Blog Archives

Views From The Captain’s Chair! Episode Thirteen: Writing Is Not A Community Endeavor!

Captains ChairBlog

Ahoy, Mateys!

For today’s post I want to talk about how writing is not a community endeavor. Which you already guessed since that’s the title of the post. So let’s move on, shall we?

I am part of many Facebook writing groups. Some are public, some are private. Most duplicate each other because they are populated by insecure, needy, know-it-all, egotistical, depressed individuals. Writers.

On one of these groups there was a “discussion” about reviews and whether or not a writer should listen when a reviewer, or reviewers, mention a part of the writer’s style they do not like. My take is to always, always, always, always, ignore reviews. Did I mention the always? Yeah, always ignore reviews. Why? Because they are written by reviewers, not writers. These are readers that have opinions, not professionals with actual experience or insight. Also, reviewers are people. And people are flawed. Just because someone read your book and then posted a review about it, doesn’t mean they are smarter than you or their opinion actually holds weight.

Hell, they could have written it while doing meth off Bigfoot’s three foot dong, for all you know.

Ignore reviews and move along.

I stated this on the group and one individual decided that I was wrong, that you should listen to reviewers because if they all start commenting on the same flaw then you should change how you write to please them. They are the readers and you write for the readers.

Bullshit.

This person also started talking about critique groups and agents and editors and publishers and blah blah blah. That, as a writer, you should listen to them.

Bullshit.

I responded that writing is not, nor ever has been or ever will be, a community endeavor. That person did not enjoy that statement. They proceeded to write paragraph after paragraph about how I was wrong.

Bullshit.

Let me explain why, in very simple terms, this person is, and shall forever be, wrong: Because only you write the novel.

Are there others involved like agents and editors and publishers? Yes. But they don’t write your novels.

Are there readers and reviewers out there that want and expect novels to be a certain way? Yes. But they don’t write your novels.

Only you are the author, the writer, the creator. It is fair to say that there are plenty of professionals willing to offer you advice, but it is never fair to say that writing a novel is anything but a solitary experience. Unless you write with a partner, then it’s a dual experience. Whatever, you get the picture.

Your agent and editor and publisher can all say they want you to change Chapter Five. But you don’t have to do that. If Chapter Five is perfect the way you want then you can leave it. It’s your novel. Or, if their advice holds water, then make the decision to change Chapter Five.

Either way, it’s up to you and you alone.

This isn’t a hippie, dippy food co-op where everyone has to hug it out and have good vibes, man. This isn’t the PTO wanting everyone’s kid to feel special so let’s have a bake sale where there’s no gluten, peanuts, fats, sugar, corn, air, fun. This isn’t an HOA where you need a quorum for Bob Jones to be able to put up a fence that is one eighth shorter than the mandatory fence height.

This is none of that. You are a writer and the final decision is up to you. Always.

Now, I’m not talking quality here. Maybe the committee is right and Chapter Five needs to be jettisoned out of the airlock into deep space. Could be. Doesn’t matter. Still your choice.

Writing is not, nor will it ever be, a community endeavor.

You may not be all alone, but you are the writer and in the end it is your novel and you control what you keep, what you toss, what you like, what you don’t, and what the reader gets in the end. If you approach it from any other angle then find a new profession. You aren’t meant to be a writer.

Sound harsh? Sure. But it really isn’t. Why? Because if your novel bombs, even after taking everyone’s advice into account, guess who gets the blame?  Your agent? Nope. Your editor? Nope. Your critique club? Nope. The fans and readers? Nope.

If you take the advice and your novel fails you will be the one that is blamed.

So if the blame isn’t spread to the community then why should any of the creative process be?

Take what advice you want to or not, but always as a conscious decision based on your instincts and feelings. Never because someone told you to.

Because you are the writer and it’s your damn novel! Always.

Disclaimer: Views From The Captain’s Chair are just that: views. These are not laws. These are not set in stone. I could be totally wrong. I could be off my rocker (shut up). I could be full of S-H-I-T. I could change my mind next week. All of that is possible. Who knows? But if even just a little of this helps you then I’m happy with that. If it just makes you stop and think then I’ve done my job. Which I really need to get back to. Blogging don’t pay for the bourbon! Oh, and the whole Captain’s Chair thing? Yeah, I write in a captain’s chair. It’s true, Mateys! Got a question? Need some one on one? Shoot me an email, a DM, a PM (no BMs) or comment below.

Jake Bible lives in Asheville, NC with his wife and two kids.

Novelist, short story writer, independent screenwriter, podcaster, and inventor of the Drabble Novel, Jake is able to switch between or mash-up genres with ease to create new and exciting storyscapes that have captivated and built an audience of thousands.

He is the author of the bestselling Z-Burbia series for Severed Press as well as the Apex Trilogy (DEAD MECH, The Americans, Metal and Ash), Bethany and the Zombie Jesus, Stark- An Illustrated Novella, and the forthcoming YA zombie novel Little Dead Man, and Teen horror novel Intentional Haunting (both by Permuted Press).

 

Views From The Captain’s Chair! Episode Eight: The Working Writer!

Captains ChairBlog

Ahoy, Mateys!

Today we will be talking about how I, as Captain, gets the booty! No, I don’t mean how I sweet talk Mrs. Captain into dropping her pantaloons. That’ll have to wait for Episode Twenty, at least.

Nope, today I will chat about what it means to be a working writer. And getting paid to do it.

Do I need to define working writer? Yeah, probably.

By my definition, a working writer is someone that solely makes their living from their writing. In previous posts I have explained that a professional writer is someone that gets paid for their writing, whether $1 or $1 million. But the majority of professional writers do not earn enough to live off of. It’s a sad fact, but very true. However, a working writer can live off of what they make with their words. Writing is the income and vocation. Bam!

Why talk about this? Because there are a lot of attacks and nose-snobbery aimed at being a working writer. “Write for money? Not for art’s sake? How very droll.” That kinda crap.

I am specifically going to talk about fiction writing, since that is what I know. Write what you know, eh, eh?

I started making money as a writer back on 2009. Slowly, but surely. Then I was lucky enough to be part of that Wild West frontier known as the eBook Gold Rush that happened a few years ago. For about eight months I was making more money than I could imagine. It was great!

I was this close (I’m holding my fingers really close together) to quitting my day job and diving into full-time writing. Good thing I didn’t. Because then the rules were changed by Amazon and other ebook retailers and that shit-volcano that Chuck Wendig speaks of started to erupt. Kindle Select meant every nimrod on the planet could put there work out there for free. Only for about five days, sure, but multiply that by a million self-published authors, and add in the fact that self-publishing blogs were talking about how “selling for free” gets your novel up the charts and you can’t lose and there’s exponential room for growth and blah blah blah. No one wanted to buy ebooks when they could get ebooks for free.

The pyramid scheme crumbled. Well, it wasn’t exactly like a pyramid scheme, but it felt like it. My sales plummeted. Dropped to 10% almost overnight. Good thing I didn’t quit my job, right?

Fast forward a few years and I’m still getting royalties off those ebooks, but at a fraction of what I was before. There was no end game in sight and I honestly expected to keep working full-time and writing part-time for a good long while.

But I was laid off. Fired. Sent packing. Given the boot. Handed a pink slip. Shown the door. I was unemployed.

Not good.

What could I do? Get another customer service job? Nope, they don’t pay what I was making. Go back into sales and spend weeks away from the family? That’s not the husband and father I am. Return to food service and cook again? Makes even less than customer service.

In short, I was fucked.

Except I have an amazing wife that has faith in me and she decided I should make a go of writing full-time. She asked, and I quote, “If you write full-time can you get our income back to where it was?” I said, “Yes.”

Another bam!

Except I didn’t have the time to write (or finish) a manuscript, submit to my agent, and sit and wait months for responses from publishers. I needed income right away! So I emailed my publisher, Severed Press, to see if they had any work for hire jobs or anthologies that might pay. The answer, while being “no”, was better than I could expect.

No work for hire, but they were looking for someone to write a zombie series that was Romero-esque. They would pay an advance and I would have some money coming in. I didn’t come up with the idea, it was given to me. But, being a collaborative type of personality, I brainstormed and came up with a a novel that would be true to the Romero style zombies (no gimmicks or fast ones or viruses) while also still being all Jake Bible.

I look on that email as a writing prompt. As if someone said, “You have to use classic slow zombies, but also have a military element, scavenging, and survivors trying to deal with the apocalypse.” I looked back at Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead movies and remembered the social satire and commentary those possess.What if I applied that to my novel? What could I comment on?

Oh, right, the suburban silliness I deal with every single day.

Z-Burbia was born.

And the rest is history!

But not quite. Why? Because small press advances do not an income make. I needed more. MORE!

So I asked Severed if they needed anything else. They did. I looked over their ideas, sent them some of mine, and we went with what they thought they could sell. Let me say that again, because this is important, they went with what they thought they could sell.

This is how publishing works, folks. If you think it is about “art” you are way the fuck off. It’s about commerce. I don’t care what publisher it is, they do not buy properties they don’t think they can sell. It’s that simple. Your novel may be genius, but if a publisher doesn’t know how to market or sell it then it will never see the light of day.

Makes you wonder why there  are five million self-published books that no one has even heard of, huh? Oh, right, because there is no market for them! Publishing is not a “write it and they will come” business. It’s a “they want to read it, so we better find it, or have someone write it, so they will come” type of business. If you can’t handle that reality then do not try to hack it as a working writer. Do not even try.

Which brings me to my next step.

I also noticed that Permuted Press was picking up a ton of authors, many self-published, and that they were looking for YA and Teen horror. I had my YA zombie novel, Little Dead Man, just languishing in self-pub hell, hidden with all the other fifty million self-published works that Amazon’s algorithms made sure weren’t the first on their search results. (Don’t think they do that? Puh-leeeze.) I also had a finished Teen horror novel manuscript that needed a home. I sent an email, got a response, and we went from there.

Oh, but let me backtrack a bit.

During the talks with Severed, I came up with a pitch for a middle grade horror series called ScareScapes. It’s Goosebumps in space, basically, but with the Jake Bible twist. There’re cyborgs and shit. Severed passed since it wasn’t something they thought they could market well. See what I’m talking about? A successful publisher knows what works for them and what doesn’t. Severed Press doesn’t really do YA or Teen horror, Not because they don’t like it, or want to, but because it doesn’t sell for them.

Are you catching on yet?

The reason I wanted to do a middle grade horror series in the first place was for two reasons: the first being we have a lot of friends with younger children that asked if Z-Burbia was appropriate for elementary or middle school kids. It is not. Also, my daughter is eleven and she wanted to read my novels. But that wasn’t happening. Not yet.

I came to the conclusion, after some market research, that the middle grade horror market was ripe for the picking! I knew one fellow author that was diving into it and I figured I could too. [side note: R.L. Stine has announced that he will be bringing his series, Fear Street, back. This is good for middle grade horror.] I reworked the pitch and sent it to Permuted and they said yes. Suh-weet!

This meant I had contracts with Severed Press and Permuted Press. But, both being small presses, the advances weren’t going to get me a house in the Bahamas. So still had that good ol’  financial uncertainty looming  in just a couple of months.

My novels for Severed were doing well and I was building a relationship with Permuted. These were things I could capitalize on. Because you strike while the iron is hot in publishing!

Negotiations (and love songs?) ensued, numbers were thrown back and forth,and after it is all said and done, I will be writing novels from now through June 2015. One a month, to be exact. While being financially secure enough not to freak out every time I fill up my Jeep at the gas station.

Triple bam!

Why say all of this? Because I read and hear a lot of writers talk about the “art” of writing and how “real” writing can’t include “compromise”. I have also read where writers slam others for being prolific. “You can’t write a good novel in a month!” I have also had writers say certain POVs (first person) are shit writing. “It’s the lazy way to write!”

Well, fuck and you, thank you very much.

That’s just justification bullshit. That’s what writers say when they don’t have any self-confidence. That’s what writers say when they look for excuses as to why they aren’t doing what others are or don’t have what others have. It’s jealousy and it’s lame.

I have confidence. Did I come up with some brilliant inspiration out of the blue? Was there a eureka moment? No. I had to have financial motivation. I had to be handed ideas that my publishers thought would fill the market and could sell. Then I took those ideas, those 100% market driven ideas, and made those bitches mine!

Quadruple bam!

Okay, okay, I’m done with the bamming. I want you to know I’m not trying to rub anyone’s face in success, simply because until I can take a breather and slow down to writing a novel a quarter, instead of every month, I don’t consider myself a success. What I’m trying to say is that writing is writing and if you want to make a living at it, a full-time living, then you have to be willing to play the game. You have to be willing to listen to those that watch the charts, study the numbers, talk to distributors, interact with readers, etc. You have to be willing, more than ever, to look at writing as a job.

It’s a pretty fucking cool job, but it is still a job. You sit your ass down and you get the writing done. You don’t phone it in. You don’t sit on the couch watching Netflix for “inspiration”. You plop in front of your PC and/or Mac and you put in your time. Then you hand in your manuscript and do it all again.

You never wait, you just do.

So, in closing, my mateys, if you want to be a working writer and make a living at it then you have to not only look at the word “writing” you must also look at the word “working”. And if work was all fun and art and inspiration and glorious champagne parties and book releases and all that shit then it wouldn’t be called work, would it? To be a working writer you must be willing to go where the work is. Like I said before, and will say a billion times more, you have to look atwriting as a job. It’s that simple.

Get your head out of the clouds, stop making excuses, reach out to people, talk to your connections, do the time, and get to work!

That’s how you make it as a working writer.

Cheers!

Disclaimer: Views From The Captain’s Chair are just that: views. These are not laws. These are not set in stone. I could be totally wrong. I could be off my rocker (shut up). I could be full of S-H-I-T. I could change my mind next week. All of that is possible. Who knows? But if even just a little of this helps you then I’m happy with that. If it just makes you stop and think then I’ve done my job. Which I really need to get back to. Blogging don’t pay for the bourbon! Oh, and the whole Captain’s Chair thing? Yeah, I write in a captain’s chair. It’s true, Mateys! Got a question? Need some one on one? Shoot me an email, a DM, a PM (no BMs) or comment below.

Jake Bible lives in Asheville, NC with his wife and two kids.

A professional writer since 2009, Jake has a proven record of innovation, invention and creativity. Novelist, short story writer, independent screenwriter, podcaster, and inventor of the Drabble Novel, Jake is able to switch between or mash-up genres with ease to create new and exciting storyscapes that have captivated and built an audience of thousands.

Views From The Captain’s Chair! Episode Three: Genre- The five-lettered four-letter word

Captains ChairBlog

Ahoy, Mateys!

Welcome back aboard the Good Ship Jake! Today’s voyage will take you through a much maligned subject: genre!

I know, I know, it’s been talked about. There’s the whole Literary Vs. Genre war going on. Which, to me is bullshit. There is no war. Never has been. There have just been egos flailing and screaming and crying and…well, you get the picture.

Here’s the deal folks: Genre and Literary are the same thing. The only difference is where they are housed in the bookstore. And did you notice I said “bookstore” and not “library”? Yes, because librarians (or media specialists, as they are called today, and rightly so) are the fucking EXPERTS on books! Not bookstores, not colleges, not publishers or editors or professors or even writers. Librarians. And how do they classify books? Fiction and non-fiction.

It’s that simple. There are fiction books and non-fiction books. And within fiction there is only one distinction: the alphabetical listing of authors’ last names. When you walk into a library you don’t go to the horror section or the WWI  angst section. You go to fiction and look up the author’s name and find that row of shelves. Boom! Books found, books grabbed, books checked-out.

So simple, right? Sure, if you live your life in a card catalog. Uh, you do know what a card catalog is, right? Never mind. But we don’t live our lives in a world that is classified or defined by listings such as “F Bib”. We live in a messy world of opinions and double opinions and marketing and perception and inception and “Oh, you read that?” bullshit. We live in a world of egos.

Let me give you an example: My son is on the high school debate team and I was recently a judge at one of the away tournaments. I met some other parents that were judging and we started chatting. They learned I was a writer (I didn’t just blurt it out, I actually dodged the subject for a bit, but that’s for another post) when I said that my wife and I help my son edit his cases. This turned into a conversation about how editing by another person is essential to good writing (which it is). Then the subject changed, we were called to our next debates, and on the day went.

All peachy keen, right? Not so much. Later, when we got onto the bus to head back to Asheville, one of the parents asked what I write. I replied, “I write genre fiction. Horror, scifi, thrillers, adventure, pretty much whatever comes into my head and I can get a contract for.” Big smile on my face, ready to elaborate or not. The “or not” was quickly apparent as the parent’s face clouded over and she muttered, “oh” then turned around in her seat. WTF?

It was strange because we’d had some great conversations earlier. Now I was persona non grata because it was revealed I write that “genre” stuff. Now, it isn’t a case of misinterpreting the response. I had a feeling I would get that response by at least one parent because of the way Asheville is. It can be a bit snobby when it comes to literature. After all, Asheville was the birth place of, home of, and inspiration to Thomas Wolfe. Plus, it’s where O. Henry is buried and Carl Sandburg lived. It was also a temporary home to the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald (Zelda died here), Henry James, and Edith Wharton. Not to mention the area is currently the home to Charles Frazier (Cold Mountain), Sara Gruen (Water For Elephants), Gail Godwin (Father Melancholy’s Daughter), Ron Rash (Serena) as well as many acclaimed poets and essayists. That’s quite a pedigree for a small, southern city.

So that experience went around and around in my mind until I decided to write this post. Why? Because I want others interested in being genre writers to not worry about the negatives and focus on the positives. Such as the fact that the most successful writers of our day are genre writers.  Stephen King, James Patterson, JK Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, Danielle Steele, Dean Koontz, and many more! Some of you will scoff at that list, but that’s your problem. I would kill to be on that list! [For future reference, I am kidding about the killing. I'd never do that. Plus, I have an alibi.]

If you are a writer that wants to write the next “Great American Novel” then awesome! Bully for you! But, in this country, you already get validation. This also isn’t a post to validate current genre writers; y’all are already doing it and I applaud you! No, this post is for those writers that struggle with their true feelings and feel guilty for wanting to write stuff that’s not driven by an alcoholic protagonist depressed because he constantly gets a urinary infection after cheating on his wife. [Aside: Yes, that is an actual novel.]

Don’t get me wrong, I love me some literature that is all intellectualized and whatnot. If the story in your head is about a woman dealing with the struggles of childbirth in rural Indiana while also flashing back to the past and her failed dreams of being a corporate lawyer then go for it! I just lean towards her also being a psychopath that kills off her competition at the local community college.

And I could probably write a novel that has critics creaming in their corduroys, but that’s not me. I can’t spend years agonizing over my prose and worrying that my use of metaphor will be misunderstood. I write novels filled with explosions, blood, gore, guns, monsters, heroes, villains, zombies,  post-apocalyptic cannibals, and all that jazz! That’s what revs my engine and gets me sitting down in the ol’ captain’s chair!

And if that’s what you love, what makes you laugh or smile when you read it, makes you hide under the covers or jump into your spouse’s lap, then don’t ignore those feelings. In fact, embrace them and take that energy and put it on the page. Let that passion drive your words, drive your characters, drive your story!

Be the writer you are supposed to be, not the writer you think you’re supposed to be!

Don’t worry about what others think; ignore the turned up noses; walk away from the snide remarks, the condescending snorts, the pretentious falderal. If your muse comes equipped with an AK-47 or happens to see dead people then that’s what you should be writing. The worst thing a writer can do is hide from her muse or ignore her gut. You are the writer, it’s your story, it’s your career, and it’s already hard enough without second guessing yourself!

Don’t believe me? Then find an example you want to live up to. Neil Gaiman, Edgar Alan Poe, Dylan Thomas, Cormac McCarthy, Roald Dahl, Theodore Sturgeon, JG Ballard, Shirley Jackson and many more. I’m not saying you should emulate their lives since many of those writers had less than stellar endings. I am saying that you can aspire to be great and still be yourself.

Personally, for me, I have no ego when it comes to my writing. I know what I write, I love what I write, and I only give a shit if my fans and readers love what I write. I know not every novel I write will be for everyone, and not every novel will be great, but I write what I’m inspired by and I don’t look back.

So ignore the stigma that may come with “genre” writing. Give that shit the finger, a long raspberry, and show it some ass cheeks. At the end of the day all that matters is that you had fun writing what you wanted to and your readers had fun reading it. Write what you want and do what I do: don’t look back!

Cheers!

Disclaimer: Views From The Captain’s Chair are just that: views. These are not laws. These are not set in stone. I could be totally wrong. I could be off my rocker (shut up). I could be full of S-H-I-T. I could change my mind next week. All of that is possible. Who knows? But if even just a little of this helps you then I’m happy with that. If it just makes you stop and think then I’ve done my job. Which I really need to get back to. Blogging don’t pay for the bourbon! Oh, and the whole Captain’s Chair thing? Yeah, I write in a captain’s chair. It’s true, Mateys! Got a question? Need some one on one? Shoot me an email, a DM, a PM (no BMs) or comment below.

Jake Bible lives in Asheville, NC with his wife and two kids.

A professional writer since 2009, Jake has a proven record of innovation, invention and creativity. Novelist, short story writer, independent screenwriter, podcaster, and inventor of the Drabble Novel, Jake is able to switch between or mash-up genres with ease to create new and exciting storyscapes that have captivated and built an audience of thousands.

Friday Night Drabble Party!

So, sometimes shit doesn’t go your way. That’s life, right?

Yep. That’s why there’s the Friday Night Drabble Party! It’s not just about bringing top quality micro-fiction your way, but also about me getting to vent and exorcise the demons that nearly drive me mad.

In that spirit I bring you tonight’s drabble.

Enjoy!

***

PUNCH

By

Jake Bible

Punch.

Punch, punch.

Punch, punch, punch, punch.

PUNCH. PUNCH. PUNCHPUNCHPUNCH.

Pant, pant, sweat, pant. Punch.

PUNCH, PUNCH, PUNCH, PUNCH, PUNCH, PUNCH,

“Ow! Fuck!”

“You about done?”

“Not even close. Just getting started.”

“Fine. I’m going to go get beer and smokes. Want anything?”

“Ice. Plenty of ice. And whiskey. More whiskey than ice, but lots of ice.”

“So whiskey, whiskey, whiskey, and ice?”

“Something like that.”

“Want a burrito? I think I’ll get a burrito.”

“Nope. Just whiskey and ice.”

“I’m guessing the ice is for your hand?”

“And for the whiskey.”

“Be right back.”

Punch.

PUNCH, PUNCH, PUNCH, PUNCH.

***

Cheers!

Disclaimer: Watch the thumb.

Friday Night Drabble Party!

Friday. Night. Drabble. Party.

Read those words, think upon them, embrace their meaning and learn from them. FOR THEY SHALL RULE THE WORLD!

Or not. Whatever. It’s Friday and I’ve got a drabble for you.

Enjoy!

***

Curling

By

Jake Bible

The bony finger beckoned, curling in on itself again and again, as the hand withdrew into the tall weeds and high grass. Little Teal’s pig-tailed head was barely level with the top of that grass; even on tip-toes she couldn’t see who the finger belonged to.

She watched as the finger receded, her eyes wary and careful. Mama had said to go outside and play in the backyard. But she also said not to go with strangers. Was this a stranger? Was it a neighbor?

She didn’t know. The only way to find out was to follow.

Which she did.

***

Cheers!

Disclaimer: Teach your children well.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,692 other followers

%d bloggers like this: