Tag Archives: Guest Blogger

Do Something!

Note from Deborah Riley-Magnus – I LOVE inspirational people – those writers and creative thinkers that set a real fire under our butts. Dan Holloway is just that kind of inspiring. He and Year Zero Writers have set the groundwork for some groundbreaking advances in how creative people see the publishing world!

Writers love to moan. We love to say the system’s unfair. We love to say the public has no taste; the publishers don’t understand the public (sliding our argument to suit our end, of course); agents are slowpaced and biased. We love to complain. As though a Monty-Pythonesque character will boom down from the sky “I hear your complaint and I shall make it well” and a contract with six-figure advance will miraculously appear in our hands.

As I trawl through a number of writers’ forums, the sheer energy we expend complaining makes me wonder – why are we really moaning (especially when I hear people berate the industry for expecting time-pressed writers to market their own books!)? Isn’t that energy better spent actually doing something?

I’ve always joked that my motto is “it’s better to fail gloriously than never to have tried”, but it’s not really that much of a joke. What frustrates me most is seeing great writers waiting for something to happen, or frustrated that nothing does. I certainly DON’T believe that hard work creates success. I do believe that those who succeed have worked hard for it, though. I also would like to believe that as writers we’re a fairly creative bunch. It’s what we do, right? So why is it we’re so bad at thinking up ways to make our mark? Why are so many of us slaves to the agent-publisher route? Why do people still insist that getting lost amidst the crowds of Lulu or floundering on blogger and smashwords are the only alternatives?

Why don’t people get out there and DO something, and not give a fig whether they fail? I’m going to start with an answer. I think most people don’t because they’re the people about whom the adage that “everyone has a book in them” was written. There are lots and lots of people who’ve written a book. Maybe even a very good book. And they want to spend the rest of their lives selling it and living off the proceeds. Well, I’m not talking to them. Frankly, whether they look to the mainstream or beyond, they’re never going to make a career as writers. It’s all very well worrying that you’ll throw away your book’s big chance if your experiment goes wrong. But that’s only an argument if you’ve only got one book in you. And if you have, you’re never going to be a career writer.

This is aimed at the rest of you, those who know you’ll have to produce a book a year for the rest of your working lives if you’re going to stand a chance – and back that up with at least ten to a hundred times that number of articles. It’s to those of you for whom a failure with one book isn’t a “waste” but an experience. It’s for those of you who like the sound of my other hackneyed adage: “How do you know if you haven’t tried?”

This year I’ve tried three big things. One of them fell flat on its face and two of them have been the most amazing experiences. This is what I’ve learned.

1. The Man Who Painted Agnieszka’s Shoes. This is a novel I wrote interactively on Facebook, in a group of the same name. The idea was to get readers involved in the story, to draw them in and get them deciding which characters they wanted more of, which they wanted killed off, which story angles they wanted to pursue and so on. I wrote al kinds of background material, promoted it online and in the local press, got a reasonable number (218 at latest) of people in the group, but it never really caught on. I had some lovely comments from my fellow writers, but readers never really caught the interactive bug.

Why? I think there are several reasons. But most of all, I think what I learned, and it’s been borne out elsewhere on the web, is that for all we talk about interweb this and 2.0 that, people behave on the net much as they behave off it – and most people want to be told a story, and not to have to get involved in it. Maybe it would work better in a book that overlapped more with traditional gaming scenarios – certainly MCM had some success with 3D1D. But it doesn’t work for how I write.

Nonetheless, I learned a lot about the craft of writing (serials are great for pacing), and I met some great people. And at least I know it doesn’t work for me.

2. I got the Year Zero Writers (http://yearzerowriters.wordpress.com/) collective together originally as a marketing group. I thought we could use the economy of scale of numbers as a way of cracking the hardest self-publisher’s nut of all – getting word out. It hasn’t quite worked like that, although the word IS getting out. What’s happened is that around 20 of us have formed less of a marketing collective and more of a mini literary movement, each writing fiction that’s unapologetically literary, and delivering it straight to readers both through books, which are available on the freemium model – with ebooks free and paperbacks for sale, and through daily original fiction on our blog.

