Self Publish, Traditional, or Hybrid?

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A question for all my fellow writers out there.

When the time comes to unleash your completed works into the world, how do you do it?

Are you taking the DIY route of self-publishing, with its steep learning curve and up-front costs? Or are you walking that traditional publishing road, fraught with long wait times and piles of rejection letters?

I ask because I’ve been reading articles like this one at Writer’s Digest about “hybrid publishing”. Most writers I speak with choose one path or the other, but it would seem the hybrid model has some advantages from both.

I’ve begun the process of submitting work to journals and other outlets (short stories, flash fiction) while continuing to write larger pieces that will either be self-published or queried. It seems like the stigma of being “one or the other” is slowly fading away, and I’m interested to see if one strategy pans out better than the other.

Does anyone else use a “hybrid model” for publishing their work? Do you take different publication routes for your individual projects, or try to stick solely to one strategy that works for you?

 

Author Influences

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Someone asked me who my writing influences were yesterday, and they were surprised by my answer.

If I had to list my Top 3, they’d be “in order of appearance”

  • Harlan Ellison
  • Lloyd Kaufman (of Troma Entertainment)
  • Zora Neal Hurston

Harlan is a master of dark and twisted writing. If you’re in the mood to feel gross and awful, go read I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream. It delivers what it promises.

Lloyd is responsible for helping to create films like The Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke ‘Em High. His movies with their over-the-top stories, violence, and social satire irreparably inspired/damaged me during my youth.

Zora is the curveball. She’s always the one who makes people say “Wait, who?”If you went to a public high school you’re probably familiar with Their Eyes Were Watching God. It’s her most celebrated work, but there is more to her story than just one novel.  Author, notorious liar, political critic, and alleged voodoo initiate. She was heavily criticized by many for creating unapologetic writing. As a writer and a human being, she was fascinating.

Honorable mentions also include:

  • Stephen King (a master of horror)
  • Kurt Vonnegut (a, maybe THE?, master of satire)
  • Rob Zombie (hit or miss, but always with great aesthetic)

I find myself influenced by a variety of media. Books, movies, video games, and music all inform my writing and story telling in different ways.

Do you have author influences that are unexpected or others find surprising, and do you find other art & media besides books having an influence on your writing?

Let me know down in the comments. I’d love to hear about them!

Creating A Writing Space

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I recently discovered the Write Now podcast hosted by Sarah Werner. It’s inspiring and the host’s positivity is infectious, so this is my suggestion to check it out if you need something to listen to during your commute or workout.

As I was cherrypicking old episodes, I found this one about “Creating A Space For Writing”, and it struck a chord. I realized that I’ve been without a true place dedicated to writing & creating for almost a decade now. I aim to fix that.

If you’re anything like me, being a “writer” is constantly under siege by work, family, and social commitments that burglarize precious hours from the day. I mean, is it too much to ask that real life pauses so we can sit around writing our next novel?

Anyway, this means we have to write when we can, and where ever we can. For me, it’s on my laptop during lunch breaks, or scratching ideas in an old notebook while lying in bed at dawn. I rarely have the opportunity to sit down and collect my thoughts in a place dedicated to my craft. Even as I write this, I’m sitting on my couch with my laptop.

I now realize part of the problem is that I haven’t created a comfortable place to actually GO to write.

So my goal is to convert my “office” (junk room) into a study/writing space. I’m slightly, mildly, handy enough to be dangerous at DIY projects, so I’m going to fix up the room over the next year or two (I’m being realistic) to ensure I have a dedicated area to write. I feel like the investment of making a comfortable space will also help me to keep a more regular writing schedule.

This started yesterday with de-cluttering (I owned a LOT of empty cardboard boxes), and beginning to save for something I’ve always wanted; a writing desk. I have an old desktop computer with Scrivener, but it’s sitting atop a cheap “computer workstation” I’ve had for the past 15 years. I’m surprised the thing held up as well as it did, considering how many times I’ve moved.

Kudos to you, Staples.

Does anyone out there have their own dedicated writing space? Is it a home office, break room at work, or a specific table at your local coffee shop? I’m curious how many other writers feel that need for a dedicated place to create, and whether it helps their productivity and creativity.

