Lessons from a Twenty Year, Almost Career (Part 2)
So . . .
Jump right in and write what sells. Do it cold. Don’t bother learning the rules, they don’t mean a thing. You just sit yourself down and start churning out novels or short stories.
I did that.
You hear all the time about writers cashing freakishly enormous checks, just for sitting around in their undies, drinking the beverage of their choice while they create worlds with words. I want in on that. I’m not ashamed to say so. I want to sit in my boxers, drink coffee, inventing literary wonders. Twenty years back I believed I was a natural, and could be the instant winner in big name publishing’s lotto. My very first novel, and millions of dollars would be mine. Just send it in and wait for instant recognition, and all those who inhabit the literary landscape to kneel at my feet, praising my talent.
Didn’t I say I was stupid?
God knows I’ve spent years reading books and magazines of all kinds. Non-fiction, genre fiction, you name it. I like to read. I understood the written word as it existed in the past, and as it exists today. I considered myself to be an intelligent sophisticated man. I spent years tweaking advertising copy for small businesses and large corporations. I was an Art Director, and a Marketing Coordinator. I was an “in” man. The corporate (nerd) life was mine for the taking, but I wanted more. I needed more. Deep down inside I needed more. I had a dream I wanted to follow. I thought I could jump right into the writing world with my shoes on. Roll up a lot of self-confidence and determination into a hard tight ball, and start choking it down without the wine of reason to guzzle.
I could do it. I knew I could do it. Live writing, breathe writing, eat, sleep, drink writing. And the genre I loved the most was horror.
Science fiction was cool, fantasy rocked, but I loved to be scared. Horror it was. I was going to be the next Stephen King, Dean Koontz, the next Peter Straub. I wanted to pass Clive Barker on the fame and fortune expressway like he was standing still. And then horror as a paying genre went phuuttt! Most writers of horror turned to the small presses, while the biggest names, and only the biggest names, continued on as if nothing happened. Some horror authors started their own companies to produce their own work (and friend’s work) as limited editions. I didn’t know it then, but that was the very first indicator that big name publishing had basically slit its own throat. The midlist was dying to dead in a few short years. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Computers were well out of my price range way back then. Bills pile up in my house too, you know. I did find a Personal Word Processor within my budget and bought it. An over-glorified typewriter. It could format the page, save everything onto a floppy disc, and I loved it’s most important feature . . . Spellcheck™! What more could a man of my unlimited potential ask for? I could add to or delete from any file on a whim, save the changes to disc, and get past my personal Kryptonite, my inability to spell big words. I understood them, but couldn’t spell them.
I bought the machine, picked up some discs, set it up in my own little nesting spot in the basement, and read just enough of the directions to get started. I kept the “Quick Look” reference guide handy at all times. “Control” plus the scroll button for down would always take me to where I wanted to be.
Like a gleeful deity I created all that pleased me. The power was absolutely amazing. My dreams and thoughts, my soul, all were appearing before my eyes like magic. I jammed keys throughout the week and on into weekend, and saved a hundred pages of my very first novel. I could hardly sleep. There were times I woke up in the wee hours with an idea, and had to get it down on paper for the next day. Then I’d lay there, trying desperately to get back to sleep. Day jobs are annoyingly unforgiving.
I fashioned characters, breathed into them life, and killed them one by one as I applauded their demise in ways I thought unique, laughing manically between cups of stout joe. It was when I wanted to review what I had at the end of that first week, thinking I may be able to add more blood and chills to the pages, when I found out my wonderful new tool couldn’t save more than five full pages of text to a file!
I had pages 1, 2, 3 . . . . . . . . . . . 99, 100.
Oh yeah, it hurt.
I sat down to start over a week later. It took me that long to figure out if I wanted to continue on this corrupting path.
Two weeks after that I understood half the quirks my PWP was capable of, but my PWP never failed to surprise me. I think it lived Murphy’s Law to the letter, and did so just to piss me off. What can go wrong, will go wrong, usually at the most inopportune time. The worst problem was, I would add to a paragraph on page two, and a line of text would vanish from page four. I took it back to have it repaired twice, and the third time they gave me a new machine. Nothing had changed. I blame the programmers.
My computer and me, we have an understanding. I treat it nice, it treats me nice. I also burn backup copies of every file I make or edit onto three separate flash drives. One sits in the house, one goes wherever I go, and one sits outside the house in a bank, just in case. Make a change, back it up. Start a story, back it up. Rotate the flash drives once a month. I don’t lose words or time. And if, God forbid, your hard drive gives up the ghost, you won’t have to start all over from square one. I learned that the hard way too. And no, I don’t want to get into it. The memories are too painful.
Never underestimate the many and unique ways things can go wrong. Murphy’s Law is a fact of life.
Return tomorrow for Part 3.
Terrance Foxxe is crazy enough to share everything he knows about catering to readers, because readers matter most to the Indie Author of today, and tomorrow. He had two books published under his real name, only to discover publishers really suck. After being drawn and quartered, royally ripped off and then some, plus more, he is the Indie author of A Post-apocalyptic Story of Love, $2.99 USD for the Kindle. Link provided. He’s now a happy man. Buy his book. Read it. Write a review.
A Post-apocalyptic Story of Love is available at Amazon.
He blogs at http://terrancefoxxe.blogspot.com/