Tag Archives: aspects of writing

The Trials and Tribulations of an Indie Author

Methinks I’m going to vent a little, today. Perhaps it is not good form to spout angry vitriol at the ‘Net and all it offers. And perhaps it’s not good form to point out your own weakness—or maybe the whininess of such makes one look bad, but I’m finding the life of an Indie Author a bit tough to take of late. I enjoy the writing. I enjoy the editing. All the parts of the writing process are cool for me. I even enjoy developing new concepts for my book covers—although that’s not my forte and I hire someone to do the final cover. My big problem is that I’m just not making any money.


Yes, my chosen career is actually a money sink. I keep pouring more and more in, and getting pennies in return.


Part of my problem is that I have the business sense of a stone. I have no clue what to do about marketing. None. Whatsoever. I’ve posted interviews on-line at various sites. I’ve done virtual blog tours. I’ve bought advertisements on various ebook newsletters and similar sites. But no one wants to buy my books. I write well enough; I usually earn four or five stars on Amazon, and rarely fewer than three on Goodreads. I just don’t know what the problem is. My dashboard on Smashwords indicates that people just don’t want to pay money for an ebook—even when it’s consistently earned five stars. I have a number of sample downloads for all of my books, but very few actual paid downloads. Perhaps I’m not supposed to share that because it shows weakness. But it’s the truth. And I feel obligated to warn other potential Indie authors. If they wish to go into this business, they should go in with their eyes wide open.


Furthermore, if you want to be an Indie author, you should know that just being a good writer is not good enough. You need to have some business skills, not to mention a certain degree of Tech savviness. Like I said above, my business skills are sorely lacking. I never studied business in college and I’m having to learn the ropes the hard way. As far as Tech is concerned, I’m reasonably comfortable on-line; I just don’t like spending my whole day hunting through various web sites or visiting Social sites. I would much rather be writing. Or editing. Or brainstorming. Or what-have-you.


Then there is the whole Amazon factor. It is my belief that Amazon is going to put all the Indie writers out of business or force them into slavery. I don’t know much about business, but I do know that I can’t compete with Amazon when they offer all the books you want for a $3 monthly fee. Which is what they are doing. No one wants to pay for books anymore. Amazon is conditioning the consumer to expect free books. I gave Drasmyr away for free. And I may even give a Novella or two away for free. But that’s it. Every book I write represents a substantial investment of both time and money: for my novels, close to two years and a painful amount of money.


It’s enough to make me pull out my own hair in frustration.


Next week: my cat, Confucius, will reply!

Fantasy Literature: World Building and Limits

The world is an awfully big place. It really is. Seven continents, thousands of languages, and an endless variety of cultures. There’s really only one dominate species on the planet (us humans), but we have thousands of years of written history. The goal of world building in a fantasy literature environment is to provide a background to the story that is as believable as the real-life background that our very real world provides to the stories and events that take place here. However, trying to be as complete and exhausting in detail as the real world is impossible and ill-advised. One can only work within certain limits, within which you, as the author, have free reign. You can develop a world with but one continent or just a vast collection of islands, with one language and culture, or many, and so on. What I’ve found in my own writing, though, is that there is an upper limit to the number of facets that can be adequately described. As a rule, the writer does a certain amount of world building, but only uses about 10% of that material for his/her book. That may seem like a waste, but it really isn’t. Although you only use 10% of your world building materially directly in your book, the other 90% does influence the work: It provides the context for that slice of material that you do use. You will draw on this other 90% in subtle, yet important, ways. A conflict between two religions can be spelt out in detail in your world resources and because you know the why’s and wherefore’s of this conflict, you can incorporate touches of it in a striking, realistic manner that does not overwhelm the reader with unnecessary details, nor pull her out of the story as she is reading.


The important thing to remember when using the material in the book is, as my title suggests, limits. The human mind can only handle so many details at once (there’s a reason phone numbers are only seven digits long—barring area codes). I think a good number range is 3-5 for any particular aspect of world building. You can, if you wish, develop thirteen different cultures on your world (in fact, to be realistic, there should probably be many, many more), but I think you would be ill-advised to use more than five in a particular novel, or say, seven, if it is a very long series like “The Wheel of Time” by Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson. For a single stand-alone book, in fact, I would recommend limiting yourself to three. That lets you develop each one fully without overwhelming the reader. Remember, it is far easier for an author who has written, re-written, edited, and re-edited the same work several times to keep all the details straight than it is for a single reader who only reads the book once. The goal is to strike the appropriate balance, producing a world rich in detail, but not overwhelmingly complex and confusing. The same can be said for religions, races, creatures, or what-have-you. A smaller number of well-developed world building aspects will probably serve you far better than a hodgepodge of everything under the sun.

Literature: On The Nature Of Writing (Part I)

Perhaps, this was covered in English 101. If so, I missed the class. I thought I’d take a few minutes (or paragraphs, as the case may be) to ruminate about the various types of writing and the reasons for writing. Both for your edification and my own.

Off the top of my head, I count seven different types of writing: literary essays, philosophical essays, scientific papers, novels, short stories, poems, and other non-fiction. I think that covers the whole gamut (And to think that going into this, I was expecting to get away with just listing three—Wow! How my thoughts run away with me!). For the purposes of this discussion, we will ignore literary essays, scientific papers, and other non-fiction. I’ve helped write and publish only one scientific paper, and I don’t think I’ve ever written a literary essay (unless you count my blog—hey, that’s probably a whole new subsection … so there are eight different types of writing, maybe). My experience in poetry is equally limited; it usually only comes to the fore in the context of my other writing. The battle-hardened warrior must solve an ancient riddle to win the prize, and, of course, the riddle is in the form of a poem. Still, I will have a couple thoughts I want to share regarding poetry. I am more experienced in writing philosophical essays, novels, and short stories: I took four of years of philosophy in college, and I have learned the literary ropes, mostly on my own (a few classes here and there, but not many).


Anyway, with respect to these types of writing, I have a couple thoughts. First, there seems to be three ways of looking at any kind of writing. First, one can look at it as a means of self-expression. This is a completely solitary activity. The ultimate goal of the writing need not concern another human being in any way. Such a work can be seen strictly as a piece of art; and what it means is often subject to interpretation. Another way of looking at writing is as a means of communication. The primary purpose here is not as a work made strictly for one’s own enjoyment, but rather, to make a connection with someone else; to bridge that gap between two people and share a thought. Finally, one can look at writing aesthetically, but at this point, I think I’m getting a little out of my depth. Most people claim this last facet is all subjective anyway, except maybe a few philosophers who may not be convinced. I know I can recognize bad writing in a universal sense, and I think most people agree Shakespeare had a way with words. But clearly, it is not cut and dry like a math equation.


Perhaps there is a technical name for these three aspects of writing—self-expression, communication, and aesthetics—but regardless I believe they provide a critical lens through which any writing can be examined, at least, superficially.


Anyway, I’ve reached my self-imposed word limit for the day; next time, I will examine each type of writing (novels, short stories, poetry, and philosophical essays) through each of these lenses. We’ll see which belongs associated most appropriately with which.