Activism, Community, and a Good Editor

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here. I apologize for everyone still following. After a disastrous few months, and a job that left me with an hour to do housework, food prep, and bill pay a day, I’m back to continue my movement toward enlightenment.

I live in St. Louis. I can’t say what’s happening in Ferguson doesn’t effect me. I’ve pared down my Facebook friends because of it, come closer to other friends because of it, and have dedicated a lot of time to understanding what exactly is going on. And I figured it out. But since I’m an armchair activist with too little time and too many thoughts, I’ll spare any debate on this blog due to the simple fact that I believe a lot of other people have said it much better than I.

So after spending nearly a year planning my book publication, I’m proud to say I’m only a few steps away from self publication. I researched the heck out of the process, my options, went out and actually talked to self-published (and reasonably successful) authors in the community, and hired a professional editor. I’ve learned much. This, more than activism, is what I can talk about with (what I feel as) experience.

1) As Mr. King said, ‘The first million words are practice.’ I can’t, actually, stress this enough. It’s what’s so darn important with NaNoWriMo, it’s what’s so important about sitting down every night to write, and it’s insanely important to understand. I have countless dead books, countless completed manuscripts of novels that won’t see the light of day because they simply aren’t good enough. My writing continues to develop. My abilities continue to grow. Understanding flourishes. The ability to write such understanding also flourishes.

2) Criticism is gold. I really don’t have anything else to say about this. If you want to be a good writer, a good author, a successful wordsmith, you must weigh in any and all criticism as a boon. I’m not saying to incorporate everything anyone ever says. I’m not saying to take it to heart when someone you respect says they don’t like your work. Three years ago my brother read the novel I’m about to publish (in a much different format) and said he couldn’t stand the ending. He wouldn’t read it again because of it. So I changed it. I changed a lot, actually, due to his input. It’s huge. I don’t think he actually knows what impact he’s had on me. Haha I also know I wouldn’t tell him that to his face.

3) Understand that if you’re writing in the same field as me (Fantasy/science fiction), you don’t stand much of a chance to be successful overnight. Or in ten years. Or in twenty. This stuff takes time. It’s a smaller (albeit growing) platform than, say, murder mysteries or military thrillers. At the same time, the base is solid. Strong. I can’t talk about other fields of writing. I simply know how difficult (currently: impossible) it was to find an agent–or even get much criticism from others I know. It takes time even with a strong base.

4) A good editor is paramount. No matter what you think you know about writing, you fall into writing habits that can break a book on the shelves. Lord knows I have my unseen hangups. So I say this: if you’re serious about publishing and publication, hire an editor. Hire two. You absolutely. Absolutely need the extra eyes, the extra training. Always. No matter how good you are. Furthermore, study up on what each editor does. There are many different types of wordsmith out there, and they don’t all do what you might need done.

4.1) A good cover artist is paramount. A good book constructionist is paramount. An experienced e-published writer is paramount. What I’m saying is, the more you delegate and take the time to find someone who can do things better than you can–or even as well as–the more you can focus on the things you find high in priority for you. Don’t be afraid to spend a little coin to get a more polished end result. The more you polish, the more it shines. You’ll be thanking them afterward.

5) You MUST stop the rewrites sometime. Must. I’m on my final read through of the novel I’m publishing, and after that, I’m done. Done done done. Even though I see potential for stronger chapters, even though I’ve (more than once) woke up in the middle of the night and thought, ‘This novel is a wasted effort. It’ll never be how I want it to be.’ Maybe. Which is why practice is important. Which is why an editor is important.

6) Get involved in your community, in writing groups, in wherever. Once you’re finished with your novel, you MUST look at it as a piece of property to be sold. Even if it’s your life work, even if you don’t care about money, even if…whatever. You must look at it from a business standpoint if you want your work to get into the hands of people who respect it the most. Period. Be prepared to advertise. Be prepared to lose friends (even if it doesn’t happen) on Facebook due to you plugging your product. Be prepared to spend actual money to get actual advertisement out, whether it’s a large print of your cover for an upcoming Con, or a billboard somewhere on highway 64 (I’ve never seen it done, but it could happen), be willing to spend a percentage.

7) Have a plan for how you’ll present your work, whether it’s through local libraries/bookstores, conventions, radio time, online sales, or what. Make certain you have some kind of infrastructure in place to accommodate a strong sale. I personally plan to e-publish first, advertise and use a 15% of proceeds to create a limited print run via several in-town publishing groups. If I’m successful in that step, I move forward with the next step of the plan (You know, national television and being a guest speaker at some small college).

I don’t have a lot of writerly friends. I grew up in the Midwest, still live in the Midwest, and have a lot of technical-minded people surrounding me. They’re wonderful people but this whole process has been hard knocks. Lots of falling. Lots of form letter rejections (Over 500). Lots of time. But it’s needed. If you disagree with anything I write, I implore you to contact me so we can discuss.

heissererwriter@gmail.com

Actually, you don’t even have to disagree. If you want to discuss, please do so.

Chris

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2 thoughts on “Activism, Community, and a Good Editor

  1. Hello there. I’m a writer in the same field (fantasy/sci-fi) and about the same place (first time self-publishing). I don’t disagree with you at all–in fact, rather boringly, I agree with everything you’ve said here. This is very sensible advice.

    Very humble as well, limiting yourself to small colleges. Dream bigger! I’m sure Harvard’ll have us, once we buy a private jet apiece. 🙂

    • Hello! Great to hear from you, and I’m glad what I’m talking about isn’t just true for me. 🙂 I hope to work my way up to Harvard, and eventually the world.

      How has your self-publishing journey been so far?

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