I’ve learned some amazing things through Year Zero: first, working in a group of people with similar concerns is great for pushing your writing to the next level. Second, marketing is key, but when you’re indie, it often works best when you’re not trying to market but just doing what you love doing. People get the authenticity. Whilst we just had our books, we went largely unnoticed, even though we were “marketing” a lot. Then we got the blog going, and within a few weeks we were Nylon Mag’s site of the day, labeled “cool”. And people were inviting us to guest blog, strangers were e-mailing saying they loved what we were up to. Authenticity and integrity are absolutely essential. Third, I’ve learned a whole load of things about going the indie way. The freedom you get – editorially, over cover art, over marketing, and over what you write next, is exhilarating. It’s something I can’t imagine swapping for a publishing contract. Fourth, I learned persistence. So many self-publishers give up when they’re not an overnight success, but there are no overnight successes – not really. What matters isn’t how you’re doing on day two of your project – it’s how you’re doing on book five.

3. Free-e-day (http://freeeday.wordpress.com/) is something I literally thought up on the bus. A single day on which every independent creative person gives something away for free to form one big celebration, and show the world what indies can do. It seemed utterly overambitious but I dutifully started a Facebook group and told a few people and, today (literally today, December 1st), we have a full-colour free e-programme with 100 contributors, 5 fantastic web workshops, and a live concert with music, reading, art, and dance, and most of all, we have built an actual indie community around what we’re doing. It’s a festival that will grow and communities and collectives and friendships with it.

So here’s the message. I’m an amateur. I knew nothing about social media theory or marketing before this year other than some experience running a flooring showroom. But I thought 2009 seemed like a perfect time for trying things and seeing what happened. So I did. Everything I tried I tried from scratch. There will be lots of people who disagree very strongly with what I’ve done. I’d respectfully suggest that rather than vent their spleen my way, they put that fantastic energy into seeing what they can do. Go on, everyone. In 2010 DO something. Anything. Just get on with it and don’t let anyone tell you no.

 

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One Author’s Inspiration: “Finding Emmaus” by Pamela Glasner

!cid_A31B9820510C4515989E15E869C779EB@PAMSPOWERHOUSEEmpath, defined:

For the purposes of my book, an Empath is someone who experiences another person’s emotions as if they were their own, meaning they can actually feel the feelings of others.  However, unless they are aware that they’re Empathic or have the training required to make the distinction between feelings which are legitimately theirs from Empathic events, they’d have no way of knowing that they’re experiencing emotions from an outside source.  

The Inspiration for Finding Emmaus:

I knew I wanted to write a book about Empaths and actually Finding Emmaus started out as a love story with an Empathic element.  But I wasn’t crazy about it.  It kept feeling strained and forced.  I’d written about two or three chapters and I just didn’t like the ‘feel’ of it.  It didn’t flow; it just didn’t have the power to move me.  

And then, one morning, it occurred to me that perhaps I should try coming at it from a completely different angle … just pick anything.  The first thing that popped into my head was ‘name the town where the story will take place.’  

At that moment I just happened to be standing in front of a fabulous work of art I own called The Basketweaver, drawn by a wonderfully talented artist from Tennessee named Marita Parisi, a pencil drawing of an incredibly old man named Frank who truly did exist.  He used to sit inside the shelter of a covered bridge and weave baskets.  So I thought: Weaver’s Bridge, and suddenly the town had a name.  

That thought was followed closely by: yes, the town is Weaver’s Bridge and this is Frank and he’s an Empath.  In fact, he’s the Father of Empathy.  He ‘wrote the book’ on it.  But the book has long since disappeared and has fallen into legend.  

And then I thought, if the book faded into legend, this had to have happened a very long time ago.  And since modern America’s history is only about 390 years old, the decision as to when the story took place was made for me.  It couldn’t have happened any earlier than the 1600’s because that’s when Connecticut colony was settled.  

Then I thought: no-one wanted to listen to him.  He wrote the book — dedicated his life to it, in fact — but everyone considered him to be a madman.  Why?  Because HE was an Empath and therefore would have been considered a lunatic, particularly in Puritan times. 

