Monday, 20 August 2012


Fear. Suddenly, it seems to me that fear is all over the internet like a rash. I turn left, right, and left again. No matter where I look, I see writers who are scared to publish. Brave enough to admit it. But only brave enough to do that. Must I repeat this? It seems that I must.
   Write your story. Edit your story. Publish your story.
   If you publish shit, at least you publish it. (Don’t publish shit!) This new concept of the digital drawer has many stories lying in it. For the digital drawer is of infinite capacity. It is a fine technological item. Provided you remove stories from it and circulate said stories.
   What’s the alternative? The digital drawer is of no use in storing stuff no one will ever see. Are you a fear-filled writer? Good. Now overcome that fear. Better. Welcome to the Digital Age. An age of marvels so wonderful I feel I should capitalise Marvels.
   Almost everything is tackled digitally now. Except the fear-response. What are you scared of? People not liking your work? For people to hate your work, first they have to read your work. That’s not true. People might hate your work without ever reading a word of it. But that’s a different form of non-hate that we needn’t trouble ourselves with here.
   Overcome fear. Don’t care. I don’t care if people like my work or if people don’t like my work. This is a view that may upset some of you. The view has nothing to do with disrespecting readers. Get that out of your head right now.
   Caring generates fear. Don’t care. Should I care what people think of my work? Am I dead to the world? Okay. Yes, on a basic level, away from the sociopathic scale of things, we all care. There’s a default setting that separates us from inanimate objects, after all.
   My feelings regarding my fiction are complex. I know that. Some people get on with writing stories. But I think about the nature of writing as I’m writing. Leading to complex thoughts. Some changing over time. Others leading to dead ends. Though the walk there and back is classed as mental exercise. It isn’t important to me if people like my stories or don’t like my stories. I got that from readings. Performing the work.
   Yes, O Best Beloved, in the guise of my wicked self-publishing alter-ego Darth Sinister, I brood and fester alone in my DEATH STAR’S throne-room. That was not always the case. I was once a foolish young Jedi, and actually went around reading my stories to real live people. That was before I turned to the Dark Side of Publishing.
   As I performed stories, I developed the sense that it just didn’t matter to me what the listeners thought. Opinions weren’t going to alter the plot. Silence didn’t trouble me. I was always surprised to receive applause. Always. That’s something I’ve never escaped. The absurd feeling that goes with applause for my work. I just don’t get it. Why applaud me for doing the work? It’s my job to do the work. Buy a cake? Enjoy the treat? Did you applaud the baker? Fly in a jet? Land safely? Did you applaud the pilot? I think in those terms. It’s a job.
   I hope I turn in a good job. And I hope people take that in, even if they don’t like my work. Probably because I encounter fiction I don’t particularly like – and yet, I can set that aside and recognise skill went into the fiction. Thought. Planning. Talent. Time.
   So…if I recognise that much in looking at the work of others, I hope others see that I’ve tried to be professional when it comes to my stuff. Doesn’t matter if they don’t like my stories. And if they do like my stories, what do I care for applause – besides the nebulous potential to increase sales.
   The crowd…is not something I seek approval or validation from. Do people like my work? Doesn’t matter to me, except in the sense that sales are meant to pay bills. Of the people who buy a book, how many like it? I’ll never know. Purchasers may not even read a book. Of those who read, how many read to the end? And of those who finish the book, how many think it’s just okay? Those who hold opinions have the capacity to alter their opinions, in any case. A year down the line, a hated author may be seen as the saviour of the day. What price, fickle views?
   I have no way of knowing those things. Book reviews serve as a random vocal sample from a large crowd of silent readers. It’s the vast sea of not knowing that makes me not care one way or the other. If I can never know, then I shouldn’t overly trouble myself with that. Not get tangled in it. It’s too obvious a trap for writers. From my view.
   Reading over what I’ve just written, I sense that I haven’t expressed what I meant in response to the point that some people may be aghast on discovering my view. Readers, you may be astounded at how little I care for the opinions of others when it comes to their reading my fiction.
   I don’t wish to convey the sense that I’m mechanical. Hmm. Okay. I care. But…I choose to care about the beautiful idea that is the story. That, I am caught up in. There, my love of storytelling resides. The magical qualities that exist in fiction, as I create fiction. I’m bound up in all that. Lost and found in the tumult. Whoops. Looked as though I might be starting to write poetry, there.
   (Yeats prompted use of the word tumult. See An Irish Airman Foresees His Death for the word tumult.)
   There’s a cake I baked. I sell it. And bake another. I get so much out of creating fiction. But I see pitfalls for those who become tangled in their own publicity. For some writers, it’s gradually about the body of work. Legacy. Greatness. Real or perceived. Often perceived.
   It shouldn’t be, but that’s the way of the world. You can see it in some authors, in some books. Drifting into it. At an indefinable point, it’s not fun any more and the writers turn mechanical. Because they serve the crowd, the publishing company, and not their own sense of what their fiction was about.
   In not caring about opinions, I hope to keep caring about the writing of the stories. There’s a certain type of writer I don’t want to drift into becoming. I repeatedly raise my trusty rusty shield to guard against the relentless blows that will hammer anyone into becoming one of those robotic reflex-action writers. Build me no statues.
   If I’m quotable, quote this next sentence. I want to be able to say that my mad science experiment is as mad at the end as it was at the beginning. That I did a job, rather than playing to a fickle gallery. Imagine. Chasing trends. Maximising profit. Counting every particle listed under Return on Investment. Insert chill wind here.
   Things matter to me. I’m not an unfeeling story machine, though I do work in a fiction factory. Yes, I care about a lot of things. It’s caring about story that takes my time. Not caring what an unknowable audience thinks – whether that verdict is yay or nay.
   So what does all this have to do with publishing? Are you a fear-filled author with stories locked away in your digital drawer? Do you care so much about what people may or may not think, that you are locked away inside that same digital drawer? Frozen by paralysis of analysis…
   Write your story. Edit your story. Publish your story. Don’t care what people think of your work, one way or the other. Put in the hours, and pay attention to a handful of business points. These, I will now list for you. They vary in order of importance moment by moment, depending on what you are doing in your business as you contemplate them…
   Why didn’t I mention PRODUCT? After all, surely it’s the most important thing? No – morality and the law take precedence. See – now I’m thinking of those two points out of the five. In another moment, I’ll be thinking of turnover.
   The product goes without saying. It will provide turnover. Though turnover is not profit. These two items are of importance. Beware. At critical moments cash-flow is the trump card, and not profit. I’m writing of business…
   So I should say a few words about writers as hobbyists. I’ve been writing this without the sensation of pulling teeth just to get the words out. Okay. So I forget that writing takes guts. I have no problem with people who write for the fun of it and nothing more. Those people who have no desire to be published. That’s fine.
   Here’s sterling advice for those of you who blog about wanting to be published. Publish. If you’ve set up a fiction-writing blog with no fiction on it, shut it down until you’ve written some fiction for it. My blog started with a free story. It’s still there, on that Hallowe’en page. Published. My first e-book went out a little over a month after.
   If you are scared to start with a book, publish a short story on your blog. There’s only one obstacle in your way. You. Hiding behind a smokescreen. Fear. Oh, it’s not ready yet. I let other people read it and they didn’t like it. Maybe I need to grow as a writer. Grow what? Balls. Wings. A unicorn horn. Let me know when you’re done procrastinating.
   I’ve already thrown one fear-filled writer out of an aeroplane this year. She landed safely and went on to complete her Commando mission. In my harsh publishing alter-ego of Strict Scottish Army Sergeant Jock MacBastard, I wasn’t there to tuck in the raw recruits and hand over cups of warm cocoa before reading bedtime stories close to lights-out.
   No, I was there to show waverers how to slit a paragraph’s throat, blow up a chapter, bring enfilading fire onto the heads of wayward characters, and perform the ungentlemanly deed of knifing a novel in the balls. Rrrepeatedly. Do what you have to, then publish the damned thing.

