Wednesday, August 16, 2017

"Trope Talk" is Required Listening For Authors

If you're a writer of any stripe, then you recognize tropes. These literary building blocks come in all shapes and sizes, and they range from the recognizable (like Paragon Heroes) to the infamous (like the dreaded Mary Sue), but all of them act as a kind of storytelling shorthand. It's a package readers are familiar with, so even if the world and characters are new to them, they can easily get a sense of what's going on right away.

Some old tools endure perfectly well.
Some writers like to use tropes in their work. Others don't. Some few of us are lucky enough that our work becomes influential, and we are crediting with creating new tropes. However, if you're going to write, then you should study tropes. You should think about them, and try to understand them in ways average readers simply won't.

That's a big task. Fortunately, it's one that Overly Sarcastic Productions is here to help with.

Check Out Trope Talks!

What is Overly Sarcastic Productions? Well, it's a YouTube channel that was started by the host Red back when she was in high school as an offshoot of a creative class assignment. Earlier episodes of the show discussed classic literature, since she was already elbow-deep in thoughts and discussions about it anyway, and it was a fun little project to do on the side. As the show grew and evolved, taking on a second contributor in the form of Blue, the channel quickly expanded to cover mythology, history, and other aspects of literature.

That's where Trope Talks comes in. This show, which is still relatively new to the channel, is where Red sits down and holds forth on some of the more common tropes we come across in literature, but also in pop culture, and mythology (it's really all one big mess, so an interpreter is quite helpful). Rather than explain the show, though, check out the debut episode Beginnings.

There are 12 episodes (at time of writing), and each one is definitely worth listening to. Even the ones that are controversial, or likely to provoke strong reactions from the audience, are worth talking about (which is, incidentally, why Red didn't shy away from making them in the first place). And if you don't see a trope you think is important in the list yet, don't worry. Red is already working on Damsels in Distress, and one about the ever-constant stakes-raising gimmick of Saving the World. So stay tuned!

Don't forget to stop by Overly Sarcastic Productions to follow the channel, and bookmark the page! Also, if you really like what they're doing, and you want to help them do it, head over to the Overly Sarcastic Productions Patreon page to leave a few coins in their cup. Every little bit helps!

Well, that's all for this week's Craft of Writing post. Hopefully the resource provides a lot of folks out there with some insight, and it gets the creative juices flowing. If you want to keep up to date on all my latest releases, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, if you've still got some patronage to throw around, head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page. $1 a month buys you my everlasting gratitude, and gets you a free book or two as a thank you.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Luck Makes Your Writing Career (But Persistence Makes Your Luck)

When you ask authors how they got where they are, a lot of them will credit the usual suspects; hard work, several editorial passes, and the gumption to keep submitting while wading through a snowstorm of rejections. Thanks to the advent of social media, you'll also hear authors talk about how they built their brand, created pages that drew and kept readers, and made sure they had a receptive audience for the stories they wanted to tell.

All of that is great. I'm the last person who wants to knock hard work, solid foundation, and clocking the thousands of hours it takes to build a following. However, no successful author is a self-made success. Because the unfortunate fact behind every successful author is that they rolled the dice, and those dice came up a win.

Ha! I did it! I rolled a seven!
This is, unfortunately, a flaw of our myth of the self-made success. We all want to believe we did it ourselves, because that means we're in control of our success. Conversely, it means that if you're not successful, then you have the ability to control that, too. However, it's entirely possible for you to do everything right, and still fail. You can write a great book and get it rejected, or if you succeed in getting it published, fail to make sales.

There's a funny thing about dice, though. If you roll them often enough, sooner or later the pips you want are going to turn up.

Every Roll Is A New Chance

Let's say you wrote a book. It's a good book, too. You have a firm grasp of artistic language, a solid plot, and it is the perfect length. You edit it till it's tight and smooth, and then you send it out into the world. Maybe you publish it yourself, or maybe you get it published traditionally, but the point is it's out there now. You took your shot... and you missed. Your book goes nowhere, and no matter how hard you try to get people to check it out, no one is interested.

So what do you do now? Well, you write another book. And another, and another, and another.

You'll hit the target... eventually.
Have you ever heard about famous movie stars who were total unknowns for years, despite appearing in movie after movie, and TV show after TV show? Until that one role, that one chance, got them out in front of millions of eyes, and people liked what they saw? Well, being an author is kind of like that... but if you give up after your first network slot doesn't get you discovered, then you probably won't make the big time.

If you fire enough bullets, then eventually you'll get lucky. You'll write a book that intrigues (or outrages) enough people to focus a spotlight on you. You'll get nominated for (or win) an award. A celebrity will come across your book, and tell their legion of fans that you are the next big thing. Or you'll finally have collected enough small pockets of fans over the years that when you release your tenth, or fifteenth, or twentieth book, there is a huge scramble by people who want to read it.

Luck works in strange ways. Sometimes it completely ignores you, and your year and change of effort falls flat on its face in a mud puddle. Other times luck wraps its arms around you, and tells everyone how phenomenal you are. But if you never get out of the puddle, and wipe off your face to try again, then you may as well stay where you are.

Sooner or later, those pips are gonna fall your way. Don't stop rolling until they do.

That's all for this week's Business of Writing post. Hopefully it helps keep you humble if luck already gave you a deep, loving kiss. And if it hasn't, don't worry, just rattle those bones and try to make your next throw count. If you'd like to help support this blog, head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page, and become a patron today. For as little as $1 you can make a big difference in my work, and you'll get a free book, too. Lastly, if you want to keep up-to-date on all my latest releases, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

You Don't Need Permission To Be An Author

You know how, when you were a kid, you assumed all adults just knew what was really going on in the world? That when you reached a certain age you took a test, got certified, and boom, society now considered you an adult participant? Do you remember how shocked you were when you graduated high school, or got out of college, or found yourself staring down the barrel of 30, and realized you'd never received your adulting license in the mail? Despite that, though, you're paying bills, going to work, eating your vegetables, and building your life as best you can.

Who gave you permission to be a grown-up?

I have no idea what I'm doing.
Authors go through pretty much the same thing. They discovered they like writing stories, they try to hone and refine their craft, and come up with products that people like to read. And they always tell people they're going to be an author some day. The problem is, no one really knows when that some day will be. Is it after you post a story on the Internet? Is it when you self-publish a novel? Is it when you're traditionally published through a small publisher? A large one? Is it when you win an award, or when you have a steady income?

I've got a hint for you... none of us know. We just woke up one day, and realized we were authors. Because it is the action that defines you. If you complete a manuscript, whatever it is, then you have written it. If you publish that manuscript, in any format, then you're an author.

There's No Bouncer In This Club

There are a lot of people standing on soap boxes, holding forth their views on what does, and does not, make someone a writer, or an author. That's the great thing about opinions, though; you can pretty much ignore most of them.

Just imagine those gatekeepers look like this guy. It makes it a lot easier.
Because, and I say this after looking high and looking low, there is no one out there you need to collect a certificate from in order to be an author. A first-time no-name's book might catch a publisher's eye, and a lifer with several decades of experience might get rejected. Your first book might hit the cultural zeitgeist, and fly off the shelves, while a book written by an old hand with a carefully-tested appeal might fall flat. Every submission, and every publication, is a spin on the roulette wheel. And it's true that one company might say no to your work, or a dozen. That doesn't stop you from dusting yourself off, walking over to Amazon, and doing it yourself if you want to.

Authors are defined by their actions, not by the standards set by naysayers and quibblers. So, just like no one can officially hand you an I.D. card and declare you an author, neither can they say you're not. Because the decision is yours. Will you sit down and bleed at that keyboard, or will you wait around for permission to put words on the page?

Because if you're waiting for the go-ahead, trust me, you're going to be waiting a long damn time.

That's all for this week's Craft of Writing. Sorry for the brevity, but sometimes the messages I have to deliver don't take that long. If you want to keep up-to-date on all my latest releases, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, if you want to help support me and my work, then head on over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a patron. For as little as $1 a month you get a free book, and my undying gratitude.