Tag Archive: writing

Oct 05

The Psychology of Writing

 

 

Take a look at this list of names:

Penelope Delta, Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Andrews, Kurt Cobain, Eleanor Marx, Sylvia Plath, John O’Brien, Len Doherty, Charles Williams, Ernst Toller, and Myrtle Reed.

Some of the names may be at least a little familiar to you. A few should be well known to almost everyone. And a few others are pretty obscure.

These eleven people have two things in common. Did you catch it without looking them up?

All eleven are writers from the past.

And all eleven died by committing suicide.

This is, sadly, only a tiny subset of a rather long list of authors, poets, and other literary professionals who have died at their own hand. When you add in other people in the creative arts (musicians, painters, sculptors, etc.), the list gets very long indeed.

But I’m mostly focused on the authors here.

Most studies of suicidal behavior among writers seem to settle on a figure around an author being about twice as likely to kill themselves than random people from the general, non-writing population. Very few studies give a smaller number, but a good number of researchers put the rate at four or more times more likely to commit suicide.

Then there is the idea of risk taking behavior. This can be things like hobbies others consider risky (I myself skydive and ride motorcycles, usually much faster than is prudent), drug and/or alcohol abuse (I have a long history of IV drug abuse), sexual promiscuity (no comment), and more. A large number of writers who don’t actually kill themselves tend to follow these kinds of habits, and when you get right down to the brass tacks, drinking, drugging, and the rest are just really slow ways to commit suicide.

Over the years, many psychologists, psychiatrists, clergy, and others have tried to explain why authors are so at risk, but the results are usually little more than speculation and anecdotal. You’ll frequently see attempts to link the creative process to depression. This is, at best, a poor correlation and, at worst, an effort to cook the data to make it fit the premise of the researcher. The simple fact is, no one really knows why writers are far more likely to take their own life.

I personally have attempted suicide twice in my life, once when I was 16 and had been a professionally published author for only two years, and again when I was 26 with more than a decade of writing under my belt. I both cases, I overdosed on heroin and I was lucky enough to be found by people who cared enough to save me.

I also, as mentioned above, indulge in risky hobbies. I never got into fast cars because I found out early that a $7,000 motorcycle can go faster than a $250,000 car. I gave up the motorcycles for my family after I got married. I still, however, skydive. Almost all of my jumps today are routine, regular jumps at reasonable speeds and from aircraft designed for jumping. I have, in the past, jumped from less, shall we say, friendly aircraft…like a B-29 bomber, a 727 airliner, and a 12 passenger corporate jet. None of those are a good idea.

As for the drugs, one never really ever quits…you just exist on a sliding continuum of recovery. I can say that I’ve been drug-free for just shy of 15 years now. Do I still get cravings? You bet I do. Fact is, I love my family more than I love the horse.

I have never considered myself to be depressed. Yes, like everyone else on the planet, I have had some episodes of situational depression during rough periods in my life, but nothing that fits the DSM criteria of major depression. And those two suicide attempts…all I can say is that I don’t think I was depressed then. Death simply seemed like the path of least resistance at the time.

So why do we authors do this sort of thing? Is it some new form of depression not well understood yet? Is it that the voices in our heads really will kill us if given the chance? Or maybe, just maybe, there is some odd virus that makes us write but will kill us in the end.

I don’t know the answer. Why should I? I have a BA in psychology, but much brighter people than I also don’t know the answer.

What I do know is that all writers need to look at themselves closely.

Are you depressed? If so, seek help. I want to warn you about something here…many colleagues of mine have been depressed and sought help. That help today is in the form of one (or more) antidepressant medications and no counseling. The problem is that for many writers, the drugs will take the edge off their writing. Most will stop the medications on their own. In other words, they will choose writing while depressed over not writing while happy. What you need is counseling to change your thought patterns. You need the medication to get through the crisis, but then psychotherapy to deal with the underlying cause. If you are not willing to give up writing, make sure the mental health professionals know this so they can do what’s needed.

Are you drinking and/or drugging too much? See above. Sometimes, a group like AA or NA can be of more benefit than an MD or PhD.

Do you engage in risky behaviors? If so, really look at things. Are you doing so because you really enjoy it or is it just a complicated suicide attempt? Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

My goal here is to educate you to the simple fact that, as an author, you are at a significantly higher risk for suicide. The reasons why that is, while essentially unknown, are really not important. What is important is that you know.

Knowledge is, after all, power.

And you have the power to avoid becoming another statistic by being aware of your actions and taking steps to mitigate the risks.

Please…I don’t want to see your name on the list.

Keep Loving!

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://melodeeaaron.com/blog/2016/10/05/the-psychology-of-writing/

Jul 24

Melodee Wants to Know – What About Grammar?

 

I admit it…I’m a Grammar Nazi. Just ask my kids.

Maybe it’s from nearly 25 years of writing professionally. Maybe it’s from being deaf and the written word being my main form of communications. Maybe, as has been suggested more times than I can count, I’m just a bitch.

Bad grammar and spelling irritate me to no end…especially when it comes from so-called professionals. The reason really doesn’t matter all that much.

Have a look at this article: http://news.yahoo.com/ny-school-issues-reading-list-riddled-errors-105330935.html

That’s right…professional educators screwed it up royally. And some say the education system is just fine. But I digress…

For the readers…does bad grammar and/or poor spelling in a story bug you? Do you just toss the book aside in disgust, or do you even care? I suspect most readers fall someplace between the two extremes.

Authors…how much do you focus on grammar and spelling? This is really two questions in one, and I would love to hear how much you worry about it as you write, and how important it is to you in the final release.

And, authors, what about editors you have worked with…how much emphasis do they put on such matters?

As you can probably guess, both are important to me, and I try to get it right from the first draft. But let me tell you a story about an editor at a major house I hooked up with many years ago…

The story was set in rural Arkansas during the depression, and the leading man was a poor farmer with almost no education. He used the word “ain’t” in almost every sentence. The misguided copy editor assigned to the book insisted that I remove this “…offensive and non-existent word…” from the entire manuscript or he would tell the acquisitions editor to drop the book. My representative and I talked about it. She contacted the chief editor and made it clear they would publish the story with the dialog as written. If they wanted to muck around with dialog, another publisher would be more than happy to leave it alone. The chief agreed, and pulled the copy editor from the project. By the way, the book spent 17 weeks on the NY Times Best Seller List.

The moral to the story is not to fear the editors.

What say you?

Keep Loving!

Melodee

 

Permanent link to this article: http://melodeeaaron.com/blog/2013/07/24/melodee-wants-to-know-what-about-grammar/

Apr 23

Writing for the Future

 

I had an interesting conversation with my eleven-year-old daughter the other day. Well, Debbie will be eleven in August, but she acts more like she’s about 45.

Debbie wants to be a doctor. When most girls her (chronological) age would be playing video games, soccer, or with dolls and starting to notice that the boys really aren’t all that bad, Debbie reads medical books, dissects animals in her “lab” (at least I think they are animals…there’s at least one that I suspect is actually a chupacabra), and has the rather annoying habit of second-guessing the various doctors we see as a family. At least I suspect that the doctors find this a little annoying.

Anyway…

I was in my office writing and Debbie came in to ask me if her little brother JJ could have some ice cream. After I told her that would be fine, Debbie looked at my screen for a few moments. She tilted her head to one side and said, “Mom, do you even understand what you’re doing?” I smiled and told her that I did. Debbie shook her head. “I really doubt that.”

As hinted at above, there’s no doubt that Debbie is bright. Personally, I think she’s smarter than I am. A lot smarter. So I asked her what she meant.

Debbie stared at me for a moment, and then she shrugged. “I want to be a doctor, but unless I discover some new illness or a new procedure to save lives or maybe invent a new surgical tool, no one will know who I am after I die.” She smiled and pointed at my screen. “Your work will live on forever. I can go right now and read works of poetry and literature written thousands of years ago by people who are long dead, and their voices speak across time to me. Your books will be there in libraries and personal collections that are passed down from generation to generation, and in the distant future people will still hear your voice telling them stories.”

And yes, Debbie really does talk that way.

I considered what she said, and I think she’s right. Books are a remarkable invention. Our ancestors figured out that by making marks on paper or parchment or stone or wood that they could pass down information to the generations that follow. Books let us share our knowledge so that our children don’t have to start from scratch in learning about the universe.

It’s easy to get lost in the idea of books of science, technology, philosophy, history, and other similar fields of knowledge that are needed in an advance society are all there is, but what about literature and entertainment? Is The Great Gatsby any less important than Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica? Does Plato represent the best of humanity any better than Poe?

I think that the answer to these questions is “no”.

While the works of the great thinkers are important, our humanity doesn’t live in the realm of science. Nor does it live in the domains covered by religion or philosophy.

Our humanity, the thing that makes us who and what we are, lives in our art and literature. The passion of Rembrandt and van Gogh speaks out from their art in a voice far too loud to ignore. The words of Stoker and Burroughs reverberate across the years and grab our imagination.

The works of Newton, Galileo, and their kind tell us how the world works. Fitzgerald, Tolstoy, and others tell us why the world works.

I want to take you to a horrible place for a thought exercise…

Imagine that you had knowledge that tomorrow at noon human civilization would come to an end. Not the planet or human beings, but society and civilization. (While we are not talking about the end of the human race, it’s likely that any event able to end human society would also drop the population to less than a few hundred thousand individuals.) Now, you have a way to protect a small group of books in a way that 100 years from tomorrow the survivors would find the books.

Remember that civilization is gone. There have been no books, TV, movies, or anything else for a century. It is reasonable to believe that written language may have gone the way of the mammoths. Some legends would persist, handed down as oral histories and probably carried along by something like traveling minstrels.

Now comes the hard part…

You can only save ten books.

What ten books would you place in your time capsule?

Now, on to brighter topics…

Debbie’s observations made me think about what I am doing. The career options available to a little deaf blonde girl are limited. Most involve fewer clothes than even I normally wear. But writing is one that is at least respectable.

It never occurred to me that I might have a responsibility to the future. This is in spite of the fact that I write mostly science fiction…my job is to predict the future. In, say, a thousand years, what account will I be able to give for my stewardship of humanity’s future history?

If you are an author, what account will you be able to give?

Keep Loving!
Melodee

 

Permanent link to this article: http://melodeeaaron.com/blog/2013/04/23/writing-for-the-future/

Oct 15

Rules for Authors — Number 24

 

 

What follows is one of my Rules for Authors.

These rules are things that all real authors should make a part of their mentality and are words to live by. Trust me…

After more than twenty-five years in this crazy business, I have learned these things well and they do make a difference!

No. 24 – Beware of publishers bearing gifts.

A few of you reading this may be old enough to remember the payola scandals of the 1950’s. Many more may be familiar with the events through research or just general interest. In short, the term “payola” refers to the practice of paying someone for a favorable placement of some product.

In the 1950’s, a number of radio stations and on-air personalities were accused of—and in some cases prosecuted for—accepting money and other “gifts” for playing certain songs more often than others in order to make the song more popular. You can read more about the payola scandal on Wikipedia.

At some of the less than reputable publishers—particularly in the E-Publishing arena—the practice is still alive and well…

There are publishers who will pay for reviews. In some cases, the payment amount is tied to the number of stars (or whatever) that the reviewer gives the book. In most cases, the writer never even knows this is happening…the publisher sends the book out to a number of reviewers, and it all just sort of happens.

Maybe…

A new author with their first few books will always think that their book is the best ever written by anyone. After you have a number of books under your belt, you will know when you write a really good story and when you write crap. Also, you will sometimes see a bunch of reviews with two or three stars, and then out of the blue comes a five-star review. None of the issues addressed in the two-star reviews are mentioned by the five-star reviewer, and it seems that they think your story is the best thing since War and Peace. And there will be patterns where all of the reviews done by a particular person or review group will be good, no matter what the story.

All of these are red flags…it’s not hard to see why you should be suspicious of this, but the real question is, “So what?”

In a nutshell, should someone in the Department of Justice (or similar agency in another country) decide to get pushy and look into this, you—the author—could be in deep shit.

Think about this…

Can you PROVE—in a court of law—that you had no idea this was going on and that you did not have a hand in the deal? That whole idea of being innocent until proven guilty is a crock…in most countries there is no such legal protection, and in those that do have it, it is a farce. You must PROVE that you are innocent.

If convicted, the penalties range wildly from one country to another. In most cases, we’re talking about a fine at most. In others, you might do jail time.

The best defense is to stay alert.

Stick with reputable, well known publishers. Odds are that they don’t do this in the first place, and they would never risk their reputation.

Look for the red flags. Don’t get hung up on reviews, but pay attention to the big picture and look for patterns. If you see things, ask the publisher point blank about this, and do it in writing (E-Mail is OK) so you have a record of it. Just in case. Also keep in mind that many reviewers of E-Books are just readers. They have no standards in place for objectively reviewing books, so it is all 100% personal opinion and nothing more. It is very possible that a particular reader will love your book while pretty much everyone else thinks it sucks.

If you have an agent, you can mention your suspicions to them. They won’t do anything, but you can ask.

If you have a real representative, definitely ask them. Odds are they have vetted the publisher and won’t touch the bad ones with a ten-foot pole, but things change. They will look into the matter.

And then we have the other side of the coin…

The number of publishers who do this kind of thing is exceedingly small. Just as a rough estimate, I would say that 0.01% of all publishers is too big a number. The odds of you hooking up with one of this tiny fraction are pretty slim.

And the odds are very much against someone actually deciding to look into the practice and taking legal action over it. Frankly, governments have better things to do than get in the middle of a few reviewers and publishers…like fixing their failing economies.

Finally, don’t get all wrapped up around the axle on this. There is an old saying where I come from in the Ozarks…

Don’t sweat the petty things…and don’t pet the sweaty things.

Keep Loving!

 

Permanent link to this article: http://melodeeaaron.com/blog/2012/10/15/rules-for-authors-number-24/

Oct 08

Rules for Authors – Number 23

 
What follows is one of my Rules for Authors.

These rules are things that all real authors should make a part of their mentality and are words to live by. Trust me…

After more than twenty-five years in this crazy business, I have learned these things well and they do make a difference!

No. 23 – Listen to your readers, not the experts.

Of all the rules, this could very well be the hardest one to learn and—more to the point—follow.

We all want the approval of someone we consider to be an expert of some sort or another. That expert might be a teacher, a respected or admired peer, a critic, or even a particular publisher. It might even be someone else in an entirely unrelated field, but it will always be someone that we see as important to us.

But the simple fact is that we all, as authors, must do what the little voices in our heads tell us to do and shut out those who would force us to compromise our individuality.

This in no way contradicts Rule Number 22…I am not talking so much about what we write as opposed to how we write. In a word, voice.

One very common definition is:

The author’s voice (also known as writer’s voice) is the style in which a story is presented, including, among other things, the syntax, diction, person, and dialogue.

Each writer has their own voice. Mine is different from yours. Yours is different from, say, Stephen King’s. Stephen’s is different from Niven’s. You get the idea. No two writers will have the same voice.

Generally speaking, your voice is made up of a staggeringly large number of things…your past, your present, your education, your experiences, your dreams, your nightmares, people you know, people you admire, the time and place in which you live, books you have read, books you have written, and a myriad of other things all go in to the forming of your voice. Looking at this, it’s clear why no two writers will have the same voice…after all, no two people have all of these things in common.

We are all individuals.

And it is your voice that all of the experts—no matter why they are in that category—will want you to change.

And it is this change that you must resist.

In a nutshell, an expert will want you to change so your voice is more like theirs. Think about it…we all think our voice is the best one out there, and the experts are no exception to this rule. So, since they have the best voice, you would be better off to make your voice more like theirs.

Bullshit.

Your voice is the best for you. Your voice is the only thing that sets you apart from all of the other writers out there. It is your voice that the readers like and plop down their hard-earned cash for.

People, ignore the experts…there are but a few of them, and they probably aren’t buying your books anyway.

Listen to your readers…there are literally billions of them and they are buying your books.

Read the letters (paper and E-Mail) from your readers. Take to heart the things they say, especially if you get more than two letters saying essentially the same thing.

Watch the many mailing lists on the Internet for what your readers are saying there.

Watch blogs where readers post and pay attention to how they react to things, especially about your books.

In other words, stay in touch with your readers. Be active…or more correctly, be proactive.

I wish I could give you some concrete examples, but I can’t because the number of variables and variations are far too great. I’ll just say that you will know when the readers like something and when they don’t like something.

Trust me…you’ll know.

And never forget to ignore the experts. Never read reviews…all that will do is piss you off. Never ask another writer how to word something…that will blend your voice with theirs. Never ask an English major how to word something…you’ll end up sounding like a text book. Automatically reject any re-writes by an editor…they have no clue how to write and even less idea of what your voice is.

(Let me clarify that last bit…if a good editor finds a problem, they will never offer a rewrite. They will simply say that the section needs to be rewritten and leave that up to you. If a bad editor offers a rewrite, trash it and rewrite the section yourself, in your voice.)

Always remember that it is the readers who are paying you, and listen to your boss.

Keep Loving!

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://melodeeaaron.com/blog/2012/10/08/rules-for-authors-number-23/

Sep 24

Representatives v Agents — Do You Need One?

In my Rules for Authors, I make a distinction between an “agent” and a “representative”, and I have received many E-Mails from artists—mostly writers—who want to know the real differences. While some of the differences between the two are alluded to in the aforementioned Rules for Authors, there isn’t much detail there.

In an effort to make this clear to all—especially the budding authors in the room—I decided to write a little more about the topic here.

Before we move into the real meat, I want to address a common question…”Do I need an agent?”

The short answer is no. You can sell books without an agent, and of that there is no doubt. The writer can do all the things an agent would do for them and save the money, but at what cost?

The long answer is yes, especially if you plan to make a living at writing. An agent will get the best deal for you (that is, more money) and can usually get a book sold faster than you can on your own. More importantly, the agent is good at selling books. The writer is good at writing books. While you are doing all the things the agent can do (better), you are not writing. If you don’t write, you don’t eat. See my point? Do what you do best and let an agent do what they do best.

First, let’s look at the traditional literary agent. What exactly does an agent do for the writer? The short story is that they shop your book around to publishers and work to get the best financial deal for the writer. Most agents have contacts at many publishers and can bypass the slush-pile of works waiting on the acquisitions editor’s desk, effectively bringing your story to the top of the heap. This doesn’t mean that the editor will accept the work for their publishing company, only that it will be looked at sooner. Some agents have good enough rapport with the publishers to increase the chances of a particular work being accepted, but this is a dying art. Most agents can’t—and won’t promise—that your book will be accepted by any publisher.

Many agents do other things for the writer…pre-editing before trying to sell the book is just one example. Some agencies have editors on staff or on contract who will do some level of editing long before the manuscript ever sees the inside of a publisher’s office. Just how much editing is done depends on the particular agency. Also, some agencies charge an extra fee for this service, and that amount varies wildly. Other agencies offer promotion and other things, but that is rare.

The big thing about agents is that they tend to contract for only one book from a writer at a time. As the writer evolves, becomes more popular, and develops a following of readers, the agency may offer a contract with a broader scope, but new-comers to the business will get a one-time contract for one book. In other words, if you have a track record of being a saleable author, you may get a long-term, multi-book deal, but if you are fairly new, you’ll be relegated to one book at a time.

Then there are the fees charged by agents…the industry standard is 15% of gross royalties, including any advance. In other words, for every dollar the publisher pays you, the agent gets fifteen cents. Also keep in mind that some unscrupulous agents may charge you for things like telephone calls, mailing manuscripts, and travel. The good agents include these kinds of things in the standard 15% cut. As a rule, the publisher actually pays the agent and the agent takes their cut and sends the rest to the writer. Simply put, the publisher won’t split the payments to two different places (that raises their costs) and the agent doesn’t trust the writer to send them their slice of the pie. Sorry, but that’s the way things are.

In a typical agency, the actual people doing the work of an agent can have literally dozens of writers as clients. (I know of one agency whose agents have well over a hundred clients.) This is especially true today where the vast majority of the contact between the agent and publisher is via phone or E-Mail. There is no need to travel to the publisher’s office to pitch a book to the acquisitions editor…you can do it all from your desk. This means that the agent’s time for a particular writer is quite limited. If you, as an author, need personal attention for some issue, you’ll probably need to make an appointment. This begs to question just how focused can such an agent be on your book and selling it to a publisher for the best deal. Due to the workload, the agents will tend to take the first offer they get—within reason—and move on to the next sale…for another writer.

There are hundreds—if not thousands—of literary agents out there. Just do a Google search and you’ll get a huge list.

But there are also “Literary Representatives” out there. These are different animals than what most writers are used to, and they function more like a talent agent. Let me tell you about them…

Representatives contract with a writer, not for just one book, but for all the books the person will write over a given time frame. In other words, the representative will take your great books, your good books, and the crap that we all turn out now and then, and they will sell all of them. Honestly, an agent will take a pass on all but the best work, and that becomes wasted time. The representative takes the good with the bad because they are selling YOU, not a particular book.

As I said, this is more like the traditional Hollywood talent agent than a literary agent. Many such representatives work with a wide range of artists, not just writers. A few examples of the kinds of artists these representatives deal with are: writers, actors, screen/tele-play writers, painters and other media artists, and even people in the professional sporting world.

Such representatives tend to be hard to find because they rarely accept submissions. Instead, most watch the industry for new rising stars, and will contact the writer first. Some do take a limited number of submissions, but that can be a disappointing process for the budding author.

The representatives that do accept direct queries or submissions have a very low acceptance rate, usually around 0.05%. Yes, that’s right…they tend to accept only about one in every five-thousand writers who make a submission. Some are even lower. What makes it worse for the budding author is that the rejection letters from agents are usually non-personal form letters with no details…they just say thanks, but no thanks. Representatives tend to send a rejection letter that is highly personalized and tells you exactly why you are being rejected, often in very blunt and direct terms. Something like, “Maybe you should consider a different career choice…I understand that McDonald’s is hiring.”

But, if you ARE selected, that means you are going places, and the representative is there to help that happen.

Most representatives provide all the things an agent does, plus a lot more. Editing of a manuscript before shopping it around to publishers is always included. And we’re talking about a real edit here, about what the publisher would normally do. The idea is to get the book almost ready to go to print before the publisher even sees it. Books are edited by staff or contracted people for all the normal things like spelling, grammar, and the rest, but some books need special attention. For example, a historical novel needs an appropriate historian to review for factual correctness. A sci-fi work might need a real scientist in some field to review the science. You get the idea.

Why all of this work? Agents place books all the time without this. Yes, they do, and the process can take weeks or months, or even longer. The representative tries to place the books in days. The only way to do this is to be able to prove to the publisher that the book has very little left in terms of work to go to print. A fast once-over, a cover, a few blurbs, and a week later, the thing is on the store shelves. This saves the publisher a ton of money, so they are willing to take a chance on a new writer. And they are willing to pay more.

Almost all representatives do promotional work, too. Pick a media, and they will use it to push a writer or book. A big part of book promotion is the old reliable book signing. The representative works with the publishers and stores to set these up. All the author does is show up in the right place at the right time.

How much does all this cost? Usually the same 15% the writer would pay an agent. The thing is that the agent figures they will sell this one book, and that book will sell a certain number of copies leading to a given income for them. The representative has higher target sales and represents the writer, not a book, so their income ends up being higher.

And here’s another big deal…the people who work directly with the writers at most representatives only have a few clients, in most cases less than ten. This means they can focus on you and your book and also help you with any special needs you might have.

As a side perk, most representatives also offer other services that writers and other artists need. Things like legal services, accounting and tax help, travel, retreats, classes, and a wide range of other goodies are usually available for additional fees. Some of the fees are additional percentage points while others may be just one-time fees. It varies and is usually billed on a case-by-case basis.

But there is another cost…the representatives will push you to produce books. In the evaluation stages, they will determine what you are capable of doing in terms of writing, and they will make it clear that this will be your goal. If you fall below a certain predicted annual sales figure that varies from one representative to another, they likely won’t contract with you. This is because they are investing a huge sum of money in you and your work, and they need to make a profit. For a typical novel, a representative could easily invest $100,000 before the book is even sold to a publisher. Since they get 15% of gross royalties, the book needs to pull in nearly $700,000 in royalties. If we assume the book has a cover price of $15 and the royalties are 10% of that, this works out to selling about 450,000 copies. And this is just to break even. All of this rolls together to say that the representative needs you to write a lot of books to make a living.

Welcome to the real world, kiddies. Writing is not easy. Writing takes a lot of time. Writing is hard work. Sometimes, you will need to write instead of lying in front of the TV with a bag of chips and a beer. Sometimes you will need to write instead of going to your son’s baseball game. And guess what? If you were doing any other job, the same things would still happen.

The difference is that you would be making less money and doing something you probably hate to do.

And never forget that writing is job. There is no difference between writing and driving a truck…you do both to make a living. You might love to write and hate driving that truck, but you do both for the same bottom line reason.

Think of it this way…

Right now, you get up, go to work, work, have lunch, go home, and decompress. This all probably takes up around eleven hours a day. After that, you try to eek out some time for the family and for writing. If you can write 500 words an hour and squeeze in two hours a day, it will take you 110 days to write an average novel. That’s about three books a year.

Now, imagine this…you get up, sit down at the computer for eleven hours, and then spend the rest of the day with the family. The careful reader will note that you have MORE time for the family now because the writing is already done. If you write the same 500 words an hour, it will take only 20 days to write your next book. This works out to around 18 books a year.

It ain’t rocket science, people.

“But”, you ask, “I can do that on my own or with an agent, right?”

Frankly, I doubt it.

If you do all the promotion, pitching the book to publishers, and everything else, where does the time for writing come from?

An agent doesn’t care what happens beyond this one book. Besides, if you dump 18 books a year on the typical agent, they will do one of three things: Place them at the first publisher that comes along for low-ball dollars; Run screaming from the room and tell you to find someone able to deal with that workload; or Tell you they are all crap and to come back when you have a real book. None of these are optimal solutions.

The representative will take all of these books, get them polished up and ready, and place them for the best deal possible. And then ask when you will get the next book to them.

And there is one final reason to have an agent or representative…

Almost all of the major players in the publishing business prefer “agented” submissions. Some even require it…in other words, no agent, no thanks. The publishers do this to weed out the bad apples as early as possible…it saves them time and money.

Sorry for the mixed metaphors. Anyway…

Do your homework and decide if you need an agent, representative, or nothing at all. If you need some help, talk to other writers about who they use and their experiences. Sadly, a typical response is, “I use Joe Blow and he sucks, but I have a contract.” Luckily, this is usually followed by, “But I hear that Richard Roe is pretty good.”

Then start contacting the names on your list. Are they accepting new writers? What are their specialty areas, if any? How many clients does each contact person work with? How long is the contract? And anything else you can think of.

The idea here is to make you successful.

How you define that is totally up to you.

Keep Loving!

Permanent link to this article: http://melodeeaaron.com/blog/2012/09/24/representatives-v-agents-do-you-need-one/

Jul 15

Grammar Nazis

 

I just couldn’t resist this one…

 

Yeah…this stuff really bugs me.

 

It’s your language. Learn to use it.

 

Keep Loving!

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://melodeeaaron.com/blog/2012/07/15/grammar-nazis/

Jul 02

Rules for Authors — Number Nine

What follows is one of my Rules for Authors.

These rules are things that all real authors should make a part of their mentality and are words to live by. Trust me…

After more than twenty-five years in this crazy business, I have learned these things well and they do make a difference!

No. 9 – Final drafts are still pretty rough.

OK, maybe they are REALLY rough.

No matter how carefully you read your manuscript, there will be errors. Grammar, spelling, syntax, and all of the rest will creep in and entrench the errors so deep that you, as the writer, can’t even see them. Logic and flow errors are even worse.

The reason for this is very simple, and my great grandma summed it up nicely when she said, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.”

In other words, you are too close.

Get people to read your manuscript. For grammar, spelling, and other mechanical issues, anyone with a reasonable grasp of high school level English will do. Even family will work.

For logic and flow, for God’s sake do NOT use a family member or close friend! They will ignore problems because they don’t want to hurt your feelings, even if the problems are glaring. Find someone who will be totally honest with you, even if it hurts.

If you have a representative, they will have editors who will help you, and they will be brutally honest with you. Trust me, that’s gonna hurt. And it will leave a mark.

A mark that you will remember and help you grow and become a better writer.

Keep Loving!

Permanent link to this article: http://melodeeaaron.com/blog/2012/07/02/rules-for-authors-number-nine/

Jun 11

Rules for Authors – Number Six

What follows is one of my Rules for Authors.

These rules are things that all real authors should make a part of their mentality and are words to live by. Trust me…

After more than twenty-five years in this crazy business, I have learned these things well and they do make a difference!

No. 6 – Odds are that the style manual is wrong.

Does anyone really know how many different style manuals there are out there? It must be in the hundreds, if not thousands. Every major university has one. Every major publication has one. Pretty much every industry has their own. Some publishers have one they use that they developed. Hell, Wikipedia has their own, too.

This all means that there are no hard and fast rules for style. I promise you that no matter what you do in the written word, you can find at least one style manual that will say you’re right and at least one that says you’re wrong.

And the interesting fact of this is that it is authors who decide what is “right” and what is “wrong”. The so-called experts who write the style manuals look to our works to determine what proper style is.

And by the way, so do the so-called experts who write dictionaries.

Yeah, that’s right…we authors are in control.

Feels pretty good, doesn’t it?

Anyway…

Style and the nebulous concept of “voice” are closely related. It is an author’s voice that sets them apart from all of the other authors and the thing that readers like about that author. Let me give you an example, and I picked this one because it’s really a non-issue today…

The split infinitive…in short, to quote from the Wikipedia article, “a split infinitive is an English-language grammatical construction in which a word or phrase, usually an adverb or adverbial phrase, comes between the marker to and the bare infinitive (uninflected) form of a verb.” Again, quoting from Wikipedia, they point out that: “For example, a split infinitive occurs in the opening sequence of the Star Trek television series: ‘to boldly go where no man has gone before’. Here, the adverb boldly splits the full infinitive to go.”

To meet the requirements of most style manuals, Star Trek should have said, “To go boldly where no man has gone before.”

So what? The former statement, as used in the TV series, just plain sounds better.

In other words, the style manual is wrong and the writer is right.

But, as I pointed out earlier, there are a good number of style manuals that say to ignore the split infinitive and use what sounds and flows better.

End of that discussion.

Let me give you another, more real example…

In my books set in the Immortal Love Universe™, the alert reader will note that the military titles of characters are capitalized, even when not used as a proper noun. In something like “Yes, Commander”, it is clear and accepted by generic style manuals that “Commander” should be capitalized because it is a proper noun. In the case of “Look at that bunch of Marines over there”, most generic manuals say that “Marines” should be lower case. But if you look at style manuals geared to the military world, it should indeed be capitalized.

In this case, the style manual used by almost all publishers and publications is just plain wrong.

On the other hand, one could argue that the military manuals are wrong.

So, who is right?

The author.

Remember…we control what makes it into the style manuals—and the dictionary—so we decide what is right and what is wrong.

Do what you know is right and what fits your voice, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Keep Loving!

Permanent link to this article: http://melodeeaaron.com/blog/2012/06/11/rules-for-authors-number-six/

Apr 29

Catching Up…

Sadly, I’ve been remiss in posting to my blog for the last couple of weeks. I have a ton of excuses, but very few reasons…

As many of you know, we recently completed a rather large move. Even small moves are a pain in the ass, but try it to another continent. Things on that front have quieted down a bit, though it will pick up again soon with the completion of some construction and arrival of more of our stuff. What fun that will be!

Add to this the similar relocation of the entire business. Yeah, it gets out of hand VERY quickly!

Through all of that, I also had no time for my real job: Writing. This added up to the need to focus on a number of projects that had taken back-burner status until people started to scream, so I had to jump on those and get the work done. I was literally locked in my office for days at a time.

There are two big things I want to pass along to you…one is technically past and the other happens in only a couple of days.

The first is that my son JJ (Jack, Jr.) turned four on the 26th. He looks more and more like his dad every day, and that’s a good thing. I admit that I’m biased, but Jack is drop-dead gorgeous, and JJ is following suit. On the other hand, JJ is also developing a lot of the extreme alpha male attitude of his dad. I’m OK with that because along with the attitude is an intense respect for the female of the species. JJ treats his sisters and me with care and has never been disrespectful to us. I suspect that as he gets older, he will also take on a role of protecting his sisters. It looks like JJ will also be as big as his dad (6’9″ and 265 pounds), so God help the boy who mistreats his sisters. Jack, however, is not so good with having another alpha male in the house. JJ will sometimes be a bit defiant when his dad asks him to do something. So far, JJ has always backed down and done as he was told, but the smell of testosterone sometimes gets pretty strong. Funny part is that if I (or his sisters) ask JJ to do the exact same thing, he is happy to comply.

In any event, Happy Birthday, JJ.

Next, Jack’s birthday is this coming Tuesday (May 1st). Since it’s not supposed to bother men, I’ll tell you that Jack will be 51. But he’s not getting older, he’s getting better. While 51 is not “old”, Jack is in great shape. Habits he learned from his military service (Jack was a SEAL) and in law enforcement (FBI, US Marshalls, and the Secret Service) have stayed with him. He walks several miles a day, works out in the gym with weights and various machines, and plays with the kids in active sports several times a week. He watches his diet and, like me, drinks very little. He quit smoking when I was pregnant with JJ. In short, Jack takes care of himself. He does that not only for his own benefit, but because he knows that the kids and I all need and want him around for a long time.

Happy Birthday, my love.

As for what’s next, that’s complicated…

I want to get back into the swing of things and focus on some of my erotica romance work. I have not less than five books at various stages of completion that I need to finish and get off to the publishers. I wish I could give you a timeline, but I have no clue. There are other things in the writing arena that are also demanding my time.

And I promise to post here more frequently. Really…I do!

Keep Loving!

Permanent link to this article: http://melodeeaaron.com/blog/2012/04/29/catching-up/