Writing Apprenticeship – Part 2 of 2

A handful of the reference books I keep close to hand

A handful of the reference books I keep close to hand

There will be many who take offence at my suggestion that there are some writers out there who are not really concerned with creating a worthwhile product. That in itself is unfortunate, because a short time after posting Part 1 of this very article, I found a FREE promotion by a fellow Indie author which incensed me.

I don’t want to dedicate this piece to that one author, so I’ll leave out a lengthy explanation about the many issues I discovered – and I only read the samples of all three books.

If you missed Part 1 of this article, the gist of it is my concern that we have a large number of people purporting to be ‘writers’, who are turning out badly presented, badly edited, over-priced ‘books’. If we expect to sell our work it should at least be worthy of the price. Even if we are giving the product away, it should be presented to a marketable standard.

You don’t have to agree with me, but I have my own unofficial set of requirements for the ‘average’ Indie author. I believe we should all have the following at the very least:
imagination – ideas – integrity – diligence – knowledge (of subject) – a good story – a decent vocabulary – thick skin (for negative feedback) – stamina – determination – life experience – time – an open mind – acceptance of constructive criticism – a basic knowledge of creative writing conventions.

Yes, the list could go on, I know.

When we produce our book we must have some idea of how to ‘present’ the product. I paid an ‘experienced’ editor to assist on my first book and still found issues after I’d published. At that point I decided to learn more and go it alone with most of the work. Since my first book, I’ve had the assistance of a proof-reader who has stood by me in everything I’ve published.

I develop my story and make minor edits with each draft. By the third draft I use my proof-reader. Invariably this is followed by another draft. At this stage I use a grammar/punctuation programme. I print my manuscript more than once during my process to allow me to edit as I revise the individual chapters. There is no set number of drafts, but I try hard to recognise when ‘enough is enough’.

Prior to being uploaded to Amazon I will have a printed version of my manuscript in front of me in a room where there is no TV, radio, or other people. I perform one final line edit, which is a tedious, laborious, time-consuming, but necessary obligation to the end-user; the reader.
Now having said all of the above, I’m proud to be a member of the Indie Author Review Exchange. We have every level of talent, from the novice with one title, to the experienced author with a considerable portfolio.

Why should I feel a pride in such a group?
– We have an unwritten mutual pledge to help each other which is strong and can be seen by the support offered every day and it’s an International community.
– We have writers whose first language is not English, but they’ve produced remarkable work which they have had successfully translated, which is something that seriously impresses me.
– We have novice writers who are not afraid to ask for help or advice.

Is there a negative or downside?
Yes, unfortunately we have a couple of writers who believe that they’ve done enough work, and they are not prepared to heed a friendly word of advice. Unfortunate, but that is their choice.

Why is that negative?
It is negative because it affects credibility. In the first instance it damages the credibility of the individual author’s brand. Apart from that relatively minor issue, a badly produced piece of work by an Indie writer is a slur on all of us.

Is there anything positive?
There are many traditionally published authors who are unhappy about our emergence and success. They would be happy to see our entire movement curtailed, so the best thing we can do is to prove the doubters wrong – and show them that we are all achieving a high standard in every way.

I realise that like me, there are vast numbers of Indie writers who have a ‘day job’ to pay the bills, or a family to raise, so it is a credit to our movement that we have been so successful both as individuals, and as a growing section of the publishing industry.

Thank you as always for reading my thoughts, and I welcome comments or discussion.

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9 comments on “Writing Apprenticeship – Part 2 of 2

  1. I agree with my whole heart that any author should aspire to produce the best quality book they can, and that starts with quality writing, which requires rigour, resolve and ruddy-hard-work. And anyone who refuses to consider feedback and constructive criticism refuses to consider that the quality of their work could be improved.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I agree with everything you stated, Tom. When I put a finished product out there for the world to see, I want it to be the best I can make it. I know that requires many edits, which is not fun to a lot of people. Also, it requires a second (or even a third) pair of eyes to catch what one misses due to familiarity. I don’t want my name attached to something I would not be proud of.
    An aside here…
    I hate it when I comment on a post–like I am doing now–see a mistake after I hit that “post comment” button, then see an error. And I can’t go back and edit! I want to crawl under my desk and hide in shame. lol
    Now…
    After a year of searching for a literary agent with zero success, I’ve decided to join the ranks of Indie authors. My manuscript is now in the hands of a capable editor/writer whose skill I greatly admire. While I wait, I’ve been researching CreateSpace and Kindle eBooks to familiarize myself with the process. I’ve also looked into other avenues of self-publishing, but from what I’ve read, this is probably the best way to go.
    And if I may ask, what grammar/punctuation program do you use, or do you just go with what is available in Word?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, you’re so right Kathy – it should be a matter of personal pride that a piece of work has taken time and effort, apart from imagination and determination.
      I love that you’ve mentioned that ‘comment’ thing. When that happens to me (which it has several times), I try to get on and write a brief comment to follow up and let the person know I saw it – too late! 🙂
      I use ‘Grammarly’ for my punctuation / grammar and sentence structure checks. It takes a bit of getting accustomed to, but I’ve found that I’ve started to learn my regular issues.
      There are several programmes out there but I’m happy enough with Grammarly. One small glitch, which I know happens with others, is to be wary of using the ‘auto’ amendment option. It can sometimes create two of something, like a comma or a word.
      I’m glad you’ve decided to go for it as an Indie publisher because it means we’ll get to see your book quicker. If you want a good (free) programme for dealing with formatting your manuscript I’d suggest the one offered at Smashwords.:)

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  3. Well said. Something that surprises me (or maybe it doesn’t…) is how many indie authors are not receptive to constructive criticism. Now, I know it’s hard to take when some random reader goes on a rather uncalled for hateful tangent about your book, but that is completely different from some of the constructive reviews I’ve seen that are actually giving good advice. But a lot of people don’t want to hear it. Ok, rant over.

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    • My tendency has always been to get in touch by PM on Facebook, or if possible by email. I make it my business to offer help, but if I get the cold shoulder, as I have from two authors in the last couple of months, I just let them go their own way.
      We all need a rant occasionally – so rant away! 🙂

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  4. Damn it!! I hit “reply” accidentally. 🙂 Now to where I left off–Smashwords’ formatting guidlines. Thanks for the sharing of info, Tom.
    And by the way, WordPress is constantly asking how we like them and how they can improve. I put a bug in their ear re not being able to edit one’s comments on others’ blogs. I guess we’ll see what happens.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Kathy. I went in and trashed that sample of what we were discussing previously (the premature post of a comm …) 🙂
      If it’s not obvious to you straight away on Smashwords, go to the left bar of the Homepage, follow it down and look for ‘Style Guide’. No matter where you publish I’ve found it a good basis for formatting. Now, I will wait impatiently for your story … 😀

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