Monthly Archives: August 2014

Adventures in writing … thoughts on those how-to guides

Coming to the end of what has been a great summer holiday, writing is proving somewhat difficult. It’s too hot, my head is still firmly stuck in Cumbria, and I have so much to do I don’t know where to begin.

I’m waiting on a book to be finalised, cover chosen, printed, etc. I sent it out to some beta-readers (whatever that means) and they picked up a few tiny problems. The editor said this would happen, that the more people who read it the better. Anyway, all being well, it should be out by the end of September 2014.

Two different publishers have accepted two other books of mine for publication. So, I’m happy. Of course I am. It doesn’t mean I’m Lee Child, but at least I’m getting out there. All being well, another three books published by the end of this year will see my tally growing to 18 published works.

Then I receive an email and all of this euphoria is dashed.

It was one of those junk-mail things; you know the ones I mean, the same sort that used to come through your door in the days before the Internet, or which were stuffed inside the Radio Times. Well, it’s the same thing. A host of stuff you simply have no interest in whatsoever. This one was a little more interesting, but extremely annoying.

It was from Kindle. You may have heard of them. They ambushed me with a long list of books and every single one of them offered me the chance to ‘Write a mystery book that sells’, or discover ‘The Easy Way to Write Fantasy’, and even, ‘Make money through writing fiction!’.

Okay, I know there is a whole army of people out there now who want to write a book. So they do. And Kindle gives them all the tools. And now, here we have every guide known to man, written by established authors, all of whom want you to achieve great success and earn heaps of money.

Whoo-hoo!

Mm…Okay, let’s just backtrack a little here.

First, there is nothing wrong with wanting to write a book. In fact, it’s great. I am forever encouraging people to write. The mechanics of writing means, simply put, hard work. To write 100,000 words takes a lot of graft. BUT, if you want to do it, you can. However, you need to know one or two painful truths. One, I do not believe story telling can be taught. WRITING can, but not story telling. Anyone can write. Anyone can learn grammar, syntax and all the rest. Cool. But is that creating stories which make your jaw drop to the floor, which have you crying like a baby into your pillow, or laughing aloud like a hyena on crystal-meth? No. I do not believe anybody can be taught how to tell a good story. It’s not just about structure, the snowflake, starting from the middle or the end, or from wherever you want to start from. It’s something, which lives inside you, something which will not let go, which dominates every waking moment of every single day. If you can’t tell a story, there is no point in picking up a how-to book. So, if you do have the knack, if you can hold people’s attention with tales of daring-do, why not pick up one of these guides?

Because they don’t work.

Because they all say the same things.

And it makes my blood boil, because there are probably thousands of people out there buying these things. And they are selling more than I am, and that hacks me off too.

No, I believe the only way to learn how to write is…to write. Write and read. Then read some more. Get a publisher who believes in you, and an editor who can fix the stupid grammar bits you missed. I’m forever getting mixed up with past and passed. And I’ve been told off more than once for using ‘started to’ or ‘beginning with’. So, I’m not going to use those again. But my editor doesn’t tell me how to plot. She doesn’t order me to change scenes and characters, etc. The reason they accepted my book in the first place was because the story was damned good. The grammar was okay, but that is easily fixed. A bad story can never be fixed.

I looked up some of the authors of these guides, see how they were doing with their own books. Well, one or two were doing fine, but most were not. And the reviews they were receiving left a lot to be desired. So, have they written these guides to make money, to prey on the dreams of aspiring novelists, by offering them the ‘Teach yourself How To Be An Author’ way to fame and fortune?

Of course they have. And people buy these things! Why not join a writing club, get down to your library, read your stories to kids, or even adults, sign up to Authonomy or YouWriteOn? Get some feedback, do the leg-work, learn the craft.  And when you’ve written one book and you’ve submitted it, write another. And keep writing! That’s the key, not a secret to be found in the pages of a 75 cent guide that is shooting up the charts all because so many have swallowed the bait.

I keep saying it; writing is not a get-rich-quick scheme. But it seems as if not many prospective wannabe Harlan Cobens out there have quite come to terms with this fact yet.

For news of my latest books and when they are available, keep checking out my website. www.stuartygyates.com

Thanks for dropping by, and don’t worry, I won’t be writing any guides to getting published…not now, not ever.

Keep reading!

 

11 Comments

Filed under fiction writing