Sunday, May 6, 2012

STOP! STOP! STOP! Blogpost 34

(This blog is the text of a speech given as part of a panel discussion on ebooks for the California Writers’ Club Redwood Chapter’s “Next Step” Conference, April 27-28 2012. Also on the panel were Scott James, Robert Digitale, and Mark Coker.)

Okay, a man walks into a bar and orders a beer. The bartender, making chit-chat asks, “What do you do for a living?”
“I’m a writer. I write mystery novels.”
“Wow. Have you sold anything?”
“Yes. My car. My boat. My motorcycle. My golf clubs. My mountain bike...”

This writing is a tough business.

But this new world of ebooks presents a great opportunity. You’ve heard about it today at this conference and you see it every time you go on-line: GO GO GO. E-PUBLISH IN MINUTES. GO GO GO. PUBLISH PUBLISH PUBLISH!!!
Ebooks are a great opportunity but there’s also a great danger and temptation of uploading and publishing your book before it’s ready. So I want to share with you the most important thing anyone could possibly tell you about e-publishing or any type of publishing.
Yes, stop.
When you are done writing and rewriting and polishing do NOT automatically up load your manuscript for the world to see. I’ll repeat this because it is crucial: When you are done writing and rewriting and polishing do NOT automatically up load your manuscript for the world to see.
The desire to be published is intoxicating
Being published is exhilarating.
The effort inherent in writing a book—any book: fiction or non-fiction—the hours of effort; the planning; the disappointments; the obstacles and triumphs: all this effort would seem to warrant every book publishable and sale able.
But there also should be a Tooth Fairy and an Easter Bunny and a Santa Claus.
And as we all know, there isn’t, so STOP!
Just because you can “Upload in Minutes” doesn’t mean you should.
Here’s what you should do:
Print your book out and seal it in a manila envelope. Don’t look at it for at least two weeks. This is called putting it in the Deep Freeze.
During this period of “deep freeze” do not read your book on the computer. Begin outlining your next book project. Take a class. Re-read a favorite book.  Blog-tweet-twat-diddle on line. Take a long nap. Just stay away from the book that has been your companion and your focus—consciously and unconsciously—for the past few months. Then, after the requisite two weeks, open the envelope.
But not in your office.
Repeat: Do not open it in the room where you wrote it. Retreat to the kitchen or a park or the library or a terribly trendy coffee shop.
There’s a rationale for all this.
The two weeks off and the geographical shift will afford you the emotional distance you need to properly evaluate your manuscript.
Now you get to sit down and read this book.
A book that you previously—and honestly—considered honed, perfect, and ready for prime time will be riddled with grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. Perhaps even errors in plotting, structure, and characterization.  And these errors will JUMP out at you.
They will now seem obvious because you’ve established the proper professional distance and taken the correct amount of time to re-evaluate your manuscript in a professional manner.
Please, do yourself a favor—save yourself some possible embarrassment—and follow this procedure.
Would you send your children out into traffic without explaining red lights, green lights and looking both ways before they cross the street?
Of course not.
Do yourself a favor and utilize the power of this simple and essential technique.
For a couple of weeks. Rewrite. Polish. Sharpen.
Then do it again.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
My books get bad reviews (and good reviews) but the bad reviews are because they are tasteless and offensive, not because they are amateurish and poorly written.
As a writer, you NEVER want to be perceived as an amateur or a dilettante. Ignore this advice at your own risk and remember: STOP!
Then proceed with enthusiasm.

The first speaker on a panel is like a lead-off batter in baseball. The lead-off’s job is simply to get on base. The lead-off speaker is required, simply, to finish on time. Today I’m here as a “resource” but I am first and foremost and always a writer who is constantly looking for an insight that will improve my writing and marketing skills. So I’ll stop talking right now, because I want—and need—to hear what these other three guys on the panel have to say.
Thanks. Keep writing. Never give up.  

For an example of Rob’s tasteless and offensive writing check out:

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