In reply to the wonderful essay on Brian Keene’s website by Weston Ochse entitled, “The Great and Improbable Secret to a Great and Improbable Writing Career,” I said:
Are you true to your craft? Are you doing things to better yourself and understand the craft of writing?
Yes. Absolutely. Won’t claim perfection—who can?—but I write following the writing rules I know, staying true to the ones in stone, bending those that can be bent, and just being myself. I read everything from novels to non-fiction books, to comics and graphic novels, to poetry and news articles, magazines and more. I pay attention to their construction and try and apply those lessons to my own work and that of others when I edit them.
Do you seek out as many edits as possible? Note that an editor has to have some sort of training. Merely calling oneself an editor isn’t good enough.
Yes and no. I do believe in over-editing, that is, where you revise and revise until the whole thing starts coming apart like repeatedly cleaning a garment. The fabric can only take so much picking. But I do have an editing system: first three drafts are by me, fourth is by an editor, fifth is me going over his edits (of which I accept around 95% of them), sixth is another draft by me, then seventh is my wife as first reader who just reads to enjoy but marks down anything that jumps out. At that point, my books are pretty clean, and my editor is notoriously picky and hard to please.
If you’ve self-published, did you do it because it was on your own terms, or was it because you were too impatient for the impossibly slow and laborious publication process?
As a long time advocate of self-publishing—since 2004—I originally did it because I was duped into subsidy publishing via a vanity press in 2003. Was a nightmare start to finish, but ironically I fell in love with the book-making process and since my original goal was to be a self-published comic book creator—think Image Comics style—I simply applied my entrepreneurial spirit to writing and publishing books. It’s worked out well for me and it’s how I make my living, and this was before the Kindle hype and all that nonsense, you know, when the midlist dried up and midlisters self-pubbed out of desperation. Some found success, others didn’t. Now it’s a bandwagon, etc., and, it seems, new writers are self-publishing first before going traditional. Doing it all wrong, mind you, but doing it nonetheless. Some are lucking out and finding success, but most aren’t. I have a book on it coming out in June called, Getting Down and Digital: How to Self-publish Your Book, plug, plug.
My company has dealt with Simon and Schuster and the like. It’s fine, but for my own work, unless a really sweet deal came up, I’m better off going it alone. I also write niche-specific superhero stuff and some monster stuff so I’m not exactly doing mass market material. I was actually a guest at a writer’s conference a few weeks back and got some behind-the-scenes details about certain NY houses and what their writers go through. If anything, for me, it reaffirmed my decision to go it alone. I really don’t want to be a cog in someone else’s machine and pretend as if I’m really a writer staying true to his/her vision as a result. Money’s not my motivator. Whether I made six figures a year or just enough to live on, I don’t care. My goal has always been to support myself with my art, but dollars and cents don’t drive me—as in give me more, give me more—and I’m content with whatever comes my way. Money’s overrated anyway.
Are you true to yourself? Are you writing what you want?
See above. Absolutely. I tried to write to market as an experiment—did a trilogy of paranormal romances—to see if genre would affect sales. It didn’t. The joy of self-publishing is I can fool around like that. Got more stuff on the horizon. Are they popular ideas or sure fire ways to reach the masses and make money? Time will tell. Is reaching the masses and making boatloads of cash why I do this? No. If it happens, it’s a side benefit. If it doesn’t, hey, most artists—and I include writers in that label—have to duke out a living anyway. Publishing is a crapshoot. There is no secret formula. If there was, it would’ve gotten out by now and we’d all be doing it.
Good essay, Weston. Didn’t realize you were all the way up to book thirteen. Congratulations.