The results range from spectacular to mediocre to downright ugly.
Self-publishing is bringing out the best and worst in people.
It’s so easy for someone to claim to be an expert on a subject and publish a book.
I’ve heard tales of books slammed together on a popular topic, priced at a bargain rate and sold as a scam. While it’s despicable, greed and thievery are understandable because we know it happens in all walks of life.
What I really don’t understand is the author who refuses to learn the craft of writing before publishing.
If you’ve been in this occupation for a while, no doubt you’ve run across them…the people who are in love with their own words. A few years ago someone asked for my help with a book she was writing and I agreed. (I know…no good deed goes unpunished.)
From the first sentence I could see she had a lot to learn, but she had an incredible voice. So I decided it was well worth my effort if she listened.
On the first page she used foreshadowing. You know, the “if she’d known she’d marry the man who changed her flat tire that morning, she would’ve put on make-up” kind of statement foretelling a significant event. I explained over and over again, that foreshadowing is frowned upon and to do it a writer would have to be very clever. It’s best to not do it at all.
And like most new writers, she began her story by introducing characters. In fact most of the entire first chapter was about getting to know the people and the heroine through her own eyes. The story didn’t get going until well into the second chapter. No matter what I said, she refused to to put into practice the advice I gave her.
A long time ago, as a new writer I joined together another even newer writer to form a critique group. I was spoiled by the experience. I view it as one of the smartest moves I ever made and the most valuable in terms of rapid progress. Shortly after we banded together, two of us were published and then eventually all of us.
The newbie was made to change her first chapter no less than five or six times. She’d come back to the group meeting all excited about what she’d done, and get shot down (in a loving way) over and over again. Instead of telling us we were wrong, she worked on her chapter. That story eventually went on to win Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Small Press Contemporary Paranormal by Tina Gerow.
I was as proud of her accomplishment as she was because I kept pushing her to make it better. If she got sick of my critiques she never said a derogatory word. And almost ten years later we are still crit-partners.
And now as an editor, she’s pushing new authors to be the best they can be. She pushes me to be better!
I’ve learned you can’t judge how good a critique will be given by reading an author’s work. They often can’t see their own shortcomings while they readily see what others have done wrong.
Now back to my experience above…you knew that it ended badly because I foreshadowed it by saying no good dead goes unpunished. After many interchanges….nothing changed. Or not enough for me to feel she was understanding what needed to happen. Or appreciated how much time and energy is embodied in helping someone. I was feeling useless to the process. So I told her I wasn’t able to continue.
Instead of being grateful for the help I’d given her, she was livid that I dared to stop. She got her son involved who expressed his unhappiness with me. In the end I learned she had a tough life and had to quit school in the fourth grade. That made me want to help her even more. However, her reaction eventually produced words that went far beyond my comfort zone. I couldn’t deal with it.
She had the bones of a story that could have been really good. A lot of stories have good bones, but what is wrapped around the bones can ruin it. Learn the craft people! Don’t mimic older authors from days long gone. They foreshadowed, they head-hopped, they used prologues, they used ten-dollar words and long sentences that would stretch into infinity. However, not all literary novels even began as novels…some started as serial stories …like Bleak House by Charles Dickens.
I’m not saying one has to pay their dues by years of suffering before being published, but don’t fall in love with what you’ve written. Take advice. Listen. Work on improving your craft. And don’t confuse with what was acceptable for a writer in the past with what is acceptable now.
Thanks for the support and if you can find the comment section hidden below feel free to express your opinion.
I recently put a new stats-counter on my blog and was surprised to find that instead of about sixty visitors a day, I’ve had as many as 442 a day. In the six short days it’s been active I’ve had 2,275 Visitors, 13,913 Page Views, 824 Spiders, and 1,122 Feeds.
I don’t have a clue what a spider is…but THANKS!
More on publishing as “I” see it…