Why Do You Write?

Note: This post was originally scheduled for October 2014. It didn’t post to MailChimp, so I’m posting it again now. I’ve revised the original post A LOT so it’s up to date.

Hi Folks,

In my years of dealing with other writers, I’ve heard a few clichéd thoughts. In every case, the clichés are caused by the same old myths we’ve all been taught and bought into to one degree or another.

One of the more prevalent myths is that writing for money somehow taints the pure art of writing.

The truly hilarious kicker here is that although writing fiction is as much a pure art as painting or sculpting, most would-be writers don’t present their pure art. (Especially those in Group Three below, but don’t skip down.)

They edit and wheedle and whittle away until what was originally pure looks just like they believe it “should” look, which is like everyone else’s stuff.

It’s extremely difficult to be “special, just like everyone else.” 🙂

Okay, but this post is about the nonsense that writing for money is not a good thing. I’ll deal with the art side of this another time.

“Oh, I Don’t Write for Money,” (he said, one forearm draped dramatically over his forehead as a glass of wine and a cheese stick balanced precariously in his other hand.)

First, a disclaimer — I am aware there are folks out there who are not writers and don’t care to be. That’s fine. What follows is about those who are or claim to be writers.

Over all the years when I was goofy enough to believe I was making a difference presenting in writers’ conferences and sitting on panels (there’s a waste of time you’ll never get back) in genre conventions, I must have heard it at least a thousand times: “Oh, I’m not into writing for money.”

And every single time, for me, that begged the question, “Then why in the world are you here?” I mean seriously, if you don’t write for money, why are you spending money on the latest conference, convention, or seminar?

Okay, some folks love learning strictly for the sake of learning. Got it.

But what about the other five or six out of a bajillion?

Now don’t get angry. Coming from a (former) writing instructor, “Why do you write?” is a completely valid question. But really, it’s strictly rhetorical.

The fact is, writers who say they don’t write for money belong in one of four groups:

Group One consists of hobby writers.

They really don’t write for money. They also don’t invest much of their own time and money in learning how to write. When they do invest money in their writing, it’s for a good and specific reason.

These are the ones the other family members turn to when someone has to write a eulogy. Perhaps they write to leave a legacy—perhaps a memoir or a family history—so descendants will have a record.

Perhaps they pay a proofreader or copyeditor to clean up the writing a bit, and they might even attend a writing workshop or two. That’s perfectly understandable. Absolutely nothing wrong with being a hobby writer.

Group Two are the same folks, but they harbor a secret desire to be professional writers.

They really don’t write for money either. And they hedge their bets by not investing much of their own time and money in learning how to write. If they don’t learn, they have no reason to write seriously and they will never risk failure.

However, they’re so overcome by the fear of failure that they will never seriously consider themselves writers, nor expect others to consider them writers.

That’s okay too if they can’t overcome the fear, but I hope they find something they love to do and do that instead.

Group Three consists of those who are not writers, will never be writers, and know it. They are who this topic is really all about.

They say that they don’t write for money in a tone that indicates they’re bragging. They believe themselves above scrabbling for the filthy lucre, and generally — if they actually write at all — they’re in pursuit of writing The Great American Novel.

They have an elevated calling, you see, and they’re above the whole sordid mess in which we mere mortals are entangled.

However, for some reason they believe others see them as writers (Pssst! No, we don’t.) and they attach some elevated importance to that as well. They would fit right into the Brit TV show Keeping Up Appearances, and any one of them could play the role of Hyacinth. And they’re precisely as annoying.

Those in this group spend sometimes vast amounts of money on appearing to be a writer. But learning and honing the craft doesn’t matter. Appearance — what others believe about them — is everything.

Shrug. Stretch. Yawn. Okay. Whatever.

Those in Group Four are writers, or at least aspirants who have a real shot at being writers.

Those say (usually humbly) that they don’t write for money either. But they invest time and money wisely in learning and honing the craft. (Like those in Group Two, they’re also hedging their bets, but only out of fear of rejection.) We can lump them in with those in Group Five.

Everyone else belongs in Group Five. They are writers. They never utter “I don’t write for money” unless they’re being sarcastic.

These folks have learned what those in Group Three will never learn: If you want to write, write. It’s that simple.

Neither do they think nonstop of all the money they’re going to make. That isn’t what it’s about. They just write.

As one personal example, I seriously doubt I’ll ever make a solid living with my writing. But I also seriously expect my grandchildren and great-grandchildren will rake in cash by the barrel load. And that’s fine. But I get all the fun of telling the stories and putting them out there. (grin)

Let’s pause here for a moment so you can do a quick self-assessment if you want to. Nobody’s judging. Whether and why you belong in any of the first four groups is strictly up to you to decide.

Okay, all done?

Good. Now, here’s what you do.

If you belong in Group One, Two or Three, you can go home now.

Stop reading this and go find something fun to do.

Why? Because I see no reason to take you seriously, or at all, as a writer. And frankly, if you’re in Group One or Two, you don’t expect me to. In fact, you’re probably laughing along with the rest of us.

