Summer reading (and viewing) demands a lapse of taste (let’s save the serious stuff for the first autumn chill), so I’ve been happily cooling off in a witch’s pond of pulp Gothic romances circa 1970. I adore them! A close aunt of mine, as eccentric as any dowager you’ll find on these faded pages, used to keep a stack of these in her attic along with the Creepy and Eerie comics belonging to my cousin, which formed my early literary development and fostered in me a love of horror, romance, and camp.
I cherish my small collection of Magnum Gothic Originals gleaned from used bookstores. Even in the “Easy-Eye” large print (thank God) format, most of these clock in under 300 pages, making for perfect beach reading. Read more
Maybe when I’ve made $1,000 in book sales I’ll hire an editor, but s/he’d better be good, meaning part persnickety grammarian and part hand-holding psychologist with a soothing voice and a talent for shoulder rubs. But until then, I’m on my own. As this is my second time producing a self-published novel, I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned.
Nothing makes your mistakes jump off the page quite like having a printed proof of you book in hand. I highly recommend regarding your book as if you’re the reader and not the writer. You will be in for a world of pain (and hopefully some pleasant surprises), but it will be cathartic. Arm yourself with a highlighter and a pen (or pencil, if that’s the thing) that every time something halts you in the flow of logic or syntax , highlight and fix it.
Take it outside. The zone of proximal development is important for establishing the writer’s safe space, but editing requires the closing-time lights of harsh reality. My favorite place to read a proof is at my local lending library. There is something about being surrounded by thousands of published books that drives home the point that I’d better step it up. Bring tissues, it’s painful.
Read it aloud. Again, painful and time-consuming, but if you care about establishing some kind of musicality of tone and voice, read it as if you’ve been hired to read the audiobook. When your stumble over the words, get out your highlighter pen. Be ruthless.
Make your corrections, upload the new version and order one more proof, go to the quietest corner of the library and read it one more time. You’ll find that you spelled Colombia as Columbia and it will be worth it.
At some point you need to let it go, but that’s only after you’ve made every possible effort to make your book as perfect as possible. It will never be perfect, but remember, if you don’t aim for perfection, it will never be any good.
I’m many years behind the times, I know, but after plowing through The Bestseller Code, which analyzes the plot structure of Fifty Shades of Grey in detail as an illustration of what makes a book popular, I decided I’d better read it and find out more. I went to my local library and checked out a well-thumbed, dog-eared, and stained (ew!) copy and tore through it in a few days. In other words, this was research, people.
Reader, I liked it. I like trash, what can I say? I cut my literary teeth on The Carpetbaggers, Susann’s Valley of the Dolls and my personal favorite Once is Not Enough (it never is), and of course Peyton Place. And I’m happy to report that I’m not the only one who appreciates the bad and the entertaining. Trash, like a good campy horror novel, has its place in my reading library, along with the leather-bound tomes of classic literature. I think a lot of readers are on the same page (no pun intended). I needed to flush out the wizards and orcs and lengthy iambics from my Tolkien marathon, and what better way than with some super popular—over 100 million sold!–erotic romance?
The art and craft of writing seems to reside in different parts of the brain: the art for art’s sake side and the practical side. Now, I realize there is an enormous branch of philosophy dedicated to the deconstruction of binaries oppositions, but for the sake of simplicity I’m going with the model I know. The devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other, the yin and yang, the two voices inside my head when I write. One, a wandering sensualist; the other, a strict disciplinarian with an eye on the bottom line. Both are essential to the creative process, at least if you want to achieve a certain level of success and I do. And although I certainly enjoy hanging out more with the former, I’ve grown to respect the latter. But it’s important to put both of them in their proper place.
I’m guessing that most of us writers spend our time in front of a computer working a little, playing a little (sometimes a little too much). Even the great George R.R. Martin admitted to Stephen King he was guilty of internet distractions, which is probably while we’re all still waiting for that damn book! When I need a break, I have my go-to guys, BookTubers usually (Peter Likes Books whom I loved even before he loved my book, Grumpy Andrew, and the Bald Book Geek) and, of course, the “writing gurus” I stream for advice and inspiration. I’ve noticed that lately I’ve been gravitating toward two very different content creators: both offering opinions on the creative process from two diametrically opposed points of view. Read more
The surrealists believed in the power of randomness to invoke the muse. Automatic writing can clear the detritus built up on the brain after weeks of editing as much as a (I’m hoping) War of the Apes will. It’s also a channel to new (sometimes ancient) ideas uncomplicated by the burden of conscious thought. And it really works!
Volcanic dense, though lava cooled,
Carved Phoenix rising to the sky,
To penetrate a pale, blue pool,
A morning call to Night's demise.
Shine forth, ye peaked, ebony jewel,
Reveal within the sun's first rays,
A standing power's highest view
And witness to a million days.
An ancient tower, black on blue,
Erected by a thousand slaves
From distant quarries forth they drew–
Obsidian–its glassy face—the vanity of gods embrue.
As chaos, ever creeping darkness looms,
Be light and wise among the ruins.