My first novel, Chasing Down the Moon, is now alive and kicking its little feet over on Amazon (e-book up now, p-book to follow shortly).
If anyone had told me when I started writing Moon that I’d end up indie-publishing it, I would have laughed heartily, laughed in some way that characters in books aren’t supposed to laugh: chortle, perhaps. Or guffaw.
(Actually, I would have said, “indie WHA?” Then I would have laughed.)
Have you heard the old song/poem about how the revolution won’t be televised?* Or John Lennon’s assertion that life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans? Well, apparently the world of publishing underwent a revolutionary and untelevised shift while I was busy doing other stuff.
There are a couple of reasons that publishing my own work comes as rather a shock.
First, I had an unpleasant run-in with some self-published books that skewed my perception. Some years ago I wrote regular articles for my local newspaper pertaining to arts and entertainment. One day my editor asked me to write a review on a self-published book that had been sent in by the author. I was interested.
The book, a memoir, was not badly written. The author had some writing ability and was writing about some interesting life experiences. The book had problems, too, not egregious, but visible. I did what I was being paid to do: I gave the book a fair and honest mixed review that proceeded to royally piss off the many local friends of the author, who railed against me in letters to the editor. Apparently they were expecting me to say only wonderful things, or to keep my big mouth shut.
Clearly, they’ve never met me.
A couple of weeks later, my editor got another review request for a self-published book. Then another. I saw that they were all published by the same vanity press (AuthorHouse). This was pre-Amazon KDP, and money-up-front vanity presses were the only option for self-publishing. The books had okay-looking covers and internal formatting, but the content was pretty scary. I’m talking big, glaring typos and howling grammar errors, starting on the first page. I had to tell my editor that I just couldn’t review these books—it would be like shooting fish in a barrel and I wasn’t up for any more hate mail.
The other factor in my strong previous bent away from indie-pubbing has to do, in part, with my formation as a writer. I got serious about writing and about college pretty late in life. I very purposely shaped my education around creative writing, and in the halls of academia creative writing instruction is strongly informed by a literary canon that eschews popular and/or genre fiction and a writing ethos that is, shall we say, rather high-minded.
(And the winner for the internet’s most extreme understatement goes to Carla Baku!)
In the aforementioned circles, the whole topic of publication is weirdly fraught; admitting one’s desire to publish is sort of like going to your church’s abstinence-only youth group and talking about how much you want to have sex.
Similarly, when you are ready to go all the way—all the way to publication, that is—there is the proper way—traditional publication—and there is that nasty, illegitimate way that isn’t mentioned in polite, literary circles—independent publication.
Chasing Down the Moon got its start in the most traditional way imaginable: input from venerated writing teachers, querying of and representation by a strong literary agent, and (eventually) a publishing contract offer. It was all set to be a proper little debutante of a novel.
Then I veered off-road and went all Thelma and Louise with this thing.
I don’t know what the outcome will be. This novel may end up in La Paz doing shots of Cabo Wabo, or it may make a spectacular nose dive into the Rio Grande. Either way, it’s a fun ride.
I’m old. What the hell. Pass the lime?
*Gil Scott-Heron, 1970.
One of my favorite films is The Remains of the Day, starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, so I was especially intrigued to read an article by Kazuo Ishiguro, who write the original novel...in four weeks!
I am always intrigued by the work habits of other writers, and there's quite a bit of discussion bandied about regarding the relative merits/demerits of fast writing and slow writing. Purposely setting out to write extremely long hours for a set period of time, Ishiguro called the four weeks of actual butt-in-chair writing time a "crash."
There is a school of thought that writing faster than the internal editor can keep up can help a writer tap into a flow of consciousness they might otherwise get to. I'm a slow writer, and admit I do feel a push to experiment with a Kazuo Ishiguro crash.
If you're a writer, what do you think? What's your process?
How do you feel about books? About reading? About your relationship with the author?
As a lifelong lover of the written word, I feel a human bond with the author, especially when her words take me from the concrete reality of my everyday life and transport me into the ineffable world of the story.
In the documentary film Stone Reader by Mark Moskowitz (and if you've ever fallen in love with an author's work, do yourself a favor and watch this wonderful film), author Frank Conroy says this about reading:
"It's like food, you know? There are some pleasures that simply never run out, and books are one of them. In every way, simply diverting yourself from life, you enter worlds that you couldn't possibly enter in any other way. You feel the pressure of another human soul on the other side of the book, and that makes you feel less alone, and less trapped in your body, and less isolated. You feel that you are the brother of the author and the two of you are working together. It's a very profound and moving experience. It's almost spiritual. When I read Dickens, the old man might just as well be sitting right next to me--that's how close he is. I feel him right there; he's with me."
What books make you feel like this?
Do you have a great idea for a novel? (Of course you do!)
Whether you've been considering writing a novel for years--and procrastinating--or have decided to go for it, but aren't sure exactly how to dive into the long swim of creating the long form, over at Beyond the Margins, author Randy Susan Meyers has provided a nuts-and-bolts set of ideas to help get you moving.
I call it a toolbox, but treasure box may be more like it. Check out other articles at Beyond the Margins, too--there's a lot to love--and let me know what you think.
Have you had the pleasure of reading The War of Art by Steven Pressfield? If you're a writer or artist or gardener or inventor or cook or entrepreneur or dieter or would-be meditator or--well, you get the picture--this little book is for you. Pressfield encourages us to see Resistance as the primary stumbling block to living the authentic lives that are potentially ours.
Do you want to accomplish a dream? Get up every morning and do your work. This is our task, simple yet sacred.
Do you have writer's rituals? How do you combat Resistance?
(My interest in this book is purely the interest of a writer in a source of inspiration!)