If you’re in Group Three — well, sorry.

I realize you expect the rest of us to not only realize you’re a writer but admire your tenacity, etc. Here you go. Let’s see if I can hit the high spots:

  • You expect the rest of us to grovel and beg for an autographed copy of your recent release.
  • You authored your book (but not for filthy lucre) and are selling for some exorbitant amount because it’s Just That Good.
  • Oh, and because you paid some subsidy publisher a few thousand dollars to like it enough to publish it.

That about right?

You’re also probably madder than eight wildcats in an oil drum right now. But really, just chill and go find something you actually enjoy doing. Seriously.

Now, if you’re in Group Four or Five (Bonnie), hey, this entire post celebrates you. I’m pulling for you, I’m proud of you and I’m glad you’re one of us.

Keep learning, keep writing, and keep making wise investments in your education.

But don’t tell people you aren’t writing for money. Just keep having fun making stuff up.

‘Til next time, happy writing (or whatever you most enjoy doing).

Harvey

I am a professional fiction writer. If you’d like to get writing tips several times each week, pop over to my Daily Journal and sign up. In the alternative, you can also click the Pro Writer’s Journal tab on the main website at HarveyStanbrough.com.

Scammers in Pretty Clothing

Note: This post was originally scheduled for early 2015. It didn’t post to MailChimp, so I’m posting it again now. I’ve revised the original post so it’s up to date.

This post first appeared in slightly different form as an article in the November 2014 issue of  the Society of Southwestern Authors (SSA) newsletter, The Write Word.

Hey Folks,

I recently received an email from a place called Publish Wholesale. They were interested in “publishing my manuscript for less.” For just less than $1000, they offered all the same “features” offered by scammers who charge sometimes 4 or 5 times more.

But the specific name of the subsidy publisher doesn’t matter. A scam is a scam, and all subsidy publishers are scams. All of them. Period.

DON’T  CONFUSE  SUBSIDY  PUBLISHING  WITH  SELF-PUBLISHING.
THEY’RE  NOT  THE  SAME THING.

1. WHEN YOU USE A SUBSIDY PUBLISHER

  • You pay an up-front fee, usually hundreds or thousands of dollars, to publish your work. Most of them then continue to up-sell you on other services or products or offer as premiums things that you could easily get free by yourself (a website or a Facebook or Twitter account, for example).
  • The publishing company retains ownership of all files they create during the process (Read the Contract!) including the text and cover and the website if they create one for you. If you decide later you want to self-publish, you have to pay a stiff penalty to retrieve your own work, and often the company’s watermark will be imbedded on every page so you have to retype the whole thing anyway.
  • The publishing company insists on receiving a split of your royalties. (Seriously? Are you kidding me? You paid them to publish your work. That should be their total cut.)  In other words, they continue to charge you a fee for publishing your work. Again, read the contract.

2. WHEN YOU CHOOSE TO SELF-PUBLISH, you have two options: you either format your document for ebook and/or print yourself and design your own cover, or you pay someone to do those things for you. Whether you do it yourself or pay someone to prep the files for you

  • YOU retain ownership of your copyright and all of your files, including the cover(s).
  • YOU retain 100% of net royalties.

Formatting your Word document for epublication and/or POD publication is not difficult, but it is a tedious and exacting process. If you don’t want to take the time to learn to do this yourself, I recommend paying someone to do it for you. My recommendation is ArenaPublishing.org, a service provider, not a subsidy publisher.

The book cover is the first thing the potential reader sees. Creating an attractive, attention-grabbing cover is essential. Whatever you do, don’t just slap something together for a cover and declare it “good enough.” It isn’t, and it will cost you sales.

I’ve seen a LOT of amateur covers on what might be very well-written books. A bad cover will cost you a lot of sales. Don’t skimp in this area.

I recommend downloading the free version of Serif’s PagePlus desktop publishing software. It rivals Adobe’s program and even the full Serif PagePlus program is only a fraction of the cost of anything Adobe makes. I use Serif PageMaker (the full version) to create all my covers.

But again, if you don’t want to learn to do this yourself, let someone else do it for you. Again, I recommend ArenaPublishing.org. Even more strongly, I recommend Cover to Upload.

Copyediting too, is essential. I am a professional fiction writer as well as a copyeditor. For details, or just to learn what comprises a good copy edit, please visit Copyediting. It costs less than you think.

WE’RE LIVING IN A BRAVE NEW WORLD OF PUBLISHING. As an example, in the 16 days between October 27 and November 12 of 2014, I compiled and published five 5-story collections of short fiction, three 10-story collections of short fiction, and a novel. All of those were available as ebooks in over 90 nations worldwide and as print books within a week or so of publication.

UPDATE: Between April 15, 2014 and September 14, 2016 (so 2 years and 5 months) I’ve written and published over 1,500,000 words of new original fiction. That includes over 150 short stories, nineteen novels and a novella. I’m also 4,000 words into my twentieth novel. That’s what’s possible in this wonderful new world of publishing.

