Spirituality in writing

So, I’m only two (or three) days out from having the editing finished on my current WIP. Then a few beta reads, then publishing. My original plan from there is to launch into the sequel of it. (EDIT: since writing this, I’ve discovered the sequel isn’t next in line) I’m not  If you know me at all personally (I’m sure most who read this don’t) you’ll know that I don’t take things lightly. I have taken a spiritual road that, four years ago, I would have never imagined I’d take. No, I’m not gonna get all religious on you. I don’t believe in religion, in the way that most people think of it.

When I set out to write stories, I want them to say something. I want them to speak of hope, and love, and fortitude. I want people to maybe take away something they didn’t have when they sat down to read it. I’ve had long conversations about this with many people. There are some who write just because they want to tell a good yarn, the characters perhaps are interesting, the situations engaging. But do they say anything? I’m not talking agenda here. I’m not talking about pushing God on people through fiction (something I’ve abhorred when I have read some “Christian” fiction). I’m not talking about pushing political views either. (Although sometimes, that comes through in writing as well) But for me, the most memorable stories are ones where hope, and love, and goodness, run through them, even as darkness threatens to overwhelm, where goodness wins in the end. Or at the very least, doesn’t completely lose. I’m not opposed to telling a story where things aren’t bad for the main character at the end of the story. I put my main character in my current WIP through some not very nice things and left him in misery at the end of the book. (I said it before, there will be a sequel.) But one thing I never, ever do is start a project like this with the intention of having nothing to say.

I have taken a spiritual road that, four years ago, I would have never imagined I’d take. No, I’m not gonna get all religious on you. I don’t believe in religion, in the way that most people think of it. When I set out to write stories, I want them to say something. I want them to speak of hope, and love, and fortitude. I want people to maybe take away something they didn’t have when they sat down to read it. I’ve had long conversations about this with many people. There are some who write just because they want to tell a good yarn, the characters perhaps are interesting, the situations engaging. But do they say anything? I’m not talking agenda here.

I’m not talking about pushing God on people through fiction (something I’ve abhorred when I have read some “Christian” fiction). I’m not talking about pushing political views either. (Although sometimes, that comes through in writing as well) But for me, the most memorable stories are ones where hope, and love, and goodness, run through them, even as darkness threatens to overwhelm, where goodness wins in the end. Or at the very least, doesn’t completely lose. I’m not opposed to telling a story where things aren’t bad for the main character at the end of the story. I put my main character in my current WIP through some not very nice things and left him in misery at the end of the book. (I said it before, there will be a sequel.) But one thing I never, ever do is start a project like this with the intention of having nothing to say.

I’ve had long conversations about this with many people. There are some who write just because they want to tell a good yarn, the characters perhaps are interesting, the situations engaging. But do they say anything? I’m not talking agenda here. I’m not talking about pushing God on people through fiction (something I’ve abhorred when I have read some “Christian” fiction). I’m not talking about pushing political views either. (Although sometimes, that comes through in writing as well) But for me, the most memorable stories are ones where hope, and love, and goodness, run through them, even as darkness threatens to overwhelm, where goodness wins in the end. Or at the very least, doesn’t completely lose. I’m not opposed to telling a story where things aren’t bad for the main character at the end of the story. I put my main character in my current WIP through some not very nice things and left him in misery at the end of the book. (I said it before, there will be a sequel.) But one thing I never, ever do is start a project like this with the intention of having nothing to say.

‘m not opposed to telling a story where things aren’t bad for the main character at the end of the story. I put my main character in my current WIP through some not very nice things and left him in misery at the end of the book. (I said it before, there will be a sequel.) But one thing I never, ever do is start a project like this with the intention of having nothing to say.

I have heard some authors say that, to paraphrase, “our job is just to tell the damn story.” While I agree with this on some level, I believe it is not my job to tell a spiritually dead story that says nothing of the human condition, that leaves no room for the things I mentioned. Every writer, I believe, writes what is within them. Dean Koontz had this to say, “Everything I believe about life and death, culture and society, relationships and the self, God and nature–everything winds up in the books, not in one more than another, but equally, title after title. A body of work, therefore, reveals the intellectual and emotional progress of the writer, and is a map of his soul. It’s both terrifying and liberating to consider this aspect of being a novelist.”

For me, that just about sums it up.

Why Self Publish?

Recently I’ve been asked why I decided to self publish, over doing it the traditional way. I borrowed the Declaration below from Joe Konrath over at http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/ .

The truth is, I have been dreaming of being published for most of my life. From the time I discovered that I wanted to be a writer, around the ripe old age of seventeen, writing has been the one thing I’ve consistently come back to. But like all authors, there’s something about the dream that draws me in. Maybe its holding my own book in my hands, feeling the cover and texture of the paper,  or maybe it’s seeing my name on it, knowing that this was something I Created. I don’t know. But whatever else it is, for me it’s also the dream of making a living doing something I love. That, above all else, has been my motivation. I don’t need to be rich. I don’t need a million dollars (although that would be nice!) and I certainly don’t need fancy cars, a big house, and specially tailored clothes. All I need is to be able to make a living. That’s it. Impossible? It used to be.

There was a time when writing a book was akin to playing in a band, or being a supermodel. You had to be DISCOVERED. That meant you had to send your manuscript in and hope someone read it. That meant you had to receive rejection after rejection, and not necessarily because your writing was bad. More likely, it was because whoever happened to be on the receiving end of it didn’t want to read it. or, maybe they read it but just didn’t like that kind of book. or, maybe the grass grew an inch too tall because of the big rain, and they had to leave work early to mow the grass, or maybe…

You see how this goes. When you publish the, ahem, normal way, you are at the mercy of a gatekeeper. Someone who will Judge your book, and most likely tell you its crap, even though it’s really not. Or, maybe it really is crap, but relying on some self-appointed gatekeeper isn’t the way to find out one way or another.

There is a lot of slogging through crap when it comes to trying to get published. This declaration pretty much sums it up for me.

 

The Declaration of Independence for Writers

When in the Course of publishing events, it becomes necessary for writers to sever their ties with the industry that is supposed to have “nurtured” them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that we should declare the causes which impel those writers to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all writers should have an equal chance to find readers. That their successes or failures should be dependent upon their own actions and their own choices. That they should be paid fairly for their work. That they should have control over the works they produce. That they should have immediate and accurate access to their sales data. That they should be paid promptly. That they should not be restricted from reaching those who may enjoy their work. That whenever a publisher becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of Authors to abolish all connections with the offending parties.

The history of the legacy publishing industry is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over writers. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

They have given us take-it-or-leave-it, one-sided, unconscionable contracts.
They have failed to adequately market works they have acquired.
They have artificially inflated the price of ebooks.
They have refused to negotiate better ebook royalties for authors.
They have forced unnecessary editing changes on authors.
They have forced unnecessary title changes on authors.
They have forced crappy covers on authors.
They have refused to exploit rights they own.
They have refused to return rights they aren’t properly exploiting.
They take far too long to bring acquired works to market.
They take far too long to pay writers advances and royalties.
Their royalty statements are opaque, out-of-date, and inaccurate.
They orphan authors.
They orphan books.
They refuse to treat authors as equals, let alone with a reasonable measure of fairness.
They make mistakes and take no responsibility for those mistakes.
For every hope they nurture, they unnecessarily neglect and destroy countless others.
They have made accessories of the authors’ ostensible representative organization, the quisling Authors Guild, and are served, too, by the misleadingly named Association of Authors’ Representatives.
They have failed to honor promises made.
They have failed to honor their own onerous contract terms.
They’ve failed the vast majority of authors, period.

 

The first thing I began to notice when I was debating on which way to go, was the price of ebooks. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but If I’m not receiving a tangible, i.e. a paperback or hardback for my money, I don’t expect to pay the same price or higher. And yet, all my favorite authors (that means you, Dean Koontz!) have (had?) ebooks that were more expensive than even a paperback. Utterly ridiculous. I’m sorry, but it does not cost the same amount to make an ebook as it does paper. Not to mention the author who wrote it is getting the shaft. I have begun the slow process of not buying books from the big six publishing houses, and also, searching for good books written by unknowns who have self published. While I prefer a paperback over ebooks, ebooks are the future. You can debate this all you want, but its true. So while I still want to see my books in print, at some point there aren’t going to be any more brick and mortar stores that will carry paper books. The ones that still exist are hanging on for dear life, or looking for alternative ways to bring in revenue. Like Barns and Noble, for instance. I don’t have hard data here. If you want that, check out Joe’s blog, he’s got tons of it, including his self pubbing sales numbers. When the big book stores die, the only place to get them will most likely be places like Amazon. And fortunately, you can have you book printed as well.

I’m not sure when I realized I wasn’t going to be published the usual way. Maybe it’s when I realized that authors get screwed, earning only something like 35 cents on a paper back. Or maybe it was when I realized I was being forced to pay 15 bucks for a book that only exists here, in digital space, instead of decorating my large oak bookcase. Every writer must find his or her own path. For me, it’s self publishing.