So Frank (now dubbed Francis, as he would have been called back then) dedicated his life to the creation of a guide, a central source of information, an authoritative voice, an anthology of his experiences as well as the experiences of as many other Empaths as he could find and persuade to contribute, a manuscript containing not only practical lessons of what it meant to be an Empath and how to survive in this life, but a set of principals to live by and pass on so that none would ever be harmed again.  This guide would eventually come to be known as The Lodestarre. 

Unfortunately, Frank couldn’t find anyone to publish it or any other way to disseminate the information (because of Puritan beliefs) so eventually The Lodestarre was hidden away in the hopes that some time in the distant future, when hopefully the world might have evolved and people might have become more tolerant, that someone would find The Lodestarre and carry on with Frank’s dream.  Then, 300 years later, Katherine, the 21st century Empath, does just that: she finds it and picks up where Frank left off. 

I had all of that – I swear to God – in my head in less than 15 minutes.   

As I said, I knew I wanted to write about book about Empaths and I also knew I wanted to draw a comparison between the outward manifestations of the Empathic personality and the “symptoms”, if you will, of Bipolar Disorder.  And in order to do that accurately, of course, I had to do some research.  

In the story, Katherine finds out at 54 that she’s been misdiagnosed and inappropriately medicated all her adult life.  Now in her case, she’s an Empath so of course she could not be ‘cured’.  Katherine was actually the initial reason for MY research: I did it just so I could speak intelligently about Bipolar Disorder and not for any other reason.  But what I found in the course of my research sickened me.  Frankly, it scared the hell out of me.  Eventually, as I delved deeper, learned more and became more appalled at what I learned, it had a tremendous influence on what happened to Katherine as the story progressed.  

Traditional psychiatric philosophy has it that Bipolar Disorder is an illness which is treatable only by the administration of extremely toxic drugs, the side effects of which are pretty universal — and most of them hideous.  A good number of them, in fact, can become permanent and in about 10,000 cases each year, the effects are fatal.  Those who ingest these drugs — and I am speaking here specifically of people under the care of licensed physicians who legally prescribe them, can become psychotic, lose their eyesight, develop body tremors, become insomniacs, lose the ability to swallow, or if they can swallow they lose their appetite anyway because of severe nausea and vomiting, develop a condition known as Akathisia, develop hallucinations and actually lose ability to think clearly and reason.  

Then I found out that the failure rate of these drugs is 70% — meaning that 70% of the time, these drugs do not have their intended effect.  

Think about that: If a cough medicine failed at that rate, or if 70% of the time when you popped open a can of Coca Cola you didn’t like the taste, just how long do you think those products would remain on the store’s shelves?  

And yet, these drugs not only remain on the market, but in an economic environment when everyone else is suffering layoffs and cutbacks and closings and downsizing, the manufacture of psychotherapeutic medications has skyrocketed in four short years from a $12 billion industry to a $70 billion industry — with a product that fails 70% of the time.   

You go figure it.  

After reading congressional testimony and reports written by the CDC (US Center for Disease Control) and patient diaries and blogs from the loved ones who also suffer right along with the patients … I do not exaggerate one bit when I tell you that some of the stuff I read not only froze my blood, but broke my heart and had me sitting in my office, unable to read what was on my computer screen because I was crying too hard. 

It was — and still remains — impossible for me to talk about or write about objectively or dispassionately, but because it’s all true and I wanted to remain true to my characters, and because Katherine really would have found all of this had she been a real person and been the one to do the research, I wrote it into the story.  

Now, not only does the story move me, but there are parts of the book that, even now, even after countless reads and edits and re-reads, still have the power to break my heart and bring me to tears.  

~~Pamela S. K. Glasner~~ 

http://www.lodestarre.com/index.html

Finding Emmaus is available at several locations. See the “Buy the Book” page on the website.


Market Research for Authors

Books_moneyWhat’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of market research? Eight people taste testing crackers in front of a one-way mirror? Irritating telephone calls from pollsters at dinnertime?  A four-page check-box survey that arrives in the mail boasting of free coupons if you’re one of the first 500 people to return it? 

