An Alternate Route to Publishing

An Alternate Route to Publishing

How It Used to Be

Twenty-five years ago, when a writer wanted to get published and get paid, first they sought out a literary agent to represent them. Upon finding one, this agent queried publishers hoping to find one looking for the kind of work the author produced. The author, if he or she took the initiative, also queried publishers accepting manuscripts from writers without a literary agent (while few and far between, some still do). This slow process typically results in a pile of rejection letters, and has driven many a writer to give up on his or her dreams of ever finding a traditional publishing contract.

Seeing a marketing opportunity, a vast number of vanity presses popped up in the late nineties and turn of the millennium. These dime-a-dozen companies offered joint-venture contracts to writers, saying they would publish the manuscript, but at the author’s expense. This method rarely resulting in success and notoriety, many writers fell victim to what most consider a scam. The author pays the publisher a fee under the impression they’ll turn their book into a hit, only to find out they paid for overpriced printing. When I was a naïve nineteen year-old with a story and a dream, I suffered this devastating indignity.

How It Is Now

Fast forward to the twenty-first century where e-books and self-publishing is as easy as uploading a file and clicking a ‘Submit’ button. With visual media available with no more than the touch of a button, fewer and fewer readers emerge from each generation. Those who do, typically read from a tablet or smartphone, and no longer bother with printed books. Now, you’ll still find those old-fashioned folks like me who maintain the opinion that the feel of turning a printed page cannot compare with virtual simulation, but we are a dying breed.

The dream come true for writers is still a traditional publishing contract from a large firm able to throw money into marketing a book and building an audience. It still happens, but it’s like catching lightning in a bottle—or winning the Powerball. Anyone with a few thousand dollars to invest can hire a vanity press to turn their story into a printed book, but are left to do marketing and promotion themselves. Not every writer is a salesman or marketing guru, and books published this way usually sell less than 100 copies, and do not offer a lucrative return on investment.

Get Inspired

The publishing game has always been a competitive market, more so now than ever. With expert-level difficulty awaiting anyone attempting the audacious endeavor of using words to generate income, fewer people bother trying. But adversity is no reason to give up on a dream. You can’t lose if you don’t quit, and there is no shame in reaching for some low-hanging fruit. This dilemma has inspired some writers to dedicate their life’s work to helping other writers keep trying and not give up on their dream. Jeff Goins is one such writer. His book You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One) addresses the modern writer’s frustrations and gives practical, easy-to-apply advice to help overcome some of these aforementioned obstacles.

An Alternate Route

Self-publishing is not the easy way out; it’s hard work, but it CAN yield results. Instead of waiting around for someone to pick you, why not pick yourself? There’s a few things you’ll have to do yourself that will be out of your comfort zone, but isn’t learning something new worth it to make your dream come true? The answer is yes, of course. We’ll start with the easy ones.

An Author Website

You need one. Don’t let someone tell you otherwise. If you’re not a web designer, don’t worry. There’s easy-to-use products out there to help you make a website in just a few hours. Squarespace offers professional, streamline templates with a user-friendly platform, hundreds of how-to tutorials, and knowledgeable customer service reps to help you along the way. I used them, and had my author website up and running in two days. I’m thrilled with the results and my only regret is I didn’t use them sooner. Check them out, and use the coupon code NERDIST to save a little money on your purchase. It’s not an investment you will regret.

Social Media

This is how the world connects and is the fastest way to spread the word. It’s free and easy to set up an author page on Facebook as well as to invite your friends to like it. You have to market yourself as well as your work. To do that, you have to get your name out there. Don’t stop at Facebook. Get Twitter, Google Plus, Tumblr, and LinkedIn too. If you use a business card, have an email subscriber list, a blog, or anything you send out to your readers, welcome them to follow/subscribe to your pages. Check them frequently and take the time to update them.

Word of Mouth

This is the most powerful tool at your disposal. Change your way of thinking when you meet new people. The question most-often asked by new people is, “What do you do [for a living].” If you’re like me, you have a nine-to-five day job to pay the bills, and writing is something you do on the side. Our first inclination is to say, “I work at such-a-such a place doing this-that-and-the-other.” Stop. Don’t do that. Your new response, from now on, should be, “I’m a writer.” Tell them about your writing, where to find it, about your website, and your social media outlets. Live your dream by simply being what you are at heart: a writer.

