Explaining the 4 Common Answers & Advice Given to Beginner Writers

Hi, it’s me. Your average writer.

You might have heard of me from my past works such as… who are we kidding? You have never heard of me. I’m a nobody. But I’m a nobody with some experience.

 

©2013 NETFLIX  CR: F. Scott Schafer
Me. (But seriously, if you don’t know who this is you’re dead to me)

 

Last time, I posted a blog about 4 Same Stupid Questions I See All the Time On Writing Forums. Click HERE to fulfill my shameless plug.

This time, I thought I’d do something a bit more helpful and thoughtful.

I’m going to buy your ebooks.

Just kidding. I’m still poor. And with the money I have I’d rather buy a McDouble and a McChicken at McDonald’s with the awesome Mc2Pick for $2.50! What a deal! And make sure to check out their limited-time holiday drinks!

 

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Pay me please!

 

You already know what this is about. You’ve read the title. Get to the point you’re saying. Maybe you’ve already scrolled down.

This is for all of you out there wondering what exactly some of those answers you’ve received  meant. Because the random stranger who gave you the answer left you cold and hanging without an explanation. Like my dad on Christmas.


“Show, Don’t Tell”

Let’s get the big one out of the way.

I’m literally massaging my nose bridge with one hand and typing this with my other two hands as I’m trying to explain this one.

Not because it’s particularly difficult to answer, but because it’s so basic.

But not because it’s just so basic, but because it’s so basic and it’s a mistake that I make often and I know for a fact that many other writers who should be above these kinds of things make this mistake as well.

So let’s try to understand WHY this happens.

I have a simple theory: We are describing what we are seeing in our brilliant, gifted minds and forgetting that our jobs as writers are to help the readers experience what we’re seeing and not have them simply understand what we’re seeing. We’re not supposed to be the tour guides but be VR goggles. They want to be inside of our story—not be outside of it.

Showing is taking notes.

Telling is creating worlds.

 

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Strive to be this inanimate object.

 

There are times when you want to “tell” over “show” but this is one of those things where you have to master the rules before you learn to bend them.

And here’s an example just in case:

TELL:

Jimmy was mad at Moe.

SHOW:

Jimmy’s unibrow furrowed into a rugged U, his hand trembled with fury, and his heart filled with the burning desire to bitchslap Moe.


“Just Write”

You want to be a swimmer? Go practice swimming every day.

You want to be a stripper? Go practice stripping every day.

You want to be a writer? Go practice stripping every day.

Wait.

Well. Why not. Cardio’s important. But you should also practice writing every day.

This somewhat calloused sounding advice exists because most people only talk about writing and never actually write.

They think they can be writers by just spewing their thesis about the craft of ink and paper as they lasciviously rub themselves for their own creativity and avant-garde ideas.

Something about hic Rhodus, hic salta.

 

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They’re basically doing this.

 

Your ideas aren’t worth donkey’s spit on a chicken’s ass if you never actually create something with it. And unless you’re some sort of a Hemingway’s spirit reborn, you’re probably not as good as you think you are.

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So how do you “just write”? I personally say do away with the whole “have a word count for the day” thing. You know, when people say things like “just write 1000 words a day”?

Look, fellow grasshoppers, if you’re a professional writer then you know when your due date is so daily word count either makes more sense or not at all since you just have to get’er done by that date.

You know how you work. You can set your own pace.

If you’re a hobbyist it makes less sense because the rigidness and the arbitrary number just turns your hobby into a chore.

But sure. If it works for you—good. Nothing wrong with that.

If it doesn’t—don’t worry about it.  And let me recommend, instead, setting up a timed session.

Maybe one hour a day. One hour every other day.

Make it your schedule, like everything else you do in life, and just use that time to write one word or ten thousand words. Or even no words. Just do something writing related. Even if that’s reading for research, doing brainstorms, and whatever. Maybe it’ll be for an hour. Maybe it’s two hours. Just set a time.

This will give you some freedom and some ease with your writing pursuit. And if you have an end goal in mind that’s where you can set a long-term deadline for yourself.

Oh, and, if you’re not letting other people read your work—you’ll never get better. Practice makes permanent and not perfect.

Writing without outside criticism will only make your lack of talent permanent.

Boom.

Real talk.


“Write for Yourself / Don’t Follow the Trend”

So, this one’s a bit FUBAR.

To unravel this, I’ll just first explain where it’s coming from and then kind of go on about why it’s FUBAR. And just a head’s up: this one’s going to be a bit serious.

Like stool samples. Poops are fun and games but sometimes you have to use serious, medical terms like “stool” and “samples”.

Anyways.

When there’s a fad, it’ll start a trend.

Star Wars sparked the sci-fi boom.

Lord of the Rings & Game of Thrones sparked the fantasy boom.

Twilight sparked the wtf-happened-to-vampires boom.

Hunger Games started the dystopian boom.

The whole idea of “write what you’d want to read / don’t follow a trend” is that the chances of you actually catching the trend and having your passions align with the trend… are low.

Why is the chance of catching a trend low?

Because writing is a long process and publishing can be even longer. It usually takes years for someone to finish a book and see it in stores. You really think the trend will last that long? And what about passion? Do you think you can write a work you’re proud of without a passion for it? Even if you’ve missed the trend? Can I add any more questions to this paragraph? Well? Can I?

Writing what you’re proud of—something that you can call your own—can mean more at the end of the day than writing something that you thought was going to sell.

But remember when I said this topic is a bit tricky? With the technologies and how the book market is today… you can basically ignore everything I said up there and maybe you should.

Yeah, seriously.

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You know why trends start? Because they sell.

People tend to want more cake after they had a slice.

Twilight spawned True Blood, Vampire Diaries, and a bunch of other vampire shows, books, and ebooks in a variety of genres.

Erotica was a popular genre to write for on Kindle for a while because they sold like… well… sex.

Publishers will always welcome any book that’ll sell. That’s their jobs. Publish things to sell. And if the genre’s hot right now, they’ll be looking for more of that genre and might even put you through the fast lane.

For indie writers, catching trends is easier now more than ever because you can instantly check what’s selling well. Check the Top 100 on Amazon. There you go.

Passion? Damn, son. Passions tend to suck at paying for stuff. And I like stuff.

 

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Like one of these. Just to give the middle-finger to the starving children in Africa and good ideas everywhere

 

Besides, if you’re a professional writer shouldn’t you have a grasp of how to write just about anything?

Timing? You click “publish” and you’re done.

You want to put more work into it? It won’t be too hard for you to chug out a 40-50k novel that follows a formula for a standard successful storytelling in a month. Remember, NaNoWriMo thinks just about everyone can chug out 50k in a month. You’re a professional, veteran writer. If this is your full-time job, you can do it in 2-3 weeks. During the time you’re writing you can hire an editor and an artist and ding-ding-ding you have a Hot Pockets book.

Besides, talking about passion, do you think there’s a lot of market appeal to a book that’s so personally you?

Sometimes a book is too much you and sometimes that’s not a good thing. That’s when a writer is just doing a self-pleasing (there, friends, I didn’t use the word “masturbatory”) project and hoping that people might like it.

Hell, that writer might not even be thinking of readers. If your protagonist is a half-orc, quarter-dragon, quarter-boar stripper named Borga Do’Kora (stage name being Danger Dick) who’s day job is a tax accountant, maybe you really did not give a chicken’s ass on a donkey’s spit about the readers.

And that’s fine. Writing, in its best form, should be reflective and a fragment of your being. Even if that’s a half-orc, quarter-dragon, quarter-boar stripper who’s favorite food happens to be pickled eggplants.

But if we’re talking about making money, the whole story changes.


“Keep Writing”

Wow, the last one was so damn long. I’ll keep this short. You know how you improve your mile run right? You keep running.

But as you keep running, you’ll run into some hurdles along the way. Maybe your ankles will start to hurt, maybe you’ll run into better runners, and maybe some literal hurdles. It’s called gaining experience.

And sometimes, it’ll hurt. They might say you have ugly shoes, ugly face, and that you look downright silly running.

 

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Not everyone can run majestically like Tom Cruise.

 

But someone wise once told me… Just kidding. I read this on Tumblr.

“Writer’s who are afraid of rejection are like boxers who are afraid of getting punched. You’re in the wrong line of work.”

In every aspect of our lives, we should welcome valid criticisms. In writing, we have to take-and-thank any sort of feedback we can get and sort it through ourselves like beggars on the street corners Aurora ave in Seattle.

And a lot of times… the greatest of criticisms will come from our own failures. It’s okay to fail despite what my mother says. What’s not okay is to let failures just be failures. Then you’ve wasted your time.

Don’t give up. Everything’s hard and writing as a craft has been around since the beginning of written language. You don’t have to try to rewrite the rule book, the legacy, or try to be the next big thing. Just enjoy it and see where it takes you.

If someone says you suck–say thanks. What can I do to be better?

If you think you suck–well, I suck. What can I do to be better?

And I’m not saying having that attitude is easy. It’s tough. Hell, I always get salty and pissy and depressed about myself and my life. And sometimes about my writing!

But that’s the process of “Keep Writing”. You’ll get better as long as you keep challenging yourself and keep yourself honest. Make sure the cycle of depression and persistence keeps turning. There’s no fast lane here. It’s just gaining experience.

Or just give up. It’s your life. Why are you doing this if you’re not enjoying it unless you’re trying to pay bills with it?

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It’s okay not to be a writer. It’s okay not to be a professional writer. I’m sure your friends and family will be happy to hear that you decided not to be an artist anymore and decided to be a Tax Accountant and go make a happy, comfortable living without having to worry about your future.

