So I have chosen to take on a new task, mostly because my life isn’t hectic enough <– sarcasm. After writing my second novel, Be Still (the shameless plugs never end on this blog), I have learned so much about writing. It was more than simply putting pen to paper, or pushing at a keyboard in this decade. There was style, author’s voice, and oh so many darned guidelines, I thought my head would spin right off.
Now I say guidelines even though one editor called them rules, and the reason is that writing will and forever be creative. Look at House of Leaves by, Mark Z Danielewski, that book has broken every major guideline ever laid down since the inception of time. Here are snapshots of the book: Images. This is a best-selling book, yet every guideline was blatantly broken, and I suppose that is what makes this a sheer stroke of genius.
So are there true “rules?” If there were, would House of Leaves have been published? Probably not. So I am taking away the word rules and replacing it with the word guidelines. Now that that is defined, I have to say this out of pure rant: If your book is not a pure stroke of genius that will shake the letters off the literary world and readers, then please follow the guidelines to some extent. Guidelines are set in place to make reading an enjoyable experience for your readers. And for us indie, self-pub (or whatever title you give yourself) authors, we must really reach so much higher than just an “okay” book to accomplish a few things: raise awareness of the indie author invasion that isn’t leaving any time soon, set a standard for self-published books, and give readers what they want: a good quality book.
While in the rewrite of Be Still, I had so much wonderful coaching and so many heated arguments based on things I just couldn’t wrap my creative head around. I didn’t understand why head-hopping was a bad thing when poorly managed, or how foresight was such a huge intrusion of my rights as the author if written in certain points of view, and why bold was the metaphorical devil. There were so many other lessons to be learned, and thankfully so many editors allowed me to pick their brains. I took enough notes to fill a book, these notes were passed down to other authors who were struggling like I had.
One author received all my notes, written in all my insane shorthand with squiggly lines pointing everywhere, marked up in different colors (because I see everything in colors … even words), and side notes. There was a total of 25 pages uploaded, and she replied back, “Why not just clean up your notes and write a book.” Why not?
So I took all my notes, did a ton more research, picked at a few more editorial brains to come up with a cohesive list of guidelines for a new author manual titled, Surviving the Writing Apocalypse. I figured it was a fitting title with all the talk of an apocalypse on the rise. This is a huge compilation of literary “guidelines.” Why? Have you read some of the stuff authors are self-publishing?
Okay, this may be where I get some heat, but I’ll say it anyway: if nothing else, at least get editing. One author basically told me he didn’t get editing (though he knew he needed it), because he was so anxious for readers to see his book. He was apparently anxious for all four books, since none received editing. I would never have read the book if I knew that. And the sad fact is, it was so full of mistakes that I never made it passed thirty pages. I didn’t leave a review, but when I went back a few months later there were three reviews that slammed this book and author. One review pretty much said this is why indie books will always have a bad name, because there is no accountability.
Another author told me that editing was a lie from major publishing houses to get writers to conform to the “rules” set forth by a bunch of people who never made it as authors. Hum, that’s a pretty novel idea, I suppose. Of course this came after getting thirty pages into that book and putting it down. The grammar portion was all right, but the story was all over the place and I was just confused. Again, wish I would have known this before I paid for a download.
Time and time again, after asking authors why they did some of what they did. the answers were usually pretty self-satisfying and had nothing to do with the quality of the book or interest of the readers. Viva la Indie Revolucion. Or as I called it, “The Writing Apocalypse.” Apocalypse, loosely used this decade to mean end of times, is fitting seeing as how the traditional writing world is seeing an end to the stonewall of traditional publishing and the rise of self-pub authors. But as self-pub do we lose regard to our readers? I sure hope not.
I have learned enough to fill a hundred books on the topic, but still loosely use the term guideline. Where so many authors came off a uncouth and crass about what they wrote, basically having no care about what they put out, I found many others who wanted to put out quality work but had no clue they were committing some minor literary infractions. We didn’t all obtain our MFA, and some never attended a traditional college, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a great story to be told. These are the authors I passed my notes to, and some I spoke on the phone to explain more in detail. I always emphasized that these are guidelines and if you can break them in a way that adds to your book and doesn’t confuse a reader, then go for it.
So my new adventure, aptly launching December 21, 2012 if we all survive (get it), is the Writing Apocalypse website, based off my manual. There will be a page dedicated to Writing Apocalypse “Survivors” which will feature self-published books that meet or exceed basic publishing standards: editing, content, and even the first impression: cover art.
There are a few websites out there like this, but ours is different, or we will try, by not only featuring great indie books, but also offering different services like a 30 min phone consultation, and a 30 page review (we review the first 30 pages of your manuscript and point out things like head-hopping, viewpoint changes, foresight, and author intrusion to name a few). We will also feature editors, beta readers, and cover designers as resources so new authors have this information all on the same website. We (Blackbird LSD & I) are hopeful this will be a success.
Lengthy, I know, but I want people to know why we have created this website and that it will be available soon. We are also seeking input and suggestions to improve it. What we don’t want to do is be a plain page loaded with books. We’d like to be a quality resource for those who want one place to serve all their self-publishing needs. Please leave a reply if you have any suggestions.
We’ll have a dedicated Facebook page to the site soon, until then get updates at Facebook.com/TaniaLRamosBooks