Tuesday, January 06, 2015

What You Know and What Others Tell You

What writers need is balance.

All clichés apply, from the one about writing being a lonely world for the author, to the one about ... well, you know.

I want to point out a few things to those who are self-confident, frustrated, overwhelmed, or just plain insecure. You are not alone, and you are not wrong, and you are not an inferior writer, and you are not destined for failure or public humiliation. You MUST find a way beyond your insecurities—the bane of most, if not all writers—and achieve a level of faith in yourself that indeed borders on conceit and cockiness. The key word here folks is “borders.”

Truth of the matter is most of us are humble sorts. We are always a bit nervous about allowing others to read our work, knowing it is below par, primitive and perhaps stupid. Our writing is weak. Our prose is overdone. Our stories are too simplistic, too intellectual or too far out there. How do we know this? Well, beyond that person sitting at the keyboard or writing pad insisting so (yes, you) there are all those people who read the stuff and come back with 1,001 ways to improve, perfect or otherwise make readable your hard-fought story.

And, lest we forget, those who beseech us in unfriendly terms and unkind phrases to seek other avenues of creative expression.

Readers are important. Critique is important, Professional editing is VERY important. Proof reading is important. All constructive criticism and input is important. This being said...

What I find not only interesting, but revealing about this process, is the number of readers/editors who are offended when you do not use any or all of their suggestions, or laud them for their awesome insights. When you do not pay homage to their awesomeness and bow to their superior literary skills. Ahem...

I cannot tell you the number of times,
 in past years, where these people were pissed off, and even abusive in their follow-up comments, accusing me of being hard-headed, stubborn and not interested in perfecting or improving my story because I did not use some, any or all their input, or take their comments to heart.

Where I have had strong and specific responses to some of their misperceptions, I have replied, not defensively but factually, and even that sometimes has gotten me negative blowback. Usually, if I have nothing I want to clarify, I do not comment. Either way, I have frequently been accused of being defensive when it truly felt like it was the other way around.

Once you get past your worst critic, YOU dear writer, and start seeking advice, input or corrective surgery for your stories, and once you overcome this thing called insecurity, you must develop a sense of what is good for your story and what is not.

Virtually EVERY individual from whom you gain advice will give you something—a nugget perchance—you can use to upscale your story. Take that and dump the rest. Always connect with those with whom you work as readers, et al, and thank them for their input, mentioning specifically or generally what they offered that worked for you. It is not necessary, other than for factual clarification, to enter into debate or defend anything you do not use or apply.

If you cannot agree at all with something offered, don't bother arguing this point or that, simply thank them for their hard work, interest and support, and make your story the best it can be.

YOU will always be the last word in your storytelling. YOU will always be the champion of your story, what it should, or could use to be better; what it must retain of your creative endeavors to remain your story.

You cannot satisfy all the above people who offer, volunteer or are paid to provide you with their services and skills. You will never satisfy all readers. So, push comes to shove, satisfy yourself. But, let's not be stupid. Always know that while you have the choice to accept or reject what is shared by others regarding the quality, content or readability of your story, keep an open mind to how it most certainly can be improved.

Write for quality. Edit for purity. Publish with confidence.

MY NEXT BLOG TOPIC — Return on Your Investment

I've invested as much as $1,000 in editing, cover design, layout and formatting services knowing full well that I have less than Las Vegas odds at a chance of recovering my investment, not to mention the time spent creating and polishing the initial product. For those of us with commercial interests above and beyond simply writing for the joy of it, independent publication is an expensive process. You will pay for professional services for that story, collection, novella or novel. But, BUT...it only takes one to hit the pulse of your readers/followers and many of your other heavily invested titles will boost sales closer to breaking even.

So, while it is a gamble to invest so deeply in professional services. Every time you do you increase the odds in your favor of possibly recouping your costs over the long haul. MORE TO COME NEXT TIME.

My titles can be found at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Earl or Amazon, SmashWords, iBookStore, Nook and Selfy. Also, check out http://www.writersofthewest.com for a look at what is new in western storytelling. The site features a posse of penslingers who are working to revive not only The Western, but all aspects of the flavor of that era and the characters who colored it.

No comments: