Mastery is a concept that many consider to be subjective, especially when it comes to writing (especially novels). There is a treacherous belief that what is good or bad is a matter of public opinion. We can not measure quality.
This conviction – mastery is a matter of taste – has always existed in the publishing industry. Likely longer. If this were not the case, Vanity Press would never have earned a penny.
Vanity presses, however, came to satisfy the needs of those who believed the goalkeepers had misunderstood everything.
Her book was ready for popular consumption, ripe for the public, eagerly disposing of disposable income to take advantage of the limited free time spent on the book.
Sometimes (though rarely) the author was right.
Even before the digital age, an author had to estimate the cost of publishing too early, even with a cosmetics press.
If you were giving thousands of dollars to hold your book in your hand? Then the author knew that gambling could either pay off (The Company), or that they end up with a camp unit filled with more modern novels.
When I started writing seriously, the authoring culture was completely different. Most writers aspired to mastery. It was a time when more artists were working as entrepreneurs.
Granted, after a couple of brutal review sessions, we almost all found out that we would never create the "perfect novel," but that did not mean we would not keep trying to get as close as possible.
Learning storytelling involved learning the basics. We had our worn copies of Strunk & White Donkey's ear, underlined and held together with adhesive tape. There was a general feeling that we had to earn the title of "author", and we did not accept the abbreviations well.
*** For this reason, it took years for self-publishing to be accepted as a legitimate form of publication.
Many of us wanted to be authors because we were first and foremost enthusiastic readers.
We loved books and stories. The idea of improving the same abilities and achieving the same level of mastery as our author's heroes drove us step by step, rejecting rejection.
times are changing
In my early years it was literary blasphemy to opt for a cosmetics press or self-publishing.
There was also an atavistic reaction to any kind of self-promotion. It clapped too much for self-relegating bottom feeder egomania.
This overriding negative attitude was one of the biggest obstacles I encountered at the beginning of my career. Trying to convince the authors that they would one day need an online platform to survive was like walking through LA, in tinplate that cursed the world would end (and expect to be taken seriously ).
In my early years as a social media / branding expert, the authors believed that publishers would carry out all these inappropriate marketing and advertising efforts. Her only job was to write excellent books.
Then, over time and due to some seriously bad business decisions in the traditional publishing industry (notably the multinational media corporations that were in charge), self-publishing became more popular.
The Big Six betrayed their trusted middle-list authors and threw them away. Amazon picked them up and then armed them with weapons. Legacy releases inadvertently legitimized what had once been anathema.
Within a decade, the spit turned around. The authors considered the landing of an agent in 2009 as the first step to success. After the agent, the publisher must deal with a "real" publisher. Social media was for hacks.
In 2019, I come across more authors striving for a marketing championship about storytelling championship. They can not figure out why they do not sell books, even though they have a series of fifteen books.
Is it the promotion? S.E.O.? Maybe you need a bigger newsletter or a spot on BookBub?
Maybe. In my view, the main problem is – mostly – the product, not the packaging.
is and king
I spent the first half of this month with keynoting and teaching and the second half with keynoting and teaching. Last Saturday I had a voice for the first time and was so exhausted that I could barely move.
I'm still pulling.
Suffice to say that when I present, I give out a MASSIVE wattage and often present it for ten hours at a time. It's no easy task to keep an audience awake and inspired for ten hours sitting in comfortable seats in the auditorium in low light conditions.
However, as I recovered, I was tempted to wipe my old edition of Stephen Kings While writingbut I did not have to read it in myself. So I bought a copy of Audible and listened to it at least ten times (the sections dealing with our craft).
I especially noticed this line.
Above all else, if you want to be a writer, you have to do two things – read a lot and write a lot.
This may seem like a "no", but I can not count how many times I've come across people who say they want to be writers, but just do not have time to read. Most of the samples I see? I can say that the author, if any, reads very little.
You have no time.
Here, King and I agree. Who has no time to read, has no time – or no tools – to be a writer (especially a good writer).
Apart from crafting lessons and grammar lessons, reading fills our toolbox. We are craftsmen who create people, places, worlds and concepts with combinations of 26 letters.
Would you trust someone who builds your house and who only owned a hammer and a saw (and knew how to use them)? Or a doctor who only knew how to use a scalpel, but did not learn how to sew?
But how many authors publish books and they do not even have the basic foundations of our craft? And are you more worried about a new marketing plan than why people do not want to read their work, let alone PAY to read it?
Is fiction COMPLETELY subjective?
To some extent yes. But really? No, not as much as some might claim.
As I mentioned earlier, it is impossible to write the "perfect" book to invent the novel "Everyone will love it". However, this is no excuse to reject the true artist's inherent commitment to mastery.
Did Picasso break all the rules? Yes, but he has learned for years, studied the masters, learned the rules and then violated them. Like a master mason who is so familiar with the composition of the stone and the feel of its grooves that he knows where to place the chisel and where to steer it.
Yes, I've heard that there are many "bad" books / authors who sell a lot of copies and have millions of fans. However, I imagine you could look at one of your books and see that the author is at least telling a coherent HISTORY.
Mastery starts with fundamentals
Grammar, structure, vocabulary, punctuation etc. are intended for the READER. If we do not know what P.O.V. is that we fix the readers on Hell's Tilt-A-Whirl and then have the nerve to be angry when they stumble green across the gills.
If we do not punctuate properly, readers can easily get lost. Similarly, the grammar is similar to literary traffic signs, which help the reader know where they are and what is happening.
No signs or confusing signs make for a pleasant ride, nor a pleasant read.
When we mess up the basics, readers get headaches trying to unravel what, where, why, and with whom. Reading should be a pleasant experience, an adventure that the reader never wants to leave.
It is the height of hubris to blame the readers if we have not done everything in our power to serve them a pleasant experience. Stories are not just for our own entertainment, unless writing is a hobby and we do not intend to sell it.
Mastery takes time, learning, practicing, commitment, failure, more failure and discipline. It is sad to say that we have come to a point where the mud pile has been thrown into the lap of the reader.
If we think it was difficult to get people to read twenty years ago, what about a million books that are published each year (and least editorially)?
Self-publishing & championship
If we take a closer look at the runaway successes of self-publishing, we'll find that most of the BIG books are pretty incredible books. Read Hugh Howeys Wool. or Andy Weirs The Martian. and Wm. Paul Youngs The cottage,
Even though The Martians Hard-science-as-story might not appeal to anyone, it's hard to argue that it was not well written. Andy Weir just told a story different from a group that New York publishers did not believe existed at the time … Hardcore geeks / nerds.
Weir and others who have successfully released themselves have gathered a fan base because they tell stories that other people want to read and that they can read.
Writing, like any art, has a learning curve. Sometimes I think that's what's so disturbing so many of us. Our culture believes that because we have mastery of our native language, our first attempt to write a novel would undoubtedly bring millions. RIGHT?
Oddly enough, the same people who believe that the first draft of our first novel should be turned into an HBO series would never expect a child recording a violin for the first time to be ready for Carnegie Hall by the end of the year.
Singers and dancers have to train, coach and practice for tens of thousands of years for years before we know they exist.
The mastery of sports, medicine, law and even writing requires dedication and sacrifice. We need training, guidance, practice, mentoring, failure, success and yes … talent and a little (or much) luck.
In the first place, if you write fiction, then READ fiction. If you sell me a puzzle, it's best to start with a crime sometime in the beginning, and I'm not talking about a crime against the written word.
Read a lot, in your genre and out. Take the good and the bad. Learn the literary terrain and expand your skills through observation. There are very successful authors who claim that they never plot.
I will contradict that, however.
You've probably read so many books that the structure is anchored in your brain. These authors, if you like, obtained the mastery "by ear".
Some learn piano with a teacher, others learn it by listening and playing around on a keyboard long enough.
Both are hard work.
All reputable authors should read (just as all serious musicians should probably listen to music). However, we have other tools available. Here is a list of my favorites in no particular order:
Brilliant Blogs (Other than my 😛)
Mastery Resources / Tools
I've probably skipped one or twenty other elements that I would have liked to include in this list, but there will be more blogs, and that's enough to give any author interested in mastering a damn good start ,
I have read and read these books because I am always learning and developing. I am a long way from the perfect writer, but every day I win her (even if she is a unicorn). I write an average of 2,000 to 4,000 words a day, depending on what I'm working on.
In addition, I read an average of 3-4 hours a day. I do this mainly with Audible, because I believe that people live in my house, of whom I know nothing.
And I can already hear the howling of the complaint.
I just can not hear books. They make me fall asleep. My thoughts are wandering.
Mine also. I had to train to listen to books. The Excellent I buy in paper (or e-book) and read again in the old-fashioned way. But audiobooks are portable. I can listen when I am in a queue, in a traffic jam, washing dishes and exercising.
Perfect is the enemy of the good and I would rather listen to "imperfect" audiobooks than not read books. If we show up on the empty page without tools, without memory full of vocabulary and images, there is a risk that we may be ill prepared or simply ignorant.
I was both. It is a pity to invest years in a "novel" that can not be saved. I have my first novel in the garage because he chews on the furniture and pees on the carpets.
Remember, we all start somewhere. Give yourself permission to be NEW.
What are your thoughts?
Do you never feel like you've read, done or prepared enough? Have you ever tried writing a novel just to mess up yourself? Do you have books or resources that you want to add?
Are you fed up with writers focusing on marketing as you learn to tell a HISTORY?
I love to hear from you!
And to prove it and show my love, I'll put your name in a hat for anyone who leaves a comment for the month of October. If you comment on your blog and link to my blog, you'll have your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth of you.
Once a month, I will select a winner and it will be a review of the first 20 pages of your novel, query letter or abstract (5 pages or less).
In the meantime, treat yourself to a course!
Upcoming LIVE CLASSES Until November
Yes, I know that most of us will do NaNoWriMo. For this reason, a FREE listing is included in your purchase.
Planet X: character building for science fiction
THIS FRIDAY, 1 November 2019, Use tinfoil110 for $ 10 off.
Dark Arts: Build your villain
November 7, 2019, 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm EST (NYC TIME), Use Thrill10 for $ 10.
Belletristik in Happengröße: How to Draw a Novella
FRIDAY, 8 NOVEMBER 19:00 – 21:00 EST (NYC TIME), Use Bite10 for $ 110 off.
Tick Tock: How to Draw Mystery Suspense
THURSDAY, 21st of November 19:00 – 21:00 EST (NYC TIME), Use Thrill10 for $ 10.
Why are we here? Scenes that HOOK
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 2019, Use Thrill10 for $ 10.
ON DEMAND CLASSES
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How do we create characters that readers fall in love with, characters that are strong enough to overcome the distance? Find out in this THREE HOUR class, which also includes detailed notes and a character-building template. Use Binge10 again for $ 10 off.
This class fits perfectly with my previous class:
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