You’re right, these are all tools that researchers use to find out more about their customers.  Most of us believe that this element in the product development cycle is only for manufacturers of cars, the staff of politicians and producers of cleaning products.  However, this little post is all about market research for the author. 

Most authors balk at having to promote themselves.  After all, they are ‘Creators’, not salespeople.  That’s the job for publicists or agents or publishers or someone else.  However one might feel about it, the responsibility for marketing one’s book is the author’s.  How they go about that is really up to them, whether they hire someone or take it on themselves.  The importance of building an author platform is paramount in the selling of the book – and any author worth their weight knows this.   

This blog post is here to help you with that.  This is a simple primer on market research, that little thought of, but oh so important aspect of selling a product, and yes, whether you like it or not, your book is just that – a product. 

Simplistically speaking, the goal of market research is to determine the market demand for a particular product.  By determining demand, one is then able to determine how to best sell it.  That is why market research is important for authors, because after doing this relatively simple task, you’ll find it is easier to sell your work. 

The traditional product development cycle would say to research the demand for the product, go build it, then go sell it.  For the author, this might mean checking out bestseller lists, libraries and online networks to find out what people are reading and buying and then write a book on something that has high demand. 

But does that really work in this arena?  My say is no.  The minute you write for someone else, and not for yourself, you lose all credibility as one who creates.  And what you create will be lacking, aerated and void.  And readers will see that.  And they won’t buy it.   

So, remain true to yourself and create something from your heart, soul and intellect.  Go through all the steps necessary to get to your finished product – a manuscript.  Then once you’re done, you’ll try to sell it.  For some authors this means self-publishing.  For others this means shopping it around to publishers and agents.  If you take the latter route, you’ll soon find out that most of these people are looking for authors with an established platform. 

No matter which road you take, developing a platform means getting yourself out there, marketing yourself and your book.  You might Tweet, start a Facebook page, join author’s groups, hold readings, get a webpage, a blog, etc.  It means doing anything to get yourself or your book in front of customers – whether they be readers, agents or publishers. 

But, if you take the time to do a bit of research before you start all your platform-building efforts, you’ll find that you can cut down on the costs and time you spend doing sales and marketing and maximize your efforts.  While some might say that these tasks only apply to those authors who self-publish – I say that doing this task is for all authors.   

1. Know Your Product 

Being the creator of your product, one would think you know it well.  However getting a second or third opinion would be prudent.  Get your friends to read it and ask them to give you a “product overview”.  Ask them to describe the book as though they were telling someone who knows nothing about it, subject matter, length, writing style, etc.  You’re not looking for reviews – just a description.  Both you and your colleagues should write down your “product overviews” so as to avoid any misinterpretation in trying to remember what people said.  Then from these, compile a final description of your book, including all the details from ISBN, to title, to genre to word count to synopsis. 

2. Know Your Customer 

You likely have a pretty good idea on who your target reader is.  However, it is a good idea to get some second and third opinions, via your colleagues as mentioned above.  I have had several authors be surprised that a demographic group, different than the one of which they originally thought, enjoyed their novel.  Write down who your reader is.  Don’t stop at the regular demographic particulars like age, income and whether they have kids.  Think about their lifestage.  Are they young urban singles, suburban stay-at-home-moms, mature professional men, etc?  Then, think about what those groups might enjoy doing, list their possible hobbies and past-times. Think about their reading habits, frequency or where they read.  If you don’t know, talk to people.  One of the reasons Dan Brown’s books are so popular is because of his very short chapters.  His books fit today’s harried and hurried lifestyle of multi-tasking; and fitting in a short chapter on a coffee break makes for easy reading that many people want.  Then, once you’ve got your primary reader targeted, think about your secondary readers – or groups who may also be interested in your book. 

One might read this and wonder how we can group individuals into static uniform groups of readers.  I’m not proposing that – but generally speaking, people in similar life stages share similar interests. In no way is one trying to exclude any particular demographic, but having a sound idea of who your target readers are will better enable you to reach them. 

If you’re shopping your book for publication, then you need to identify another customer segment – publishers and literary agents.  Take the time to research these people and companies and get to know them the same way that you are trying to get to know your reader. 

