Writing 101 Step 1: READ

“You have to read widely, constantly refining (and redefining) your own work as you do so. It’s hard for me to believe that people who read very little (or not at all in some cases) should presume to write and expect people to like what they have written, but I know it’s true. If I had a nickel for every person who ever told me he/she wanted to become a writer but “didn’t have time to read,” I could buy myself a pretty good steak dinner. Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life.” – Stephen King

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Dear Self-Publishers: You Are Not JK Rowling

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The rain sounds like marching footsteps on my roof. Yes, it is pouring out. So, I thought I’d take the cozy time spent underneath the covers to devote time to my laptop which means sharing another thought that recently crossed my mind concerning Self-Publishing. As always, my thoughts are based on my own experience. Will you get something out of it? It is always my hope that you will.

There is always something we can gain from one another. Always something we can add to our Self-Publishing arsenal of sorts. However, while each self-publisher is similar, each is also different. There is no one answer to self-publishing a book. There is no one way that it is done. In this post, JK Rowling is not merely representative of herself, but she is representative of others who have succeeded in the business of book publishing. Thing is, I am not JK Rowling and neither are you.

Using Rowling as a platform of discussion, I’ve viewed her countless outlines available online for her books in the Harry Potter series. They are very nice layouts and tend to be very organized but it was also very confusing to me. Rowlings outlines are, again, well organized but it is not something I could have followed. For me, to follow an outline for writing books would just confuse me and I will probably never finish it. It is just not the way that I write. I and me are key terms here.

What makes your book special? In a world where people are Self-Publishing books everyday (and often coming out with them at the same time) what makes yours worth the time? