A short while ago in a novel pretty darn close to home. . .
The Format Wars
It is a period of civil war. Curved quotations (“ ”),
striking from my word processor, have won their
first victory against my novel.
During the writing, straight quotations (" ")
sporadically appeared, creating a difficult
editing process. Teamed with inconsistent
hyphen lengths (- en dash) (— em dash), when
sentences are broken up, editing difficulty ensues.
Pursued by a drive to make things perfect,
UncannyDerek races to format the book
aboard his computer, custodian of the
novel, that can finally be published to
restore semblance in his life. . . .
I originally had wrote my novel in one font. While changing fonts while editing, I somehow overlooked how the quotation marks and apostrophes. Apparently not all of the quotation marks and apostrophes change when you “Select All” and change the font. It’s quite a bugger. So I’m going through my novel line-by-line AGAIN to make sure it’s all consistent.
When you self-publish, there’s no one to fix these issues for you. You have to do them yourself. I’ve spent most of my day going through my book to change them over, but my eyes can only take so much!
Another thing I foolishly missed was the dashes, or hyphens, while writing. There are two different types of them (as shown in my opening scrawl). I have to make sure they’re consistent too.
Ah, the little things to focus on before the book hits the printer.
Let my folly be a lesson for you all!
And for the record, I’m using curved quotation marks for my novel and so should you.
For the quite some time, I’ve been butting heads on whether or not to find a publisher or self-publish.
I’ll admit though, it wasn’t as fun as watching Blitzwing and Astrotrain getting their heads butted together.
After some careful deliberation, I have decided to self-publish! It was a difficult decision to make. Let me write out my thought processes for both.
Why See a Publisher?
I obviously didn’t go this route. So why DID I consider it?
There were a few reasons why I personally thought to go this route. First and foremost, I knew it would give me the biggest distribution. Getting picked up by a publisher would obviously mean better sales and a mass market. It also would give me some pretty hefty credentials for future projects (which I will have) down the road.
Secondly, it’s good for the ego. Sure, that sounds selfish and greedy, but to be officially published by someone would be amazing. I definitely had a-many dreams about meeting with publishers and discussing my book in great length. It made me excited.
As weird as this one sounds: I wanted to get a rejection letter. I enjoy critical analysis of my work. While I know a rejection letter would not go into any detail at all, I personally take rejection as a sign of having to do better – which is something that motivates me. Albeit, I know it de-motivates others. But that’s how I work!
While I’m still not confident with royalties on self-publishing, I know a lot of the hassle and finances would be covered by the publisher. They want to make money, too. Seeing a publisher would take the financial strain off.
Why Stay Away From a Publisher?
I was still reluctant to see a publisher for a few reasons as well. The biggest reason was creative control. For example: I have an idea for my book cover which I know they won’t adhere to. However, it’s my novel, not theirs. It’s my artistic ideas. While this is arguably quite nit-picky for a first-time author, it’s still a big deal for my overall idea.
Money also isn’t everything. While I like the idea of making money from my novel, it’s not my ultimate goal. It’s not even a real desire. My desire is to write. Money comes second. While I know it’s not financially viable to continue a path of self-publishing (under the assumption my books suck and sales slump to zero forever and ever), money isn’t my driving force here. A publisher thinks otherwise, and that’s totally okay, but not what I want. I desire to write a novel. Sure, if my first novel did well and they’d pay me to write a second, that’d be great. But it’s not what I’d want. Let me be me.
My other big reason to stay away was just reading about trying to submit a book. Looking into many different publishers, some require a literary agent, while others require a book to meet certain criteria. For example, one publisher wants to publish science-fiction, but did not want religious overtones. Another was willing to publish fantasy and horror, but refused to take upon zombies books unless they were unique. While my book doesn’t include zombies, it does include religious overtones. Certain publishers want to market a book based on their image – which is totally fine – I just don’t have to send my book there. Other publishers I considered actually had their submissions closed until they decided to reopen again (seriously). However, if I were to send a copy of my manuscript in only to find out it’s “too religious” by their standards, or that their “not accepting submissions at this time,” then I’m out the money from getting my book printed, plus postage. (I figured it’d average around $60 per publisher submission).
Reading about it all made me feel as dizzy as Starscream after Gears spun him around for a bit.
In case I hadn’t said it enough, I’m big on creative control. With self-publishing, I get to control everything about my novel. From how the cover looks, to the price. It’s pretty freeing.
I can also get published faster. Most publishers were asking for at least three months to review the book. It’d take still another few months for it to get published after that. With self-publishing, the road can be paved right away and I can get started.
Challenges are fun. I really enjoy them, even if they’re super-stressful and nerve-racking as publishing a first novel. Especially if they’re financially stressful. I just enjoy being stressed I suppose? I’m a sick man.
But it’s also quite self-fulfilling. Being able to publish all on my own is quite an accomplishment. I accept all of the responsibility on whether the book succeeds or not. It’s exciting and strengthening. I hate asking for help, so I feel being able to do this on my own is what I need to do.
And I’m not in it for the money. I have to stress that again. Why? Because realistically, I won’t break even. At least I don’t expect to. I’d be surprised if I did. So that poses the question again: why self-publish?
The answer: because I want to do this for me.
And maybe Shockwave.
While my reasons for self-publishing may not be the “best” reasons in the world, they’re the best reasons for me.
It’s November and everyone is jumping on the NaNo bandwagon. Thousands of people from around the world get synced-up online on November 1st and start writing the first of 50,000 words to become an author!
But before we start, here’s a full disclosure: I totally did my own NaNoWriMo in January of 2012 (as I couldn’t partake in November). Later, I did something similar when writing my current novel. I did a Thirty-Day Challenge, where I didn’t force myself to have a word count. Instead, I would spend a part of the day to plan and organize my novel.
So what’s up here? I did NaNoWriMo (kinda) then I didn’t. So what?
Let me BLOW YOUR MIND
After getting over 54,000 words during my “JaNoWriMo,” and eventually reaching over 70,000 words a few months later, I SCRAPPED THE BOOK. Why? Because it was garbage, that’s why!
I can remember reading it over and just hating everything I had done. All of the characterization, plotting, the pacing, descriptions – oh, god, it was terrible. I still have a copy of it (unfinished) just to remind me how bad it was.
The problem with NaNoWriMo, which a buddy of mine, author Sean Munger, touches upon on his blog, is that it promotes bad habits. It promotes vomiting out word count over actual quality. While it may make a book, it doesn’t make a good one.
So when I did my Thirty-Day Challenge (which was for a different story), I took my knowledge from my JaNoWriMo and applied it to my busy lifestyle. I simply dedicated time to creating the project, rather than actually writing it. I would spend an hour or so getting 1,000 words of characterization down, rather than the novel itself. And I didn’t write every day (nor give myself a word count like 1,000 words a day for when I did). It made for a dramatic improvement to my story-telling and my skills of writing, pacing, and oh-so much more!
So NaNoWriMo is Bad?
There’s a silver lining to it all. I found that NaNoWriMo certainly didn’t make a good book, didn’t promote good writing, and didn’t promote good writing habits. What it DID do was get me to write and learn from my experiences. There’s a lot more to writing than just plugging yourself down and firing off words to reach a numerical goal.
I learned a lot about how to characterize and plot. My NaNo-Novel was a pale comparison to the newest one I wrote. The pacing in my newest novel is exciting and pulls the reader in – because I planned for it to do that.
Even if you plan out your novel before NaNoWriMo, you’d be surprised how many little things you will miss. Even with plotting out my novel like how I did, I had to go back multiple times and make sure things remained consistent and flowed together. NaNoWriMo doesn’t really give you time to pause or reflect. You’re just supposed to punch in a word count and call it a day. Coherent writing is important, but it’s not reflected in NaNoWriMo.
But as I said, NaNoWriMo got me writing. That’s important because it helps you hone your craft. You learn little tricks and the proper way to create sentences (And yes, I know this blog is littered with errors. Pot, meet Kettle).
The way I look at it is NaNoWriMo is the biggest Creative Writing Class you’ll take all year. It’s great writing practice, but terrible if you’re looking for quality.
And for all that is good in the world: if you do partake in NaNoWriMo, do NOT give your novel to publishers! You’re congesting them with a bunch of sub-par books! Stop it!
That’s my take on it. But have you participated in NaNoWriMo? What kind of learning experience was it for you? Did you go anywhere with it? Do my opinions sound ridiculous? Sound off below!
There’s a good reason for that, too! It was laziness!
Anyway, where was I?
I left off with DoneMoWriMo? What the hell does that even mean? Ah, the things I do for SEO. I also see that it’s NaNoWriMo and I’m already done. Did I win?
As for my absence, I’ve stated before somewhere on this blog, that I work a job that is highly seasonal. The peer editing all came back to me around July/August, but I was still super busy at work. Job and life stuff aside, I didn’t really start editing until the beginning of October. I digress.
I’m now done editing and I have to find a publisher. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’m still open to self-publishing. I’m uncertain which route to take as I’m pulled in both directions from friends about what I should do.
My gut says to find a publisher. I’m pretty old fashioned. I actually still take a horse and carriage to work and light my apartment with candles while trusting the newspaper for the most up-to-date news. However, I understand creative rights and all that hooplah through self-publishing may outweigh going through a publisher. But I also understand not all publishers are like that.
But I’m also kind of excited about receiving my first rejection letter. And maybe my second one.
