’t possibly know then all. Therefore, don’t even try. Make up your own words at will and go with it. You can’t be faulted for not knowing every word in existence. You also can’t be expected to get on Google every time you make up a word, especially given that not even Google knows everything! That would make your writing come to a screeching halt. It’s bad enough procrastinating with Facebook, or doing regular research on stuff that really matters!

            Happy writing!

CONFIDENCE IN YOUR WRITING

June 30, 2021

            Do you have self doubt about your writing?

            Are you wallowing in self doubt?

            Is your angst the motivation for your writing?

            Bla bla bla…

            I hear this a lot, you know where (the forums, of course), and while I should be more understanding, I also have a bit of wanting to slap these people on the side of the head and wake them up. Just a little, mind you, because while I’m not there myself, I’m not immune.

            It took me a while to get into my state of confidence, but my story may not be typical.

I FOUND MY CALLING

            I’ve probably never looked at writing the same way as most people.

            Because I was a failed musician, and I DO say that tongue in cheek, I needed another artistic outlet. I already had one, of sorts, with a scroll saw and wood, so I was not completely devoid of things to do. However, in the case of wood, I took already created patterns and simply transformed them to wood boxes since I had no other patterns to go by.

            Yeah, fulfilling for a new hobby to a point. It was, at first, a hobby that turned into a passion over time.

            Writing was different. When it came along around the same time as woodworking, I found it my true calling. It was something I had to do. Why? I guess I’d always had it in me since my first beginnings with the Polka Dot Sewer drawing. From there, mayhem ensued in many different ways. The only issue was that it never found the right outlet until the advent of the computer and keyboard.

MY CONFIDENCE CAME WITH THE DEAL

            It was never that I had any doubts, in particular, it was only a matter of if I could really do it. When I whipped out The Cave, that very first novel, I knew right then I could do it. So, from that point on, I’d not only found my passion, but further mayhem ensued.

            This is where I had my only bit of self-doubt. Not in the fact that I could write, or create stories, but whether I could ever get published. Sure, I wanted to get published. However, with no writer’s group, no guidance, no mentors, I started the query process and of course, got rejected. As many of you know, even AFTER I got an outstanding mentor, two in fact, plus several writer’s groups, plenty of experience, and had accumulated two decades and 689 rejections, you’d think I had some self doubt.

            Nope.

            That self doubt came very early in the process and it had nothing to do with my ability to write.

            IT HAD TO DO WITH NOT BEING ABLE TO GET PUBLISHED.

            I never once sat and contemplated my navel, wondered why I should bother, why it was worth it to waste my time. Why should I bother writing anything? Why should I put two and two together. Everything I write is stupid. Nothing I write makes sense. I have no skill. I’ll never compare to so and so.

            In a nutshell, I didn’t care.

THE COMPLAINTS I SEE

            I could call it whining, but I won’t because in a way, I’ve had small flashes of these same doubts for a brief millisecond. I know where some writers are coming from.

            At the same time, I don’t approach this passion in the same way as others do.

            First off, I don’t believe there’s value in suffering to get the word out.

            In the complaints I see, often it seems to me the writer believes you have to suffer for your art.

            Say what?

            Some people got into writing to have a creative outlet to substitute for some other issue they’re dealing with.

            While I have no issue with them finding a creative outlet to work through other issues, writing should be used as a positive force, not a negative one.

            I see a lot of real clinical depression come through with a lot of the complaints. This has nothing to do with the writing itself, but much deeper issues. Bringing this to a writing forum is the wrong place to go.

            Why should I bother.

            This is so hard.

            Every word I write seems stupid.

            While there are plenty of trolls out there to set them straight, and maybe they should be set straight, are we dealing with clinically depressed people? Who’s to say what the deal is?

            It also goes back to the old deal with people trying to get others to write their story for them. They want to write but don’t want to go through the effort to come up with something original. So, they throw it out to the community to make it up for them.

            What then?

            They now have a bunch of community ideas to choose from, if some of these schmucks are willing to give them away, then this guy or gal runs with it. They don’t own this stuff, the community does.

THE CONFIDENT WRITER

            Setting aside deep candyrock psychedelic profundities, a confident writer is not going to give a crap what other people think, at least not at the outset. I’m not talking a blank wall of supreme confidence. I’m talking someone who knows they can write, not perfectly, but knows they can concoct a decent story that isn’t going to be a nightmare to edit.

            A confident writer isn’t steeped in angst at every page, suffering for their art. They can sit down and hammer out their story and enjoy the process. While they may have doubts about getting it published, they don’t necessarily care. The whole point is to get the story down and worry about the nasty publishing part later. If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen.

            The confident writer may be an already successful one that’s published and has to make deadlines. There may be pressure to come up with original ideas that create self doubts at times, especially if the critiques of the books start to go down toward the negative.

            However, we’re mostly talking about the new or unpublished writers who are starting off, with small presses, or are self-published. YOU are the ones more likely with the most doubts, if any.

            Will people like what you do?

            Do YOU like what you do?

            You SHOULD like what you do. After all, you wrote it!

SUMMARY

            All the navel gazing in the world isn’t going to accomplish anything if you don’t get the story finished.

            All the navel gazing in the world isn’t going to make the story any better if it never gets completed.

            All the navel gazing in the world isn’t going to satisfy you unless you stop it and either fix your mistakes, polish the work, and back away from it knowing you did your best.

            Happy writing!

DISAPPOINTED IN A LEGACY

June 23, 2021

            There’s a certain author that has recently passed away. I love his writing, quirks aside.

            His legacy continues in the form of cowriters. My assumption is that he left many ideas on the shelf and now his family, probably through a corporation, is keeping his name alive through co-authors who run with these ideas.

            So far, several books have been published since his death and they’ve been great. I’ve seen no sign of things letting up. I hope it continues.

            Why?

            The writing quality and style have continued unabated.

WELL…

            The latest book just came out and I’m recently finished it.

            All the bells and whistles were there.

            The problem?

            While the original author has managed to stay away from sex, religion and politics, this particular co-author could not keep his mitts out of the mix.

            This particular co-author used to write some great stuff on his own until his last original book, in which he turned political and ruined his series.

LEAKED PERSONAL BELIEFS INTO A LEGACY

            While historically, there may have been a legitimate reason to include what the co-author did, instead this new book pounds it in at every opportunity, unnecessarily, blatantly giving the author’s viewpoint.

            There was no need for that, not only for the story, but for those that already know where the author is coming from. He’s not going to convert the converted. He’s only going to piss off those that don’t want to listen to preaching. In doing so, he just alienated those into this particular branch of the legacy. What’s worse, he didn’t let up. Right until the end, he continued to rub it in.

SUMMARY

            This deceased author has a reputation for keeping things neutral, from either side, and that’s one thing that attracted me to him decades ago. I’ve known for a long time where he personally stands, but don’t care.

            That’s fine with me because he’s never preached any of that to me whether I agree or not. He hasn’t clouded his great stuff with preaching.

            Now, with co-authors taking up the banner posthumously, those unwritten rules are being thrown out the window.

            Nuff said.

            Happy writing!

EVERYTHING INCLUDING THE KITCHEN SINK

June 16, 2021

            I’ve talked about writing styles.

            I’ve talked about consistency in writing.

            I’ve talked about punishing your reader with your writing.

            I’ve talked about the writing getting in the way of the story.

            I’ve talked about experimenting with different writing styles.

            This time I’d like to talk about throwing everything at the wall and not bothering to separate or clean it up into something coherent. In other words, throwing everything including the kitchen sink at your reader.

            Of course, you may wonder why I bring this up now?

            I recently read a book that, I kid you not, used every writing style imaginable in the same novel.

THE EXAMPLE

            I will not name the book or the author. I already gave my review on Amazon. While I enjoyed the story itself, it was a real struggle so the rating was low.

            What did I see?

            It went from present to past and then present tense again.

            It had zero point of view. The author head-hopped at will. The was no main character but four…no five main characters, and the author interchanged their dialogue and action at will.

            The author abruptly switched to different characters from the main four or five…unrelated ones in first person.

            The author used italics for internal thoughts of minor characters that were so minor, you blinked and missed them.

            In other words, the author threw everything but the kitchen sink as far as writing styles into the story. About the only thing missing was second person, but maybe I just missed it somewhere.

THE RESULT

            Here’s the thing. I’ve been reading for over sixty years now. Before you say I’m just old and set in my ways, consider that nothing I say or have opinions on is new. Nothing as far as style goes is new, no matter what you think. It’s all been done before, many times in the past. First person? Been done. Present tense? Been done. Mixing tenses and styles? Been done. None of this is just a millennial thing or a Gen X or Gen Z thing, so don’t think some gen invented these styles. They’ve been around forever.

            As for me, as a reader BEFORE I was a writer, as a young spud, there were certain books I grew up with that I loved, and some I didn’t.

            Why?

            It wasn’t always the story.

            It was the writing. Why is that?

            Because I had trouble reading them. The writing got in the way of the story.

            That’s right. Some that are considered “classics” I loved because the writing didn’t get in the way of the story, but at the same time some of the classics I found unreadable because the writing DID get in the way of the story.

Then again, I loved the movie.

            Huh.

            It took a long time to figure out why. Once I learned how to write, the light bulb finally came on. That’s when I learned the mechanics of writing and what works and what doesn’t, at least for me, and a lot of other writers and readers. I’ve been doing unofficial polls of people around me that are readers and gleaning this data for decades.

            Just because something is considered a classic doesn’t mean it’s a good or easy read. Maybe it was the first of its kind. Maybe the story was great but with so few people who could read, those that did didn’t know any better. Maybe the movie covered for the fact the writing sucked. Maybe a few of those classics really were written well. Maybe a few of them set the beginnings of the standards we use today.

            So, with that out of the way, what impression did I come away with from this book?

            All I wanted to do is get it finished. I found the story fascinating for several reasons, yet it was so hard and so annoying to put up with the crap the author was throwing in the way, I almost put it down several times. I paid good money, and invested time in it, therefore I wanted to see it through. When I scanned it at the bookstore, I saw third-person, past-tense. I also saw short chapters and scenes and plenty of dialogue. The quick scan missed all the other crap mixed in there. I can’t always catch the bad stuff.

            So, it became a matter of almost dread instead of pleasure to sit down and read this book.

            Should a book be like that?

            The whole point of reading, especially fiction, is for pleasure, not pain!

            When I closed the past page, instead of a smile on my face, it was with a sense of immense relief. A book shouldn’t be that way, especially since it’s entertainment.

SUMMARY

            When I talk about punishing your reader, which I have many times in the past, this is a perfect example. Throwing everything including the kitchen sink style-wise at the reader is not the way to make friends and grow an audience.

            The whole point of writing is to tell or show a story in the most efficient way possible. You don’t want the writing to get in the way of the story. By switching around styles constantly, you’re not only jerking the reader out of your world, but you’re quite possibly irritating or losing your reader.

            Folks, that’s not the way to tell a story.

            Pick one style and stick to it.

            You and your reader are better off.

            Happy writing!

PROLOGUES REVISITED

June 8, 2021

            For those of you that have been with me for a long time, you may wonder why I have so many “Revisited” articles. It’s not necessarily that I can’t think of nothing new to talk about. It’s that the subjects I choose to revisit are topical again and again. While I may wait a while to bring them up again, 2016 in this case, a revisit to me is warranted.

            Prologues have come up time and time again in discussions, not only in my writer’s group, but in the various forums that I check out. In this case, the more Facebook forums I join that have to do with writing, the more stuff like this comes up from new writers. Plus, more new writers join my site and may not want to slog through 300+ articles, or may have the time. So, time to discuss the subject of prologues once again.

            The big no-no for a long time at the writer’s conferences amongst agents and publishers were prologues. Some agents said absolutely not, while others kind of shrugged their heads and gave wishy-washy answers, leaving their take more ambivalent. Over the years, things have backed off a bit. While some agents, to this day, absolutely despise prologues, more and more are willing to consider them under certain circumstances.

THE FIRST PAGE READ

            To understand why agents and publishers don’t like prologues, let’s take a look at the Las Vegas Writer’s Conference’s very popular special event, which we now have as a regular happening, called the First Page Read.

