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Jeff Potts

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  1. I think I am the guy being referred to in the OP. If not, no big deal. I'm not a reader in the sense I like reading. I'm a utilitarian guy, and I read what I need to, when I need to. What I absorb percolates like coffee on a stove, and I've absorbed quite a bit over the years. I'm not a normal guy. I originally wrote this long-winded piece citing chapter-and-verse on things in my life where people said, "if you don't do X, then you'll never be good at Y." I can a dozen times where I've proven that train of thought wrong, but that's not the point (and it's petty on my part). Writing a book is not unlike writing software. There is the mechanics, and then there is the vision. You can look at how other authors do things - the mechanics bit - but you don't have to read a book forward to back. Vision, however, is something that comes from the heart, and it is fortified with knowledge and experience that often goes far beyond the minutiae of sentence structure and so on. That's something reading isn't going to help. It comes from somewhere else. Vision has breath, and limbs, and a heart that beats in its chest. I've had lots of time to formulate vision. I'd rather spend my time getting the words out onto the page, then reading someone else who has already done that very thing. Maybe it's because I'm old and impatient, or maybe its something else entirely. Or, as Christ put it - the Church is a body. An eye is not an ear, an ear is not a foot, and if the body were all eyes, we'd never get anywhere, and never say anything. (OK...so I'm paraphrasing.) Everyone if different from everyone else, and so you're going to have different approaches to the same problem. Unlike the road to Heaven, other destinations have alternate paths that can be taken. Some well trodden, some scenic, and some hard and long. Thank God for that, because life would be boring without variety. As for me? I'm kinda done "reading." It's time for me to actually say something. I learn what I need to along the way.
  2. I realize I'm coming in late on this discussion. I had, and am having a similar problem. My work started one place, I resisted going towards a theological bent, and in the end just embraced it. (Mind you, I haven't published a single thing yet.) When I was a kid, I had all of these plans in life. I was going to be a archeologist, or a Marine Biologist...I ended up writing software. I hated reading, still kinda hate reading, and now I'm writing like mad. The fact is, your life isn't your own. We like to thing that we're in control, but we're not. We get influenced, we have desires and urges that control us. There is also Fate or Providence that also plays a part. Our path is one long stream of actions and reactions, the circumstances of which are not entirely within our control. No one ever precisely times disaster, and I have yet to see anyone checking their watch for the exact moment fortune rolls around. If you have something to say: say it. The chips are going to fall where they may, and you're not going to control them. The only thing you can count on is being honest both in your work, and with yourself. Likewise, if you're not being true to the story, what's the point in writing it anyways? If you cut the legs out from underneath your point, people will see that, regardless of how hard you try to spackle-over the gap. I learned a long time ago to stop trying to be something I wasn't. I'm a lot happier being me, and more successful (writing software, that is). I can tell you from experience: you're doing no one any favors by being someone you're not. Or, as someone you know said, what's the point of salt when it's lost its taste? Like your story, you also need to be true to yourself. if that comes at the expense of some publishers, then so be it. You'll find a home somewhere. Then again, this is coming from a guy who has a bunch of stuff written, and hasn't published jack squat yet. So, take my "advice" for what it's worth... And I suddenly have a craving for jelly beans,
  3. LOL. Yeah, there's always a hot-button topic on a forum that puts people over the edge. If there are hills to die on, Tolkien and his writings ain't it. I used to go to a guitar building forum. One mention of "tone wood" or "unidirectionality of copper crystals" and I guarantee you hilarity will ensue...
  4. And one thing - It is a misconception that Tolkien was a Christian writer. Tolkien was a devout Catholic, but Lord of the Rings was not a Christian book. Some of Tolkien's morality and beliefs seeped in, but in the original forward of LotR (I believe), he stated that the book was neither "allegorical" or "metaphorical" - it was merely a story. He was more into developing a lore in the vein of Beowulf...the literature he loved. Lewis, however, no question whatsoever. I think he said it outright. That and the Screwtape Letters - those were pure genius. And the irony is that for decades, people have poured all sorts of metaphors and allegories into Lord of the Rings...
