Writing About Writing About Writing About Writing

We writers are a bunch of know-it-alls.

I can’t imagine another field of study where you could take a Ph.D. in the field, a success, a student, and a struggling newbie, put them on a stage, and each will act as if they know more than the others.

I once argued that it is because we are all given the basics to writing in school. It’s not like music where you have to spend years studying an instrument before attempting to perform in public, or painting where you have to have some drawing skill. Frankly, we all know how to put together a sentence. Nouns. Verbs. We’ve each had this drilled into our brain since elementary school. So what’s the big deal? You do that, you make up some stuff, and, Shazaam!, you have a story, right?

And haven’t we all heard the expression about how everyone has a book inside them? Philosophically it’s a neat idea (if you think of your life as a story, I mean), when it comes to actual fiction it gets a little dicey in my opinion.  

See, I’m not sure if we really give the creative talent needed to do something truly unique the respect it deserves in today’s world.  And now with the breaking down of the publishing industry, the rise of self-publishing, and the internet, we have entered a whole new age in storytelling. I have no idea where fiction will be a hundred years from now (let alone ten), but I find this all very exciting. It shows that literature is a still breathing, living artform, no matter what people argue about print.

I’m still kind of new to the whole blogging world, but from time to time I like to write about, well, writing. It’s my passion, it’s what I know, and it’s where all my field of study has been in since I graduated from high school. So when I started this site, it was inevitable that my typing will find its way towards books.

I spoke a few weeks ago about the need for all of us to blog more about great writers (Here is that link), and I thought with this entry I might point to some of my writing editorials that might be of interest to you.

Why? Well, I’m a know-it-all, of course.

Self-Publishing, Newbies, & the Biz

This may be a controversial stance in today’s internet writing world, but I like to think of self-publishing as something that should be done as a last resort (which is also the title of one of my articles, funny enough). However, you have today hundreds (thousands, possibly millions) of writers going this route before truly considering all of their options for their work. What they don’t realize is that in doing this they might be affecting not only their growth as a writer and the potential for their book to grow (many times with the help of a skilled editor’s hand), but also their possible success.

From Atop My Pedestal I Give You Writing Advice

I love to talk about writing, and writing about it comes along for the ride. What is more fun is that no one can interrupt me in a post as I do it. Oh, the power of it! Here are some of my pieces about creating in this unique artform.

Who Wants to Make a Movie?

Writing a movie is not easy, it is a very different enterprise to writing a novel.  There are two articles I wrote that could be useful I think to anyone considering taking up the pen (or keyboard) and attempting to create in that genre. The first is a 101 article (which will help you avoid the mistakes a lot of new writers in the field seem to make), the second is around the issues of adaptation.

The Life of a Writer

Writing is done alone, there is no applause during the process (unless you applaud yourself which is a wicked awesome idea and good for you). I don’t remember if it was Kurt Vonnegut or not, but someone said that writers are people that think they can do a better job than God. Well, if that is the case, we don’t get any of the perks with that power, that is for certain. Here are some more introspective pieces (and possibly funny) about being a writer.


If you liked reading my article (and maybe my book in process, Permanent Spring Showers), why not check out some of my published books? I had two novels published in the last few years, My Problem With Doors and Megan. You can find them via my amazon.com author page here, or as an eBook on Google eBooks here.  Thanks for reading!

10 thoughts on “Writing About Writing About Writing About Writing

  1. Pingback: The Art of the Blog: Getting Personal « The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard

  2. As always Scott, I really enjoy your musings! 🙂 I have to take umbrage with one thing: your view on self-publishing – or “indie” as it is more properly called in 2012. It is far from a last resort nowadays. For many good writers, and for some good reasons, it is the option that makes the most sense after careful consideration of all options. Also. . . throw writing up there with other skills that take years to hone. Serious writers know what practice and study it takes to do it well.

  3. Realizing I should be more specific. In the case of my own book, I had two shots against me: first, it was about a gay relationship, and secondly – and although there are publishing houses that publish “gay romance” – my book did not fit neatly into any genre. I have been writing professionally (non-fiction) for years – I knew what I’d be up against, and I didn’t want to give up control, have an editor butcher the story for economical and ideological reasons, or worse spend months shipping it around in vain. I read up on indie publishing and was pleasantly surprised by what I learned. I made a researched, conscious decision to go indie and I’d do it again. I believe the publishing world is changing: I run into many GLBT writers of literary fiction who choose indie for the same reasons I did. Indie writing – as indie film – is a place where creativity and innovation is not going to be squelched by economic concerns of a traditional publisher. I believe that the growth and continued existence of indie publishing is a dynamic and vital force in the future of publishing.

    • Hi and first (as always) thanks for your support of my blog and writing.

      Let me hit some of the points as best as I can.

      From how I understand the market, Independent press is not self-publishing. It is actually smaller presses working outside the mainstream press. Many times they are smaller firms started by some friends using a trade paperback service for the publishing. People that want to make a difference and support the genres they feel aren’t getting attention. It is different from self-publishing since it is a smaller press and your work still has to be accepted by it, so its not the same as iuniverse, etc.

      In regards to my article, rereading it, it does sound harsh, and I apologize if it feels that way (there are things I would rewrite), but some of the points are very valid. If you are self-publishing, there is a LOT more on your shoulders than if you were going mainstream (marketing, convincing legitimate papers and reviewers to read it, getting it on bookstore shelf, etc.). And, no matter how much you pay for the editing service it is not equal to working with a professional editor that works for a mainstream press (or indie press). There is a big difference between working with someone that will correct your grammar versus an editor that will discuss motive.

