By Joe Torosian
One of the things that comes to me quite often is people want to know about writing and publishing.
There are very few experts, but there are some…and I’m not one of them. I butcher things all the time. I don’t make the same mistakes I did with Tangent Dreams (2015), but I still make mistakes as I did at the beginning of December with “Sin Virus.”
But I will pass on a few things to anyone who has contemplated writing. I’ve shared why I write in previous newsletters, but the first question you have to answer is why you want to write?
You want to make money? Great! That’s a perfect reason to want to write. Don’t expect to be a millionaire, don’t expect to quit your day job. But if you’ve got some talent, a niche subject, and a big fat work ethic, you might be able to make a buck or two while gaining the satisfaction of production.
Do you want to clear the deck? You got thoughts pressing against your soul? Awesome! If writing helps, do it.
1.) It’s work. When it’s going well, it will feel like playtime. It will feel like a beautiful road trip—but it’s still work. And the one thing we all know about work is that we have to clock in even when we don’t feel like it.
(I’ll dedicate more to this in another Newsletter.)
2.) Don’t be afraid. I’ll tell you upfront that your best friends and even family will make a face or faces about you wanting to write. They might not think it’s discernible, but you (someone with a gift of observation—an inherent talent writers have) will spot it a mile away. And it can crush you.
Then you’ll have to decide if you’re going to let it end your dream/fascination with writing. Or…decide to go full Ripley and descend into the depths of an alien-infested layer–in a factory about to blow up–and rescue Newt (your story/writing career).
(This is the attitude you have to have when you or your story has been mocked, laughed at, or disregarded. Load up, and have the courage to go and save it!)
I don’t know if that’s a winning illustration or not, but I like it.
3.) Don’t be ashamed. There are people who write, edit and publish who are great at this. I’m not one of them. Don’t think I’m down on myself…I happen to think I’m a fantastic sportswriter.
But… There’s a tendency in publishing, writing, editing, and even sportswriting for someone with little to zero success to make someone else feel small.
I’ve a great gift for the suspension of disbelief. So when somebody tells me I suck (Whether true or not), I’ll convince myself I don’t. Or, if I did, I’ll be better the next time. Not everyone has this gift.
If you don’t have that gift, I’m telling you from the heart and personal experience—don’t EVER be ashamed. Only be ashamed if you know you didn’t work hard.
I had done some sportswriting in the late 80s and then went into youth ministry. Around 1993 I was at a youth workers convention, and they had a seminar about breaking into Christian writing and publishing.
I’ll say this with love—and with a hope of spiritual well-being—that they couldn’t have found a bigger loser, Munson, punk, jackwagon, to run that meeting.
The room was full of people interested in writing. I was sitting in the back—my friends (faces given) wouldn’t come with me—and I felt pretty confident because I’d already earned a few bones writing.
At every turn, with every question answered, the guy running this meeting made everyone feel small. He smirked at their questions, gave tired head shakes, and may have even rolled his eyes a few times. It seemed like he was paid to discourage and take away hope–to crush the interest of proles hoping to enter some gated literary kingdom.
He wasn’t F. Scott Fitzgerald, he wasn’t Steinbeck, he wasn’t Flannery O’Conner, and he wasn’t Stephen King (Heck, I’ll go there…he wasn’t even Joe T.)…and yet he made people feel bad because of how they worded a question about grammar…or the process of writing…and the subjects to write on.
You will run into these people, and they are not worth a split-second of self-doubt. Don’t fret them. They are posers—the Pharisees of the writing world who like the seats of honor at book shows and banquets.
Does your grammar suck? Mine sucks. It’s better than it used to be, but not near where it should be. So, don’t quit. Go sign up for Grammarly if your grammar shames you. Kick its butt, and remember that grammar serves you. You don’t serve grammar.
Before even thinking about publishing, editing, grammar, go on a great road trip with your story and the friends you create within that story…It sounds weird, but those characters will become your friends. I know because I miss Frank from Sin Virus…and Pineapple from Tangent Dreams.
Worry about everything else later and just write your story.
If you would like to be included in my weekly newsletter, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org