My Greatest Hits! Genres, Series Writing, and Finding Writing Sucess

JukeboxTo introduce my new editing services for authors via Rebecca T. Dickson’s site (here), we are sharing some of my most popular writing articles. The Greatest Hits collection continues!

Three weeks ago, I linked to the previous three entries (here), these are the most recent articles to be shared. Two of them were pretty controversial on my site. Enjoy!

  • Our Dangerous Fixation With Genres. The world of writing is so “properly” organized, from bookstores to libraries, that I worry about what this may be doing to creativity and the future of our artform. (Oh, and there is a fun bit where I describe the armies for each of the genres. Trust me.)
  • Redefining Writing Success: Learning to Fly in Today’s Congested Writing World. Maybe it is the growth of self-publishing or the fact people are reading less than they did before, whatever the case we need to change how to we look at success as an author… and it doesn’t always point to the wallet.
  • Writers, why does everything need to be a series? Is it because of TV? Comic books? Whatever the case, the idea of writing a series is now very prevalent. It has not always been this way, and I worry about how this is shaping our literary landscape.

If you would like to learn more about hiring me as an editor, you can do so via this page. Or you can contact Rebecca T. Dickson and ask for more information via her site, which you can visit by clicking the image below.

Rebecca T. Dickson, Editor

Advertisements

Hey writers! Do you need an editor?

RockyYou ever see the movie Rocky?

Of course, we all have!

And one of the things that make the movie so personal for so many people is that Rocky Balboa is the everyman making good, chasing his dreams. And while the other movies later on turn him into something akin to a Captain America taking on all of Russia and Mr. T, in this first movie he was like us… except with a lot more muscle.

So why am I bringing this up? Do you remember his coach Mickey? He was played by the tough Burgess Meredith, and the character was honest, always pushing him forward. He in many ways symbolizes the kind of coach we wish we all had in our corner. Yeah, he could be gruff but he believed in Rocky and supported his dream. Rocky would never have gotten as far as he did if it wasn’t for Mickey.

Okay, this may sound like I am rambling… but there is a point.

Writers and my fellow daydreamers of future New York Times Bestseller Lists, I can now be your Mickey! Continue reading

The Empty Theater: Writers on Twitter, Facebook and Good Reads

The Empty TheaterNever again. I promised myself never again.

A few years ago, my novel My Problem With Doors was published by iPublish Press, a publisher out of Canada. Being a new press and from a different country, it was quickly proven difficult to get the book on shelves in bookstores or to get the work any attention on Amazon and elsewhere.

I was (and still am) very proud of the novel, and began to make as many calls as I could to make my book a success, in the very least in the area I live. First, I met with the local arts council and garnered their support. Working with a popular bookstore in the area, a reading and event was planned around the book. The local newspaper reviewed this novel ahead of the event (gave it a great review!) and even my local NPR station promoted the reading as an event coming up.

Yet..

When the event took place only friends, co-workers, and family were there.

Not even members of the local arts council showed up!

While everyone there were very positive, bought all the books available (and I was grateful they showed up), I felt a little ashamed, like somehow I had failed my book and my dreams. I know that sounds a little dramatic, but, hey!, I am a writer and I get dramatic about a lot of things. It’s in my blood.

It was that evening that I promised myself I would never put myself in that position again. The next time I give a reading or an event I would be at a place in my writing career where I wouldn’t feel like I was standing in front of an empty theater.

Never again. Continue reading

The Writing Rule I Hate

Broken PencilI need to begin with Diane Rehm.

See, one of my little obsessions is The Diane Rehm Show and I listen to her about four to five hours a week. I even get the podcast, and when I am helping one of my children to fall asleep, usually I am listening to her take a caller on my phone’s headphones. And, to let you in on a secret, when I play “interview” in my mind she or Terry Gross are the ones asking the questions. I’m not the only person who does this, right? You are out someplace and suddenly an interview forms in your head. Before you know it, you are saying aloud: “Well, Diane, when I first came up with the idea…”

Okay, that might have been too much information. Moving on!

