Writing is hard!

Discussion in 'Writing' started by Jack Brewhouse, Jul 16, 2016.

  1. Jack Brewhouse

    Jack Brewhouse Well-Known Member

    Sometimes I actually wonder why I bother. I've been writing for years. I was good at it, even at school. Once, when I was 7 I get taken out of class and told off for copying a story I had written. I hadn't, I just made it up myself but the teacher wouldn't believe me. My stories were always read out in class in secondary school and I came to realise it was what I wanted to do. I finished my first novel back in 1993 and then finished two more. Two of them got published straight away but the publisher was worse then useless and ended up going under. Then, life got in the way but now I'm back with a vengeance. I've published three on Amazon now.
    But it's really hard work.
    The world is a pretty screwed up place. I look at promoting my book and the advice is, find a platform, establish your market, etc. No. I'm a writer. I write about what interests me, writing is an art and shouldn't be turned into a cynical marketing ploy. 'Those Two Idiots' is the true story of a motorcycle ride. My friends wanted me to write it so they could see what I did. It's a silly book but has lots of points that were worthy of being made about how consumerism and greed is crushing the world.
    The Box is about a sex-robot who claims to be alive. It's about the search for identity and how humans refuse to treat anyone really different as being equal. It's told from the perspective of the lowest life-form, someone seen as nothing to really bring the point home.
    Serves' is about working for a living. It's also the about fighting for your rights to expression, it's a statement about how stupid the world has become. It's about being awake in a world where everyone is asleep. I write about what I believe in.
    I get rejected by agents (like all writers) because 'it doesn't speak to me' but really it's because the media is about furthering the marketing agenda and about selling certain ideas. 50 shades of grey, the Duff, these books are what sells, not books about freedom and actually thinking for yourself.
    Yesterday I had a short story rejected because 'it didn't have a voice.' What a load of crap! I'm sick of it, it's why I self-publish now so I don't have to listen to this brainwashed nonsense from people who should be serving drinks instead of making decisions that effect people's lives.
    Writing, music, art should be about expression, nothing more, nothing less.

    Anyone agree/disagree?
    Boreas likes this.
  2. Sparrow

    Sparrow Well-Known Member

    The artist as professional should be agile enough to deliver a salable product.
    I've been an artist all my life, various times making a living as a Muralist/Trompe L'oeil, theatrical production designer, etc. I have never been pretentious enough to think that being an artist is more important than say, an engineer, or a furniture maker, or whatever.
  3. Jack Brewhouse

    Jack Brewhouse Well-Known Member

    What a shock that you disagree. I could have said the sky is blue and you'd have argued.
  4. Sparrow

    Sparrow Well-Known Member

    You're very pissy and moany.
    Art should be much more than just about, "expression". It should have purpose.

  5. Jack Brewhouse

    Jack Brewhouse Well-Known Member

    You don't know me at all sir, but you are clearly illustrating what you are for all to see.
  6. Sparrow

    Sparrow Well-Known Member

    Oh I think I know your type pretty well; the suffering artist who shakes his fist at Economic Darwinism.
    Create more, shake fist less.
  7. Jack Brewhouse

    Jack Brewhouse Well-Known Member

    Any posts from anyone worth talking to?
    TomTB likes this.
  8. Sparrow

    Sparrow Well-Known Member

    Dude, go diddle yourself.
    It appears to be the one thing you're good at.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2016
  9. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    I feel like I should have brought popcorn.

    But seriously, this whole exchange has been ridiculous. j.grey, at least Sparrow made an effort with his first reply in presenting an opinion without insinuating anything personal, so you could have responded likewise. And Sparrow, your subsequent post did get unnecessarily personal and it all unraveled from there.

    I'd like you both to refrain from invective and maligning each other's characters. This isn't a tone conducive to a friendly discussion atmosphere. We can all agree that disagreements and heated arguments are possible with civility whilst understanding that there is a grey area between light-hearted banter, snark, and responses that can border on the insulting. So, let's keep a sense of perspective and not let responses from others unduly affect your own reaction. Let's definitely not cross that line where things become awkward and heavy for all. This fledgling forum was recently becoming invitingly active and it would be nice if it were to remain so.

    @Sparrow, kindly edit your last post. I'm not averse to swearing until there is a specific edict handed down from the head admin against it, but such language used in a deliberately insulting manner against other members is a big no.

    @j.grey, kindly refrain from the passive-aggressive tone of some of your posts that can lead to unnecessary tit-for-tats, especially against those you know it's going to get a rise out of.
  10. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Publishers definitely want a secure thing when it comes to selling a product. Who doesn't? I'm sure that with some there is an agenda, or at least a subconscious and maybe conscious will to promote the types of things or ideas that they themselves agree with...that's also natural. But I don't believe this is nearly as ubiquitous as you think, although I agree the political and cultural climate in the west is most definitely heavily skewed). There are plenty of authors whose works might contain ideas aligned with the current political narrative and they still don't sell, or get rejected many times before someone picks them up. You just have to persevere with your work.

