Friday, October 30, 2009


Just a word to writers who may visit. I've been at this for years, throwing ideas at the wall, scraping off most of what sticks, adding it to what fell on the floor, oozing down in gobs and piles, until ninety nine percent of what I thought was great goes out the back door, forever gone.
I'm not just talking about story ideas. I have written plenty of non fiction in the form of letters for business, to government agencies for endless reasons, to every day people in my life who need to be alerted or beseiged, prevailed upon. Writing is writing, and, like Noah Lukeman, a successful agent, says, it is a muscle. Use it or lose it.
I did some of the things he talks about in his blog for writers. I sent stories out and I waited too long for a reply from an agent or publisher. I got too wrapped up in a single story, putting my soul into it until I became a major turd to live with. Ask my family.
As the old adage says, 'do as I say, not as I do'. Don't be like me. Get over your fears, your hesitations, be your own advocate. That takes two forms. As Noah says, query hell out of agents, send to magazines, do whatever it is that you do. Remember that you must market yourself and that is often harder than writing the novel or non fic book, the treatise that has consumed you since you were young and pretty.
The other must do is where I led in with this little advice column for the forlorn and weary writers. Shovel it out in the backyard and forget it. I'm talking about words you created that don't work. Don't be married to them. You can make more and they don't cost anything, they aren't worth anything until you sell them. They don't even smell, as they lay on the back lawn, mouldering, melting away in the rain, cooking up into dust that flies away on a windy, sunny day. Let 'em go.
I have one more, and this one is hard. I've travelled the gamut, from doing exactly as I please, believing that if I like my writing, some agent will stick a gold star on my forehead and hand me a million bucks, to becoming a slave to fashion. I have lost all confidence in my own mind, my own ability to tell a story, believing that I must conform, I must produce copies of what is in the marketplace at the moment. Doing that was painful, it made me despise myself.
There is a middle ground and it is the right battlefield upon which to launch one's attack on the world of publishing. To understand yourself, what makes you tick, and how a story develops inside your chest until you must get it out, kind of like Ridley's Alien. Poor Sigourney Weaver. She didn't know that by series' end, she and Big Mamma Alien would be bonding, would be the same.
Blend that with what the market is telling you, apply as I did, everything you know from other business, and see that publishing is that first and last, a big business that needs fuel from us writers and must see that the fuel meets the market specs. Do that and you have a sale.
When I owned gas stations over 20 years, I could not put my regular gas in the hi test tank and sell it to people on the sly. I could not put kerosene in your gas tank, or even diesel. The fuel had to match the vehicle, simple.
When I began writing stories long ago, I forgot all that I knew of business. Over years, as I grew into real estate and mortgage lending (because I could not get my stories sold) I forgot this old lesson, biz and writing all same-same.
Believe it or not, the current mortgage related, real estate and banking mess we are in, I won't say the big D word, though it drives my new novel, SKULL COUNTY,USA, taught me this business lesson all over again. I exited the bad credit lending part of the industry two years before the big bust, because I saw it coming. When I did, I realized I was seeing a business model begin to fail. That failure made me examine my methods in trying to write and sell fiction. That got me to where I am today, pitching my books, using self publishing as a vehicle to an agent and publisher, a movie deal(s), not as an end.
I'm back in business, baby, using every bit of biz savvy I have to sell myself and my books. You can do this. My way won't be your way, but when it feels right, it will be for you.
So, go kick yourself a bit, shovel all that mess out back and start again if you need to. When you need to take a break, read some of my stuff and tell me what you think. Pay attention to the blurbs on my novel SISTERBABY'S MONKEY. They only took me a year to collect and in that same year, I wrote another novel, SKULL COUNTY,USA.
See? I'm not waiting anymore. Now go get yours, my fellow writer.
Years ago, John Westermann, a great police book novelist, whose EXIT WOUNDS became a big movie and video smash with Eric Segal, wrote to me a few times in response to my compliment for his article in WRITER'S DIGEST. He signed his letters, "In Solidarity'" and then his name. I didn't get it back then, but I do now.
We writers are of the same cloth, prick us and, yes, we all bleed blue ink. My biggest supporter right now is Tom Monteleone, NY Times bestseller and 4 time Bram Stoker award winner. How did I become his friend and why is he nice to me?
That is for another day. Point is, go find some friends, some reviews and blurbs for your work, think outside the box. Do not be afraid of anything or anybody, y'all.
Thanks for the long jaw, Charlie

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