A problem that I often face is the terror and intimidation that accompanies the idea of writing brand-spanking-new material. You know, new characters, a fresh scenario, a whole new world. The works. You may occasionally find yourself facing these feelings. This is a problem that we can easily overcome by reframing the writing of original material to ourselves. We are going to talk through how to do this in the next few minutes.
But Everyone Says To Write A Long Series; Shouldn’t I Work On Stuff I Already Have?
Yes, people focus a lot on writing long series of books, particularly if you’re planning on using e-books exclusively, or even as a majority of your offerings. Let’s look, though, at the reality of this situation. Many marketers and salespeople who are cloaked in the veneer of authentic writers (for those articles you read online about how to succeed at publishing—sadly, most of them are not written by “writers”, but by marketers who have written a few things to cover their butts and look authentic to “real writers”—by which I mean, people who are building a professional identity by selling books (and in this camp, selling books that teach other authors how to sell books don’t count).
Wait, That Was Super Convoluted. What Are You Saying?!
Let’s back up a little bit. There are writers who write books, and either pay someone to format and upload them online, or, much more commonly, who format and upload the books themselves, and then there are, ahem, “writers,” who smell the blood in the water, throw together either a pile of ghostwritten porn or a cobbled-together hot genre something-or-other, publish it with a cover they made themselves or bought on fiverr, and then start their real work, which is artificially climbing the sales rankings (rigged or bought reviews, “author” co-ops, networking, and social media marketing tornadoes), and using their freshly-minted (or strategically-obtained) best-seller status to sell their real products to desperate authors.
You Sound Like A Conspiracy Theorist
Do I? Ah, the disillusionment of middle-age! (Full disclosure: I’m not middle-aged.) Do you want a long-winded but fascinating story explaining my sour cynicism, or do you want me to cut straight to the chase, and say how to write original material consistently?
Um, Give Me The Original Material Stuff
Awesome! Let’s get to work. Now, many marketers targeting you specifically will tell you that you have to write a long series, or that all of your books need to build off of each other with the same family of characters, or at least that the books you write need to occur in the same world. Why? Because, theoretically, the reader loves the characters, or the world, and will mindlessly buy more and more of whatever you write within that world, or involving those characters.
That Sounds Sensible. Why Aren’t You Telling Me How To Write Original Material?
Right, well, very quickly then, the goal is not to write endlessly about the same characters or world, but to build a personal, emotionally-fulfilling relationship between you, the author, and your audience, the reader. And part of building a satisfying relationship is sharing new adventures, and learning more and more about each other. You accomplish this mutually-satisfying relationship by writing original stories.
Well, I Don’t Know How To Do That. I’ll Just Give Up, Then
No, wait! Have you ever watched one of those movies where the bad guy and the hero are in the final moments of the big fight, and the bad guy bursts into tears and shares his life story, and then the hero and the bad guy become bosom buddies? Or those other films where the murderer is super sympathetic, because he tells about how his daddy beat him with a stick when he was a kid? And a part of you is like, “Oh! Well, I don’t hate him as much now, anyway.” Inside of your body, right now, is energy that, to other humans, is delicious and desirable. When you expose your true self, your individual and unique energy, people will come and (metaphorically) lick you. Like you’re a salt lick, and other people are big, friendly cows who really want to smush their giant, coarse cow tongues all over you.
Ew, Why Are You Comparing Me To A Salt Lick?
I said at the beginning that we would reframe the problem of writing original characters, new worlds, and unfamiliar stories. (This is the tool I use on myself when I start to edge into overwhelmed territory.) Instead of thinking of creating a shiny, irreproachable story that is outside of yourself, think of making original material as the simple process of sharing what you really think. Here, I’ll show you an example of what I mean.
Bad Writing (Hiding the Self):
Corfin laid his weapon on the settee and shuffled his feet into the place where he often rested his face on his pillow.
The animal, Soft Fuzz, who sometimes laid over his shoulders when he slept, now came over and her wet nose pushed at his fingers as she emitted a rough “mrouuch.”
“Too many issues on board my vessel this evening-fall,” Corfin said, eyebrows lowering sadly with sorrow, and his mouth was drippy, almost, because he felt bad inside.
He felt bad, Corfin felt this way, because of subterfugious activities he had been participating in very recently. He heaved out a sigh, tempestuously.
Good Writing (Exposing the Salty Goodness Inside):
Corfin’s bedroom was slathered in darkness, much as his co-pilot’s body had recently been slathered over his naked flesh. Corfin sighed, and slipped his holster from his body, dropping it with a solid thunk on the couch. Too old for this, too old; the words spun through his mind like the endless, irritating hum of Clofield drone-bots.
Soft Fuzz, whose lamp-like eyes glowed green in the shadows, looked up at Corfin as he came in.
“Don’t look at me like that, pet. I got the codes,” Corfin murmured. Soft Fuzz dipped her chin into her paws, and emitted a throaty purr.
You see, when you share the squishy, vulnerable self in your deepest being, anything you write becomes . . . wait for it . . . authentic. The words taste good. They feel exciting, and like whatever is happening must matter a lot. Instead of thinking of coming up with a perfect world, and exciting characters, think of writing new material as you setting out on a journey, and taking notes of what you observe. All you need is a starting point.
Well, What’s My Starting Point Going To Be?!
That is a question we can talk about tomorrow. For today, remember that you are a person, and that your readers are also humans who hunger for authentic intimacy and genuine relationships. You can give the reader exactly what they want if you discipline yourself and reframe the exercise of writing as a deliberate, respectful sharing of your true self. You can write great books; you can expose the interior of your soul, and sell the adventures that result. You can write original material consistently, by seeing yourself as the valuable conduit through which the words will come. Insert yourself, and write down what you see and experience, and how you feel. Be honest, and the readers will come.
You’ve been reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. You can find my wonderful books here. Thanks for visiting!