    Luckily, self-publishing offers an easy solution, but I agree it's still hard because you don't have a ready-made marketing team to promote your book.
    As for crap selling more, that'll always be the case. Sturgeon's Law. The lowest common denominator easily appeals to a wide variety of consumers. That's not to say you won't find your audience.
    As for being rejected recently because "it didn't have a voice," well, there are always going to be obstacles such as this. Getting caught in the perceived inequity of it all isn't going to help. It's just another form of willingly participating in the victim mentality that has been so fashionable the last many decades and has reached a crescendo the last five years. That it's someone else's fault. Whether that editor who rejected your short story is right or wrong doesn't matter, even if it is frustrating. Sparrow is spot on with: "create more, shake fist less." Persevere until you write a story of such obvious quality that an editor is unable to reject it, whether they agree with the ideas contained within or not.
    I think it can be both about workmanship in line with 'hack' writers and artists who turn out work purely to be sold for livelihood (like Dickens did per word, or Dumas or Clark Ashton Smith or Robert E. Howard) and by those who are using it as a form of pure self-expression from the start without thought to any mundane concerns. And it can definitely be about both, as the above examples proved. While they were essentially 'hack' writers writing purely to sell to subsist to varying degrees, they were still able to express themselves artistically; if not from the very start, they grew into it. Clark Ashton Smith was a high caliber wordsmith from the start, more so than the others.
  11. jo zebedee

    jo zebedee Well-Known Member

    Yep - for every writer out there. You're no different from all of us. (Salutes the fallen by the wayside.)

    You have a choice. All of us do. You can ignore the marketing, and accept your books may never sell, and keep the day job and writing as a hobby. Or you can see that writing professionally is like every other job in the world - one you have to work at. And, like every job, there are bits of it we like more than others.

    Here's the other thing - see all those hugely popular full time writers? They all market. I was at a small con last year, on a panel with Joe Abercrombie, Sarah Pinborough and Pat Cadigan. They go to cons (and a con where you're on panels all day, or a guest of honour and expected to do lots is a different thing from turning up as a fan and doing as you please.) They write blogs. They are incredibly busy - and only some of that is direct writing. There's no point complaining about it - if you want to be professional, then see it as a job.

    That seems a pretty incredible story when you consider that 50 shades couldn't get an agent or publisher. That's why it was self published.... so agents aren't looking for the next 50 shades of grey. What they are looking for is a book they feel they can sell. And that needs to be something they really love. How many books have you read this week that you love enough to be able to sell? Many, many books that aren't mass market have agents - but many, many don't because there are more writers tha agents.

    Why not take it to a critique group and get them to look at it. An awful lot of feedback I hear gets reflected in the feedback in a good group. (I had a good writer confused as to why their short didn't sell - they put the start up on crits and everyone fed back that the start wasn't hooky, and why not. If you get feedback, move on it, explore it and find out if it is valid, rather than just dismissing it.

    And you know this, how? Could you evidence for me why this is?

    Anyone agree/disagree?[/QUOTE]

    I think any agent looking at your post wouldn't touch you - and they do google writers before they sign. I think you sound like you want the writing world to go your way - which is not how any profession work. If you want to write for art, do so. I think that's great. But if you want to write for art and get an agent, and make a great living - I think that's asking a lot.
  12. Gideon Marcus

    Gideon Marcus Full Member

    There is irony here.

    Art is communication. If you're only communicating with yourself, it's masturbation.

    Writing is work. I won't say it's hard because, with practice, it can become effortless (or at least feel that way). I share your woes with regard to fiction. I've collected an impressive number of rejections, some encouraging, many flat. I just keep trying. I know it's a tight, tight market, and standards are high. And even if I produce something objectively brilliant (someday!) it may still get rejected because it simply isn't right for a particular outlet at a particular time.

    On the other hand, I've been paid for hundreds of non-fiction publications. The market's a lot bigger, and I've had more practice. Fiction is harder to write than non-fiction, at least for me. Experience may change that.

    It's obvious you're bitter. A lot of people have taken the self-publishing route, some out of frustration, others sensing a keen opportunity. I've a friend whose a millionaire off self-publishing, turns down TOR contracts because they aren't good enough.

    Until you're sure you're in the latter camp, I'd practice more. Get a good reader/editor, and never give up.

    Good luck!
    Dtyler99 likes this.
  13. Dtyler99

    Dtyler99 Well-Known Member

    Best advice on this thread (although the crit group comment is extremely valid). I have worked with a couple of outstanding pro editors (at a cost; they have to make a living) and it's a decision that has resulted in requests for fulls for my material (fingers and eyes crossed). A developmental edit will show you flaws in your material that you may have not realized before. In many ways, it is a tremendous learning experience you simply can't get by working in a vacuum. The point is not to make the material more readable--only you can do that--but to see where to apply the craft of writing properly. Agents and publishers receive so much dreck they invariably put down material that does not immediately demonstrate craft (and there's a LOT of it out there). Also remember agents, on average, take three new clients a year. Competition is fierce.