These publications didn’t cost me a dime out-of-pocket because I did the formatting and covers myself. I retain ownership of all my files, and I retain 100% of net royalties.

Even if I had paid say $200 to get each of these titles out there, that would be my total expenditure, period. It’s an investment. I’ll never spend another dime on them, and the passive income from them will continue for 70 years after my death.

Because they’re all self-published, there are no royalty splits, no returns, no torn-off covers, no remainders. There is no “shelf life” as there is with traditional publishing. And like I said above, these stories—individually, in collections, and the novel—will continue to bring in passive income until 70 years after my death. Again, that’s passive income. If I work, it comes in. If I stop working, it still comes in. And when I kick off, it will still come in for my children and grandchildren.

So don’t be confused over self-publishing vs. subsidy publishing. Self-publishing is a very good thing. Subsidy publishing is a scam, period. A subsidy publisher can’t do ANYthing for you that you can’t do for yourself at either no cost or low cost.

For a lot more on self-publishing, visit http://harveystanbrough.com/downloads. It’s free. You won’t be sorry.

Next up in this series of posts, some tips on Starting and Restarting your writing.

‘Til next time, happy writing!

Harvey

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks!

I am a professional fiction writer as well as a copyeditor. For details, or just to learn what comprises a good copy edit, please visit Copyediting. It costs less than you think.

If you’d like to get writing tips several times each week, pop over to my Daily Journal and sign up. In the alternative, you can also click the Pro Writer’s Journal tab on the main website at HarveyStanbrough.com.

 

Reverse Outlines Revisited

Hey Folks,

This first appeared as a topic over at my Daily Journal at http://hestanbrough.com.

It also sprang from a comment (a question from another writer) on Dean Wesley Smith’s website.

Awhile back I talked about writing a “reverse outline.”

The idea is, as you write your novel off into the dark (no pre-plotting, outlining, etc.) sometimes keeping track of characters, what they’re wearing, major situations, etc. becomes cumbersome.

Now when I write a novel, I open the Word doc (novelname.doc) and start typing whatever comes. I’m an adherent of Heinlein’s Rules and I enjoy writing off into the dark.

But I also open a Notepad text (novelname notes.txt) document. I use Windows, but Mac has something similar. I keep it open and minimized on my screen as I’m writing the novel.

In that .txt document, at the end of every chapter or major scene, I fill in a few details about the chapter or scene.

Those details might include

  • character names and anything significant (wearing a brown leather vest or a grey longcoat),
  • place names (was the hotel called The Amarillo Inn or the Amarillo Inn? did the scene or chapter take place in Justin, Texas or Eustace, Oklahoma?),
  • names of any minor characters introduced in that scene or chapter and their occupation, and so on.

Anything at all that I think I might need to remember later in the novel.

This takes only a few seconds per chapter or major scene and it keeps me from having to scroll back or use the Find function to search for the information.

On Dean’s site, the question the other writer asked was about series short stories.

I know many writers (like Dean) can set out to write short stories in series.

I can’t and so far, I don’t.

But sometimes, a character from a short story (or novel) I wrote awhile back tugs at my sleeve and pitches another story to me.

So now when I write a short story, I also keep a reverse outline of it. Then if I do return to that world to write another story, I don’t have to open the original story and read through it for information. I only have to open the “shortstoryname notes.txt” document and I’m good to go.

Try it. You’ll like it.

Happy writing!
Harvey

PS: Hey! Only two days left before the madness begins at https://www.facebook.com/HarveyStanbroughWritingInPublic/. Stop by and watch the short stories develop scene by scene. I’ll post each scene live there as I write it. 🙂

Read Everything, Think Critically, Accept Only What Feels Right

Hi Folks,

Many of you know I put a lot of stock in Dean Wesley Smith’s advice, but sometimes he tosses a blanket over a topic and beats it to death with assumptions and generalizations.

When he’s talking about things he knows about, his advice can be golden. I’ve learned a great deal from him.

However, he has his prejudices like anyone else. I suspect he was burned once by a bad freelance editor (or book doctor) who didn’t know what he was doing. This is precisely why, when I was editing (yes, freelance copyediting), I offered writers a free sample edit. That was a complete edit of up to a few pages. In that way, my ability sold itself.

Anyway, as what I suspect is the result of a bad personal experience, DWS seemingly endlessly tries and convicts “book doctors” and “freelance editors.” Among the charges he levels without any possible way of actually knowing about all book doctors or all freelance editors, he says

  • they have never written a novel (I have written over twenty and I have gone back to editing for others as well)
  • they have no experience at all in commercial fiction writing (see above)
  • they know only what English teachers taught them (no, some of them have a feel for the language)
  • they have no idea what will make a novel sell (some do, and a good one has a very good idea what will keep a novel from selling, and he or she will steer you around that)

Now it’s worthwhile to note that Dean himself says after he’s written a novel, he sends it to a first reader (his wife, Kris Rusch) and then sends it off to a copyeditor.

However, in his rant against “freelance editors” he doesn’t mention that he uses a copyeditor. That’s a little misleading to say the least.