  5. Actually, it's a good threadjack. A couple of those things I might actually look up. I've actually had to take a rest from writing for the last week because of my eyes. Been having issues. Understand that, in addition to my off time (where I generally write three hours a day), I usually write software at least 8 hours a day, and viewing a screen during all of that time. So that "taming the dragon" thing might be something I look at.
  6. First, I don't really care about what's "popular." I have no intention of chasing that dragon. A history of books or music shows that following a trend tends to make your work forgettable. Frankly speaking, if you're not writing from the heart, something you *want* to write, then all you're doing is following a trend. The best advice I heard - and what clarified my writing - was something David Mamet said once: "If you're not bleeding, you're not writing." It literally changed my outlook, and my writing has improved ever since. if it isn't coming from the heart, then I'm not doing it. I already have a pretty good paying job in software that mercilessly requires following trends. I have no intention of being a writer to be a writer. I already am a writer in some respects, just in a different form. And for what it's worth, I have been professionally published in the past, but it was writing stuff about software. That's actually where this "bug" originated. I'll look into the "how-to" books. I'm not a sci-fi guy. I deal with technology every day, and that isn't an escape for me. Going backwards, however, is. Maybe I'm just an incurable romantic? As for reading, I'll give you a little (read: lot) of background. I was discussing this with my wife, who is a good sounding board on some subjects. She's a voracious reader, and is doing a second-draft read-through on one of my books. The results from her are promising, but I want to get a larger amount of feed back. First, I'm autistic. I have what's called Asperger's Syndrome. I won't go into details, but suffice to say there are two hallmarks of my specific condition. The first is the whole social interaction thing, which leads to not having a lot of friends and acquaintances. The second has to do with the ability to communicate. Reading, in school, was troublesome, as was writing. One of those switches flipped on, the other didn't. Verbal communications with me are painful on both sides of the conversation. Writing, however, bypasses those shortcomings. My first exposure to literature not forced upon me by the public school system was when my D&D friends were all into Lord of the Rings. So, I read them. In fact, I forced myself to read them. The result were conversations about things and events that happened in the book, that I never somehow seemed to find. The fact was: the words from the page just never made it into my brain. It's a long story as to why, but let's just leave it at that. And when I say friends, realize that I use the term loosely. Never had a lot of friends, and still don't. I won't go into details as to why. The change came when I read - ironically - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe (OK...so it's sci fi). Not only did I burn through that book, I polished off the entire trilogy. That would be the first, and last time I actually read anything outside of what high school demanded (and the stray comic book) for most of my late youth. I can still remember the scene where the whale is falling from the sky, and the bits about the Improbability Drive. The books had that kind of impact. Couldn't tell you the exact reason why, however. Things didn't change until around the time I got married. I remember reading Steven King's Carrie front to back in about two days. But anything else by King? Nada. Didn't resonate. Done after three chapters. Wasn't want I wanted to read. That's pretty much my M. O. when it comes to most fiction. If it isn't grabbing me, I'm done after three chapters. There was this one time where I picked up Stephen King's Dreamcatcher, and literally FORCED myself to complete the book. I did. I never went back again. Not that King isn't a good writer, he just doesn't pull me in. I have King's It sitting on a shelf. I've started that book six times now, ands the results are still the same. And that's the way it goes with most stuff. I tried Jordan's Wheel of Time: nope. Brook's Shannara: nope. Cussler, Barker, Koontz: nope, nope, and nope. I really like Crichton's Eaters of the Dead, but that's not really written in a modern style, and the rest of his stuff just wasn't interesting to me. And there are a plethora (would you say I have a "plethora" of balloons?") of NYT Bestseller fantasy authors that I tried, and just put away. Not what I wanted to read, not what I liked, didn't catch my fancy - you name it. I tried Eragon once, and put that thing away after four chapters. The repetitive cadence of each sentence, over and over, coupled with themes and tropes so obvious I could see them a mile off was just plain annoying. All of these guys are great writers in their own right. They've sold far more books than I ever have. Just that nothing resonated. The only people who hooked me were Poe (maybe the only bright side of high school English classes), Lovecraft, Tolkien, and C. S. Lewis. Then and the classics like the Iliad, Beowulf, and the others. I'm sure there are a couple of others in there, but you get the gist. Likewise, I'm a big fan of the