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)

Let me start by saying this: it’s free. That’s right. When your manuscript is ready (story, table of contents, copyright, and cover art) you create an account, upload it for free, and when people buy it you get paid. Instead of the months-long wait a publisher will force you to endure, your book is available between 24 and 48 hours. Wow! This changes the game. No more literary agents, no more query letters, and no more waiting months—years, potentially—to find someone to publish you. Amazon/Kindle has effectively transformed publishing into something DIY, by making it free and easy.

Conclusion

Make no mistake; self-publishing is still a long, uphill climb. It will force you to work harder and learn things you never knew. But it’s not without reward. You don’t have to wait on someone’s approval. When people start reading your stuff, leaving reviews, and the buzz leads to more sales and you get that royalties check in the mail, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you earned every cent. This method is not for everyone, but it is for anyone. Self-publishing is no small topic, and I intend to expand on many of its components in the future. I hope this article helped you. Feel free to leave any comments or questions below. Thanks for reading.

Top Writing Blogs

I set out to compile a list of truly helpful articles for my readers, but it turns out that Bryan Hutchinson from positivewriter.com beat me to it.  This is the post for 2014’s Top 25 Writing Blogs in which he promises to deliver 50 this year.  I am anxiously awaiting that because every single one of these articles proved to be much-needed advice and encouragement.  Give them a read.

http://positivewriter.com/top-25-writing-blogs/

Writing: How I Started, and Why I Never Stopped

Writing: How I Started, and Why I Never Stopped

My history with writing goes back a long way—all the way to the second grade.  I loved to read as a young child.  During those years, the Goosebumps series by R. L. Stine was largely popular with kids.  My parents encouraged me to read, and between buying the books and letting me check them out at the library, it didn’t take me long to read every one published at the time. These books were produced and published fairly quickly, a handful released every year—but patience was never my strong suit.

Without a book to keep me entertained, I decided I would write my own Goosebumps story. Using a plain white piece of construction paper and a purple marker, I started writing—and I never stopped.  Construction paper and markers turned into spiral-bound notebooks, pages upon pages written on an old typewriter, and finally, to thousands of words saved on files on our family computer.  It was more than a hobby; it was an obsession.  I did it every day for as long as I can remember, but I always did it for fun.  I never dreamed of publishing a series of my own—until the summer of 2006, a year after I graduated high school.

Still an avid reader, my friend Adam recommended a book to me called Eragon, by Christopher Paolini.  Working at the shaved ice shack my parents owned, I cracked it open in my downtime. Instantly captivated, when my shift was over, I went home and finished it that evening. I drove to Walmart afterwards, hoping and praying the sequel would be there.  To my delight, I found a hardback copy of Eldest staring back at me from its place on the shelf.  I took a little more time reading this one as it’s quite a bit longer. So impressed with writing style and story, I decided to look up the author.

When I found out Christopher Paolini was only five years older than me, and was my age at the time (nineteen) he published his first book, I thought to myself, “If he can do it, so can I.”  He ended up being the second author who truly inspired me, setting me to a year-long task of building the world of Espiria.  It all started with a map drawn on Microsoft Paint.  Before I wrote a single word of narration or dialogue, I mapped out the names of the months, how many suns, how many moons, how many races, where they are located geographically on the map, the names of the kings and people who ruled there, and some history to give it the feeling of a real place.

So, with delusions of grandeur, a nineteen year-old naïve kid with a dream set to writing his first novel.  Writing was never a difficult thing for me, and before long, I had a 350,000-word manuscript no publisher would look at, let alone touch.  I split the original into two books, and focused on selling the first one.  Learning the publishing game is akin to feeling around in the dark unless you have someone showing you what to do every step of the way—which I did not—and I settled for a vanity press that did not help me like I thought they would.  Conspiracy didn’t sell very well, and looking back, it’s no surprise.  But two things my father taught me: failure is never final, and you can’t lose if you don’t quit.

My adventures in writing had only just begun.