Perhaps his copyeditor is licensed, but I’d bet not. Would he have hired this person in the first place if the copyeditor had said he or she was a “freelance editor” instead of a “copyeditor”? I’m just sayin’, to many people in the business, the terms are interchangeable.

As a disclaimer, let me say that there are many so-called freelance editors (and proofreaders and copyeditors and book doctors) out there who don’t have a sense of the language. There are many who mean well, but don’t know what they’re doing. And yes, there are some who are strictly scam artists and mean only to separate you from your hard-earned money.

There are also many out there who are very good at what they do and they can help you improve your work. I am one of them.

So do a little research. At a minimum, request a free sample edit. If your would-be copyeditor won’t let you see up front what he or she can do for you, don’t hire that editor. Move on to the next one.

I take exception to Dean’s post not only because I am a very good freelance copyeditor who always gives more than I am paid for. I take exception because he’s a trusted, respected source of information and he’s steering all writers away from what some of them might actually need. And he’s doing so based solely on generalizations, innuendo, and half-truths (i.e., all freelance editors are bad, but he sends his own work to a copyeditor).

As a related aside, DWS also has said many times, “real” editors (by this he means “not freelance”) work for publishers in New York. Period. All other editors are charlatans who are only out to scam you out of your money. All of them.

I guess the twenty-something “editors” working in New York for the Big Five are licensed. But I’m not gonna ask him.

Okay, so the point here is the title of this topic, and it kind’a piggybacks on the Learning post I wrote here a long while ago (http://harveystanbrough.com/pro-writers/learning/). If you’re a writer, it’s important that you keep learning. In that regard, I recommend that you

  • Do a little research to discover your would-be advisor’s level of experience (I never accept advice on a particular topic from anyone who has less experience with that topic than I do)
  • Even after you’ve decided to trust the source to provide good advice, Think Critically about what you’re being told
  • Discard ANY advice from ANYONE that’s based on broad generalizations and assumptions. All of it. Period.
  • Discard any advice that doesn’t “feel right” to you or work for you

I do recommend DWS as an excellent source of information regarding production as a writer, getting depth in your writing, etc.

However, I’ve noticed over the past several years, he DOES base some information on assumptions and generalizations. He slips them in every now and then. Fortunately, they’re pretty blatant so they aren’t difficult to identify and steer around.

I’m just sayin’, forewarned is forearmed.

Happy writing.

Harvey

Measurements and Dimensions

Hi Folks,

This post first was published in a slightly different version on October 10, 2016 over on the Daily Journal. I’m reposting it here because I felt it needed a broader audience and might help some of you.

Got a great email from a respected writer friend recently (Thanks, JGV!) regarding my current WIP (back in October, 2015). He wrote

What about doing away with the specific dimensions and leaving the images of the structures, etc., up to the reader’s imagination unless it’s critical to the story. Maybe imply those measurements through dialogue or description like “cramped” or “spacious.” (The account of Noah’s ark might’ve worked better without enumerating cubits.)

That’s a good and valid and point, and as it turns out, he caught me just in time. He made me think.

So when should we include dimensions and when should we not include them? As my friend mentioned, they should be included when they’re critical to the story.

That sounds simple, but beneath the surface it’s problematic. To at least some degree, the reader determines what is critical and what is not. Omit the dimensions and some readers will find the writing “thin.” Include them, and other readers will skip over that part, as I have done occasionally in Heinlein and Asimov novels.

So to expand a bit on the discussion of what should be included, maybe dimensional details should also be included when they’re not critical but still interesting and/or entertaining.

Which leads us to wonder how to determine what is or is not interesting and/or entertaining. To the reader. (Always remember there’s a reader on the other end of the writing.)

As I wrote earlier, my friend’s email made me think. What I came up with is this question and the following rules of thumb:

Q: What exists within the character’s and reader’s probable shared area of experience?

1. If the feature you want to describe does NOT exist within the character’s and reader’s probable shared area of experience (e.g., a lunar colony), include the dimensions.

2. If the feature DOES exist within the character’s and reader’s probable shared area of experience (e.g., a bedroom within the lunar colony), do NOT include the dimensions. Here you would opt instead for descriptors like “cramped” or “spacious” because the reader has seen an apartment and can relate.

I like to think I already knew this, but if I did, I hadn’t yet realized that I knew it. I do now, so it’s more firmly rooted in my subconscious. That’s a Good Thing.

As one other more or less minor consideration, I’m writing into the dark here. I’m allowing the characters to tell the story. (A technique I highly recommend because it’s so freeing.)

So say a character wants (or needs) to know specific dimensions as evidenced by her awe at first stepping into a lunar colony. Should I stop the Receiving Liaison who appears at her shoulder (having noticed her sense of awe) from delivering a short canned speech regarding the massive dimensions?

No.

The colony is new and wonderful to the character. It’s also new and (I hope) wonderful to most readers. So the dimensions are necessary, though probably not critical.

But should I also then drill down to the nitty-gritty and describe in meters and feet the size of the bedroom in the apartment the character is eventually assigned?

Again, no.