3. Know Your Market 

Here is when you get to know the marketplace in which you are jumping into.  You would want to know the size of the market and the growth that’s in it.  If your book is romance, a quick web search will yield that in 2008 Romance is the largest genre of the fiction market taking 13.5% of sales.  Other things you might want to have an idea of are average prices, lengths, and trends in cover design or storylines.  You should also make yourself familiar with the trends in reading, publishing and bookselling.  Bricks and mortar bookstores aren’t going anywhere for a while, but paper books are down in sales and the only growth is in digital or eBooks.  If you don’t know anything about digital publishing or any other industry trends, make it a priority to find out the basics. 

4. Know Your Competition 

Finally, get to know who else is out there.  By knowing what authors and books are selling and not selling will help you figure out where your book belongs and perhaps what kind of sales you can expect.  It’s not hard to figure out the current trends, from YA vampires to middle grade fantasy.  Pay attention to these trends and pay attention to what your competition is writing and how they market themselves.  Glean ideas from others who are better at it than you.  Watch, listen and learn, then you can get out there and put your own spin on it. 

 

This might all sound a bit daunting, but once you start writing these elements down in an organized format, you’ll realize that you likely know a lot of this already.  You might have to get a few other opinions or bits of information.  This isn’t about creating tables or graphs or demographic pyramids.  It’s just about cementing in your mind where your book fits in this mass of new books that are released every day.  You’ll find that all this will fit on a few pieces of paper. 

Once you’ve done this, you’ll find that marketing becomes a bit easier, more creative, more task-oriented and far more effective.  For example, many authors join Twitter or Facebook and start trying to sell their book/themselves that way.  They accumulate lots of friends, and figure they’re doing a great job.  But what if their target readers are middle grade kids?  Many parents don’t let their 11 year-old kids on those social networks, so all that time spent tweeting would be much better served by doing some local advertising at schools, libraries or by getting creative on how to get viral with that highly social demographic. 

Of course, now comes the hard part, how to find creative and effective ways to reach your readers.  But now that you know who they are, who else is out there, what kind of market you’re in and what you have to offer – the ideas will flow much more easily from what we already know is your highly creative mind. 

ducks 

 

 

 

Michelle Halket is the Creative Director for ireadiwrite Publishing, a digital small press which specializes in literary fiction, poetry and selected non-fiction by new authors.  For more about her and ireadiwrite Publishing, check out www.ireadiwrite.com


The Correct POV

by Sascha Illyvich 

eye-care2Do you know which POV your story is told in?  Do you know the correct Point of View your story SHOULD be written from?  If you answer first or third person POV, you’re obviously being a smart ass.  Let’s rephrase the question, shall we?  

What character’s point of view should my story be told in? 

There, this defines the question better.  And the answer is simple.  The main character’s POV.  But what if you have two characters?  Presumably a Hero and a Heroine, since this is Romance I’m mainly covering, let’s stick with that assumption.  What if you have a villain?  Do we tell any of the story from that character’s perspective? 

Many writers assume that during major scene changes, the perspective should change.  They’re half correct.  A lot of writers suggest that we need to know about the villain if there is one, and that character should get a say too.  Again, they’re half right. 

The truth is, POV is simple.  Tell the story from the Point of View of the character that has the most to lose.  

What do I mean by that?  Let’s break it down.  In a typical romance novel, we have the hero and heroine and a plot that runs something like this: 

Hero meets Heroine (hey you’re hot)

Hero and Heroine end up in bed (light cigar/cigarette)

Argument separates the two (God he’s a jerk/she’s a bitch)

And in the end, something happens that is greater than both the Hero and Heroine’s issues that makes them examine their beliefs and realize they need the other.

Let’s figure this out (I need you/I love you)

HEA/Happily for Now 

Throw in a villain and that character’s appearance should be before or during the cigar in the above example.  Considering that much of today’s erotic romance is paranormal or urban fantasy, there is a bad guy waiting to kill off both Hero/Heroine. 