Eric, another friend of mine, bought a copy of The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson.  I read the prologue three times because it was so captivating and well-written.  I loved the feeling of being thrown face-first into a world I didn’t know or understand, and watching the plot unfold on the page before me through the eyes of characters rich with complexity.  It was around this time I realized where I had gone wrong with Espiria.  I had done so much ‘telling’ in the world-building, I neglected to ‘show’ my readers anything they hadn’t seen before.  I promised myself then and there I would not make the same mistake with the second installment, and set out to write Crusade.

Partway through writing the first draft of a manuscript, Alex, a former co-worker, started pestering me to watch the HBO hit series, Game of Thrones.  After weeks of telling him I would get around to it, he finally brought the first season DVDs to work, and told me to take them home and watch them.  I watched the first episode, stopped, and drove to Target where I picked up my own copies of seasons 1 and 2, knowing this would be my next great obsession.  I hosted a one-man marathon over the next two days, and then went to purchase the books.  For those of you who have not read A Song of Ice and Fire, the fantasy series by George R. R. Martin, let me tell you, the plot is larger and more complex than your average fantasy epic.  Hundreds of characters, dozens of places, and an immersive world to fall into await the reader on every turn of the page.

I changed the approach, style, and format to Espiria, taking what I’d learned from Stein, Paolini, Sanderson, and Martin, and applying it to the manuscript.  After I finished Crusade, I knew that I had something special.  It dwarfed the previous novel so dramatically, I knew I had to re-write Conspiracy and release it as a second edition.  This turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.  Taking the words that came from my original dream, and making them into the story they were always supposed to tell.  I had grown up, and so had my work.

My inspiration story is like so many others.  I stumbled upon the work of damn good writers who not only impressed me, but inspired me to do better.  Without Stein, I would have never even tried my hand at writing.  Without Paolini, I never would have believed I could write professionally.  Without Sanderson, I never would have learned to live vicariously through my characters.  And without Martin, I would never have dreamed Espiria could be so big a place.  I owe a lot to these men, not just because they produced  great work, but because all of them were part of the journey that led me where I am today.  All of them continue to inspire me to keep going in spite of past failures.

So here’s to a New Year, a fresh start, and making my dreams come true.  Here’s to remembering that failure is never final, and you can’t lose if you don’t quit.

4 Practical Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block

4 Practical Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block

Introduction

“Every writer I know has trouble writing.” – Joseph Heller

Ever sit down in front of your computer in full preparation to do some serious writing, and then draw a blank? Yeah, me too. I think it happens to all of us. It can be frustrating and disheartening, especially in this day and age where everyone is constantly on-the-go and in-a-hurry. This article will offer some practical, easy-to-apply advice to help overcome writer’s block. With any luck, you’ll be tickling those keys and filling pages in no time.

Keep a Journal

Keeping a journal has gained a very 90s-teenage-girl connotation, but can serve as a helpful tool. My mind gets cluttered with day-to-day life. The dishes in the sink. The laundry in the basket. The bills needing paid. Dinner to be prepared. The list goes on and on. Taking the time to write out what’s on my mind, what I’ve done, what I have yet to do, and when I plan to do it helps me to process and clear my thoughts.

Another tactic is free writing. Open a notebook and write everything you’re thinking until all your thoughts are hashed out. Once you run out of things to write, set it aside and put your focus into your work. You might find this kind of clarity extremely helpful in the creative process.

Read as Much as You Write

This one is a tough one for me because I write all the time. I try to devote every spare moment to my work, but I find if I’m not pouring into myself, my work suffers. My primary project is Tales of Espiria, a fantasy series, so I try to read in the same genre. I recommend you do the same; read what you write. I discovered quickly that I have developed quite the critical eye when it comes to my genre. When reading work by renown others (Sanderson, Martin, Jordan, Tolkien, etc.), I take the time to appreciate it more. I take note of the authors’ methods, make notes of the things I like and the things I don’t like to better improve my work.

You don’t have to read the same genre you write. Sometimes it’s good to pick up a feel-good or self-help novel for motivation. Topics like organization or time management help encourage me to stay on the ball and keep working. Regardless, make sure you’re taking the time to take some creativity in so the creativity you’re putting out stays fresh.

