Views From The Captain’s Chair! Episode Ten: Rules Can Eat A Bag Of Dicks!
As you can see by the title of this post I am not a big fan of rules. They hold you back, keep you down, and get in the way of FREEDOM!
But, before we begin, let me disclaimer a bit. I’m not talking about rules such as basic human decency or paying your taxes. Don’t break those. Don’t.
Nope, the rules I am talking about are those that constrain writers because someone, somewhere, got an insect inserted rectally and wanted to make things pissy and difficult for others.
I was going to bullet point this shit, but I think I’d rather ramble. It might trigger your brain so you can come up with a rule or two that you’d like to consume a Luis Vuitton’s worth of penises.
My first one is the notion that authors shouldn’t shamelessly promote themselves. Can I point out that the first word is “shamelessly”? As in, without shame? Like authors are above “business” and if they even hint at the fact that they are slaves to the almighty machines of commerce then they should feel shame.
That rule can eat a dick!
I think every author out there should be able to promote their work sans shame. Stand up and be heard! From rooftops, from soapboxes, from street corners where I first met your mom (mom joke FTW!), from Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, Goodreads, what the hell ever! It’s your career as a writer and you are building a business. I have never once heard someone say, “Oh, you have a business? Yeah, market and promote that less.” Doesn’t happen. Of course, there is a right way and wrong way to do it. Gauge the response, know your audience, and pick the correct venue. Pull back before you hit consumer burnout. That’s Marketing 101. But, whatever you do, don’t feel bad that you want to promote your work. Get out there and shill, shill, shill, because no one else will do it for you.
I also hate the rule that says authors need to be marketing machines because the publishers won’t do it for you. Oh, what? Am I contradicting myself? Not really. There is a notion in today’s publishing world that writers have to be self-promoters as well as, well, writers. I call BS on that. If the publisher is worth their shit in salt then they should be more concerned with their writers actually writing and not standing on the corner dressed in a Statue of Liberty outfit while dancing to Miley Cyrus playing in their oversized headphones. We ain’t selling foot long subs or close out mattresses. We are writing books. That is the job we are paid to do.
But, too many writers get all wound up that they aren’t promoting, promoting, promoting, enough. I see post after post after post by authors looking for help on how they can better promote their work. The anxiety level gets insane. I can smell the flop sweat through my dual monitors. So many writers spend all their time thinking about how to promote their writing instead of, wait for it…writing!
Screw that. Just write, man, just write. The best marketing advice I have ever heard is to just write your next book. A solid body of work is what promotes your writing the best. I’m lucky enough to have a publisher like Severed Press that gets that. I asked, “What blogs should I be emailing? What interviews should I be trying to get? What reviewers should I go a courting?” Their response? “Don’t worry about that. Just keep writing.”
That’s good shit right there.
Another rule I that can eat a dick is the “show, don’t tell” rule. This is the biggest rule myth out there. Because it’s bullshit. It has also created a glut of “gotcha!” readers, reviewers, writers. For example, Soandso grew up reading <insert bestselling author>, but now Soandso is a writer and has learned that you are “supposed” to show and not tell. Soandso picks up <insert bestselling author>’s latest novel and WHAT IS THIS? THIS BESTSELLING AUTHOR SHOWED ME SOMETHING! THEY CAN’T ACTUALLY WRITE! THEY DON’T KNOW THE RUUUUUUUUULLLLLLE!
Poop farts to that.
Why? Because if that rule were true then authors like Stephen King, Michael Crichton, Henry Miller, Cormac McCarthy, and a ton more wouldn’t even be noticed. Jesus, Stephen King alone shows all the time with his style where he basically inserts himself into his prose as a weird narrator. And Michael Crichton? Try “showing” all that sciency stuff. Not gonna happen. Stupid rule. If the prose is sound then the author can show whatever the fuck they want. Could be a total info dump, but if it is an interesting, well written info dump then who freakin’ cares?
Plus, and this will blow your mind, the rule wasn’t created to apply to prose writing! Sure, there have been variations on the idea for generations, but it really didn’t come into popularity until it was coined to be used in reference to -ready for this?- screenwriting! It is a Hollywood maxim, folks, not a literary one. And in the context of a screenplay, which will have to be produced into a visual medium, then it works.
Otherwise? Screw it. Write what feels right for the story.
Passive voice? Should I go after that one? Maybe. Because passive voice is annoying. It is. But then it isn’t. How can it be annoying and then not annoying? Style, my friends.
If the passive voice sounds natural, fits the style of the prose, and is part of the voice of the writing then no one will notice. Unless they are looking for it. But why look for it? Just go with the flow. Reverse what I just said and you know why passive voice doesn’t work. Simple rule that can be broken at will.
No prologues? Eat. A. Dick.
I like prologues. I have never read a book where I was all, “WHAT? A PROLOGUE? I CAN NEVER GET THOSE TEN MINUTES IT TOOK ME TO READ IT BACK!” Prologues, and epilogues, have a place in stories where they have a place. Argue all you want, prologue haters, but I am currently reading a novel that has a prologue. Guess what? It worked. Why? Because to call the prologue Chapter One would have been stupid. It isn’t Chapter One. It’s the fucking prologue.
So, to sum up: eat a dick, prologue haters.
Oh, and the rule about friends and family not writing reviews? More dick eatage with that one.
Sure, don’t tell them to write it or what to write. That’s stupid. But the idea that a friend of mine or a family member that has actually read one of my novels and wants to review it is somehow unethical? Have I mentioned the eating of dicks? Yeah, do that. I will take any honest review from any source. My mother-in-law has every right to post a review of one of my novels if she likes it. She is a reader and I trust her opinion.
Let’s face it, folks, there are way less sincere reviews coming from total strangers that are just uber-fans. You know the ones I’m talking about. If their favorite author writes a novel about a pile of poo that just sits there, they’d still give it five stars. And don’t get me started with the one-star trolls!
Saying that friends and family can’t write reviews just doesn’t make sense.
Oh, and that rule about first person narrative being “lazy” writing! Eat my first person dick! Oh, and the side rule that you can’t switch perspectives in the same novel. I have read plenty of novels that go from first person to third person seamlessly.
What other rules are there? TONS!
But I won’t get into those. I have listed the ones above that drive me nuts. There are plenty more, trust me.
The point is that for some reason there are a ton of people that insist on creating rules because they personally don’t like something. Fuck them. Who put them in charge of making the rules? I promote how I need to, write what I want to, and let it all sort itself out in the end. If my career tanks then I will have to step back and see where it went wrong.
And lastly, and this is the point I want you to walk away with, most of the people making these rules are writers. Yep. Writers. And writers are known for their sanity, stability, positive life choices, clean living, selflessness, lack of ego, etc, etc. Right? Yeah, right…
Think on that the next time one of those rules that has been drilled into you decides to rear its ugly head and bring your writing to a halt. Just because it is said over and over and over doesn’t mean it’s right. Or even a rule. It could be just an alcoholic with his panties in a wad because he wanted FIFTEEN YEAR SCOTCH, YOU FUCKERS, NOT TEN YEAR SCOTCH!
Rules: they can eat a bag of dicks.
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).
Posted on March 12, 2014, in Views From The Captain's Chair! and tagged bible, drabble, fiction, future, genre, horror, Jake Bible, novel, publishing, science fiction, scifi, writing. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.