            This “contest” that isn’t really a contest is where for a $5 donation (that goes to the student sponsorship program), attendees can submit the first page of their novel, short story or whatever. They can submit as many first pages as they want for $5 apiece. The pages are randomly selected and read at lunch on Friday and at dinner until time runs out, usually an hour. If you’re “lucky” enough to be selected, a panel of agents and/or publishers will listen while it’s read and shown on a large screen. They’ll raise their hand the moment they’d stop reading. Since the last two conferences have been Zoom meetings due to you know what, I’ve heard they still do this but in a slightly different format, which I can’t speak to since I didn’t attend.

            After either everyone raises their hand, or the narrator gets to the end of the page, whichever comes first, the panel each gets a chance to say why they did or didn’t raise their hand.

            There can be many reasons why they raise their hand, but the biggest reason is the author starts with backstory and nothing happens on that first page.

            I repeat: Backstory and nothing happens on the first page.

A BIG REASON WHY AGENTS AND PUBLISHERS HATE PROLOGUES

            When these people sift through hundreds if not thousands of manuscripts and writing samples a month, they usually get the start of each story. Right?

            When an author sends the prologue and the first few chapters, which is of course, the start of the book, what often happens with the prologue?

            The prologue starts with backstory! Nothing happens! The prologue is a setup that doesn’t need to be there. There’s no action, nothing that can’t be told later by other characters.

            Now, think back on the first page read. What do you think these agents and publishers do when they see Prologue plastered across the top of the page and then nothing happens?

            Sure, it’s bad enough when it says Chapter 1, or just as bad, it starts with no heading at all and nothing happens. However, they just as often see Prologue or did for a long time. It’s hard not to develop a bias.

PROLOGUES ARE NOT ALL BAD

            As many of you know, I read mostly thrillers and icky bug. They very often have prologues. In my own writing, I use prologues in both my adventure/thrillers and icky bug but don’t in my fantasy. It doesn’t feel right in fantasy to me. It’s a matter of personal taste.

            The prologue needs to be relevant. It needs to be something that cannot take place within the story without throwing the timeline or rhythm of the story out. It also needs for something to happen. It should be an action scene that takes place sometime in the past that explains or sets up something taking place in the timeframe of the present story. Or, it can be something that takes place right as the story begins, to set it up. Pro-logue, something that previously happened, versus epi-logue, something that happens afterward.

            Back to what I just said, the prologue needs to be relevant and should only be there if it’s the easiest or best way to tell that part of the story. It’s a tool just like plot devices. It’s neither good nor bad, it’s all in the execution.

            One more thing, the prologue should be short and to the point. A bad one, in which I won’t name the author, was seventy pages long. That’s a bit excessive! It’s like, come on! Is the story from the back cover ever going to take place or what?

            Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t use a prologue. Just make sure you do it with a bang.

MY SOLUTION

            I no longer use prologues.

            No much on backstory to begin with, I much prefer to just start the story where it begins. That’s it. If I need to have any background, I much prefer to leak it out a little bit at a time. Let me emphasize that. I like to leak out background a little bit at a time.

            Why?

            Backstory bogs down story movement. It jerks the timeline out of sequence. It throws the entire flow off.

            As a reader, that annoys me to no end, so as an author, that’s the last thing I want to do. Instead, if there’s any backstory I want to clue the reader into, I leak it out in a sentence, maybe a paragraph or two. Mind you, a short paragraph or two so as not to bog down story momentum.

            Back to the prologues.

            We, as in me and the publisher, came up with a better solution for my prologues in the adventure/thriller series. Instead of calling it the prologue, it just became Chapter 1 with a subtitle and date from somewhere in the past. Then Chapter 2 became “Present day.” Because something actually HAPPENED in my prologue, problem solved. The timeline was not interrupted and I was able to go on my merry way!

            That’s all you have to do. The reader isn’t jerked around and everything works out. Let me tell you, this is also a very annoying plot device often used on TV. The show starts in the present, then jerks us to “3 days before” or some such stuff. That always annoys me. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather the damn story just start at the beginning!

            Happy writing!