Lessons from a Twenty Year, Almost Career (Part IV)
“It’s not what you say, but how you say it.”
It is what you say, and how you say it!
Writing well is the key. Creating an exciting story that’s exciting to read is the key. The lock that key goes into is writing well. Keys are shaped to fit locks. Locks are mechanisms. You can learn to understand the mechanism, but if you study the lock, can you tell what shape the key must take? Try saying all that three times real fast.
Technique. Form. Dedication. All of this can be learned by those wishing to learn it. Don’t sweat it. Not yet. Don’t ignore it, either.
As I said, my first novel had some great ideas in it. The plot was simple. Good vs. evil. What my characters did and said moved my plot along. How they acted, reacted, how they reacted to other’s actions and reactions, all brought me, and them, to the end of the book.
I added to it where I thought it lacked, thinking all the time how I could get more excitement into the story. I took away all I thought didn’t belong, hoping what I was removing was the boredom. It still lacked something. It was tenderly tucked into my file drawer with one or two regrets I quickly swallowed. There was a moment of depression I immediately gulped down, too. I’m a writer, and there is no time for mental masochism.
I dumped whatever I felt about it out of my mind and wrote my second novel. Again, horror. Good against evil. This time something was different. This time I ignored the much touted writing advice from all of my books, and let everything I was vomit out my fingertips, and had a lot of fun doing it. I wrote what I wanted to read, how I wanted to read it. This time I did something right. I wrote a good book.
My novel was full of gritty real-life drama. It didn’t pull punches. I hit below the belt when it came to my character’s reality. I had made my horror, real. Some passages bordered just this side of being pornographic, but reality, the reality I built for my characters, was art. Any fellow writer who I could convince to read the story gushed over its brilliance. They weren’t yanking my chain. They would have told me, diplomatically, if it had sucked.
Writers dedicated to the craft are like that, by the way. They love good reads just as much as you do. They love pointing out your mistakes, even when they misunderstand your intentions, and you must forgive them, because they are trying to help you. Most want to tell you things without hurting your feelings, because they don’t like getting their feelings hurt when they, in turn, show you something of theirs that bites.
Nope, my second novel did what I set out for it to do. In 1995 Leisure Books looked at it for eight months, then turned it down. A very agreeable, handwritten rejection letter. Everybody else sent the form rejection letter within the specified time limit. But, that letter from Leisure Books told me something, even if I had to read between the lines to figure out what it was.
I had a book with potential, it caught someone’s attention, but they eventually turned it down. I set it to the side for a while because I had to. I figured I was too close to the problem. When I did pick up the manuscript again, six months later, the answer hit me upside the head, hard.
I screwed myself to the wall by not producing a highly polished manuscript, and I mean that high-gloss foot-deep shine. I was an unpublished nobody from Iowa, of all places, with a less than perfect manuscript. I cut my own throat.
The manuscript was as rough as sandpaper, and needed a lot of top-coat polishing. It was up to me to have a mistake-free manuscript, and I failed. I failed myself. The problems I ran into were many. I was relying too much on my word processing program. Bare, bear. I can’t bear a bear with a bare butt. Get it? I now bracket words I’m not sure of as I edit, and run my manuscripts through three independent word programs. I double-check everything again with a freakishly big dictionary, that human factor, relying on me to catch what the machinery or software didn’t.
Indie Authors, take note. I had a great story, but I had a badly written book. An author with a badly written but great story isn’t going anywhere. Your readers will judge you, and your sales are their verdict.
Where was I? Yes. I applied this same simple principle of writing heart and soul to all of my short stories. I wrote what I wanted to read. I had fun. I cleaned up my punctuation, my grammar, the gaps in my logic, and I did that for every short story and novel I wrote. I added to them where I thought they lacked, and took away all I thought didn’t belong. I fixed all I could fix, and made sure my stories were as perfect and exciting as possible. More rejection slips arrived, but I also received a few acceptance slips. I made some money, too.
Some people have natural talent. Most can learn.
I love to read, but made the mistake of not reading anything when I was writing. I didn’t want what I was reading to influence my writing. Well, the flaw in that logic is published words from talented writers will influence your own words. You want that to happen. You need to learn from those who came before. It’s a good thing. That’s how you can build up your own talent.
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/