Write Something for Fun

If you’re a writer, I hope you’re not doing it for the money—or at least just for the money. It’s a long, hard road and takes a lot of time and dedication before the payoff arrives (in most cases). For me, I get so caught up in Tales of Espiria, I forget that I’m allowed to write other things. To break up the monotony, I take the time to write short stories, poetry, blog articles, book/movie reviews, or fan fiction. Writing is fun and fulfilling for me. Sometimes finishing a few small projects keeps me driven to continue the big ones.

Fan fiction is so much fun. I have written a couple of them and plan to continue. You can create a free account and post on Fan Fiction. Write about your favorite TV series or comic book universe. It doesn’t have to be long, there are no deadlines, there’s no pressure to market it since you’ll never get paid for it, and you will probably have a lot of fun doing it.

Story Cubes

My husband bought me a gift one year for Christmas. I opened a set of dice to find a random assortment of pictures and words printed on them. They might be the best gift he’s ever given me. When I’m itching to write something but find difficulty focusing on the project I want to work on, I give these dice a whirl and build an impromptu story based on the random assortment provided. They’re short, sweet, and to-the-point stories, typically less than 100 words, but sometimes that’s all it takes to get the creative juices flowing.

There are several varieties available online. I recommend Rory’s Story Cubes. They are marketed as children’s toys but do not be dismayed; these things are awesome and worth every penny.

Conclusion

The best advice I can give is to mix it up and find something that works for you. Each individual has his or her own process and way of thinking. Take these tips and cater them to your methods. Whatever you do, don’t just sit there staring at your screen for an hour and expect your work to write itself. I’ve been there, done that, and know nothing makes me feel worse than feeling like I’ve wasted valuable time.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it helpful. Please let me know and feel free to share with others. If you have any advice on what you do to overcome writer’s block, feel free to contact me so I can feature it in a future blog. Thanks for reading!

How to Improve Your Manuscript

How to Improve Your Manuscript

Introduction

This article will give you some practical, easy-to-apply writing and editing tips guaranteed to improve the quality of your work and reduce your word count. While it is more geared towards long manuscripts (novels and novellas) most of it will apply to short stories, essays, and blogs too. Publishing is a competitive market and roping in readers sometimes proves as difficult as nailing Jell-O to the wall. By shaping your words in a format more easily read and bringing your word count down, you give your work a much better chance of catching attention.

Adverbs

Adverbs clutter up your narrative with unnecessary description. These words end in L-Y most of the time and writers tend to overuse them. A good test as to whether a word belongs or not is to strike it out of the sentence. If it still makes sense, leave it out. Let me show you what I mean.

Damiar crept silently down the hallway, hoping and praying his footsteps did not catch the attention of the guards roaming the castle.

Read that sentence without the underlined word. See? It still makes sense. The part about him hoping and praying not to catch the guards’ attention implies he’s trying to remain silent. Never assume your readers are dumb. That sounds basic, but it’s the truth. If you get in the habit of overstating your action, your narrative gets wordy and annoying. Here’s another example.

“Would you like me to show you the right way to do that?” Damiar asked.

“I don’t need any help from you,” Farrina snapped icily. She continued assembling the weapons vigorously, intent on doing her share without the assistance of others.

With a few exceptions, it is not necessary to say how a character says something. Using ‘icily’ to define a cold tone is overstated here. In the previous sentence, we glean Damiar’s condescension from his word choice. Context tells us she does not reply with a cheery tone. The same can be said of using the word ‘vigorously.’ Her intent is stated in the phrase afterwards, the sentences still make sense, and the same picture is painted.

Here you see a sample of sixty-three words, but you see how easy adverbs find their way into narration. Using some basic math, let’s assume a writer uses 3 adverbs per 63 words in a 100,000 word manuscript, or 1 adverb every 21 words (and this is a conservative estimation). Rounding down, that’s 4,761 words, an entire chapter’s worth, most of which do not belong. By minimizing your use of adverbs, you can cut thousands of words out of your manuscript.

Use of the word ‘That’

We love this word and I have no idea why. Perhaps it adds a bridge or transition while speaking on some subconscious level. I’ve seen writers use this word when they should use a comma instead. Just like adverbs, ‘that’ is an unnecessary word 99% of the time. Let me show you what I mean.

