Not Everyone Should

Serious writers who’ve been in this business for any length of time quickly learn that most folks don’t respect the hard work that goes into our craft. Those non-writers who do respect the craft are usually avid, serious readers, though I know a few non-readers who respect it, too (but not many). At least, this has been my experience. Sadly, such serious readers are in the minority these days.

Although I’m an indie author, which I love, I’ve also been published traditionally. Hey, I started back in the early 1980s before desktop and laptop computers. One of the downsides of indie books, though, is that anyone can publish a book now. Good for us professional writers, sure, but bad for the indie industry as a whole, I think.

Why do I say this? Because these days, since anyone can write and publish a book, too many people write them who shouldn’t. Why not? Because they don’t understand writing basics, nor have they bothered to study the craft, nor have they worked to improve. Lots of indie books appear thrown together without any revision, little or no research, and scant attention paid to plot, characterization, and similar things. An unpolished indie book reflects poorly on the indie industry as a whole. Therefore, just because a person can have their book published doesn’t mean they should. That being said, if a person invests the necessary time to practice and study the craft…then definitely, going indie is great.

And this brings me back to what I said in my first paragraph. Oftentimes, when people hear that a friend has had an indie book published, the word “poorly written” comes to their minds. Why? Because they’ve purchased a poorly written indie book in the past. Thus, even though a person may be a serious reader, if he/she isn’t familiar with our work, it may get passed over for a more familiar author. The potential reader automatically assumes we wrote an amateurish book.

As professional indie authors, then, we need to write at the very top of our game. We need to promote our books at the top of our game as well. Approach our writing with a professional attitude, work like a professional writer, and we’ll reap numerous benefits in return.

I know this sounds strange, but it’s something I learned at a writers conference when I started out in the ‘80s—I dress professionally when I enter my writing office. I find that I’m more productive when I’m wearing a nice shirt and trousers (sometimes even a tie and/or blazer) than I am when I wear a beat-up polo shirt and jeans. Writing is a profession, and it’s a calling. Ignore what others may think and say. Be professional in all things pertaining to writing. It pays off in the end!

Benjamin Franklin on Reading

Found a wonderful quote from Benjamin Franklin, which I think is just as true today as it was in his day (though some may disagree).


“The person who deserves most pity is a lonesome one on a rainy day who doesn’t know how to read.” Benjamin Franklin

Experience Life!

We writers can’t be recluses. Oh, but weren’t we supposed to sit in our office, away from the hubbub of civilization, and compose articles, stories, poems, and books? Well, I don’t know about being away from the hubbub of civilization part, because some writers write best in a noisy environment, but yes, we must write every day. I work best in the quiet of my own office, away from “noisy civilization.”

However, if all we do is withdraw from society and write, our oasis of inspiration will eventually evaporate, leaving us with a dry spell and nothing to write about. It’s vital that we get away from our laptops from time to time and experience new things.

For example, I once rode Amtrak from New Orleans to Chicago to attend a writers’ conference. Am I afraid of flying? No, I’m not. I’ve flown numerous times. My father was a private pilot, and I’ve flown overseas and in the continental United States on commercial jets. Flying? No problem. But I’d never traveled anywhere by train, so I decided I’d go Amtrak just for the experience.

Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

During this trip, I met many interesting people with whom I engaged in conversation. I also made notes about the train on a spiral notebook for future use in case I ever decided to use a train in a story. I noted the train’s sounds, what its dining car looked like, the food that was served, etc.

So, why not find something different to do every now and then? Experience life. Even make notes if you have to. Who knows? Inspiration for a story may hit all of a sudden. New experiences help make all of us better writers.

Too Many Characters?

books-bookshelf-depth-of-field-1317259Occasionally, I’ve read book reviews where the critic says the author had too many characters. Though in some cases this criticism has validity, in my opinion “too many characters” isn’t always a valid point. A book that has a host of characters is neither good nor bad. The same goes for a book peopled by a mere handful. Everything depends on how well it’s written and its genre.

If a book describes itself as an epic or a saga, then expect lots of characters. One of my favorite writers whose books contain a large cast is James Michener. Numerous bestselling authors other than Michener can be cited as well: Margaret Mitchell, Colleen McCullough, and even Louis L’Amour’s last novel set during the Middle Ages, The Walking Drum, falls into this large cast category.

450px-James_Albert_Michener_·_DN-SC-92-05368

Whether readers enjoy a lot of characters or a few, it’s all a matter of style and taste. In short, it’s a reader’s preference.

However, if we write books using lots of characters, we do well to consider the following:

1. Don’t give characters similar sounding names. Similar sounding names may confuse readers, thus making it difficult for them to follow your story.

2. Try to reduce the number of characters in your story. One way to do this is to ask yourself this question: Is the character really important to the story? If not, either get rid of that character or make him/her a nameless walk-on character, or merge him/her into another, more important character.