So what determines whose point of view the story is told from? This is also easy.  For the story to flow without head hopping, let’s use a simple rule of thumb (courtesy of Morgan Hawke www.darkerotica.net

IF the story is under 20k, you simply need ONE character where the event happens to THEM and ONLY them.  

IF the story is under 40k, then we have an event that affects two characters.  

IF the story is under 100k, we have three characters who get a say, usually because the villain is the one doing shit to the world/universe—including the H/H.  

Now that we’ve narrowed that down and fixed the potential to head hop all over the place, thus eliminating characters that are central but not integral for POV purposes, we’re left with the one question:  

Who gets to talk? 

Readers get attached to characters they care about and have built relationships with, just as in reality.  Kill off a favorite character from your reader base and you’d better believe you’re going to hear about it!  Alter that character’s world somehow and again, you’ll get feedback.  But what if the hero and heroine both have something to lose?  Then what do you do? 

Refer back to length of the story.  Who has the greatest loss, and the greatest gain?  Write from THAT one character’s POV and ONLY change scenes if word length allows for it and only if that character’s journey makes us feel something universal.  

I recently read a story where head hopping occurred so much because the writer thought to write scenes like we see in TV.  Take Burn Notice for example:  We have Michael Westin, (The hero) Fiona (Heroine) and all the side characters, most notably the drunk former CIA op who we get to see frequently.  POV switches don’t really occur much because the story is narrated by Michael Westin, but when we do get those changes, Westin is still narrating. That works because people need to see a lot of visuals and TV/movies allow for those shifts to occur. The average attention span is not that long.  

But FICTION writing doesn’t.  You’ll end up with unsmooth transitions, annoying head hopping issues that make the reader THROW YOUR BOOK THE FUCK AWAY!  

In FICTION, you do two things.  You show the reader what YOU want them to see; otherwise they’ll see something else.  And you make the story smooth.  By sticking to word limit/reason for changes, you’ll eliminate guesswork in your plotting. 

Some writers can get away with multiple POV changes.  Sherrylin Kenyon for example can, she has a built in audience that somehow doesn’t care about the change from the H/H to Ash or Stryker.  So does Laurel K. Hamilton, but because she writes in First Person POV, she doesn’t have that ability.  But if she wrote in third person, she could afford to change because she’s ESTABLISHED.  Chances are, you’re not them. (And if you are, thanks for reading my article!) 

Christine Feehan does an excellent job of keeping the POV between her hero and heroine.  So does Richelle Mead. And Rebecca York.  Those authors are authors who don’t write what I do, but I learn from them because they’re where I hope to be someday.  

To reinforce the key points, I’ll leave with my two rules for simplification.

  1. Tell the story from the character’s POV that has the MOST to lose
  2. Use word length 20k = 1 character.  40k, 2 characters.  60k-100k+=3 and ONLY three. 

That should simplify things in your stories.  Happy writing! 

Sascha Illyvich

http://www.saschaillyvich.com

Listen to The UnNamed Romance Show Mondays at 1 PM PST and Thursdays at 3 PM PST on www.radiodentata.com – hear from Sascha as he shares his work along with interviewing the hottest authors in today’s romance


A WordMaster Speaks! Guest blog by Marc Nash

One of my favorite writers in the world is new British author, Marc Nash. An experimental writer from the get-go, Marc can dazzle the eye and the mind with images and ideas that make a reader think and smile and even shudder at times. He excavates the language landscape to unearth ways of communication that dazzle and astound. I’m thrilled to have Marc as my first guest blogger. My prediction is that Marc Nash is and always will be … an admired ‘word master’!   

 

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore” 

I believe this is what it says on the Statue of Liberty. I’m going to be really provocative and say contemporary literature needs to heed these words. I’m not talking about genre works, for they have to work largely within well-established tramlines. I’m talking about those books either deemed ‘Literary Fiction’, or are just filed in ‘Fiction, A-Z by author’ in the bookstores. 