The apartment (living room, bedroom, kitchen, bathroom) already exists within the character’s and reader’s shared experience.

So in that case, the character might note (for example) there’s barely room for a double bed in the bedroom, much less the seating area and walk-in closet the character enjoyed in her home on Earth. But she doesn’t need specific dimensions for that.

And much as people generally disagree with differences between genders in this bizarre day and age, whether or not a character will wonder about dimensional details (and so whether the writer should include them) also goes to the character’s gender.

A character who has spent his life excavating sites like the Queen Open-Pit Copper Mine in Bisbee Arizona probably won’t wonder at the specific current size of the lunar cavern in which he works. If he does so at all, he probably will do so via comparison (e.g., “cramped” or “spacious” as compared with Queen Mine or some other place he’s been).

But if his wife is allowed to visit the worksite, she might well ask questions like, “Wow! How big is this place?” And when he answers, he might well brag. “Well, it’s only (insert massive dimensions) but it’ll be (insert even larger dimensions) when we’re through.”

As an added thought, this morning I got another email from another very good writer friend whom I respect a great deal. He recommended writing using whatever measurements I’m comfortable with (feet/yards) to facilitate the flow of the writing. Then I can convert everything afterward to the appropriate unit of measurement. Another excellent idea. Thanks, RJS!

So thanks to my friends for the mental exercise. Overnight I have learned and grown as a writer, and I have JGV and RJS to thank.

‘Til next time, happy writing!

Harvey

Pricing and Various Sales Venues

Hi Folks,

A little rant this time, but a well-reasoned rant.

It really is attrocious what Amazon does to authors regarding royalties. This problem came fully home to me awhile back when I uploaded the new version of The Wes Crowley Saga (10 full novels in one book) to Amazon and Smashwords.

At Amazon, to get a 70% royalty, a book must be priced between $2.99 and $9.99. All other prices glean the author a 35% royalty.

The Wes Crowley Saga is priced at $19.99. (Ten novels for $20 ain’t that bad, ya’ll.)

From Amazon, for each $19.99 sale, I get $6.99. Amazon keeps $13.

From Smashwords, for each $19.99 sale, I get $16.24. Almost $10 more. Can you believe that? Smashwords keeps $2.87 and charges a “billing fee” of 88 cents. Of course, that’s for sales directly from Smashwords.

But from Premium Catalog Retailers (B&N, Kobo, and about 30 others), for each $19.99 sale I still make $11.99. The retailers get $6 and Smashwords gets $2.

And what empowers Amazon to do this? Authors who publish through KDP Select, the exclusive program Amazon set up.

When you publish through KDP Select, not only do you cut off those readers who prefer to purchase from other retailers and read .epub files, but you aren’t even allowed to publish and sell YOUR book on your own website. Did you know that?

Oh, and just in case you wondered, yes, I could lower the price for The Wes Crowley Saga (remember, this is ten complete novels) on Amazon to $9.99 in order to take advantage of the 75% royalty rate. And I’d actually make a few tenths of a cent LESS per sale ($6.993) than I make at the 35% rate for $19.99 ($6.9965).

This is the same reason you can purchase my short stories (from 2000 to 7000 words) at Smashwords and all other e-retailers (around 50 of them worldwide) for only $1.99, but if you go to Amazon the same story will cost you $2.99.

Amazon is a business. I understand that. But their devaluing of authors and their works really chaps my butt. Please PLEASE never cave to Amazon’s KDP Select program. If you do, you’ll add one more straw to the problem.

I’m considering “unpublishing” The Wes Crowley Saga from Amazon altogether and doing a blitz advertisement sending Kindle owners to Smashwords to purchase the .mobi (Kindle) file there. The only reason I haven’t done so thus far is because I don’t want to cut Amazon buyers out either.

Maybe I should write a nonfiction book titled Why I No Longer Distribute and Sell Through Amazon and then offer it for sale ONLY on Amazon. (grin) I wonder whether they would even allow it.

Conundrums, conundrums….

‘Til next time, happy writing and publishing!

Harvey

I am a professional fiction writer. If you’d like to get writing tips several times each week, pop over to my Daily Journal and sign up. In the alternative, you can also click the Pro Writer’s Journal tab on the main website at HarveyStanbrough.com.

Stigma Dis, Stigma Dat… Whatever

Note: This post was originally scheduled for October 2014. It didn’t post to MailChimp, so I’m posting it again now. I’ve revised the original post so it’s up to date.

Hey Folks,

Received yet another note today from a friend about the “stigma” of self-publishing. What a bunch of crap. There, I said it.

Not only is it a bunch of crap that there’s a “stigma” in the first place, but it’s an even bigger, smellier bunch of crap that anyone who calls himself or herself a writer cares either way. Writers write.

Self-publishing (indie publishing, not going through a subsidy publisher) is just another way to get your work to readers, period. That’s all it is. And if you tell a good story, someone out there will want to read it, period.

Look, if you’re a fiction writer, either professional or aspirant—you know, a person who actually puts new words on the page—and you’re serious about your writing, do yourself a HUGE favor and swing by the website of my unintentional mentor, Dean Wesley Smith. You’ll find it at http://deanwesleysmith.com.

