29 November, 2012

Giving Thanks and a Story

Hello everybody!  Here's a somewhat off-topic post.

Let me start by saying I love writing this blog.  At this phase in my career and artistic development, it's helpful and cathartic to put my understanding to text.  The constant quest for perfection (by which I simply mean potency of one's work) is, in my opinion, part of the beauty of art.  I'm learning as I go, and sharing with all of you is a great help to me.  That's my long-winded way of saying:  thanks for reading!  So much for cutting out unnecessary prose...

Now, as my career is progressing, I'd like to post intermittently when something interesting happens.  I'll still keep to my main posts on motivation, narrative technique and practicalities of being an author, once every two weeks, but in the meantime, here's something cool that happened:

I sold a short story to a new market.  They didn't pay much.  A brand new market often doesn't have the funding for a professional payment, but you never know where they'll go, and I like this editor's style.  I also like being the front-man for their first ever issue.  It's an honour and a privilege.

This is incidentally one of the stories that got me an agent.  If you're interested, it's called "Clement's Blessing" and it can be found here:  http://www.robindunn.com/bairn1.html

I hope you enjoy!

Belated best Thanksgiving wishes for Canadians and Americans and anyone who just likes an excuse for a large turkey dinner.

18 November, 2012

Writing Beyond The Page

Guest writer Rachael Oku explains why there’s a lot more to being a good writer than sitting behind a desk.

Being a writer is one of life’s most challenging vocations. I refer to writing as a vocation as if you choose to pursue a career as a writer you have to commit wholly to your craft. Reading and writing should become your life.
Writing can be a lonely and isolating path where you have to trust your instincts and learn as you go. That said, the satisfaction that comes with perfectly capturing what’s in your head and sharing it with others is one of the main motivators.

Knowing when to share your work is crucial. Stephen King famously offered sage advice in On Writing: ‘write with the door closed and edit with the door open’. Some may wish to have input along the way, some will outsource the editing at the end, while others will keep their newest work shrouded in mystery for as long as possible.
A great way to get feedback on your work and to learn from the experiences of others is through networking. It doesn’t really matter what sort; there are book clubs that meet face to face, digital forums offering a wealth of information and niche specific groups.

There’s a lot that can be learned from others who’ve been there and done it before you, or who are going through a similar situation simultaneously. Interacting with your peers is a great way to find solutions and to retain a competitive edge, whilst hopefully finding renewed inspiration along the way.
I myself run a social enterprise that functions as a network and online membership club for freelance writers and editors. Sharing advice, industry tips, news and global job opportunities, Creative-Bloc offers writers the commercial advice and support necessary to succeed in a competitive freelance environment.

It’s a tough time to be a writer and I’ve learned that any resource a writer can find to help them along the way is invaluable. Blogs like Everest by Fog written honestly, writer to writer are like gold dust.
The truth is being a successful writer is no longer just about talent, it’s what comes after the talent. To stand out nowadays writers need to embrace social media, marketing and PR.

It’s safe at home behind your desk, but when the creative part of the process is over you have to possess the confidence to transfer your skills and operate outside your comfort zone in order to propel your writing career forward.

Rachael Oku is a 26-year-old editor, editorial consultant and freelance writer living in London. She founded Creative-Bloc, a social enterprise for freelance writers, in 2012. She is currently working on her first book and encouraging freelancers to ‘think like a business’ via Twitter: @Creative__Bloc.

04 November, 2012

Unprofessional Professionalism

You may have noticed that I recently changed "marketing" in my procession to "practicalities of success".  This is because I've already told you everything I know about marketing.  But since writers like stories, here's a story about being a writer!

"You are not a professional."

"What?  Shut up, Luke," you say.

"No, seriously.  You're not.  Before you punch me in the face, let's just clarify something:  you're an artist.  There's an arts industry, but that's everyone else's job.  Yours is the imagination."

Before lowering your fists, you ask me what the smeg I'm talking about.

"Um... see, the thing is--" I take a quick breath "--your job is just to produce good work.  If you produce fast, that's fine, but good is what you're going for.  'Make good art,' said Neil Gaiman."

"And you began this conversation with an insult?"

"I, uh... am amusingly snide."  You raise one eyebrow.  "I have fans!" I scream.  "But that's not the point.  Look, telling stories is what I'm best at, so let me try this, okay?"

Your eyebrow doesn't move.

"Right.  A story.  Let's see.... When my agent joined me!"

"You have an agent?"  You seem sceptical.

"Yes, and this one time she basically told me to shut up."

You seem less sceptical.

"See, I was yapping about all this marketing stuff.  I was telling her that I had five different ideas for a novel, and I'm equally excited about each one.  They were all different genres!  I want to write in all genres, so I asked her where I should start.  Wouldn't I have more lit-street-cred (that's how the gangsta authors refer to it... I mean, "talk like") if I start with something strait literary?  Sci-fi is taken pretty dang seriously by fans, though, so what if I lose my Science Fiction street-cred?  I was confused."

"And?"  Your eyebrow still hasn't moved.

"And she told me to shut up.  'You're thinking marketing,' she said.  'Think writing.'  Marketing is her job.  She disagreed with my woes and told me to, like Neil Gaiman says, just 'make good art'.  Gaiman even said there came a point where he was professionally answering emails and writing fiction as a hobby, so he stopped answering so many emails.  His speech (see my next post) helped me see the importance of letting myself get excited about things.  It seemed less professional--seemed I'd get less done.  But I got more done, because I wasn't wasting time feeling listless and scolding myself.  Get excited.  Enjoy it.  (Something Stephen King said to Neil Gaiman, there.)  Write whatever excites you at the time, because why you're excited is where your idea comes from.  You'll get inspired.  You'll probably find the stories you're the most excited about (or even worried about, because it's the ones you care about) will be your best ones.  Now, put down your dukes, good sir, or we'll do this the hard way.  Gangsta style."

You grin, turn into a vampyre Buffy style and take a swing.  I laugh as your fist passes through me, incorporeal.

"Your all about the imagination, see?  Like I'm using right now.  We're not really in a girl's dorm at the World University of Modelling.  And it's obvious.  Normally when people swear they don't say 'smeg', and the World University of Modelling doesn't even exist!  Don't hit me!?  Ha!  I made you up in my smegging head, and because I did it when I was excited about it, this post only took me ten minutes!"

I then kick you in the stomach (I stake you too, of course) and you fly through a bedroom wall, from which a dozen girls in the middle of a pillow fight turn gasping in awe of my manly fighting prowess.  The pillow fight continues, but with renewed vivacity and improved purpose.