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Mountain Dragon Mascot

One of my coworkers gave this to me yesterday as a sort of going away present. It’s a mountain dragon.

Now, my friend/coworker Andy gave this to me. If you don’t recall me mentioning him before or know him, he’s one of my favorite people at my work because we often have creative discussions. A lot of the development that has happened in the book I’m writing I attribute to chats with him. Some of the biggest plot breakthroughs for the story came when I was either talking to him or sending him an email.

Now, the reason why this is one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received is because, if you haven’t noticed, I call this book The Dragon Book That’s Not About Dragons.

You can thank Andy for that. Yes, it was Andy who one day asked me, “Jessica, why are they dragons?”

And I didn’t know. And now there are no dragons in this story. There is a dragon knife, out of respect, and I still call it a dragon book, and now the book has it’s own little mascot.

He even took it a step further–it’s a mountain dragon. The original premise of the book (in its second stage) was to have certain types of dragons with different properties. So Andy asked me what my favorite element would be.

I love fire and water, but I don’t think I’d be true to myself picking one of them. Fire is intriguing but too explosive for me. I am always drawn to water, but I’m not sure that it fits my personality. I don’t particularly like air–it’s light and flighty.

I love earth. It’s strong. It’s steady. It’s powerful but in a quiet way.

So here it is. My mountain dragon. My book’s new mascot.

I found myself saying something the other day at a writing meeting that had me thinking: What’s wrong with trying something new?

And I’m not the only one who has said it. At this meeting and at others, there’s almost a resistance to doing something different—of course, that is, unless you are the one writing differently.

Let me back up and rephrase.

One of the women in the group brought to the table a story she is working on. She currently has it set in two time periods, where the 1800s is this “present” story, and then there are flashbacks to Renaissance France. This wasn’t entirely clear in the piece of story that we were reading, but she filled us in on the details. Two suggestions came up from this:

  • Write a linear story with the one point of view.
  • Write both stories with the flashbacks ever present throughout the story.

I found myself saying that a linear story might work better for the story that she is writing. That flashbacks can be difficult and at times frustrating for the reader. Why isn’t the story that you’re telling important enough to read? Why handicap yourself by relying on flashbacks to tell the other side of the story?

Given the story she is telling, and the fact that she admitted that the flashbacks were there just so she could write in period, the linear could possibly work best for her.

But I’m frustrated with myself. For even saying that, though I still think it was a good point to make. If the flashbacks aren’t 100% important to the story, they do not need to be there. Still, why not let her write it that way and then decide? I think this is also the problem in bringing an unfinished manuscript to the table, and also the problem with bringing 10 double-spaced pages of a 200-page double-spaced book.

I guess my point is don’t worry about what you’re writing until you’ve written it. Are too many points of view a bad idea and impossible to pull of? Probably, but a few people can do it, so why not give it a go and see if you’re one of those people. Do prologues and prefaces get on the nerves of a lot of people? Yes, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important or useful to your story, so write it anyway.

Write your story the way you want to write it, and then when it’s done, revise it so that it’s the best story it can be. The revision, I think, is where the Ego of the Writer gets in the way—but they love having 10 points of view and two flashback scenes that don’t fit organically into the story, so they won’t remove it. I think that’s why I decide to say these things: that multiple points of view are hard to follow, that flashbacks can be unreliable and meddlesome. I anticipate the fact that the writer may not ever want to change anything down the road.

Maybe the real story is how to revise a story can give up pieces you thought were the best.

(Trust me, I’ve learned this. My book looks nothing like it did a year ago, save for one scene. And I haven’t even gotten to revisions yet.)

I’ll be honest, I like to go hang out in the Writer’s Café on the Kindle Boards. I like to read what other authors are doing, how the self-publishing market is going from the writer’s view, and just see what hassles other writers are coming up with.

I’ve written maybe two, three tops, posts. I don’t have the time to sit around and be a part of the community, though sometimes it looks like an exclusive club that I’d love to be apart of.

I got an iPad in December of 2010. I immediately fell in love with it, and the first things I downloaded were the Kindle and Nook apps, and the first things I bought were gift cards so that I could buy as many stories as I wanted.

I’ve read a lot of really bad self-published fiction in the past year and a half. A lot of it. Some of it so bad that I stopped reading, one so bad that I returned the book, and others that would embarrass me to admit that I read they were so bad. (While I value well-written fiction and my favorite authors are brilliant, I also consume a lot of very bad books.)

Having said that, I’ve read a very few good books. I’m not saying they’re brilliant for everyone, but they worked for me. Amanda Hocking—again, if you haven’t heard of her, look her up; she is an extremely successful anomaly in the self-publishing world. J.L. Bryan wrote the Jenny Pox series, a paranormal YA horror; I have read other books by him that I like, but I will almost always exclusively recommend only the novel Jenny Pox, which is I think the best written and most enthralling book (read the last two novels in the trilogy if you’re really dying for more of the world). Heather Hildenbrand is an author that I found in December last year, and her Dirty Blood series was very enjoyable to me, and I’d recommend it to friends that I know like that type of novel.

Those are the only three that really strike a chord with me. There are countless other books that I have read and gone into work and said, “Oh, God, I can’t believe I bought that book. And then the sequel. And the one after that…” But, well, there’s a lot of bad fiction for $9.99 that isn’t self-published, so I don’t feel too bad.

What I want you to get out of this is that I have no qualms with self-publishing. It’s an excellent option and I think a great way to read work from authors that you never would have seen otherwise. I buy a lot of self-published fiction.

There is a new problem that I’m having with it. Have you ever used Fanfiction.net, which later split off to include Fictionpress.com, devoted entirely to original fiction?

I used it a lot when I was fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen. There are a lot of brilliant authors on it. There are also a lot of subpar writers with hundreds of five-star reviews on it.

That is the problem that is arising with self-publishing. There is a rise in the price of self-publishing books, too, even in the last year and a half that I have been reading it. Where $0.99 books used to be common, they’re now almost shunned. Maybe the opening book in a series is $0.99, but even then, books that only cost $0.99 are often assumed at the first turn to be awful creations that should be avoided at all costs.

So the prices of the books rises. Many books now start at $2.99 or more, even for a new self-published author’s first book.

Here’s the problem: Those same people who are writing and not writing the best on Fictionpress.com are now on Kindle charging $2.99 for a book that could have done with being edited or left simmering in the author’s head until it was ready. Because they are setting themselves apart from those “lesser” authors, while they are one of them.

That’s one of the new waves that’s changing.

But let me go to the next worrisome thing in self-publishing for me. This is where the Kindle Boards come in.

I have now seen far too many posts (1 is too many—4 is far too many) by authors saying, “Did you ever write anything that was awful but then published it anyway?”

Sure, those weren’t the exact words, but when you get down to reading the messages, this is exactly what they are saying. One author even recommended that the other stay true to their subconscious and write what they need to write. Another writer discussed that they’ve considered writing an awful book, and then publishing it as if they “discovered” this piece of work and they are just the “editor”—would it make it more successful? Another admitted to looking back at a book and realizing they weren’t ready to write it or publish it, but they published it anyway. Another admitted that the failure was in not publishing a piece of work they weren’t ready to share with the world (and that, in my opinion, is probably not ready for the world).

This frustrates me to no end. Where is the emphasis on quality? In this age of voyeurism and excessive sharing, is there a way that someone can decide, No, I don’t need to publish this??

I understand having to write that story. There’s some stories that your soul demands you write to come to terms with issues and concerns in your life. By all means, please write them. Sometimes they become the best novel that you’ve ever written, and should be published and shared with the world. Other times, those pieces should be kept close to your heart. Maybe it will be ready for the world one day, but you are not being untrue to yourself by not putting it out there.

I have a book I want to write just like that. But I haven’t written it yet because I’m not ready, and even once I write it… It might not be ready for the world. And if that’s the case, I’m not going to hit publish just because I can.

Unfortunately, many people don’t believe this to be true, and the result is, “I will publish this because I can.”

For me, the self-publishing window is starting to darken, though I will still give many stories a try and stay faithful to those I love. What’s going to be the next wave? I’m rooting for Independent Publishers, or any sort of institution where there is at least one person on staff who understands that you do not punctuate dialogue as follows:

“I like to talk.” She said. (But this is a different issue for another day.)

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