Monday, January 8, 2018

Being a Career Writer: What to Focus On

This is one f those questions with a million answers.

I have one, Focus on your craft. Jeffe just said the same basic thing, but not surprisingly, I agree with her.

Listen, anyone can tell you that marketing is key. Or having an agent. Or editing. They are all important. but at the end of the day what you are selling is your ability to  tell a story. If you can
't tell a good story, you are, frankly, in the wrong business. OR, you haven't practiced your craft well enough. As a rule I can scare the crap out of most readers. Why? I've been honing that particular skill for twenty-five years. It's a skill. It's one I practice with a lot, It's one small faction of the craft of writing. I need to be able to tell a good story, make certain that a reader is invested in the characters, make absolutely sure that the world I build (be it local or a vastly different world of possibilities with super-heroes, aliens, or sorcerers) makes enough sense and is tangible enough for the readers to enjoy it. I need to tell multiple perspectives and share enough information to keep the entire affair coherent.

And I only have words to do that with. I might have a book cover, but there's no promise that whatever cover I have will make any sense with the story. You think I'm kidding, but I'm really not, I've had more than my share of craptacular covers that had absolutely nothing in common with the words under that illustration. If you are VERY LUCKY (and I have been several times) then the cover reflects a part of your tale. A fraction. A very small drib.

So, no, the cover isn't important to the tale. Except, of course, when it is.

No I need to tell a story, I need to make that story flow with ease, and to suspend disbelief in my readers. I need to convince them, with just words, mind you, that it's possible for a single man to fight the gods, or that a collection of small, militaristic tribes can possibly be a threat to an empire hundreds of times larger. Or that the world can be changed with a spell that ends all technology and unleashes horrors best never considered. I need to make sure that readers believe a reclusive college boy might get revenge for a girl who is tormented by what a corrupt cop made her do. I need to make certain they believe said cop could get away with his crimes. I need to find the logic that binds those notions and then I need to breathe life into those little golems crafted with nothing but 27 letters set in the right order, used again and again.

All of the rest of it, the editing, the marketing and in rare occasions the movies or shows made from those notions, all of it, is secondary to the tale being told.

With words. Just words.

Yeah, concentrate on your craft and storytelling.

That's just my two cents.

Speaking of Two Cents  (or actually a bit more)

THE TWISTED BOOK OF SHADOWS is coming soon. This will be a completely blind submission anthology of horror tales crafted by writers who may not have even heard about the anthology so far, It will pay professional rates and will also offer royalties. There will be no names on the submissions. Just titles and word counts. So no bias will appear for marquee names. Once upon a time editors like Charles L. Grant and Karl Edward Wagner made it a point to find the stories that affected them the most. These days most anthologies never get a chance without at least half of the stories being written by heavy hitters in any given field. This will be a level playing field. Please, please, please spread the word far and wide. If you like horror that is.

More details and yes, a chance to support this project, can be found here.