The Journal, Tuesday, July 24

Hey Folks,

Not a lot to talk about this morning. I didn’t write much fiction today. Worked on a website for a new writer. I still have a lot to do on it but I’m waiting for more input.

I find that more and more often I have to re-learn to separate Advice from Outcome. Specifically, to not look back and rate my recommendations in light of what various writers do with them. For example…

1. I can talk ’til I’m blue in the face about the pitfalls of traditional publishing (I’ve been there), but writers still choose to chase agents, which of course is the worst possible idea.

Getting an agent is like BEGGING the guy who mows your lawn once a month to PLEASE take 15% of the income from your rental properties for your lifetime plus 70 years.

Not only that, but you’re also begging him or her to accept all the rent money that comes in, deduct his/her 15%, then send you a check for the rest every month or every quarter or every now and then if and when he or she thinks to do so.

The answer? Seriously, if you want to go traditional, submit your manuscript to publishers yourself. Then WHEN YOU LAND ONE and they call you, tell them you’ll have your “agent” get in touch in a few days to hammer out the contract.

Then pick up a phone and call a few IP attorneys. Hire one to negotiate the contract for you. Tell him/her what you want, and release the hounds.

Either that or, if you’re very good, negotiate the deal yourself. But don’t go chasing after agents.

2. Stop letting other people into your work already. New writers are constantly showing their work to non-writers or other writers and asking their opinion. As Mark Twain said, “No urge is stronger than that of a writer to change another writer’s work.” Something like that. If you ask 100 people for an opinion on a paragraph, much less a whole story, you’ll get 100 different (uninformed) opinions.

The answer? Send your work (when it’s finished) to ONE reader — a very good reader, someone who consumes books in your genre — and ask him or her to point out any inconsistencies and anyplace that boots him/her out of the story. Correct what the first reader points out THAT YOU AGREE WITH and then send it to a copyeditor and pay money to have it professionally copyedited.

3. Stop “striving” to write “the Great American Novel.” It’s already been written. Millions of writers agree. Some agree Hemingway did it. Others say it was Gabriel Garcia Márquez. Others say it was Steinbeck or Elie Weisel or other folks. But seriously, whether a novel is “great” is up to the reader. And whether it’s “the” great novel is still up to the reader.

The answer? Write to entertain yourself.

4. Stop with the drama. If you still hear angels singing when you say the word “writer,” as in “Why yes indeedy, I am a writer (aaaaAAAAAH),” stand in front of a mirror in the bathroom and smack yourself in the forehead with a two-by-four. Once should do it. Why the bathroom? So you’ll be close to the Band-Aids.

The answer? Uhmgain. Write to entertain yourself. If it isn’t fun, don’t do it. Go find something fun to do. It isn’t that difficult a concept to grasp.

You can love the works of Hemingway, Márquez, Steinbeck, Weisel, et al, but no matter how hard you “labor” you’ll never be them. And the only way you’ll get to be LIKE them is to stop worrying about traditional vs. indie publication (and publish already), stop letting others into your work (it’s YOURS, not theirs), write what you want to write and have fun with it.

Go. Play.

Of Interest

See “How to Skillfully Use Subplots in Your Novel” at

See “Promotion Package Is Back” at An excellent opportunity for someone. And even if you aren’t interested in the package, the post lists a lot of items that generate thought.

See you again soon.