Anyway, a few years ago she had on a popular writer. I can’t remember who the author was, but this author’s ego was proudly on the march. You would’ve thought she had written the next Ulysses and to add to the size of her enlarging head a caller called her, praised her, talked about how much she loves her books and then asked her what her advice would be for a new writer.

The author replied that the golden rule of writing is “Write what you know.” She then went on to explain why this rule is so important and as I began to roll my eyes and prepared to finally turn off the episode, Diane did something utterly amazing.

The grand Mrs. Rehm interrupted the author and debated the author on that rule. She asked how could that be true. JK Rowling, for example, doesn’t know any wizards and has never been to Hogwarts or have magic (Yes, Diane referenced Harry Potter!). If Rowling only wrote what she knew we wouldn’t have that wonderful series, Diane argued.

If I was in the studio that day I would have given her a hug and a kiss. Continue reading

Redefining Writing Success: Learning to Fly in Today’s Congested Writing World

IcarusI was an innocent dreamer when I arrived in Los Angeles.

I had big plans and it all felt like the beginning of a movie to me. I was about to start studying in one of the best writing program in the country (University of Southern California. Go Trojans!) and I could feel the destiny thick around me like cigarette smoke. I could smell it on my clothes and in my hair; I could taste it on my tongue. In my mind I was certain that this moment, this arrival, was the true start of any future and inevitable biography that someone would write about me.

The stuff of legends.

That first night I had to stay in a hotel. And I practically skipped (already wearing my USC sweatshirt) as I approached the front desk. Behind it was an older, somewhat heavy, bored-looking woman and, noticing my sweatshirt, casually asked if I was a student. Oh, the can of worms she just unleashed!

I quickly talked about the writing program and the professors I was going to study under, about my books, about my scripts, and about my plans, etc. The words (and dreams) flooded out of me. I could have gone on all day.

And when I finally stopped to take a breath, she casually interrupted and said, “Yeah, I’m a writer too. Here is your key.” Continue reading

Three Blogging No-No’s

SnoopyI love having a blog.

It’s not an ego-tripping thing or anything, yet it is selfish. Oh, so very, very selfish because it is my opinion, my voice out there on display and… okay, maybe it is a little bit an ego-tripping thing.

See, I believe I have something to share, something to say that is unique and having this site gives me that opportunity. We all have dreams of making an impact on the world. For me, it is with my writing, which means my books or my pieces here. If you are starting a blog or have one already, no matter on what topic, you probably feel the same way; you have that itch in the back of your mind, knowing full well that “If I don’t say it, it won’t be said.”

I previously wrote a popular post on this site on the art of blogging and having the courage to have one (you can read it here); and yes, it does take courage to put yourself out there like that. Without realizing it, all that makes you good (and… not so good) will be readable even if it is between the lines. Yet, it is also rewarding.

From time to time, I visit other blogs and writing websites to see what others out there are doing, what is working for them. And, yes, there are things that work and things that don’t generally.  Here are three things that come up for me, including one I struggle with each and every day…. Continue reading

My Favorite Writing Posts

Even Superman writes!We writers love to write about writing. Do other artforms love discussing their own art like we do in our neck of the woods? Do painters paint about paintings? Or singers sing about singing? Okay, this is a silly notion and the answer is sometimes, but nothing like us writers. We own this.

Yes, we writers love to discuss our artform (read and write) and I even have the personal proof to back the magnitude of this.

See, I like to think I write on a lot of interesting topics from movies to life experience to  TV to parenting, etc. (Heck, even last week I wrote 1300 words on Winnie-The-Pooh!), but nothing beats the numbers of visits I get when I put up a new writing post. And luckily for me I love writing about writing.

Books, and the creation around them are a passion of mine. I love throwing a thought out there and watching the responses come in via twitter and comments.  Sometimes I agree with the responses, sometimes I don’t, but it is always fun (not when they get mean, of course, which sometimes does happen).

I thought today I would link back to four of my personal favorite writing posts with updates and new thoughts from me on them below their link.  Consider it the equivalent of a reunion special… of my mind. Continue reading

My Adventure in Self-Publishing: Curse All These Fonts!

fontI am haunted by fonts.  While the characters in MAXIMILIAN STANDFORTH AND THE CASE OF THE DANGEROUS DARE are haunted by ghosts and other demonic surprises, I am haunted by the way an “a” can curve, and what each letter may or may not say about my story.

Yes, I have lost days, weeks, debating with myself the right kind of font to use for the book I am self-publishing. It has gotten so bad that some of the fonts are starting to take on personalities for me. For example:

  • Times New Roman is the preppy know-it-all in school. The one you would swear at under your breath when they get a better grade than you.
  • Verdana thinks it is mysterious (it is not).
  • Palatino would dot its i’s with hearts if it could. It is that overly cute.
  • Calibri… well… it is just dumb.
  • Arial is a pampering old grandmother with stale hard candy in a dusty bowl.  Yes, the best intentions are there, but you don’t want to eat them. Ew.

I’ve changed my manuscript again and again trying to find the one that best captures my book. Now the book is a Victorian period mystery (of course, that is not without including the experimental twists in it), so a font that feels a little dated would be nice. Yet, I don’t want to go too much in that regards. I don’t want to drive readers away as if they can feel the dust on the font and story. Continue reading

Our Dangerous Fixation With Genres

Revolutionary SnoopyThe writing world is full of factions.

Each of these factions, have their own heroes (or leaders), their own book clubs, their own book dealers, their own sites, their own rules, their own readers, etc.

Sometimes I like to imagine them as armies, each with their own distinct style and strengths and weaponry.

  • The romance army is nothing more than a collection of men with long flowing hair and amazing abs. There is a good chance that their swords might be a phallic thing though, consider yourself warned.
  • The paranormal army is made up of brooding men who may be vampires… or werewolves… or zombies… or ghosts. Whatever the case, they are dreamy.
  • In the YA ranks you will find confused teenagers with an overwhelming sense of destiny. They will be looking for something and once they find it, watch out.
  • Yes, the scifi army is full of little green men, but over the course of the battle we will all learn something about humanity back here at home.
  • And you do not want to see the horror army. Seriously, just turn and run!

The funny thing is that it is more than the publishers and bookstores that have latched on to the use of factions or, more accurately, genres to organize our art. We writers do it as well as so many of us proudly declare which army we fit into. Our people.

Twitter is full of writers that introduce themselves first by name and then by their genre. And the funny thing is when you search through their followers as well as those that they follow, they are also of the same genre. Their army, their rules…

Join us. Continue reading

Pushing The Boulder: Finding Your Drive to Write

Sisyphus and his friendOnce, I basked in the sunlight of destiny.

Most of us writers do, it is a repercussion of reading too much fiction growing up (all heroes and heroines have destinies, don’t they?). And, honestly, when one reads a biography of a writer doesn’t it always feel like some other worldly power gave something somewhere a nudge? You can feel the word just hanging on everyone’s lips, hiding behind each quote:

Destiny.

Another reason why we writers feel the tide of destiny is because of ego. All writers have an ego! If we didn’t, we wouldn’t believe that we have something worth saying! There is a reason people should waste their time with our words!  Yes, egos are a prerequisite for picking up a pen. Some are big, some are loud, but they are all there for each of us, whispering in our ears and telling us how pretty we are.

When I look over my life, I have a collection of experiences (that feel like short stories) that make up my mental autobiography, the chapter that made this man the writer. The funny thing is, after all this time, I couldn’t tell you exactly which earlier chapters were fiction and which were nonfiction. See, things blend together with me over time. (If you think this is silly, ask my wife. It is a common occurance for her to ask me if I am exaggerating something; and, to be honest, I do it all the time.)

So why am I bringing up destiny? Well, after years of trying to make it as a novelist I have a great truth to share, one that may not be easy for many to hear.

There is no destiny.

No destiny, no fate. The life of a writer is something you have to earn with sweat, blood, and a lot of luck.

And if you walk away, you walk away. Continue reading