“I just wanted to say that I love you and that you mean the world to me,” Farrina said. Gazing into Razael’s eyes that turned blue after the incident on the waterfall. She knew that she loved him more than anything that she ever loved before.

I admit I overdid it here, but I want to paint a clear picture of just how little this words serves a narrative. I’ll let the story speak for itself here; read this excerpt with the word eliminated. Better yet, read both of them aloud. Remember, whatever it sounds like out loud is how it will sound in your readers’ heads.

I just wanted to say I love you and you mean the world to me,” Farrina said. Gazing into Razael’s eyes, turned blue after the incident on the waterfall. She knew she loved him more than anything she ever loved before.

The proof is in the pudding. In this case, every single use of the word ‘that’ proved unnecessary, serving no other purpose than to cluster up the words and upset the flow. But as I stated before, we love this word for some reason and use it all the time in everyday speech. Regardless, this should not reflect in our work. You see how easy it is to use ‘that’ in just a 46-word sample. Let’s do some math again using the same hypothetical 100,000-word manuscript. So, 5 uses of the word ‘that’ for every 45 words (rounded down for easy math), or 1 use for every 9 brings us to a whopping 11,111 words! Here’s some free professional advice you can take to the bank: any time the opportunity to cut more than ten thousand words from your manuscript presents itself, do it!

Use of ‘To Be’ Verbs

This piece of advice is less about word count, and more about the quality of your narrative. Our job as writers is to paint a picture in the minds of our readers. Free-flowing description can accomplish this far better than the use of ‘to be’ verbs: am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been, do, does, did, has, have, had, can, may, might, must, will, shall, would, should, and could. These words are lazy—plain and simple. Let me give you an example.

Lorrick and Damiar inched closer to the oasis. Through the trees, they could see there was a waterfall. Standing at the top of the rock face, there were several guards standing at attention, on the lookout for anyone who would intrude. With guards before them and behind them, danger was on both sides.

Writing this caused me pain, but for the sake of learning, I endured. Here’s the problem with using ‘to be’ verbs too liberally: instead of painting a picture, it reads like a list. He was six feet tall. He had brown hair. He was dressed in nice clothes. He did carry weapons with him. As a writer, our jobs are to show, not tell. ‘To be’ verbs only tell. Let me show you a better way to write the same passage and watch it come to life.

Lorrick and Damiar inched closer to the oasis. Through the trees, a waterfall cascaded over the rocks into a flowing river below. Standing at the top of the rock face, several guards stood at attention, on the lookout for intruders. With guards before them and behind them, danger lurked on both sides.

Without meaning to, and using more sensory details, I managed to rewrite this excerpt and use 1 fewer word (the first is 53; the second is 52). This tactic will increase your word count most of the time, but the good news is if you applied the other tips given so far, you’ll have plenty of room to fill your novel with rich description instead of monotonous lists and unnecessary words.

Verb Tenses

This is a tricky one as there are twelve tenses any verb can take in the English language. Past, present, and future, and then the simple, continuous, perfect, and perfect continuous of each one. Most writers write from a third-person limited perspective, and in a past tense. Since this is the most common style used, my examples will reflect as such. Let me note, if you write your narration in the present tense, this will not apply to you as much.

The tendency to utilize a past-perfect or past-perfect-continuous form of a verb when the past-simple form of the verb conveys the same message is hard to overcome. This is the area in which I struggle the most with the tips mentioned so far, and for several reasons. Both versions of the examples are grammatically correct and both versions convey a similar message. However, only of them is technically correct and is much more efficient.

Coralyn had been to the council chamber once when she was young. It had scared her then to stand before the elders, and it scared her now. Trembling with anticipation, her imagination ran wild as to why she had been summoned. She could hear her brother’s voice in her head. If he had said it once he had said it a thousand times. “You need to think about the consequences before you speak or act.”

Once again, I overdid it for the sake of illustrating a point. This excerpt is rife with past-perfect verbs and most of them unnecessary. The urge to distinguish one timeline from another prompts the writer to change the tenses of the verbs, but here’s the catch: all of the things described above happened in the past and can all be described with past-simple tense. Let me show you.