1) ‘Your tired, your poor’ … Every workaday metaphor has probably already been written and published in a book somewhere. Have a look at any new work of fiction and see just how tired and lackluster its metaphorical language is. I bet you’ve heard it all before, or at least imagine that you have. Literary deja-vu. And yet our world is changing so rapidly, technological and scientific breakthroughs happening everyday, surely we should be expanding our creative palettes? Yet science is leading the way, because science has to think beyond the human scale; be it cosmological and planetary and infinite; or sub-atomic and quantum. Science has to invent metaphors to explain behaviors or origins of matter, because it can no longer prove the existence of these things, too great or too tiny for the naked/lensed eye. 

Stephen Hawking’s books are literary masterpieces, look at his metaphors to explain abstruse things. String theory? C’mon, how rich is it to explain the dimensions of existence like a child playing cats’ cradle with her mother’s balls of darning wool? The Higgs Boson particle accelerator is like a giant pinball machine which we hope and pray doesn’t register ‘Tilt’ and suck us all into a game ending black hole. Now I don’t say we all have to start reading “Scientific American” or “Nature”, but ask yourselves why have the scientists suddenly taken over the role of coming up with new metaphors to help us humans understand the world around us? That’s our job as writers! Call our Union, Feckless Local 911. (Another event deemed too large scale for our tiny imaginations to cope with). 

2) ‘Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free’. I believe an unfortunate and unintended alliance of publishers and writers has left a section of the reading public starved for literature they yearn for to feed their mind. How many contemporary books (and would-be books in online writing groups), have you come across and said, yes competent, stylish even, but I’ve read better versions of the same. I read a book that was basically an updated version of Hubert Selby’s Last Exit to Brooklyn. Beautifully executed, updated to a 1980’s NY community, but basically, DONE BEFORE. I was not transported to anywhere I hadn’t already been and bought the T-shirt (or the dust jacket at least). This tendency is composed of a self-reinforcing cycle of books that prove their marketability, leading publishers to play it safe with commissioning more of the same, and authors seeing what gets published, also playing it safe and sticking to these formulas and subjects. Stop it, cease and desist right now! Give the readers something new to challenge them. Why did experiments with form and language seemingly expire in the 1960’s? That’s 40 years ago, the world has moved on, and makes even less sense to us morally and socially adrift. Maybe radical new insights through fiction might meet that raging hunger out there in the market. We won’t ever know if none of it ever gets published. Writers have to make the first move by writing this stuff. Then try and impress on the publishers that it will sell. Or publish it themselves and prove it sells … 

3) ‘The wretched refuse of your teeming shore’. I’ve been at this writing lark for 25 years now. Pretty much with the same centrality of vision as I started out with. I have stepped over the husks of many of my peers, far more creative than I, but ultimately worn down and vitiated by years of rejection and neglect for their work. Maybe I’m just thicker-skinned or more cussed. I have decorated the walls of my study with rejection letters. It drives me on. I receive heaps of criticism within online writing communities, because my work is ‘difficult’ or ‘demanding’. While I am happy to allow that reading a book and needing a dictionary or book of Classical Greek Myth to hand, may not be your chosen way of reading, when it is a peer writer who complains that “I don’t wish to have to keep referencing a dictionary when I read”, I ask myself why would any writer admit to this, that they have no interest in words? In expanding the palette of hues with which they can daub on their own canvas. So no, I refuse to compromise. I paint with words. My metaphors are impressionistic. My POV cubist. My references abstract, in that I am not tackling material reality head on. In short, I sculpt with words. I may riff off just one word and fill up a whole page with ambages brought about by that one word. I am convinced I have a constituency out there. It may not be sizeable. It may not be particularly profitable. But it is interested in literary form. In language. In ideas. In metaphor. In contemporaneity. In politics (not party politics, but politics behind the everyday). In being mentally stretched. In short, writing that makes them work a bit, but hopefully rewards them for their investment. A book life-changing, not in the way of a self-help book, but one that may leave them never viewing the world in quite the same way again. 

What say you my fellow scribes? You up for signing on for a literary Green Card? Come get with the program. Or at least help me establish such a program. 

 

Marc Nash’s novel “AB&E” is coming out before Christmas and will be available on Amazon. Visit him at http://sulcicollective.blogspot.com/ and be sure to take a look at the Video Bar and his amazing Guerilla Videos!

Thanks Marc!