SERGEANT JOCK MACBASTARD: Get up yon bluidy hill, Vanderkarr! Therrr’s a warrr oan!

BABY SEAL: Aw, Sarge! You’re bustin’ my chops here.

SERGEANT JOCK MACBASTARD: It’s fur yer ain guid! Ye’ve oanly loast wan leg tae a laaandmine!

BABY SEAL: That wasn’t my leg. It was someone else’s. Can I go home now?

SERGEANT JOCK MACBASTARD: Aye. Wance ye’ve loast a leg tae a laaandmine. An’ no’ afore.

BABY SEAL: I chipped a nail. That’s pretty heavy-duty where I come from.

SERGEANT JOCK MACBASTARD: Wid ye like a sticky-plaister fur yon?

BABY SEAL: That would be neat Sarge. Will it match the shade of varnish? Sarge. You’ve gone all purple. Have you considered anger-management?



   This blog post was fuelled by a hint of sadness. I thought I’d write to a slew of authors who were displaying this fear of being authors. Then I decided to reach a wider audience – the 0.75 people actually reading this blog. It would save time, in the long-run.
   Awful advice, you’re free to ignore? Scared of publishing? Don’t do it. Awful advice, you’re free to ignore? Scared of publishing? Just do it. Which of those is the scarier path, for you? Stop caring what other people think of your work. Start caring about your work.
   Never give up. Don’t stop writing. Take everything that is thrown at you, fall over, stand up, and take it all over again. And again. Lie there in the mud, with your own guts competing to strangle you. Unloop the intestines, pack them back where they belong, tie a knot in the wound, and stand up again. Take everything that is thrown at you. Fall over. Unloop the intestines from your neck – you did it before. Stand and take the next wave. Never give up.
   When I was building my assembly-line, things went slowly. All the usual obstacles were there, and will be there for every writer. Life, getting in the way. Time-mismanagement. Dead-end tales. Reading. Absorbing and rejecting ideas. Then accepting them later. Learning how to write with your own arse. Flushing the crap out of your system. Acknowledging skills are skills, then improving them. Putting in the hours. Making enough mistakes to keep going. Despair. Lots of despair. The empty feeling that sometimes comes with the blankness of the page. A non-feeling, that shoots beyond despair. The anaesthesia of word-failure.
   Discovering that you should never give up.
   Wear the expression around your neck like a millstone, but wear it. Own it. Tell yourself you invented it, and that people are paying you royalties just to think that phrase inside their own heads. Never give up. Keep writing.
   If you publish shit, at least you publish it.


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