    Lastly, take good criticism seriously, particularly if you hear the same critique over and over again. I realize that's difficult when you receive impersonal rejects, but there are agents and publishers who will give a nugget or two. That's why a good, impartial dev edit is so critical.
  14. irrlicht

    irrlicht Regular Member

    I have always enjoyed the idea of writing fiction, but I am easily frustrated. Putting the stories in my head to paper and then realising they're all crap, that wouldn't be a nice experience.
    On the other hand, I've always felt any work I do "against my will", so to say, leaves me with a much greater feeling of accomplishment, whether it be writing articles for some publication or academic writing.
    That said, it's unlikely I'll ever get off my ass and do any serious writing.
  15. Dtyler99

    Dtyler99 Well-Known Member

    There is a great little chapbook by a young American author/illustrator named Austin Kleon called, "Steal Like an Artist: The 10 Things Nobody Ever Told You About Being Creative." Well worth the small price on Amazon. The basic tenet is that we are an amalgam of our experiences and influences, whether we are a writer, painter, sculptor, photographer, game designer, etc. The trick is to understand why you like something, decompose it, and integrate those techniques into what you create. In writing, for example, think of the authors and books you admire and pay attention to how the author works. Then use those techniques to amplify and reflect your own work. You're not plagiarizing whole pages, but stealing a technique (there is nothing new under the sun). Over time, as you take inspiration and technique from many influences, it dovetails into your own style.

    For instance, in my writing, I write from the first-person unreliable narrator POV I first came to admire in Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun. I also use the device 0f having (or being in the middle) of writing the story, so you can future reference events in a different way than just pure foreshadowing, as well as break the fourth wall and talk directly to the reader from time to time. But my story is nothing like TBotNS; in fact, it's very modern and full of profanity and self-deprecating humor. Similarly, I like and mimic a lot of the dialogue separators/descriptors and expression/movement cues that Steven Erikson uses in The Malazan Book of the Fallen, but I am certainly not writing epic fantasy.

    That is not to say writing fiction is easy (maybe for Stephen King, but not me or any other writer I know personally) and there are rules of the craft that must be obeyed. But when you discover your personal style, at least you are writing in a manner you recognize and understand, and know when you are being authentic or not.
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2017
  16. Tiran

    Tiran Well-Known Member

    You must have a unique literary voice. Where can I read a sample of your writing?
    jo zebedee likes this.
  17. Jack Brewhouse

    Jack Brewhouse Well-Known Member

    Sure, email on [email protected]. I'll send you some stuff.

    It's been a rough week. I've had two offers of publications from UK firms. I have a friend who knows his way around the business community and has tools at his disposal to go into the background of these companies. One was probably genuine and seemed friendly enough. The company had huge financial difficulties and were in serious trouble. The second was a literal scam with some very poor business practices. What's really annoying is that these publishers came from recommended lists on writer's support websites. I didn't find them by accident.
    On the other hand, I also write motorcycle adventure travel books. A niche publisher has picked up the two books I've written in that field and they'll be coming out properly next year. So that's something.
    I'm even taking the two other offers as a compliment. A third publisher has asked for more material to read but a background search suggest that they're just two guys working out of a spare room.
  18. jo zebedee

    jo zebedee Well-Known Member

    Irony. A word of many nuances.

    Anyhow - come out of your bubble of me long enough to go check out any publisher who offers on Absolute Write's Bewares and Recommendations thread. They are usually an eye opener.

    And bear in mind if you are only getting offers from vanity publishers and the like your mss may not be polished enough to gain an offer.
  19. Jack Brewhouse

    Jack Brewhouse Well-Known Member

    I've read some of your stuff after your comments. So, how did you get published? What was your trick?
  20. jo zebedee

    jo zebedee Well-Known Member

    Cheers. I don't think there is a trick per se except to make sure you're bringing a polished product to the market.

    I got an agent with my second book (we've since parted company) and an indie publisher for my first (which was a trilogy offer) and fifth (a different publisher).

    Before I got any of those offers I had been in critique groups, writers forums and community groups for ages, picking up tips. I used a pro editor to teach me the next level of attention to detail. I endured Query Letter Hell on Absolute Write to teach me how to write a query. I researched the industry and made contact with the convention scene and the like.

    So, sadly, no trick just graft.

    Early on, someone advised me to Slow Down. The writing world has thousands of writers out them - and many of them will be more experienced than I was and more knowledgeable. If I wanted to keep up with the Jenson Button's I needed to come up to their level. I'm not there, of course - but my writing is a damn sight better than it was then :)

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