If you have plot bunnies coming out of your plot holes, it’s time for a writing break.
Happy December, dear writers. Congratulations on surviving National Novel Writing Month. Rest easy, I won’t be going heavy on holiday cheer this month. I figure that if you’re big into celebrating any December holiday, my 15 minutes a week won’t make or break your holiday season. But if you’re not big into the merry merry and the happy happy, my 15 minutes a week of holly jolly might cause sour ripples of disdain in your life. That’s not good for anybody.
Maxwell Perkins, editor extraordinaire, once said, “An editor does not add to a book. At best he serves as a handmaiden to the author. Don’t ever get to feeling important about yourself because an editor at most releases energy.”
I love the one-on-one sessions I have with my clients, and in the podcast booth, I strive to keep my energy release still encouraging, still helpful, but utilitarian. On that note, let’s begin.
The Writing Break cafe is open, so why don’t we grab a table and I’ll fill you in on some publishing news.
The courtship is over between Simon & Schuster and Penguin Random House. Paramount Global, the parent company for Simon & Schuster, called off the deal with Penguin Random House, which means Penguin Random House has to pay Simon & Schuster $200 million dollars. Ouch. The rest of us go back to waiting to see who will come calling on Simon & Schuster next.
Speaking of the newly single and ready to mingle Simon & Schuster, their returns department is quite busy at the moment. Nine hundred copies of Bob Dylan’s new book, The Philosophy of Modern Song, were sold as a collector’s edition. Customers were told that the books would be hand-signed by Dylan. And for this people paid 599 dollars.
When the books reached the hands of eager customers, they began proudly sharing images of the signatures online. Despite at least 17 variations of Dylan’s signature, collectors soon realized that the signatures were done by autopen. The autopen is a great device, but an autopen signature holds no value to collectors.
Dylan said that he used the autopen due to bouts of vertigo and a desire to maintain Covid-safe distances. He also used the autopen to sign some prints. He claims that “With contractual deadlines looming, the idea of using an auto-pen was suggested to me, along with the assurance that this kind of thing is done ‘all the time’ in the art and literary worlds.” He has since apologized for using the autopen, calling it an error in judgment and saying he is working to rectify the situation.
Meanwhile, Simon & Schuster is offering refunds upon request.
So, what do you think happened? Do you think Simon & Schuster really thought an autopen signature was as good as the real thing? They couldn’t have possibly thought they were pulling a fast one.
Amazon has released a new Kindle device called Kindle Scribe. This is geared primarily toward nonfiction readers and has features that let you use a pen-like stylus to mark up ebooks, PDF and Word documents, and more. It’s bigger than the Kindle Paperwhite, and twice as heavy. It’s also about as expensive as a 9th generation iPad. So, maybe don’t get this one.
Links to these articles can be found in the show notes of this episode and on writingbreak.com.
The FIFA World Cup tournament is happening right now, and you might now care, but I have always wondered why Americans say “soccer” instead of “football”, and I finally bothered to look it up. So, let’s stop for a moment on the Overthinking Couch to learn the etymology of this silly word.In:
I guess “association football” was too much to say, so they shortened it to “assoc”, which is an abbreviation of “association”. At the time, it was a common practice in British slang to add -er to the end of words. You know, to make it fun-er. So assoc became soccer.
Meanwhile, in America, they were already playing American football, so when Association Football made its way over, they kept the British slang word soccer.
I hope you’re as fascinated by etymology as I am.
If you remember from last week, season 3 of Writing Break is going to be all about gifts. This week I have a gift for you. I would say this is my most important piece of writing advice, and looking at my notes here, it’s going to take me a bit of time to get through, so instead of visiting a bookstore and learning about an independent author, I want you to take us to your favorite place to be in December, whether real or fictional.
Are you ready? Let’s go.
Nice location selection. Now, for your gift, a full breakdown of the biggest mistake writers make and how to fix it for free.
From the first draft to the finished product, you labored over your work with devotion. During your writing breaks, you imagined the accolades that would be poured on you from friends and family when they read your masterpiece. You even practiced the modest reactions you would have to their endless praise. You feel that the people in your life motivated you. In reality, they stifled you.
What went wrong? In short, you cared about what the people in your life would think about your published work, thereby putting your true message in second place. You held back so as not to offend anyone you know or gave false praise in an attempt to please people. Authors often do this without realizing it. Even if you know you’re doing it, you might think that others will not catch on or that it does not hurt your writing. But it does.
Whether it’s a one-dimensional parent in a memoir or a not-so-steamy love scene in a romance novel, a good editor knows when you’ve pulled your punches. Doing so doesn’t make you a bad writer, but it doesn’t make your writing good. Twisting and muffling your message results in lackluster writing and hours of your life squandered. You will never become a great author until you become an autonomous author.
Considering how critical people in our lives can be, it’s no surprise that we take their opinions into account—consciously or not—every time we attempt to express ourselves.
Am I really saying you should not care about the opinions of those in your life? When it comes to your writing, yes.
After two decades of working with authors, I know that what I’m asking of you is easier said than done. So, I’m going to share a harsh truth about your writing that I would like you to keep in mind as you write. This applies to any type of writer and any piece of writing, from full-length novels right down to your shortest poem.
No one you know is going to read your work.
Everyone has told you that you should write. You shared snippets of your manuscript with your friends, family, and dog walker, and they have all told you that the story is so good it should be a movie! They can’t wait to read it, and they are but a small and unbiased sample of the world’s population.
Then you publish. Days, weeks, and years go by, and no one you know has read it. What gives? Are they all too busy encouraging other writers? Sure, let’s go with that excuse.
Aside from that one borderline-stalker frenemy, your work will pass unnoticed and might even be dismissed by those you love.
In some cases, attempts will be made, which is worse.
The people in your life love you. Even though they are not publishing professionals, their encouragement and support is genuine. Some will attempt to read your finished work. Four things might happen then:
(1) The Guilt Read. These people skim your work out of guilt. It’s not really their thing, but what if you ask them about it? You dedicated the book to them, after all. They’re living in your home and eating your food, and you gave them a free copy. There’s no escaping the guilt read for them. They crack the spine knowing that no matter what you’ve written, they’re going to say they loved it. YouTube plays in the background as they read.
(2) The Overanalytical Read. These people will put their own slant on your work because they know you, so when they get to the brooding neighbor with the sultry eyes in the second chapter, they think it’s about them. They always knew you had a crush on them. Rather than accept the work for what it is, they misinterpret your message and might even argue with you about it. They’ll also tell you what you should have written instead. Doesn’t that sound fun?
(3) The Rejection Read. These people read it and don’t just reject the story; they reject you for writing the story. Why are these people even in your life?
(4) The Love Read. These wonderful and smart people read your work in its entirety. They get it. They love it. They love you more for writing it. I’m only including this one to make you feel better.
It doesn’t matter why everyone you know does or does not read your masterpiece. What matters is that if you wrote it for them, or with their possible opinions in mind, you cheated your actual audience and weakened your writing.
So, what can you do to prevent this mistake from happening and improve as a writer?
Write for yourself. You write because you have something to say, and writing is the way you choose to say it. The message hums in your head, and the humming gets louder and louder until you absolutely must write it down.
Whether you’re aspiring to be a novelist, playright, scriptwriter, or any other type of writer, you’re putting in the hard work first and foremost for yourself. You write because you must, then comes your audience.
You know your message is of value to someone else. Rather than caring about the opinions of those in your life, you should be caring about getting your message across to your intended audience. No piece of work is for everyone, though some aspiring writers want to believe otherwise. I’ve talked about this before, so you should know by now that keeping your ideal reader in your mind as you write will help you write a clear and impactful piece of work that will have maximum benefit to you, your writing career, and your true audience. Trust me, your loved one is not your ideal reader.
Next week, I’m sharing my list of the best gifts for writers. And hopefully you can just subtly share that with others. Until then, thanks for listening. You deserved this break.
If you would like us to visit your favorite independent bookstore, feature your favorite independent author (even if it’s you), or discuss something you’re overthinking about, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for making space in your mind for The Muse today.
Writing Break is hosted by America’s Editor and produced by Allon Media with technical direction by Gus Aviles. Visit us at writingbreak.com or contact us at email@example.com.