But if you’re not going to give up, keep running. As you keep running, you’ll also learn how to enjoy running better. And hopefully, y’know, you’ll keep researching into how to run better because that’s part of keep running.

Like forms and stuff.

Metaphor. Analogy.

This got too sentimental for my taste.

AND I SAID HEY-EY-EY-EY! HEY-EY-EY-EY!

I SAID HEY!

TUPAC KILLED JFK!

ARAMIRU OUT!


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Walking the Fine Line: Review Trading

Let’s begin by murdering the elephant in the room with a buckshot, skinning her with a rusty knife, and harvesting her ivory for pristine piano keys–I’m against it.

Review trading is a blatant hush-hush among indie writers that some participate without much thought, some with the belief that it’s just part of the game, and some with guilt that’d make Catholics envious.

The title for this entry was a forewarning because this is a complicated matter and my position on it is a bit of a fine waltz (or an awkward crunk) that could be easily misconstrued (like an awkward crunk). I readily admit that I could be shining my own position and this problem with the wrong kind of bulb.

What it actually is is simple: Author A asks Author B that they should read each other’s books and give each other reviews.

The concern lies within the innuendos that may or may not be there… like back when you were 16 at a keg party and talking to Minji Kim the Asian cheerleader that you’ve had a crush on before she developed and became popular so you know that you were into her for her soul and personality and she’s slightly tipsy and you are too and you don’t get if she’s hitting on you or not but her boyfriend Derek is across the room sipping on his red plastic cup and glaring at you like a diseased hawk with quads that’d burst your cherries like balls if he decided to kick you in the grapes.

Theoretically, the two authors would take their times to photosynthesize each other’s books and emit onto one another honest reviews and breathe in whatever the other had to say.

Because as we all know, criticisms are often more beneficial than praises (remember this because I’m going to tell you later how I lied by simply omitting four words).

Here’s the not-so Shayamalan: reality is a dick.

You see, criticisms are often more beneficial than praises for honing your craft. Criticisms are not often more beneficial than praises for paying your bills.

Yes, yes. Perhaps by having honest criticisms people would improve and write better books that’d sell to more people.

Again, theoretically true, but not always true in reality.

Selling is about marketing. Whether something is good or not doesn’t really matter as long as the package is good.

For books that’s about reviews and it’s cred. Sadly, unlike movies, most books cannot sell on notoriety of being bad. Especially considering as time passes, more and more people are thinking of books as sort of an investment–time investment. Why should they spend the time and money they could be using watching 3 minute videos on YouTube and Facebook and etc. on a bad book?

Specifically, for indie authors, this means the number of stars and the number of reviews attached to the name of their novel. Book marketing, like anything else, is complex and expensive but the foundation of it (for indie authors at least) starts from there.

So let’s go back to Author A and B. There isn’t a writer out there who’s not aware of this. Everyone’s aware that bad reviews can tangibly harm someone’s writing career.

I think most of us can agree that there’s some immorality there if the two understood they’d give each other a positive review no matter what.

However, the gray seeps in when the pressure to give one another honest reviews is challenged by peculiar circumstances.

Lets say Author A wrote a fantastic book and received a glittery review from B. But B wrote a dull novel and A was planning on giving them a review that reflected exactly that.

After receiving a good review, understandably, A could feel the pressure to plant some flowers into his review for B.

A is simply a person not wanting to harm someone who’s done them a favor.

“Favor”, as it often does, becomes the gray word here.

To prevent this problem from ever happening, many writers suggest to simply not ask other writers to trade reviews.  Let them discover your novel like any other readers and give you a review as an audience. Or ask a writer to simply give you a review with an understanding that this is a clean favor you’re asking from them and not a transaction.

But many of us starting out writers do need help from our peers to make it past the first few steps of our careers.

A method I found that is mostly acceptable is to give one another private reviews and ask for permission if they’d be okay with the review being public. Of course, this being discussed beforehand that the review will be performed in such a manner.

There’s a problem with this too, however, in that you could give someone a poor review and if you’re involved in a poor circle of writers this may circulate a bad branding to your name and people might not support you as they are aware that you probably don’t present them with any benefits.

Business be business, people be people, and life be life.

I’m writing about this topic because I felt like I missed a better timing for it. A writer friend of mine, Jessica Wren, invited me into her co-op group for authors.

As far as I know so far, they seem to be good people looking to help one another’s careers with integrity. I’m happy to be part of the group. Jessica is a pretty awesome person that I am glad to have met.

We’re all in this together. We’re all trying to make self and indie publishing a legitimate source for novels and storytelling. There’s no sense in cannibalizing our own fragile credibility for a small chance at brief success.

The road for indie writers is still unpaved, littered with broken glass, and filled with robbers.

What they shouldn’t take away from us are our names. Let’s protect that together.

ARAMIRU OUT!


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