While you’re there, please be sure to click the Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing tab and read some of the ridiculous myths we’ve all bought into over all these years.

Now just so you know, Dean is no slouch. The guy has had over 100 novels published with “traditional” publishers since the late 1980s. He goes almost strictly indie now.

One other thing—if you truly are serious about your writing, check out the Lecture Series tab on Dean’s website as well. His video series on Heinlein’s Rules is absolutely essential. It’s $75 and easily, EASILY worth several times more that. Think of it as an investment in your future. Seriously.

Dean’s wife is Kristine Kathryn Rusch. You can find her website at KrisWrites.com.

Kris is the only person in history to win a Hugo award both as an editor and a writer. She’s had hundreds of novels published through traditional publishing, and now does tons of stuff in indie publishing. You want to see a work that literally defines the definition of accomplishment? Check out her Retrieval Artist Series.

Those of you who still feel there’s a “stigma” attached to self-published books, listen up:

Self-publishing doesn’t make a book bad anymore than traditional publishing makes one good. It’s the writing, nothing else.

And because I’m in a good mood, I’ll tell you something else: YOU are literally the worst judge of your own writing. When you’re editing and polishing and rewriting because you think it’s boring or bad or needs to be “punched up,” that’s because it’s in YOUR voice.

You are with your voice 24/7, so OF COURSE it sounds boring or bland or bad to you. But to other readers, it will sound unique— Well, if you don’t polish all the good off of it before you finally submit it or put it up for sale.

A little factoid for you—did you know before WWII there were NO traditional publishers?

That’s right. Only self-publishers and the pulps. There were no trade paperbacks until the late 1940s, but people (even writers, who are getting severely, I mean SEVERELY screwed by the big publishers) seem to think traditional publishing predates the printing press and is the most wonderful thing since that same old clichéd sliced bread. Ugh.

Oh, Dean is also the first person in history to create a monthly magazine (Smith’s Monthly) that contains a complete novel and several short stories and all of the work is his own. Quite an accomplishment.

Stop by and take a look. Maybe it’ll clear away some of that “stigma” for you. Seriously.

‘Til next time,

Harvey

I am a professional fiction writer as well as a copyeditor. For details, or just to learn what comprises a good copy edit, please visit Copyediting. It costs less than you think.

If you’d like to get writing tips several times each week, pop over to my Daily Journal and sign up. In the alternative, you can also click the Pro Writer’s Journal tab on the main website at HarveyStanbrough.com.

 

You Know More Than You Know

Note: This is a guest post by my friend Dan Baldwin. (Thanks, Dan.)

Hi Folks,

You know more than you know, you know?

Hemingway wrote, “A writer, of course, has to make up stories for them to be rounded and not flat like photographs. But he makes them up out of what he knows.”

That’s wonderful advice, but there’s a trap in it.

I have encountered many writers who have shied away from a project due to a fear of not knowing the desired subject matter. “I don’t know anything about Planet Zygorth and the Sleekbelly Vixens of Tyros, so I can’t write about such things.”

Following that logic, Frank L. Baum never would have ventured down the rabbit hole and instead of reading about The Wizard of Oz we’d be reading about The Guy Down the Street in Mattydale, NY.

There are many things I have never done. For example,

I’ve never been in a gunfight in a wild west saloon (the Caldera and the Canyon series).

I’ve never sat down with a KKK boss to plan the assassination of Elvis Presley (Sparky and the King).

I’ve never been stalked by a mad shaman on top of a hill in Arkansas (The Ashley Hayes Mysteries).

I’ve never been a lonely vampire looking for a family (Vampire Bimbos on Spring Break).

I know nothing about these things, yet I’ve written about them, sold books and even won awards for writing about what I don’t know.

What’s the secret?

Take your experiences, your emotions, and the people and events in your life and place them whereverthehell you want to place them in your writing.

Sure, neither you nor I have ever been to a rowdy singles bar with Conan or Han Solo. But we have been to bars, restaurants, and parties with some pretty interesting characters.

We’ve never been in an old west gunfight, but we’ve been in heated confrontations in board rooms, committee meetings, and in personal encounters.

We’ve never been stalked by a mega-python in the veldt, but we all know that sudden zap of fear when we see the lights come on in the patrol car that’s been following us for the last mile and a half.

Use that information. Writing is about characters and their emotions, and you know that stuff backwards and forwards. You live it every day. Now, all you have to do is put it in place.

Never be intimidated by what you think you don’t know; you really do know more than you think you know. You know?

* * *

Dan’s Quote of the Week: “A simple style is like white light. Although complex, it does not appear so.” Anatole France

BTW, Dan’s new photo books feature 21 of his Arizona flowers snapshots, each with poetic commentary.

Wildflower Stew is the first of four photo/poem books. It’s available (Just in Time for Christmas!) in paperback and e-book from Amazon, and in ebook from Smashwords as well as other distributors.

To learn more about Dan Baldwin and his work, please visit his websites at http://www.danbaldwin.biz or http://www.fourknightspress.com/. You can subscribe to either or both by emailing him at baldco@msn.com.

Tools for Writers

Hi Folks,

Note: This post was originally scheduled for 1/10/2014. It didn’t post to MailChimp, so I’m posting it again now.

Instead of a regular blog post I thought I’d toss out this list of URLs this time. I’ve found all of these useful at one time or another, and I still refer to many of them regularly. However, the presence of these URLs on this list does not necessarily constitute my endorsement or recommendation except as noted below.

I chose not to make the links live. Many email programs will kick out an email that contains more than a few links. You’ll have to copy/paste these URLs into the address bar at the top of your browser. (Note that some of the URLs wrap to the next line. Be sure to copy/paste the whole thing.)

Once you’ve done that I suggest you bookmark those that interest you so you can refer back to them quickly. I hope you find this list of use.

First, I am a professional fiction writer as well as a copyeditor. For details, or just to learn what comprises a good copy edit, please visit Copyediting. Here’s the rest of the list.

Dictionaries

Acronyms — http://www.allacronyms.com/
American Slang — http://onlineslangdictionary.com/
British Slang — http://www.peevish.co.uk/slang/
Dictionary — http://dictionary.reference.com/
Sex Dictionary — http://www.sex-lexis.com/Sex-Dictionary/
Semantic Reference — http://semanticreference.com/
Spanish Dictionary — http://spanish.dictionary.com/
Spanish Slang — http://www.languagerealm.com/spanish/spanishslang.php
Thesaurus — http://thesaurus.com/
Translator — http://translate.reference.com/
Urban Dictionary — http://www.urbandictionary.com/

Converters
Colors and Others — http://web.forret.com/
Future/Past Calendar — http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/
Keyboard Shortcuts PC to Mac or Mac to PC — http://myfirstmac.com/index.php/mac/articles/ultimate-switcher-guide-windows-pc-to-mac-keyboard-shortcuts
Length — http://www.exrx.net/Calculators/LengthConverter.html
Metric — http://www.worldwidemetric.com/measurements.html
Mileage — http://www.randmcnally.com/mileage-calculator.do
Temperature — http://fahrenheittocelsius.com/

Reference, Research or Interesting
Arizona Master Gardener Manual — http://ag.arizona.edu/pubs/garden/mg/
Arizona Sunrise/Sunset — http://www.sunrisesunset.com/usa/Arizona.asp
Cherokee FAQs — http://cherokee.org/AboutTheNation/FrequentlyAskedQuestions.aspx
Drive-In Theaters — http://www.drive-ins.com/
Extensive Collection of Quotations — http://www.drmardy.com/dmdmq/
McSweeney’s — http://www.mcsweeneys.net/
NOAA National Weather Service — http://www.weather.gov/climate/
Preditors & Editors — http://pred-ed.com/
Personality Types — http://www.humanmetrics.com/hr/JTypesResult.aspx
Shakespearean Insults — http://www.shakespeare-online.com/quotes/shakespeareinsults.html
Snopes — http://snopes.com/ (biased politically but can be useful)
Stupid Plot Tricks — http://www.sff.net/paradise/overlord.html
The Bible on One Page — http://www.jrsbible.info/bible.htm
The Gun Zone — http://www.thegunzone.com/clips-mags.html
Time Dilation — http://www.phy.olemiss.edu/HEP/QuarkNet/time.html
TV Tropes — http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HomePage
Vietnam Virtual Wall — http://www.virtualwall.org/
Warp Drive — http://io9.com/5963263/how-nasa-will-build-its-very-first-warp-drive
Worldwide Sunrise/Sunset — http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/sunrise.html
Writers Market — http://www.writersmarket.com/

Writers’ Resources and Tools
Book Trailer — http://kingdomelectlady.hubpages.com/hub/Create-Your-Own-Book-
Trailer-Free
CopyBlogger Media (Marketing) — http://my.copyblogger.com/
Free Word Processor — http://www.jarte.com/
Free Word Processor — http://www.openoffice.org/
Links to Delete Accounts — http://justdelete.me/
Microsoft Word Products — http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/products/
Newsletter — http://chopeclark.com/
Writer as Publisher — http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/ and Think Like a Publisher
Hashtags 1 — http://publicityhound.com/shop/how-to-use-hashtags-the-new-search-tool
Hashtags 2 — http://writersweekly.com/this_weeks_article/008264_11202013.html
Security for your PC or Mac — http://lojack.absolute.com/en/persistent
Stop Smoking Resource — http://www.whyquit.com/
Writing Software — http://www.spacejock.com/yWriter5.html?yWriter5

Professional & Regional Writing Organizations
Arizona Mystery Writers — http://www.arizonamysterywriters.com/
Horror Writers of America — http://horror.org/
International Thriller Writers — http://thrillerwriters.org/
Mystery Writers of America — http://mysterywriters.org/
Novelists Incorporated — http://www.ninc.com/
Pikes Peak Writers — http://www.pikespeakwriters.com/
Romance Writers of America— http://www.rwa.org/p/cm/ld/fid=521
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America — http://www.sfwa.org/
Sisters in Crime — http://www.sistersincrime.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=2
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators — http://www.scbwi-az.org/
Society of Southwestern Authors — http://www.ssa-az.org/
St. Louis Writers’ Guild — http://www.stlwritersguild.org/
Western Writers of America — http://westernwriters.org/

Subsidy/POD Publishing

Compare Subsidy/POD Publishers — http://www.writersweekly.com/pod-price-comparison.php

Note: I vehemently disagree with Booklocker about CreateSpace. And especially in this wonderful new world of indie publishing, I also do NOT recommend you use ANY subsidy publisher. However, if you insist on not doing things yourself, I decided to leave this entry in this post.

