Welcome to Episode One of… Views From The Captain’s Chair! (That greeting should echo in your head like The Muppets’ Pigs In Space! Or am I the only one that hears that?)
In 2014 I have decided that some blogginess was needed. You know, because there isn’t enough blogginess out there. And certainly not enough blogginess about writing! Fo sho.
Views From The Captain’s Chair will be a weekly blog dedicated to my views on being a writer in today’s suped-up, jetpackless 21st century. I’m not an expert, by any stretch of the imagination, but I am a professional writer working full time and have been professionally writing since 2009. That means I know enough to be dangerous, but not enough to be deadly. So sit back, relax (or freak out, it’s your life) and get ready for some words of wisdom as only a man that writes in a captain’s chair can give!
Episode One: Do Your Time!
Notice above how I mentioned I’ve been writing professionally since 2009? Yes, of course you noticed that. You’re not a moron. Right? Right… Anyhoodly-doo, that date is important to today’s post. Why? Because it means I have been writing professionally for about 5 years now. That’s key to what I will try to impart to you. So listen carefully.
You don’t know shit as a writer until you have put in about 4-5 years of professional experience.
That statement is going to rub some of you the wrong way. Against the grain. Opposite of the right way. Make you pull your hair, gnash your teeth, pee a little in your skinny jeans. That’s cool because I did the exact same thing when I was starting out (except for the skinny jeans thing. Ain’t no way you’ll squeeze my ass into skinny jeans. Not happening). I hated it when experienced writers said that it would take me 4-5 years to really get the hang of things. What the hell did they know? I was awesome! YOU CAN’T STOP AWESOME!
Awesome aside, I was a rookie. A noob. A new fish. I thought I could buck the system. Beat the house. Another metaphor to fill space. I was wrong. You see, the idea that a writer needs about 4-5 years of experience before they “get it” doesn’t come from the industry. It isn’t from Big Publishing. It’s not The Man trying to keep The Writer down. Those words of wisdom come from -wait for it- OTHER WRITERS!
Yes, folks, other writers. It isn’t some conspiracy to keep new writers under the thumb of publishers. It’s actual advice from colleagues and peers that have come before and already made all the mistakes you are about to make.
Damn, sometimes I wish I had listened.
But, nope, not me. I WAS AWESOME! So I plowed forward and made all the mistakes I was told I’d make. I rushed into things. Tried to force my first novel (Dead Mech) out there into the market by signing with the first publisher that came along and tickled my prostrate. Sure, it felt great, but it was over in a blink. And I didn’t even get dinner for my trouble. My bad. Big time.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I have done everything exactly as I have. I’m a fatalist that way. All events in my life have added up to this exact point. I’m writing full time and (so far) making a goo of it. [See the typo there? I said goo instead of go! But I left it in! When you have 4-5 years of writing experience you learn that’s comic gold! GOLD!] My mistakes have made me who I am. I embrace those mistakes like the bastard children they are.
But, what if…?
What if I’d listened to more experienced writers that gave me free advice with nothing but the good intentions they were meant to be? You know, instead of screaming in their faces, “I AM AWESOME!”. Well, for starters, I would have polished my manuscript. Worked out the kinks and flaws. Then submitted the manuscript to a few publishers. And waited. Like the rest of writing humanity. I could have been picked up by a publishing house that knew what it was doing. I could have learned from that experience. I could have launched my career with a nuclear KAPOW instead of a pew-pew. May have happened, may not have happened.
But what did happen is I signed with the first publisher that smiled at me and said I was pretty. It wasn’t a bad experience. The publisher was very small press and very nice. But it could have been a disaster. I could have totally been taken advantage of and lost rights to my work. I dodged a bullet. I was lucky.
Some of you reading this are wondering, “Wait, you sent off your first novel? Aren’t they supposed to suck?”. Sure, they can suck. Most do. Mine probably did. But, I’d battle tested it by podcasting the novel for free. I had the Internet on my side! THE INTERNET DOESN’T LIE! I have actually gone back and read some of that prose. It’s rookie prose, but I actually like it as a reader. So, yes, my first novel was ready. Just not ready ready.
Here’s the thing, Mateys, if you get one thing out of this post it’s this: listen to those that have the experience. If they are willing to take the time out of their schedule to help you then you better damn well take that help and use it to the best of your ability. Whether you think you are ready or not, which you may be, you still don’t have 4-5 years of writing experience. You don’t have perspective.
That perspective is what matters. It allows me to understand so much more about my writing, about the business of writing, about other writers, about quite a few things that are now getting thrown at me. If I didn’t have that perspective I’d be screwed. I wouldn’t know what is a good deal and what is a bad deal. I wouldn’t know what novel to tackle and what to set aside for a while. I wouldn’t know jack shit. Simple as that.
So, to sum up: Do Your Time! Don’t rush anything because there is a faction of the writing population that says you don’t need to have experience, you can just puke out whatever, publish it yourself, and you are a writer! Which is partially true- as long as you are writing, you are a writer. But you’ll be a writer that lacks perspective. It’s the whole blind men and the elephant parable thingy. You’ll only know the trunk or the leg or the fat testes. You won’t know the whole animal. Which means you are one squeaky cartoon mouse away from getting your ass trampled to death.
I don’t want that to happen. I want you to live! I want you to succeed! I want you to buy me bourbon when we meet at the next con bar. Make it a double, Mateys, because the Captain is thirsty!
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.