Arlock writes (personal). An outlet for Glossolalia

Under the Hood

I’m a TOTAL Fraud

rooster-flamingoWe’ve all had that thought, or at least, the non-sociopaths amongst us have. I certainly have. Popular Psychology calls it imposter syndrome.

I’m not an author, an author is someone with recognized titles published. I’m not a writer, a writer loves what they’re doing. They love to craft the words, reveling in the infinite combinations and complexities of the written language.

I’m not a publisher, or a marketer, or a cover designer. I can dip my toes in those waters, but I’m quickly out of my depth.

What I am is a reader. I can devour a book in a single evening. Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Historic Fiction. I’m running out of space on the multiple bookcases in my home, my garage is full of boxes packed with my B list picks. What I love are stories, what I love is clever use of prose. I enjoy complex characters and well-thought out scenes. I enjoy following the structure and pacing take the tale and weave it into a complex but easily understood narrative.

I stop a dozen times a chapter with thoughts like “wouldn’t it be cool if…”, or “maybe it would have been better if the story went…”, or even “please kill this stupid-arsed character so we can get back to the meat of the story”. Take the book, consume it. Appreciate the structure and envision where it might go, where it could have gone better. Critique the believability of the setting, the impossible coincidences the author hand-waves away, the plot-tool nature of the supporting characters, and then think about how they can be fixed. That’s me with a book.

I’m not an Author, I’m an unemployed editor with delusions of how to tell a better story. That my friends, when you get right down to it, is what a Writer is. You’re not a fraud, not any more than I am. What we both are is discouraged, dispirited maybe, and the only way to overcome that… is to write. As that self-parody of a person and gods gift to dank memes, Shia LaBeouf, apparently likes to scream “Just Do It”.

In this particular instance by “do it” I mean walk away and don’t hit play…

PS I don’t think very highly of Pop-Psychology.

7 Writer Secrets (that may ruin your work)

You’ve seen the headlines 5 tricks to improve your manuscript or…

  • 7 secrets for successful writers
  • 10 steps to a best-selling novel
  • 9 songs of madness to bring forth the Elder gods. (okay maybe not that one)

Like it or not, as an aspiring writer you are a potential consumer. In today’s blogosphere, there’s a legion of unpublished souls, the greatest potential army of quill-wielding warriors in history, only an electronic step away from being published. That’s a big potential audience, a big market that a lot of people have been tapping into. It feels like there is a lot more money in telling people how to write than there could ever be in actually writing.

Be a WriterPost after post appears telling you the inside edge, the best method, the secret process, and some of them, maybe even most of them, may very well have some merit. But when does the quest to have the most marketable book, detract from the quality of your story. Yes, there are certain tricks on timing and structure that can help, especially if you want to write to the formula so prevalent in YA and various genres. Yes, conforming to these can help you sell books. But that begs the question, am I writing to sell books, or to tell a story?

Now I’m not saying you should skimp on the basic structure and craft of the written word. If every sentence starts with He/She, that needs to be fixed. Your format, spelling, and font, need to be consistent. Grammer is essential, typos should be rooted out, and excessive repetition of words should be fixed with a bit of creativity and possibly a thesaurus. You should have a single PoV per scene, you should have a recognisable protagonist or two, and a not-excessive number of secondary characters.

However when your slow burn story gets bumped to fit in the rising conflict necessary to adhere to the YA template, you have to stop to consider if this actually adds to your story. If you cut every adverb, twist every instance of passive voice, and shave every description to deliver a leaner, meaner, manuscript… you need to look at what you lost in the process.

There is so much writing advice out there, and most of it can be great, but nothing is one-size-fits-all. So MY one-size-fits-all advice is this, once you master the basics, once you are comfortable in your own skin and know your own story, then seek out the experts in the genre you want to write, and see what they say. When you do it pick only a handful of sources and even then you have to be careful that you don’t mix and match advice that actually works against you. Find a style, perfect that style, and remember that not everyone’s advice will be right for you.

Reach OutOf course there are some suggestions that do work for everyone

  • Reach out and connect with your fellow writers
  • Get Beta Readers
  • Read widely (not just in the same genre) and often
  • No work is ever perfected, it’s simply abandoned


How to market your Masterpiece

There have been some good marketing strategies over the years. De Beers’ diamonds campaign has got to be king, if only because it led to the worldwide consumption of something that has no intrinsic value, but people are willing to pay the world for.

So what makes a good marketing strategy. Well, there are many schools of thought, and a lot of them are happy to sell you their unique 7 step program or downloadable .pdf for $199. I, however, subscribe to a few very simple rules.


If you build it they will come

If you want people to know about your speculative fiction masterpiece, collection of poems, or graphic novel, you need to let people know it exists. That’s where building your platform comes in. we are told that in the golden age of publishing, this was done for the author by the ink-stained-angels at the publishing house. They would trumpet your greatness from the rooftops and arrange the delivery of peeled grapes for you at your book signings. Well.. that might have been true for a few cash-cows, but these days you have to compete for those grapes for every other hungry author, and it’s strictly BYO on the trumpets. So get online, join various writers communities, reserve your name on twitter, google, facebook, and whatever seems trendy at the time, even if you’re not going to use it immediately. Stake your claim and defend it vigorously.

Sniff Test

sniff testMarketing is 1 part exposure, 2 parts content, and 1 part spam. There is no magic model (damn, I could have charged 3 handy installments of $39.95 to tell you that… severely padded out and with lots of jargon and some graphs of course. Guess I suck at marketing). So Sniff test, if it smells like BS, it probably is. Look to your own inbox, your own reading material, your own town. What gets your attention? Work out what it is and do that. At the same time work out which sites send you so much spam that you wish there was a ‘return to sender’ button that came with an automatic attach malware option. What ads annoy you, what campaigns feel like they’re insulting your intelligence… take note of what they do, and don’t do it. In this business, you constantly have people telling you to target your material to your market, yet the fail to mention that you ARE your ideal reader. Your audience tends to be people who share your tastes and interests, so if something feels like BS to you, it will probably feel like BS to them. Unless of course you know your product is BS, and you’re okay with that… and are happy to work with a good PR machine.

Made in America (… or wherever you’re proud to be from)

Unless you know you’re failing the Sniff Test, have a product you believe in. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and it’ll probably be better if you don’t try to make it perfect, but you have to respect it. Is your prose solid, your copy-edit professional level, your cover something that makes you smile? If you believe in your product, others will too. Additionally, all those darlings you should have murdered while writing it, they can be recycled to show off your clever use of language. The fat you trim from your story to streamline it for the reader who has just discovered you can be polished and expanded upon to feed the returning fans hungry for more details. That clunky exposition can be saved and blogged to bring joy to your legions, LEGIONS I TELL YOU, of die-hard fans.

Batteries not Included

Free extras are great. Serialized stories can be great. Leaving out chunks of stuff in the hope people will pay for them later is not. This is not video-game development, and even then you don’t make friends with DLC (Gaming term for Downloadable Content you buy AFTER you buy the game). The same goes for selling things you haven’t written yet. Coming soon, is no substitute for a known release date. Sure you can release content as you write it, but don’t charge. Sell your finished product, anything before that should only be used for exposure. That’s not to say you can’t pre-sell, but when you deliver it needs to be a finished product or you risk alienating your readers/fans.