Coralyn went to the council chamber when she was young. It scared her then to stand before the elders and it scared her now. Trembling with anticipation, her imagination ran wild as to why she had been summoned. She heard her brother’s voice in her head. If he said it once, he said it a thousand times. “You need to think about the consequences before you speak or act.”

Do you see how both passages convey the same message, but one uses fewer words (9 to be exact)? You’ll notice I left one of them unchanged to serve as an example for when using a tense other than past-simple is necessary. Even still, personally, I would change “…why she had been summoned,” to, “why her father summoned her,” because it eliminates the words and gives the reader more of a story. Now they know who summoned her to the council chamber with the same amount of words used and no change in the verb tenses.

It’s math time again! The first example is 75 words, and the second is only 69. Using the same hypothetical 100,000-word manuscript, let’s assume using this tip will allow us to eliminate 6 words for every 75, or 1 word for every 12 (rounding down again). That’s 8,333 words less by applying the principle to its entirety. The best way to catch these is to read your manuscript aloud, take note of your verb tenses, and change them to past-simple tense if it still makes sense and conveys the same message.

Conclusion

As you can see, the best thing you can do for your work is to say as much as you can with as few words as possible. Fill your story with sensory details, not boring ‘to be’ verbs. Show your readers something they’ve never seen before, don’t tell them. For those of you are numbers people like me, the running tally of words reduced in our ongoing hypothetical is 24,205. That is almost 25%! Let me tell you, it’s much easier to sell 75,000 words to a publisher than 100,000—especially if every words counts.

Let me know what you thought of this article and if it helped you with your writing and editing process. Thank you for reading!

What Writers Are Really Like

What Writers Are Really Like

Writers Are Weird

Writers are the weirdest people you’ll ever meet. Well, perhaps not the weirdest, but nowhere near what society would call ‘normal.’ Their minds are seldom in the here and now; they might look calm and collected on the outside, but behind their eyes, their imaginations are always running wild. Writers come in all varieties of personality types, but one thing you’ll find unites them all is this: they never stopped playing make-believe. That childlike sense of wonder about the world around us stood the test of time against the odds of our society’s tendency to encourage people to ‘outgrow’ their imagination. It’s why I like meeting other writers. Regardless of our differences, be they race, religion, income, or any other arbitrary categorization we use to define human beings, our souls are going to connect on a similar wavelength.

In high school, my Expository Writing teacher said to the class, quoting E. L. Doctorow, “Writing is a socially-acceptable form of schizophrenia.” I think every writer at some point in his or her life has questioned their own sanity. I know I have. People make jokes about hearing voices in their head not being normal, and I would think to myself, “I hear voices in my head all the time.” Don’t be alarmed, however. These voices come in the forms of personalities and characters who might one day find themselves on the pages of a future novel. While not true of all writers, you’ll find that most of us tend to talk aloud to ourselves, and not just when we’re working.

Writers Are Artists

In twenty-first century America, we find, heartbreakingly so, that fewer and fewer people read. If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say, “I’m just not much of a reader,” I wouldn’t need to write to make money anymore. Living in a digital age, with a buffet of streaming media at the tips of our fingers, more people prefer television and film. So why produce art fewer people will appreciate? Well, have you ever heard someone say, “The book was even better than the movie,”? There’s a reason for that: visual entertainment, no matter how crammed-packed with special effects, will never—I repeat, never—compete with the human imagination. You see, especially for those of us who write fiction, it is the part of the human mind to which we appeal.

When someone says they are an ‘artist,’ we typically think painter, sculptor, dancer, or musician. When someone says they are a ‘writer,’ we have a tendency to put them in a separate compartment. But that’s what we are: artists. Our canvas is a blank piece of paper or computer screen, our paintbrush, a pen or keyboard, and our finished product, an experience. It may come in the form of a story, a poem, an essay, or a blog. We use words to paint a picture in the minds of our readers in hopes to take them to another place, perhaps another time, and see through the eyes and ears of someone who doesn’t even exist. And why? Because we want other people to read our work and enjoy it? Sure. That’s a part of it. But real writers do it because they love it more than anything else in the world. Just ask one.