      I’m all for indie/smaller publishers, but when it comes to self-publishing, I won’t go down that road easily, since I fear my writing will get lost with the thousands of other works published in a similar vein…. The thing is everyone’s career and aims are different. This is all just my perspective, I guess.

      Thanks for writing and reading, as always! (And I love responding to comments, it is fun part of having a blog, that is for certain).

  4. I am learning from this discussion, Scott, and I hope you don’t mind my continuing. I didn’t find your post harsh at all – simply an articulate and intelligent statement! I think you make a great point that every case is different. (And thanks for clarifying the difference between “self-publishing” and “indie press”: I think the problem is that a lot of writers refer to themselves as “indie writers” who have “indie published” – thus the confusion.)

    One thing I have learned is that many of the larger publishing houses will no longer pay for the same extent of marketing that they once did – so that the writer who independently publishes can do marketing themselves with the same results. This is something I hear over and over again. That was interesting to me because that would have been the final reason that made sense for my particular case, to go with a traditional publisher.

    Editing: oh boy. This is my bugaboo. I completely agree with you – and the idea that someone would simply not pass a manuscript through an editor scares me! LOL I have to point out, though, that I myself am a free-lance editor, and I assure you that my work is the same quality as any editor you find at a publishing house. I edit for structure, content, pacing, logic, as well as proofreading. (Get a complete description here: http://www.eaglevalleyhorserescue.org/LC/Editing.html .) As I mentioned, I have been writing professionally for near 30 years, and was schooled to be an editor. I simply offer this so that people reading here don’t put all editors in the same basket. I have also noted that many, many of the books I review from a traditional publishing house have some glaring errors – and I don’t just mean proofreading. One can find great editors freelance, and bad editors in a “professional” publishing setting. You have a point that many “freelance editors” are glorified proofreaders, and it is up to the client (writer) to ask specifically what the editing job will consist of before hiring any editor.

    This is all so very interesting, because it is an ongoing discussion – not just here but all over the internet and within the publishing world. It is said that over half of the publishing houses in the U.S. have folded in the recent three years, and I think that it is a time of great upheaval and great growth – but perhaps in an unpredicted direction.

    It may interest you and others to know that I have placed, successfully, two manuscripts with traditional publishers in the past. In the first instance, the house – which had a good reputation – had such turnover in the months following acceptance of the manuscript that the book was left on the back burner long enough that I requested it be pulled. In the other instance, I worked with the “editor” – who was fresh out of college and didn’t know her….well….you know, from her….you know…. and I spent more time explaining my subject matter to her than actually working on the manuscript (it was a book on raising goats for profit). That house has sat on the finished manuscript for three years now. I was paid, it is finished, but I can’t hold a gun to their heads to get them to get it onto the shelves. At this point, I am planning to check the contract and see if I can get the book back, and simply publish it myself.

    Now, all this being said, I will agree that in some instances, it makes absolute sense for a writer to seek out a traditional publisher and go that route. I just think that there are two valid roads here, and depending upon your manuscript and – as you point out – your goals, either can be a wise choice.

    • I would call it three paths.

      The first being traditional, the second being indie, and the third being self. And I would recommend attacking them in that order.

      In regards to editing. I would trust a freelancer (like you) any day over a hired gun at iuniverse or other self pub firm.

      Thanks for supporting the site and if I meet any new writers looking for an editor, I will throw them your way! Cheers!

  5. Fun article to read, looking forward to reading the links you put up.

    And I think Kurt was just talking about himself and his kind because I certainly don’t think that way about writers, I kind of can’t stand it when people say that! Writing is just such a creative process, it’s play time for us, and most of the times it gets all the weird stuff in our head out and allows us to organize our thoughts. Writing is so powerful. It’s like talking only it is constantly recorded so we’re likely to watch our words and see what we’re saying as we’re saying it a little more often. (was that long or what?)

    Great tip about authors not seeing all their options first before taking the plunge into self-publishing, or epublishing, as with kindle for instance (but there are many successful stories out there that entice writers to do just that). What say you on that?

    Peace 🙂

    • Hi! Thanks for reading and following my site.

      I think with all of the arts (including self-publishing and writing) you get out of the experience what you are willing to sacrifice. For example, if someone told me they wanted to be a screenplay writer or write for TV and not move to LA, my reaction would be that they aren’t really seriously considering that field.

      If someone wanted to self-publish (or eBook publish) on their own, they have to be willing to do MORE than a traditional publisher and indie publisher would do, because it would be an uphill battle every step of the way. Seriously, call your local bookstore (Barnes & Noble, etc.) and ask them if they will consider putting a self-published book on their shelves or host a reading. Sadly, it’s the nature of the beast these days. And it is the battle you have to be willing to fight for every single chance.

      If you are writing only for yourself, and have no desire to play those games or teach in the field; sure, self-publishing will be fine. But if you want to teach on the college-level or to build a relationship with a publisher or agent, it will hurt your chances… But again, like I said in the article we are all referencing, this is changing. And in a decade it might be all different. Right now though, the uphill battle still remains. Just give yourself time to try the traditional route first (send out the query letters to agents, pay the due we all have to do), then reach out to indie small presses… and if that doesn’t work and there are no other options for your book, go to createspace or iunverse. But give your book at least a year to try. Your book has earned the chance.

      Whew (long response)… Thanks for reading!

      • Loved the feedback, a great help to me and I’m sure would be to many others! That comment was so comprehensive and concise it can stand on its own as a blog post! Thanks 🙂

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