Advice to New Writers Part 4: “Stick It Out There & See What Happens”

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Alright kiddos it’s that time of the week again. It’s time for you to take or ignore advice from a blowhard who is really just making it all up as he goes along.

Doesn’t that sound swell?

By this point you have found your idea, hunted and caged the bitch, nurtured and fed it, then committed it all to the page in a brilliant first draft. If you haven’t done all or any of this then just pretend that you have … or go do that and THEN read this. Now you are staring at your brand new first draft of your story. I bet you are feeling pretty damn good about yourself right about now? Well you should. I suggest that you go out, enjoy the company of a person of your choice, have a few drinks, and get wickedly laid in celebration.

Then come back to your story.

I am afraid you have to show it to somebody at this point. I know that is a scary idea and right now you are backing away from the screen muttering something about “Crazy fat guys” not knowing what the hell they are talking about.

Just chill, take a breath, and relax.

This won’t hurt much.

Let me state this right here and now before we go any further. If you can’t handle criticism then you might wish to consider another calling, maybe push a broom or work in a bottling plant. An artist of any stripe, just accept that writers are artists, need to develop a thick skin to act as armor. Feedback is a necessary evil if you are looking to make money as a writer. If all you want to do is “Create” then by all means ignore feedback and give your work away. But if you want to be a pro learn to hear criticism and feedback from your readers.

Be careful which bits of criticism you LISTEN too.

You need to realize that some people can’t help being twats who have nothing better to do with their time than spew vitriolic bile at people they are most likely jealous of and/or intimidated by. In my experience most CRITICS are assholes. I am not talking about fair and balanced reviewers who give honest feedback. I am talking about those people who have no greater joy in their lives than making people feel like shit. These are the Trolls and Bully’s of the literary world and you should never give them a foothold in your life.

Let me give you an example.

When I was first breaking into the writing industry many moons ago when the Great Turtle and the Mother Bear still held sway I had a horrific experience. I was hired to write for a Roleplaying Game company back in 2007. This unnamed company was one of the biggest touchstones from my childhood and the owner was my own personal hero and I thought true friend. I gave this company the idea for a game and worked on it for 8 months. I busted my balls on this and turned in a first draft I was very proud of.

Let me reiterate that, a FIRST DRAFT.

The publisher, my “Friend” held the manuscript for another 8 months and told me the entire time that it looked great. Then one day he calls me and tells me he just started looking at it 2 hours earlier and that paying me for it would be like “Bending over and letting me fuck him up the ass”. Then he stole my book.

I will take my share of the blame in this. I never fought for my intellectual property and knuckled under. He paid me a bullshit fee changed enough details to call it his own while keeping my core idea. And I have heard through channels that he had made a small mint from it.

Never show your rough product to anyone you don’t trust implicitly. Also don’t trust a publisher/editor who does not believe in the rewrite process (we will address this later).

Live and learn.

I tell you this because I need you to know that there are less than great people out there who will take your ideas without blinking. But we are not to the point where you need to worry about any of this.

Share your work … with someone you love.

When I say love I mean someone who loves you enough NOT to lie to you in order to spare your feelings. If you give it to someone who is just going to tell you that it’s great or tell you that there are a few minor things wrong with it then you are wasting your time. This brings me to one of my first axioms of writing.

ALL ROUGH DRAFTS SUCK

Sorry but it’s true. There may be some great ideas and some magnificent scenes in your first draft but all of the crap that needs to be cut away will make it suck hard. I am sure if we got our hands on the first draft of any book we love it would suck compared to the published product. So be sure to give it to a person you trust to shoot straight.

My first reader is always my wife. I trust Karen to read what I have written and be able to tell me whether she likes the story or not and be able to point out the mistakes. Karen has little problem telling me that sections of my stories just don’t work or read bad. I have never regretted taking Karen’s edits and more than once I have had to go back and take the ones I originally ignored.

I have three pieces of advice for you when giving your rough draft to your initial reader.

That’s it, very simple.

After you have hashed things out with your initial reader then it is time to go back and do your second draft. In Part 5 we will discuss how I go about this second draft and why I hate the word “But” with every fiber of my being.

That’s it, go do something fun!

1 Comment

Josh Hilden

When I was born on August 3, 1976 in the great state of Michigan the hills shook and the sky was swept with fire. These were portents of the greatness for my future that was written in the stars ... I'm still waiting for that greatness. My name is Josh Hilden and I am many things. I am a husband, a father, a son, a friend. These are all important things but at my core I am an artist and the medium that I work in is words. I am a writer of Horror, Science Fiction, Drama, and Role Playing Games. I worked for Palladium Books (www.palladiumbooks.com) and Third Eye Games (www.thirdeyegames.net) before striking out on my own and founding a small press publishing company Gorillas with Scissors Press (www.gwspress.com). I also work for Fat Goblin Games (www.fatgoblingames.com). In the everyday world I can be found spending time with my family and friends. I have been married to my lovely wife Karen since 1996 and we have six amazing children. We tend to be a family of unabashed geeks and gamers who were geek before geek was chic. If you are really interested in me I am very active online with a personal and a writing blog along with a plethora of social media outlets. If you have any questions or just want to chat hit me up!