Writers Understand People

Writers are a scary judge of character and it’s rare to find one gullible or easily-duped. We spend so much time trying to understand people in order to make our characters as believable and relatable as possible. We don’t force our characters say or do anything, we invent them, and let them loose. We constantly ask ourselves, “What would he say?” or “What would she do?” and develop a honed skill at reading people as a result. After studying human behavior for so long, trying to not only understand it, but essentially replicate it, writers can usually deduce the motivation behind people’s words or actions. Long-story-short, I wouldn’t recommend trying to bullshit a writer, though you’re welcome to try. You’ll just give them the opportunity to call out what you’re doing and why.

On the flipside of this, oftentimes you’ll find writers make great friends. We pay attention to what people respond to, positive and negative, and for those we love: we aim to please. For this reason, you’ll notice writers sometimes wear different hats depending on who they are around. It’s not faking or insincere, but another representation of who they are—one they think you’ll respond to best. What can I say? We’re a complicated lot, rich with layers and complexities, and sometimes downright ridiculous. But as Marilyn Monroe once said, “Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius, and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”

Writers Work Hard

If you’re familiar with ‘Family Guy,’ you have probably seen the bit where Stewie heckles Brian about writing a novel. If don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ve included the entire quote here for your pleasure.

“How you uh, how you comin’ on that novel you’re working on? Huh? Gotta a big, uh, big stack of papers there? Gotta, gotta nice litte story you’re working on there? Your big novel you’ve been working on for 3 years? Huh? Gotta, gotta compelling protaganist? Yeah? Gotta obstacle for him to overcome? Huh? Gotta story brewing there? Working on, working on that for quite some time? Huh? (voice getting higher pitched) Yea, talking about that 3 years ago. Been working on that the whole time? Nice little narrative? Beginning, middle, and end? Some friends become enemies, some enemies become friends? At the end your main character is richer from the experience? Yeah? Yeah? (voice returns to normal) No, no, you deserve some time off.”

People love to say this to me for some reason. I suppose they think it’s funny and I suppose it is; I laughed when I saw it—the first time. There’s a terrible misconception concerning writers: that they sit around doing nothing, but nothing could be further from the truth. Writers work hard. Really hard. Don’t believe me? Sit down at your computer, shell out 80,000 words that make sense, comb through it to make sure it’s as free from grammatical and spelling errors as possible, and then try to talk someone else into paying you for the opportunity to read it. After you’re done, let me know how long it took you to do it.

The truth is we pour our heart and soul into our work. We are just as passionate as any other artist about our work. Blood, sweat, tears, countless hours, and cups of coffee go into transforming ideas for others to understand and enjoy. Another misconception is that all writers are ‘starving artists.’ Some of us are pretty darn good at what we do and make a decent living doing so. Next time you hear someone say they are a writer, remember that just like any person with any profession, they take great pains to produce quality work, and are proud of the accomplishments like anyone would be.

To My Fellow Ink-Slingers

If you’ve stayed with me until this point, hopefully you’re reading this saying, “Yes! Yes!” I know what it’s like being a writer. Every challenge, every insecurity, every snarky comment from every hater who thinks our craft obsolete or irrelevant, I’ve faced it all, and I’m sure you have too. Being a writer isn’t easy. The work is hard, the pay sucks, and the label comes with all kinds of disheartening stigma. But chances are though, you’re like me and you don’t do it for the money or the approval of others; you do it because you love it and you can’t imagine doing anything else. To that I say, “More power to you!”

Our craft is not obsolete and it is not irrelevant. While fewer people read nowadays, the global population is larger today than ever before, and a great many of them still read. Your efforts are not in vain and under no circumstances should you let discouragement of any kind dissuade you from pursuing your dreams. You will find success if you make the decision to never quit and possess the three necessary ingredients: talent, skill, and determination.

Conclusion

For those of you who took the time to read, thank you. Readers are a writer’s best friend. I appreciate you more than I could adequately articulate with words alone. I hope this has given you some insight into what writers, as people, are really like. For my fellow writers, remember this if nothing else: you can’t lose if you refuse to quit. Oh! And one more thing: don’t ever stop listening to the voices in your head.