Maybe you’re just existing like me right now, and using any old place to scratch words down when you have the free time?

 

 

Your First Draft Stinks

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It’s a nasty title, but it grabbed your attention!

I was discussing first drafts with a colleague yesterday; bemoaning them. This led to me wasting time on the internet lurking around writing subReddits. The copious internet lurking led to this blog post, since I’ve wanted to write about first drafts for a while now.

I’ve come to the extremely general conclusion that there are two types of writers. The ones who HATE their first drafts, and the ones who LOVE them.

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Politics in Writing

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For a creative writer possession of the ‘truth’ is less important than emotional sincerity.

-George Orwell

 

So much of the current landscape in the United States (and the world) is being dominated by politics. The constant, overwhelming media barrage seems to be exhausting and polarizing people at an incredible rate.

It is also inspiring writers and artists.

I’m not surprised by this, since most creators are informed by their worldview, which is reflected in their work. I am curious how many other writers include personal politics in their work, intentionally or not.

A large amount of my work is satirical. For better or worse, I attempt to make light of real world events and situations (to varying degrees of success) and that includes politics. While satire can be “on the nose”, I’ve also caught myself designing characters that tend to reflect my own personal views in writing that had no intended political message.

I’m interested to know whether other writers create characters who express their own views, whatever they may be. As a writer, have you found the increasingly political modern landscape seeps into your writing? Or do you explicitly go out of your way to avoid any political statements in your work, overt or otherwise? Maybe your protagonists uphold your beliefs, or a an antagonist holds opposing values to yours.

No matter what your viewpoints, creativity is a valuable outlet. I believe the world would be a better place if more people expressed their emotions through art.

Have you found that your personal politics have an effect on you as an author?

 

When Do You Write?

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I write best early in the morning.

It seems counterintuitive that my brain would conjure up words out of the fog of sleep, but then maybe it’s because morning is when I have the most freedom for creative inspiration (and coffee).

Juggling a career, family duties, and all the other things that come up in a day; mornings are when I can really focus on getting words down or revising. I’ve tried numerous times to write in the evenings, or even mid-day during lunch breaks, but it never works for me.

Maybe the stresses and responsibilities of the day expend too much mental fuel from my tank?

This isn’t a product of age or evolution either, from what I can tell. Even in high school and college I was always a morning person, and got my best work done in the early daylight hours.

When are you the most creative and productive with your writing? Hopefully you’re one of those lucky writers who can just knock out great ideas around the clock whenever you have the free time!

Writing Tip: Don’t Hate Adverbs

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Adverbs get a bad rap.

If you’ve ever taken a writing course, perused writer’s forums, or heard soundbites from Stephen King, you’ve likely encountered adverb hate.

The thinking goes like this –

  • “Adverbs are largely unnecessary.”
  • “Adverbs belittle your audience.”
  • “Adverbs are for amateurs.”

The internet writing community has generally come to despise adverbs, and I think that is unfortunate. Like most things, if used properly and in moderation, the lowly adverb can be a great tool that adds flavor to your writing.

That’s some intense paraphrasing, but you get the general idea. The below tips argue in favor of leaving at least some adverbs in your work.

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Writing Tip: Write When You Can

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“You must write every single day of your life…” – Ray Bradbury

“Write every day.” – bloggers all over the Internet

This statement drives me crazy. It makes the Top 5 on almost every list of advice for writers, and it’s unrealistic. It’s generally delivered with no context, and I think it can actually become discouraging to new authors if it isn’t qualified a bit.

Given that, I want to dole out some slightly different advice.

“Write whenever you can.”

Writing every day is an admirable goal, and it’s a wonderful brass ring to reach for. It ensures you stay focused and make time in your schedule to chip away at that essay or novel. However, I think some who might take it as a mandate could get down on themselves if they miss a day or two. If you’re anything like me, your daily life does everything it can to PREVENT you from having free time to sit and write.

That’s why I write whenever I can. Lunch breaks, commutes, rare quiet moments in the early morning and late evening. Little 15-30 minute chunks that add up over time. Career and family always trump “being an author” at this stage in my life, so I need to catch those elusive moments of downtime while they flow like sand through the proverbial hourglass.

