I’ve been looking at the business practices of many of our authors and felt pretty overwhelmed by just how nasty things have gotten.
n publishing, we have two different distribution systems. The traditional publishing industry has its editors, and they have contracts with the bookstores and with the book distribution companies that are designed to keep you from selling your books at bookstores—and these contracts are very effective.
Very often I like to think of the writing worlds as a swamp. A big swamp infested with crocodiles and quicksand and rattlesnakes, and deep in the heart of the swamp is buried treasure. And of course the new author is like an intrepid explorer, foraying into that swamp with a single purpose, to retrieve […]
An even richer source for surprise than setting is your cast. You can of course use the same techniques for creating surprises in characters as you do for settings. You can for example make a character a bit strange or grotesque. In The Godfather, we are fascinated by Don Corleone because of his strange nature—he’s powerful, seemingly warm-hearted one moment and unbelievably vicious the next.
So let me see if I can make this simple. Let’s say you write a novel. When you do, as it’s creator, you own the “copyright,” the right to print the work and sell copies of it. Under US law, you don’t need to necessarily register that copyright, but it is helpful if you do. (Registering copyright isn’t hard. Just Google the topic. I saw a scammer last week telling authors it was a complex process and he wanted $80 to do something that would actually take the author only a couple of minutes.)
So often I hear of writers who can’t seem to “get started” on their writing in the morning. They want to do it, but not enough to do it by themselves. But I know of many authors who will get together for short retreats and bang out a chapter or short story on their computers in a few hours. I’ve done it myself.
Very often when we hear of people succumbing to peer pressure, it’s a bad thing. But it can also be a great power for good.
So how can you use peer pressure to your advantage? Try setting some simple goals.
Try renting a cabin or a hotel for a weekend with a couple of writing buddies. Don’t just give yourself permission to write during that time, make sure you spend a couple of mornings writing, and then spend some afternoons critiquing one another’s work.
Join or start a writing group. This can be a group where you just do “sprints” together—writing at a certain time—or you can also do critiques. But make sure that it is a real “writing” group. Make a simple rule: if you don’t produce something, then you can’t come. You don’t want onlookers and bystanders and gossips. Make it clear that every writer in the group is required to produce.
If your group is a critique group, then in your writing group, create a Sargent at Arms who sends text messages to other members a couple of days before your meetings, reminding them that, “Your ten pages are due by the end of the week.” In short, create a little pressure on yourself. If the goal is to write sprints, let you clock be the Sargent at Arms. When it says it’s time to write, everyone writes.
Give yourselves awards for a job well done. For example, at the end of a meeting, applaud those in the group who wrote the most, wrote the most powerful passage, or did something unique and interesting.
Part of what makes an epic an epic is that the reader tries to get a panoramic view of life, to experience a wide range of human emotions. I think that Tolkien handled this well in LOTR. He has a lot of warmth and humor and nostalgia in early parts of the story, but then he builds up to terror, despair, and horror. There is some triumph and tragedy and a lingering sense of isolation and remorse for our hero, too.
As a storyteller, I make my living as a tour guide of sorts, escorting my audience through vivid dreams. As a guide, I create the setting, with its landscape, history and its wonders. I may suggest entire cultures with imaginary languages and customs. I might develop characters with their own unique habits and ways of […]
Many new writers figure out how to write great descriptive scenes, but they don’t know very well how to link them together. Let me give you an example. Let’s say that you open a novel to a scene ten pages in that starts, “Let me explain this to you just once: you stay away from […]
One of the most common problems I see with new writers is a “mistake in tone.” You know what I mean if you’ve ever played in a band. A new kid comes in, you’re trying to play a song, and he blats out a sour note on a trumpet. The same thing happens in writing. […]