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Jeff Potts

New writer (abuse) advice...

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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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Each of these questions needs to be on its own thread. You can also search through the writing and publishing forum for those things of interest to you. Also, I hope you'll hop over to Meet and Greet and introduce yourself so everyone will know you are here and can welcome you. :D

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36 minutes ago, lynnmosher said:

Each of these questions needs to be on its own thread.

 

True, but I'd strongly suggest you search through threads over the past 6 months. You'd be surprised how many time these issues have been discussed/debated.  

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Welcome!

 

As Lynn said, each of those questions is a very meaty topic of its own. I'll just address this one:

38 minutes ago, Jeff Potts said:

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.

I may be narrow-minded here, but I think that you are definitely hamstrung as a writer if you don't regularly read other writers, not just for enjoyment but to understand their craft as well. I'm not going to say it's impossible, but I have not heard of many successful writers who are not also voracious readers.

 

In the whole wide world of books, articles, blogs, magazines, etc. have you really read every single thing that you like? What kind of books do you enjoy? Perhaps someone here can suggest something to you that you haven't yet discovered.

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1 hour ago, EBraten said:

I may be narrow-minded here, but I think that you are definitely hamstrung as a writer if you don't regularly read other writers, not just for enjoyment but to understand their craft as well. I'm not going to say it's impossible, but I have not heard of many successful writers who are not also voracious readers.

 

I agree Ebraten.  It's hard to know what's popular and why without reading.

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Science fiction too narrow and limited? Them's fightin' words, Pilgrim!

 

True, I can't make you or anyone else as passionate as I am about the amazing literary abundance outside the mass media sandbox of Trekkies, Jar-Jar Binks, and comic books, but science fiction can explore the key philosophical issues of existence and the nature of reality.

 

I haven't even read out my local library in science fiction. By the time I get near the end of my wish list they have new acquisitions.

 

Even the mediocre and the bad serves as inspiration to me. "I can do better than that" is a major challenge when I encounter a badly executed idea. When I have trouble getting through a book by a previously favorite author, I start going back through it to discover the reason.

 

You'll be surprised to discover that the "how-to" books often feature examples that you haven't read.

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On 4/5/2019 at 4:38 PM, Jeff Potts said:

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.


You need to read more. It's as simple as that.
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/stephen-king-22-lessons-creative-writing-advice-novels-short-stories-a8021511.html
 

Quote

 

1. Stop watching television. Instead, read as much as possible.

If you're just starting out as a writer, your television should be the first thing to go. It's “poisonous to creativity,” he says. Writers need to look into themselves and turn toward the life of the imagination.

To do so, they should read as much as they can. King takes a book with him everywhere he goes, and even reads during meals. “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot,” he says. Read widely, and constantly work to refine and redefine your own work as you do so.

 

On 4/5/2019 at 4:38 PM, Jeff Potts said:

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?

 

Fantasy tropes have nothing to do with Christian writing. C.S. Lewis and JRR Tolkien both wrote Fantasy with a Christian bent (Lewis' CHRONICLES OF NARNIA are famously allegory while Tolkien's LORD OF THE RINGS pretty much established the template for Fantasy as a genre and notably serves as an overflowing cup for his Christianity. I'm finishing up a Fantasy / Noir for a mainstream audience from a Christian worldview - whether you want to write for Christians as Christian fiction or from a Christian worldview to non-Christians, the Fantasy tropes remain the same. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fantasy

Quote

 

Fantasy is a genre of speculative fiction set in a fictional universe, often inspired by real world myth and folklore. Its roots are in oral traditions, which then became literature and drama. From the twentieth century it has expanded further into various media, including film, television, graphic novels and video games.
 

Fantasy is distinguished from the genres of science fiction and horror by the absence of scientific or macabre themes respectively, though these genres overlap. In popular culture, the fantasy genre is predominantly of the medievalist form. In its broadest sense, however, fantasy consists of works by many writers, artists, filmmakers, and musicians from ancient myths and legends to many recent and popular works.

 

Quote

Third, which direction is better: self-publish, or grind away at the false hope of someone being interested in publishing my work? 

 

Honestly, I wouldn't put the cart before the horse. Before you work too hard on selling something, I'd make sure you're telling stories people will read. 

 

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23 hours ago, suspensewriter said:

 

I agree Ebraten.  It's hard to know what's popular and why without reading.

 

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.

 

6 hours ago, EClayRowe said:

Science fiction too narrow and limited? Them's fightin' words, Pilgrim!

 

True, I can't make you or anyone else as passionate as I am about the amazing literary abundance outside the mass media sandbox of Trekkies, Jar-Jar Binks, and comic books, but science fiction can explore the key philosophical issues of existence and the nature of reality.

 

I haven't even read out my local library in science fiction. By the time I get near the end of my wish list they have new acquisitions.

 

Even the mediocre and the bad serves as inspiration to me. "I can do better than that" is a major challenge when I encounter a badly executed idea. When I have trouble getting through a book by a previously favorite author, I start going back through it to discover the reason.

 

You'll be surprised to discover that the "how-to" books often feature examples that you haven't read.

 

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...)

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)
12 hours ago, Jeff Potts said:

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.

 

 

Actually, I think you're misinterpreting what I am telling you by looking too closely at the word popular.  And by the way, no, following a trend doesn't make you forgettable, and it doesn't mean you aren't writing from the heart.  Just take it from someone who's been published many times- if you don't read, you won't get the message.  

Edited by suspensewriter

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On 4/5/2019 at 5:38 PM, Jeff Potts said:

self-publish, or grind away at the false hope of someone being interested in publishing my work?

Traditionally published.

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On 4/5/2019 at 5:38 PM, Jeff Potts said:

I am NOT a reader.

I'd recommend that you do. I haven't read any fiction in a long time, but I spent so many years constantly reading - I mean, I used to have almost the entire Heinlein pre-1964 library - that I'm drawing on deep waters to do so.

On 4/5/2019 at 5:38 PM, Jeff Potts said:

where Fantasy tropes reside within Christian writing

I don't know. It seems to be pretty wide open since most consider CS Lewis and Tolkien to be Christian. If you feel there's no conflict with your Christian beliefs, then you're wide open to what you want to include.

I started writing one that was mythology based, but I'm not sure I can, You have to decide based upon your own leading from the Spirit.

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14 hours ago, Nicholas Reicher said:

I'd recommend that you do. I haven't read any fiction in a long time, but I spent so many years constantly reading - I mean, I used to have almost the entire Heinlein pre-1964 library - that I'm drawing on deep waters to do so.

 

I cut my teeth on Heinlein's juveniles from my dad's legendary paperback library - they're brilliant and infected me with a love of both reading and writing.

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On 4/6/2019 at 3:33 PM, suspensewriter said:

Huh- I never thought of the "how-to" market.

Always Shoot First! Elevator Pitches That Snag Top Agents!

 

Taming the Dragon: Using Dictation Software for Your Next Best-selling Book

 

Survival, Detroit Style!

 

That's all for now. I have an hour and a half of quiet time, and I should be writing.

 

Sorry for hijacking your thread, JP.

Lurk in critique so you can learn more about all of us, what we do. Most of it won't be your cuppa, but you might learn why it's not for you. And that will help you.

 

We're rooting for you!

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I believe you are a reader, Jeff.  You might need to adjust the reasons for your reading, and your expectations and goals, but you do long for that perfect story that hits all the soft spots in your soul and leaves you both satiated and panting for more.  That's why you write.  

Now that you are writing for yourself, and growing constantly in your craft, you will eventually reach the end of yourself.  That is normal.  We are limited creatures.  You will be satiated and panting for more, and you will find it in the wider world of writers!  

I rejoice that you are here.  I think God has given you awareness of your need to look beyond yourself.  Praise Him with us, and keep digging (which means reading with different expectations etc.)

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On 4/9/2019 at 11:39 PM, EClayRowe said:

Always Shoot First! Elevator Pitches That Snag Top Agents!

 

Taming the Dragon: Using Dictation Software for Your Next Best-selling Book

 

Survival, Detroit Style!

 

That's all for now. I have an hour and a half of quiet time, and I should be writing.

 

Sorry for hijacking your thread, JP.

Lurk in critique so you can learn more about all of us, what we do. Most of it won't be your cuppa, but you might learn why it's not for you. And that will help you.

 

We're rooting for you!

 

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.  :)

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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...

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20 minutes ago, Jeff Potts said:

 

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

 

 

Ouch, man I'm sorry to hear that.

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I'd be careful with the opinion that Tolkien was not Christian. He has many defenders on this forum, and the last time someone said it, everything blew up, and the thread had to be locked.

Just my two cents.

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10 hours ago, Nicholas Reicher said:

I'd be careful with the opinion that Tolkien was not Christian. He has many defenders on this forum, and the last time someone said it, everything blew up, and the thread had to be locked.

Just my two cents.

 

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...

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13 hours ago, Jeff Potts said:

I used to go to a guitar building forum. 

In that case... brass hardware and lemon oil - the two biggest controversies out there!

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