If you miss a few days (or even weeks) in your routine, don’t be hard on yourself. It happens to everyone. The important part is that the desire to write exists. If that spark is there, it can always be rekindled. There are days when I have no time, or even when I am just feeling creatively bankrupt. However, I always know I’ll return to writing.

Speaking of, I think the expanded statement “Write even when you don’t want to. Every day.” is even more contentious. I make it a point to step away when I don’t feel good about writing, because I’ve tried “forcing it” enough times to know my output will be subpar and end up just being scrapped or revised anyway. That’s a personal style, but I’ve had other writers tell me they feel the same way. I’d rather take that time to read or do something else to become creatively re-charged.

Burnout is another potential issue, and coming off the heels of NanoWriMo I’m sure there’s plenty of new authors who never want to touch a keyboard again after the intense marathon through November. Again, writing every day is an admirable goal, but it shouldn’t be considered gospel. Your work will always be there when you get back to it.

Besides, Asimov was a better writer anyway…

Do you try to write every single day? If so, do you feel like it helps you as an author? Or do you work more like me and enjoy taking a break now-and-then?

Writing Tip: Character Arguments

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Today’s post comes from author and blogger Joanna Wallace. She gives us a great tip on using arguments to explore character depth. You can find more advice and wonderful posts about the writing process on her blog,  Joanna’s Story.

You can also follow her on Instagram and Twitter @JoannasStory

First, I’d like to thank Ben for allowing me to guest post on his blog. I hope you find this topic useful, to help create conflict with your characters. This exercise also helps pen dialogue and can add more depth to your story.  How do you achieve this? Make your characters argue.

People fight about anything and everything. It could be love, a disagreement, different viewpoints, what to make for dinner, chores, a life or death scenario, the list goes on.

Whenever I hit a snag, I’ll image my characters arguing. What do they fight for? How do they speak and act? Are they a pushover or do they stand up for what they believe in? This has helped me add plot twists as well.

Even if you’re a writer who likes to outline, create a new page and make them bicker with someone. It may tell you more about the character than you know. You could even speak the dialogue aloud. If you do this in a coffee shop, you may get some strange looks, but that’s what writing is about. Creating emotion and making the reader feel it. They also need to believe it.

Does anyone else use this writing exercise? Let me know what you think.

Thanks again to Ben for letting me post!

#NanoWriMo2016 But Not Really

nanowrimoIt’s November 1st, and that can only mean one thing. YARD WORK!

Wait, sorry, NanoWriMo, and yard work. If you’re active on social media, chances are you equate the second-to-last calendar month with dudes growing mustaches (WordPress auto-corrected ‘moustache’) to “raise awareness”, and tons of would-be authors telling you about their frantic race to create a 50,000 word novel.

I have participated in past NanoWriMo events, but decided they really weren’t for me. It’s an admirable exercise, and although on some level it sets people up for failure (see: 20% success rate) I think it’s important to recognize “the journey” and the act of putting effort into the craft. Does that sound philosophical and lame? Probably.

This year I’ve decided to follow along with the Nano craze in parallel, and utilize all the positive energy created by the community to spur me in revising my fantasy novel. Like some sort of literary psychic vampire, I’ll feed off their goodwill to gain power as I search for misplaced commas and erase adverbs.

The reason for this is two-fold.

One, I’ve learned as much about myself as I can from NanoWriMo. It’s just not my style, and I really want to accomplish some goals before the holidays arrive and eat away at my already diminished free time.

Two, I already have enough unfinished projects active, and I don’t want to add another (of dubious quality) to the pile. I’m a finisher by nature. I absolutely hate incomplete projects lingering around, so I’m going to turn this social experiment into lemonade and put a bow on this draft that’s been hanging around for months collecting dust.

Rather than unleash 1600 words a day, I plan to edit/revise around that much per day, which will put me to the end of my edit process with room to spare in case I get distracted by Xbox or something a few times.

Are you participating in #NanoWriMo2016? If so, let me know what your plans are, and if you’re reading this on November 28th, I hope you’re almost done with that novel!