3. Use a Cast of Characters chart. Write a list of all the novel’s key players and then publish them on the book’s opening pages. That way, if a reader gets lost or confused, he/she can refer to it.

See everyone again next week. Keep those laptop keys hopping!

Quote the Bible, But Don’t Get in Trouble

 

bible-book-business-272337Is it possible for Christian writers to get in legal trouble when they quote the Bible? Yes. This is especially true for indie authors. To quote any modern translation requires written permission from that translation’s publisher. If we don’t get permission, not only is it unethical, it also breaks copyright law.

Of course, the law also has a principle called Fair Use. Under this part of the law, an author may quote a certain amount of material from a copyrighted work without permission. How much may the author quote? Several factors are considered, which we’ll not discuss here. Because claiming Fair Use can be tricky at times, I like to play things safe. This is why I recommend using the Authorized King James Version if we’re citizens of the United States, because in America it’s in the public domain. This means we don’t need permission to quote it.

However, for those authors who live in the United Kingdom, they still need permission before they can use it. Here’s a link for United Kingdom authors:

https://www.cambridge.org/ad/bibles/about/rights-and-permissions

Traditional publishers typically have a contractual agreement with certain Bible publishers. They’ll tell us in their guidelines which translation they use. So, if we go the traditional route, we needn’t worry about obtaining permission since the publisher has already done that.

Of course, indie authors can use modern translations provided they obtain permission first. The best way to do this is to visit the Bible publisher’s website. Once there, go to the bottom of the page and click on “Terms of Use” or a similar link. This page discusses matters of copyright, how to obtain permission, and sometimes it’ll lead us to another page where we can fill out a request form to submit.

As an example, let’s look at B&H Publishing’s website. B & H publishes the Christian Standard Bible. Here are the steps:

Step 1: Visit the website at https://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/.

Step 2: Scroll down to bottom of home page to the “About Us.”

Step 3: Click on the last link, “Privacy Policy & Terms.”

Step 4: Read the “Privacy Policy & Terms” page.

Step 5: Click on “here” under the Licensing and Policy Requests section.

Step 6: Click on “To Use or Publish a B & H product.”

Step 7: Fill out the form and submit.

This is how to get permission from B & H Publishing. Other Bible publishers use a similar procedure.

Till next week, friends. Keep tapping away on those laptop keys!

Books

When to Stop Revising Your Novel

Author’s  Note: This is a revised post.

 

church portrait 6

What is the key to literary excellence? Revision, of course. However, the time comes when we must tell ourselves to stop. We can get so hooked on revision that we never submit our manuscripts to agents and publishers. I know, because I’ve had this problem. Like most writers, I love playing with words.

How do we know when to stop revising ? Here are a few tips.

1. When we’re tired of looking at/reading our manuscript after multiple revisions. This isn’t always a sign that we’re finished, but it might be. Put the work aside for a day or two, then return to it and look for any major problems we may have missed. See any? If so, we’re not done yet.

2. When all the major problems with our work have been corrected, such as openings, endings, scenes, characterization, plot, etc., our revision has reached its end.

3. When we’re just finding minor issues, such as punctuation errors and typos, after the major editing has finished. These minor errors must all be corrected, of course.

4. After we’ve let someone whose judgement we trust read our manuscript, who gives us honest feedback and advice for improving  our work. Be sure whoever gives the advice is qualified to give it, though. Don’t approach just any person for it.

5. When we’re confident that we’ve done our best work.

 

 

caution-guidance-halt-1806900

WARNING! WARNING! OVER-REVISION.

When we over-revise, our writing suffers. This is why it’s important to know when to stop. What once was a good story will become a bad one because we’ve either cut it too much, or added too much to it.

Suppose, after we see our work in print, we still find problems with it? One thing I’ve learned from hard experience is this: these things happen. We aren’t perfect, editors aren’t perfect, proofreaders aren’t perfect. Sometimes the simplest things, such as misplaced punctuation or typos, are easy to miss. If we’ve done a good job, though, and have a good editor and/or proofreader, there shouldn’t be too many of these.

Write, revise. Write, revise. Write, revise. Then submit.

 

Port Hudson, Last Rebel Bastion on the Mississippi

The Defence of Port Hudson, Louisiana

Squire, Tales of a Mascot, due out in September by Ashland Park Books, tells the story of a canine mascot during the siege of Port Hudson, Louisiana, a tiny village on the banks of the Mississippi River. Though Port Hudson no longer exists, it was an important Confederate bastion during America’s Civil War. Cut off by sea and land, the Rebels held out against a vastly superior Union army for 48 days, the longest genuine siege of that war. It was also the last Confederate bastion on that river to fall to Union forces, surrendering just a few days after Vicksburg fell. map_porthudson842x1052