Thursday, January 15, 2015
Writing Horror Part 3: Just Write!
The words "self publishing" taste like unbrushed teeth when I say them.
"I'm self publishing my book."
"Oh really? Is it a tome of self indulgent, pseudo-fan-fiction wankery that wasn't good enough for traditional publication due to too many spelling errors?"
I'm not sure what opinions you have of self published fiction, but mine were close to the above statement. They've always been that way. I remember being a kid and finding this really old children's book about rabbits and my mind being blown when my mom said her grandfather had written and illustrated it. Then I recall my excitement dimming when she told me he'd published it himself. It just wasn't as cool or magical that way.
I love and even prefer the content that comes from the independent scenes in movies, video games, and music. It bothers me that I don't feel the same way about literature.
[Click the jump to see Jeff's advice and plan on increasing your creative output!]
Let's come back to that in a second though, and talk about some of the struggles I've had as a writer the last handful of years. A lot of my problems are easily articulated in a scenario first proposed to me by my professor/mentor/friend/all-around-awesome-writer-guy Alexander Weinstein.
I've helped Alex with his creative writing institute for the past couple of years and this same question has been percolated among the group since he first struggled with it; "When did I last have fun as a writer?" Through soul searching, he found the true answer was back in third grade as there was no "submitting", "publishing", "contests", "awards", or any outside validation. He was just a kid who loved telling stories.
That revelation struck me like lightning.
Having been recently rejected from the swath of MFA programs I had applied to, I wrote very little, and when I did it was purposes of outside validation. "I'm going to sit down and write a high literary story so I can get into grad school." I had, however, written and rewritten the Academic Statement of Purpose for my application packet about 10,000 times; assuring the world that my fiction was important. The selection committees of nine universities saw through that bullshit when I couldn't recognize it myself.
Writing is supposed to be fun, damn it! It is hard work and requires skill to perform at a high level, but at its core, it's supposed to be enjoyable. Disney sports movies have preached that message for years, right? Gordon Bombay arrived and let the Ducks have fun, and as a byproduct they kicked Hawk butt! They became Olympians because they knew how to have disciplined fun. How the hell did they become Olympians again? Kids movies are weird...
Anyways, one final piece of table setting and then I promise I'll tie this all together. Remember my last Writing Horror post when I mentioned the book Write, Publish, Repeat and how it outlines a lot of smart things about self publishing? Well, I won't get into the exact sales structure they suggest, suffice it to say, it requires writing a lot of books. By a lot, I mean at least one every few months.
That challenged my preconceptions as a writer. I've written one book (a very bad high school novel) and maybe one or two compilations worth of short stories over the years. That means if I'm going to give their plan the old college try, I have to write more in the first year than I've penned in my entire life. I imagine it taking a lot of discipline and coffee. The best part: It will mean that my writing is no longer precious.
I emphasize that because it is revolutionary for me. If I spend most of my time farting around on the internet, drinking my way through the years and manage to put out one book before I die a rock star's death by asphyxiating on my own vomit, then that book has to be important. It needs to contain everything I want it to say. It carries the unfair weight of a life validating work.
"Yeah, that guy could barely hold a job and drank himself to death, but did you read 'Important Book'? It changed my life."
If I write four books a year or more then I can have fun. Why not write a book about vampires or werewolves or zombies? Why not write about lesbian Martians enslaving the planet? Why not write about a prophesied messianic hero who just wants to be left alone to play Angry Birds?
This is the thought that brings it all together.
Self publishing (or "indie publishing" as several are trying to re-brand it) has a pejorative stink about it, but can be a more artistically honest and freeing route. Write a book, clean it up, put it out there, and start writing the next one. Will you ever be famous? Probably not. Will anybody hear about you? Probably not. Just keep writing, and writing, and writing. Write, publish, and repeat.
I don't want to put too fine a point on this because every author is different, but for my artistic struggle there is a higher morality attached to independent publishing. I will write what I want to write, because I want to write it. I will release it into the wild and although I've bypassed publishers, agents, slush readers, and slush-reader's interns, my book will not be without gatekeepers; they will be the readers themselves.
Write a book. Publish that book. Let the audience decide its quality or importance, and then write another book. All the while, you're having fun and doing what you love to do. Seriously, sign me up for that.
Whether you share this opinion or think indie publishing is sleazier than selling Amway, I'd love to hear about it. Please share your love or hate in the comments below, on Twitter with @terrorphoria and @jconolly, or in the soon-to-exist Reviews section of my book on Amazon,
"I knew Jeff's self-published B.S. was going to be awful back when he was blogging about it at Terrorphoria!"
Next time, we'll get into more craft and productivity stuff, and talk about how holidays and long stints of depression can destroy the best laid plans. Until then, keep writing!