Bible in a literary sense. This is aside from the Scriptural impact the book has. There are lots of themes, interwoven oracles, symbolism, and so on. In fact, three books that I am working on are based in a line or two in Revelations. C. S. Lewis probably grabbed me the most, especially his Screwtape Letters, but not in his specific writing style. It was the intellectual and rational flavor he wove into his works. I'm going down the same road, albeit without a Lion, Ice Queen, and Narnia. Tolkien took hold as I got older, for some unexplained reason. I blew through LofR, The Hobbit, Simarillion, and some of Christopher Tolkien's commentaries on his father's writings. However, Children of Hurin was one of those that I got three chapters in, and put away. I've come to conclude I have a singular, or narrow, interest in fiction. Likewise, I'm kinda done reading what other people have written, and have a strong impulse to write; it's actually more like an "drive." One of the books I wrote I put down over twelve years ago. My attachment to the overall story, and the character itself just wouldn't die. So, I've picked it back up again. Now I have all this written work that needs to be gone over, and I'm standing here at a crossroads, wondering what direction I should go, or if I should just go back and toss it into the scrap bin. So, I hope that clarifies things a tad. I have lots of examples of what I don't like. I'm done listening to the voices of other people, I'm actively working on developing my own. I think I'm there. I just need help moving forward. Hence my original post. Thanks in advance for any advice. (BTW, excuse any typos you may discover on this long-winded post. The text here is small, rendered with light gray on white background, and I've needed a new prescription for eyeglasses going on two years now...)
  7. So...I've caught the writing bug. Actually, I caught it years ago, but now I'm thumping away on my keyboard on a fairly regular basis. I have 4 first-draft books written (what I call, "sitting in the cache"), one of them I know needs a total rewrite, and three others that need the appropriate second-passes. Likewise, the wind's in my sails for yet another, and I'm hacking my way through that one right now. They are - what I call - Christian Fantasy. It's a term that I hesitate to use, because there is nothing about Christianity that I'd deem "fantasy," only in that these are Fantasy works written from a Christian perspective. I like the Fantasy genera, because it is a blank slate, and I can paint whatever I want onto that canvas - without hyperdrive, phasors, and 3-armed aliens. I'm going with stories that highlight certain Christian fundamentals, and things inspired from Scripture, albeit, with a subtle hand. I'm looking for advice. General advice, is helpful, but I have several "handicaps" when it comes to writing and publishing; here is where I need direction. First, I am NOT a reader. I've burned though what I've wanted to read, and have been discouraged with books that seem to capture the interest of everyone else but me. I acknowledge that I have a very narrow focus, and that makes it difficult for me to want to read. I know what I like and don't like, and I've done several years of trying stuff that I definitely don't like. I'm at the point where I think I am done "listening," and ready to "speak." But, not having a passion for reading or writing stylistics - I know - puts a gulf between me and potential beta readers. I really need direction in this regard. Second, I have ZERO clue as to where Fantasy tropes reside within Christian writing (see the "I don't read" section above). How rich or dynamic is this subject? Is anyone even remotely interested in these kinds of stories? Third, which direction is better: self-publish, or grind away at the false hope of someone being interested in publishing my work? My journey down this path started back in the early-to mid-2000s, with the first book of what I deemed to be a trilogy. This has now expanded to 4 books, with the first and the fourth completed (the first needs a top-to-bottom rewrite, which is underway). However, when the first book was written, I made the attempt to get it published. Hence the reason why it wasn't until 2018 that I decided to take on more abuse and rejection. Since then, I've crafted a voice. I know the concept behind the series is solid and sound - it feels right. I've been writing software for 30 years, and I know when I'm on to something; it's a sense. My gut is rarely ever wrong. Problem is: a "sound concept" isn't going to get past the person reading my submission letter, especially when they're looking for the next "Chick Lit." sensation (I'm not even sure that's a thing any more). I have a stack of letters from the first attempt; over two-hundred in all. I was done with the rejection, so I let the project simmer for - well - over a decade. My first inclination, especially given that the lion's share of the marketing is on me, is to just self-publish. This all assumes that before I pump out volumes, I'll have the thing proofread, artwork done, and so on. From where I am standing, I'm looking up at a mountain that I need to climb at this point. I'm not afraid to climb it - I've been doing that for several decades now. I just need a little direction on where to start. Thanks in advance for any help you guys might provide.
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