I’ll probably be crying by the third letter. Or reading them like this:
This’ll probably be the last bout of words spewed out of my fingertips on this subject. I feel the discussion and philosophy could go on for ages. If you want to continue the discussion, leave a message here or follow me on the Twitter machine. Let’s recap:
The TL;DR from the first two blogs:
Poetry Overlords: Reading poetry out loud is a lot like performing music.
Poetry Overlords Mk II: Music is more universally accepted than poetry because of rules imposed on language.
As I’ve stated previously, unlike poetry, I feel music is a universal language. However, as shown above, there are some people who are not moved by this universal language. It’s interesting to me because music is a great way to express oneself to someone who may struggle to understand what is being said.
For example, if I told you something positive and happy in Russian and you didn’t speak Russian, you would not understand me.
If I played something in a major scale, no matter what culture or background you have, you would feel the positive energy exerted from the music.
Unless you have an inability to.
You’re Not Making Sense
Well I’m trying, damn it!
With both poetry and music also considered forms of art, it can be understandable when someone does not “get” something. Not everyone would “get” classical music or “get” country music. However, one could still feel something from music. Whether or not you “get” classical music, you still get an grand, epic feeling when hearing Richard Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. Even with the music being written in the late 1800’s, it still feels grand and current. It does not feel dated.
Poetry, however, has a different hurdle when trying to feel it. Choosing particular words can make your work sound dated. Using a different language makes it non-universal. Sure, using cacophonous words or alliteration can help try and evoke some sort of audible sympathy for the listener. But if the message is not understood, then is that not a problem?
The Half-Assed Conclusion
As you can tell, there’s a lot of discussion to be had with these ideas. Performing poetry should just be as important as having the right words and language in the poem itself. The main problem I’m finding is that not everyone will “get” it because it is not properly understood.
Going back to the first blog on this subject, I had to explain why I was reading and performing Robert Herrick’s “To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time.” Will there ever be a time where I would not have to explain myself?
So I’m left to ask: where does poetry stand in the world of language? Will it never be truly understood?
Reading poetry out loud is a lot like performing music.
New Thoughts. Little. Yellow. Different.
This next part is going to stir some debate, I’m sure, but try to follow me here.
As a musician, I personally find that with music I could record absolutely anything and put it out to the public. I could guarantee it would be understood and appreciated by people.
Take for examples, Fantômas – Suspended Animation (2005) or Devin Townsend – Devlab (2004). Both albums are ambient noise and rather chaotic to the listener. But I really enjoy both albums. There’s no real “sense” to each album and they’re both dramatically different from one another. For the average listener though, there’s no real construct or sense to them. For the most part, I’d confidently say that many people would dislike those albums.
Breaking down the instruments and themes, sure, one could find the inspiration and technicalities built within the albums. That being said, both albums can be difficult to listen all of the way through.
Right! So, this is where things get debate-y.
As I said, with music, it could get published despite how normal or bizarre it sounds (as with my examples found above). There’s an audience for everything in music. But with poetry and literature? I think it’s a bit more complicated than that. Sure there’s an audience for everyone, but. . . well let me explain.
There is a certain “universal standard,” per se, that is set with literature in which I think music is removed from. Due to “rules” in literature, a missing period could make or break a sentence. Paragraphs can’t be scattered too far as it could confuse the reader. The lack of capitalization could misplace titles or nouns. I could go on.
Now hold on a second because I know you’re already beginning to think of counter-arguments to mine. That’s good, because I had them too.
Let me yank out a few popular lines from Gertrude Stein’s Sacred Emily which appeared in Geography and Plays (1922).
Color mahogany center.
Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.
Page ages page ages page ages.
So to start: this is a Canadian blog and she spelled “colour” wrong.
Okay, I’m kidding. But we can see – as readers – how some of the lines, when they are read individually, seem like incomplete thoughts. The final line, “Page ages,” is repetitive and has no commas. It looks strange to the reader and requires some attention when performing it out loud. Should “Color mahogany” have a colon to read “Color: mahogany”?
While Stein’s poem can fit under the same category as the Fantômas and Devin Townsend albums posted above, I feel it is much harder to cater to a literary audience than a musical one due to what some could say “universal standards” put in place with reading.
Someone listening to an album can (mostly) understand when they hear guitar, drums, saxophone, trumpets, piano, or vocals.
But when someone reads or performs poetry, grammar and understanding can get lost in translation.
I can perform poetry – regardless how chaotic it would be – but people would have a difficult time understanding it.
With these “universal standards” put in place with reading, such as periods needing to come at the end of sentences, I feel many readers and listeners to poetry may just miss the point. As someone who goes to poetry readings, I often get scoffed at when telling people I’m going. Is it because they think poetry is pretentious, or is it because they simply don’t understand it? Would a “universal standard” to poetry help? Is there even a way to create such a thing?
There’s nothing really conclusive here. It’s more meant to stir the pot and flesh out more ideas.