If you know of any great writers’ resources you’d like to share, please share it in a comment below.

Finally, you can find numerous great writers’ resources in the left sidebar on my website under Writers’ Resources.

That’s it for now. Until next time, keep writing!
Harvey

I am a professional fiction writer. If you’d like to get writing tips several times each week, pop over to my Daily Journal and sign up. In the alternative, you can also click the Pro Writer’s Journal tab on the main website at HarveyStanbrough.com.

Five Reasons to Hire a Ghostwriter

Hi Folks,

More and more often recently, I’m being asked about ghostwriters. Why to hire one, and why not to hire one. So I put together this handy list for you.

When folks ask me why I recommend hiring a ghostwriter, my first answer is always this:

First and foremost, a professional ghostwriter is a professional writer.

When we want something done right, we employ someone who’s already mastered the learning curve.

Hiring a professional always gets better results. Always.

The professional writer, like the professional carpenter, plumber, lawyer, mechanic or farmer, has studied his craft. He can readily apply skills, knowledge and even “tricks” to your project that would take you years to learn.

The professional writer also has a proven track record of his own work, often under his own name as well as several pen names.

In short, the professional writer loves to to write. It’s his day job. It’s all he does.

But why should you hire a professional ghostwriter?

Well, if any of the specific reasons below ring true for you, it’s something you should consider.

One: You have a great novel idea rattling around in your head.

You aren’t alone. Many, many really good novels are written in the mind but never committed to the page.

A professional ghostwriter will run with your idea. Your book, with your byline, will be written and ready for publication before you know it.

Two: You lack the time to write your novel.

This is a common problem most would-be authors face. In most cases, it’s the main reason the novel never makes it to the page.

Maybe you have a full-time job, family commitments and other interests. Nothing wrong with that. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day.

A professional ghostwriter gives the same passion and time to writing that you give—and rightly so—to the activities and interests and people you love.

Three: You lack the skills and knowledge to write your novel.

Most would-be writers don’t even realize all the things they don’t know.

Most genres (including literary) have certain ingredients and certain touchstones that occur at certain places. If you don’t include those ingredients or if you don’t hit those touchstones, readers in your target genre won’t buy your book.

Note that these ingredients and touchstones do not comprise some sort of cookie-cutter “formula.” They are merely what readers expect to see in a given genre.

A professional ghostwriter knows these conventions and many, many more. And because they are his stock in trade, he knows how to apply them.

Four: Even if you wrote your book, you lack the skills and knowledge to publish it.

The whole process seems overwhelmingly complex.

How do you avoid the scams and pitfalls that seem to litter the literary landscape? Do you even know what to watch for? Where and how do you even submit your work?

A professional ghostwriter knows because he’s been there.

Resumé

I have a long history of helping other writers. Hundreds of writers have learned from me in workshops, conference presentations, and even questions posed via email.

And now I’ve decided to offer my services as a ghostwriter.

• I’ve had years of success as a professional writer.

• My work has been widely published through traditional, subsidy and independent publishers. I can guide you, as I have guided dozens of others, in finding the right publishing route for you.

• To date, I’ve published 18 novels and a novella under four names. A few years ago, I also co-wrote a psychological suspense/horror novel with a nationally known writer.

• I’ve also written 15 non-fiction books, and well over 140 short stories in almost all genres and sub-genres.

Email me at HarveyStanbrough@gmail.com and see what I can do for you.

A few other points —

If you believe you lack the funds to hire a professional

it’s in both our interests to develop a workable solution. I will work with you in this regard, and everything will be spelled out up front in a clear and easily understood agreement.

If you’re afraid of being scammed or ripped off

it’s in both our interests that you aren’t. I make a living on my reputation as a writer. I’ll help you protect your intellectual property and your copyright. As my friend, ghostwriter Dan Baldwin, put it, professional ghostwriters are “fiercely protective of our name and […] of our clients and their works.”

If you want your book to be your book

No worries. I will write your book, not my version of your book. My fingers are on the keyboard, but you’re writing through them. For over two decades as a professional copyeditor, maintaining the author’s voice was always my number one concern.

If you’re ready to get that novel or novella out of your head and into print, contact me at HarveyStanbrough@gmail.com and let’s get started. If you’d rather talk by telephone, we can do that too, but please email me first.

Thanks!

Until next time, happy writing!

Harvey