Ask a Writer #6

Once again, welcome back to my latest “Ask a Writer” blog post, and thanks for reading! I know it’s taken a while, but I’m finally reaching the end of my backlog of questions to answer, and this last one is particularly challenging for me.

@Bibliophagist90: How do you deal with pressure from the writing community to do things a specific way?

It’s a very good question, and unfortunately not one that I really feel I have a great, ready-made answer for. That’s mostly because, frankly, I’ve never felt any kind of true pressure from my fellows writers to do anything specific. It’s true that I’m only a couple of months into my exploration of writing on Twitter and promoting myself on social media, but I can honestly say that without exception, all the fellow artists, writers, and people in general that I’ve met have been nothing but kind, interested, and supportive of me and all my ventures so far. You’ve all been really awesome!

That said, the one major difference I have noticed between myself and most of the other writers I’ve met and talked with is that while I’ve so far only pursued self-publishing options with my writing, mainly through Amazon, others seem to prefer the traditional route of finding a publishing company or an agent to shop their book around. It’s something that I wish I had the drive and courage to do, but with my schooling and general busyness in life right now, I haven’t wanted to wait who knows how long to see my book published in print. But that’s part of what I’m going back to graduate school for (studying creative writing and publishing)–to build up my repertoire and confidence to try for just that. I know Amazon tends to get a bad rap for a lot of reasons, too–it’s a giant, soulless corporation that doesn’t really give writers who publish through it a good cut of the profits. But I think that’s just the price you pay for the convenience and expedience that Amazon’s self-publishing service, CreateSpace, offers you, and I have to say, I have yet to have a bad experience with it. The only downside has been my need to aggressively promote my own work because an agent or publisher isn’t doing it for me, and obviously that puts me at a disadvantage. But for my busy life and where I’m at professionally with my writing right now, I’m happy with doing things this way and just trying to build up a body of work in an easy-to-do way.

I will say that publishing through Amazon has made my ability to independently market my book difficult. I’ve gone to many bookstores and asked about having promotional or book-signing events, only to be turned away when they hear how I got published. I get that there are business reasons for it, but it always kind of feels like a little slap in the face and maybe almost some form of writing prejudice? But I’m not going to read too much into it. My plan right now is to release the upcoming sequels to Camp Ferguson through Amazon as well because I think it would be silly to try to sell a publisher on the third book in an already-penned series alone–they probably wouldn’t do it just for the business reasons alone. But since my grad school program is focused on getting a manuscript written and ready for publishing, that story will be my first that I attempt to publish through traditional means. So I’m working on it!

I know that hasn’t really answered the question, and I know you’re looking for possibly some advice. But the truth is I haven’t felt much judgment or pressure from my fellow writers to do anything a certain way, other than the whole publishing debate–just a lot of lively discussions about the merits of different methods of writing or literary devices. One in particular that I recall is the use of flashbacks–personally, I find them a bit cliche and overused and therefore try not to use them. I think the same effect can be accomplished through some clever reworking of dialogue and seeding details throughout a story as opposed to one major, obvious exposition dump in a separate scene that distracts from the work at large. But other people swear by them as the best way to flesh out a character’s backstory, and I can’t really argue with their logic, either. I’ll admit, I’ve even used flashbacks myself, although very sparingly for the reasons I’ve listed above. An early draft of Camp Ferguson was littered with character flashbacks, and I scrapped that idea pretty quickly because things got way too in-depth, distracting, and out of control.

But if you’re really looking for advice on how to handle pressures, either perceived or more tangible, about the way your write, your choices, or your process, here’s what I’d say to you: don’t worry about it. Simple, but there it is. Do what’s best for you, and have confidence in yourself because you’ve chosen to do what is best for you and it makes you happy. If these things aren’t true, you might want to consider doing things another way. But looking back at my explanation of how I’ve been published so far, that’s what stands out to me. Do I want to aim higher at some point? Absolutely. But I have no shame for what I’ve done so far. I’m happy with my choices, and I’m willing to accept that there are some positives and negatives from them. That’s about all you can do as far as I’m concerned. I think that while many writers may have a difference of opinion on some subjects, you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere a single set of rules that everyone agrees on 100 percent for writing. And that’s the real beauty of it to me. Everyone comes at writing from different angles, different, backgrounds, and different styles, and what they create is completely, uniquely their own. If other writers really are pressuring you to adhere to some set of hard and fast rules, I think that’s kind of silly and they’d best take a good long look at their own pieces of work first.

That’s the secret, I think: just be confident and happy in the knowledge that you’re doing what’s right and best for you at the time, accept the consequences of those choices for what they are, and if you want to better yourself, continue to aim higher and work on improving the things you’re trying to work on.

Hope that helps!

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