From a Cabin in the Wood featured author is DT Krippene. DT is a contributing author in the recent BWG’s paranormal anthology, Untethered. A man buys a house for a price that is too good to be true, until he discovers the bizarre strings attached in “Hell of a Deal”. He’s also contributed articles for the Bethlehem Writers RoundTable with “Snowbelt Sanctuary”, and “In Simple Terms”.
A native of Wisconsin and Connecticut, DT deserted aspirations of being a biologist to live the corporate dream and raise a family. After six homes, a ten-year stint in Asia, and an imagination that never slept, his annoying muse refuses to be hobbled as a mere dream. DT writes dystopia, paranormal, and science fiction. His current project is about a young man struggling to understand why he was born in a time when humans are unable to procreate and knocking on extinction’s door.
Writers have an abnormal predilection for planting themselves in a chair like a lone desert cactus, surrounded by nothing but sand, and wait for the words to rain. How is that even remotely natural?
After a writer’s conference last year, I took some time to reflect on what I’d learned, what I’d heard before, and why the hell I was still writing.
Our keynote speaker was NYT Bestseller, Bob Mayer, a former Green Beret who wrote the Area 51 series, as well as 70 other titles in fiction and non-fiction. We listened to advice on the standard elements of plot, story structure, character, the importance of tight narrative, and dangers of going off on tangents that don’t move the story. Anyone who has read my article from last year, ‘The Perils of Captain Tangent – a Pantser’s Writing Journey‘, knows I have an issue with side stories that end nowhere.
Bob shared a harsh lesson given to soldiers wanting to be Army Rangers, one easily applied to writer success. “Everyone stand up, look at the person on the right, then look at the one on the left. Only one of you is going to make it.” He reminded us that only five-percent of all writers ever finish a book, that five-percent get to the point of publishing the book, and five percent of those people ever get anywhere with it. In simpler terms, earning enough to buy a case of Yuengling beer is like winning the lottery.
For writers who’d never heard it before, the eagerness visibly drain from their faces. Reality bites. For me, the message I took away had less to do with sobering statistics I already knew, or the writing process I’ve been refining for years.
Growing up, I had an imagination fueled on nuclear ether. I tried to harness the chaos of that imagination by penning it on paper. A bit intense when gripping a pen, my fingers cramped within an hour. I got a D+ in high school typing class, unable to master a typewriter without buckets of whiteout and erasable bond paper. It would take access to a modern word processor and the ability to backspace and delete with impunity, before I struck up the nerve to start writing again many years later.
Thirty-plus years traveling for corporate America offered ample opportunities at boarding gates, on flights, and hotel rooms to write. While living overseas, I landed a non-paid gig writing articles for a local travel magazine. It was fun, and I acquired a small fan base.
Back to last year’s conference, they asked, “Why are you writing, and what’s your goal? How passionate are you about what you’re doing?”
Hell of a question. What do I want to be, besides thirty-years younger? I remembered a book I’d read about rebooting life when the distraction of a workaday world subsided. It asked similar, tough questions like, what gave me passion in my younger years. What was it I dreamt of as a kid?
The answer: I enjoyed times alone inside the chaotic ether of my imagination. After rendering to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, I wanted to mine that creativity and put it in words.
The stories came easy, but understanding the mechanics of plotting and structure was a different breed of cat. I can quote the basic laws of chemistry, but dangling participles was something I learned on the fly. My first 300-page attempt was a laughable exercise that encouraged (I am a writer, I am, I am, I am), and depressed me (Dear Occupant, thank you for your submission, but …). Not having a pedigree that comes with a Fine Arts education, I had a steep hill to climb.
The journey took me on a rediscovery of subjects I’d glossed over in secondary school, like grammar. The proper use of commas was enough to send me to the nut house. Thankfully, Word spell check kept me from giving up entirely. I networked with authors and joined writer groups. Surviving a critique process from fellow writers is not for the weak-hearted.
I went to conferences to learn about the business of getting published. Rejection by the hundreds required the skin of a stegosaurus. With the prolificacy of traditional and indie publishing (an unending tsunami of content in Bob Mayer’s words), being published today is akin to the lone salmon swimming downstream against the horny hoards going the opposite direction during spawning season.
“Old dogs must learn new tricks”, Bob Mayer said. Exhuming a passion, buried for decades in a lead-lined box of adult obligations, can be one of the hardest things in a person’s life. It felt good to hear a professional corroborate what I had to learn on my own.
I’ve published a few short stories, but have yet to find a market for the five books I’d written. A wonderful agent tried to market two books I wrote a few years back, but no takers. It amazes me that she still answers my emails after those first attempts. Her advice to me – keep writing.
Don’t have to ask me twice. Hell, I can’t help myself. When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing. I lost count how many times my wife caught me pacing a room with a blank look, lost in a scene inside the kaleidoscopic pandemonium of my imagination, when I should be cutting the lawn.
I just finished my sixth novel. Given the commentary from trusted beta readers, I still have some work to do. It isn’t because the story sucks. It’s about making it as good as it needs to be. I’m getting closer.
I’ll end it here. I have a story to edit. Have to make my own rain.
Oh, and the hyperactive muse who won’t let me sleep at night, is egging me to start a new idea.
Hmmm – wonder if I can do both at the same time?
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Psstâ€¦have you heard? Everybodyâ€™s doing it. Self-publishing.
Itâ€™s hip, itâ€™s coolâ€¦itâ€™s like winning the lottery.
Hmmâ€¦maybe. Maybe not. Itâ€™s the wild, wild west out in the land of Amazon, Smashwords and Nook. All you need is a dusty, old manuscript from under your bed, a sexy cover and a few .html codes and youâ€™re dancing with the stars.
Oh, what fools we writers be.
It ain’t that easy.
Here’s the deal: You’ve written a good story and your manuscript is in the best shape possible–critique groups, professional editing, etc. Now what?
No doubt you need a good cover and nearly flawless formatting, but don’t give up if you havenâ€™t gotten it all together. Before you push that old manuscript back under the bed with the dust bunnies, it is possible to hitch your wagon to the self-pubbed stars and join in the land rushâ€¦or should I say, digital rush.
I did it. I self-pubbed a holiday novella and a short story. There are many blogs that can help you with various aspects of the biz, from J.A. Konrath to Bob Mayer’s Write It Forward (I highly recommend both!), but here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way.
Jina’s 5 tips to self-publishing:
Be realistic about your goals. No one can predict how a book will do, but reading the Kindle forums and following other authors can give you an idea of how theyâ€™re doing. I follow OCC’s Dr. Debra Holland’s blog–she’s been open and forthright about her experience in self-publishing and her sales. Another OCC author, Jacqueline Diamond (author of 90 novels), has recently self-published books from her backlist and knows the value of promoting her books (she made the top 100 in Regency on Amazon).
Write another book or story right away. Quality and quanity are both important in self-pubbing. You need product to sell. Imagine if a shoe store opened and all they had to sell was one shoe style?
Which reminds me of Cinderella and her glass slipper.
Putting your self-pubbed book out there is like Cinderella going to the ball. She had a team of cute little mice to make her dress (editing, cover and formatting) and a fairy godmother (Amazon, Nook and Smashwords) to make the magic happen.
She also had the moxie to get to the ball. Thatâ€™s where you come in.
Be like Cinderella. Donâ€™t be late to the self-publishing party.
Youâ€™ll never know if the glass slipper fits until you try it.
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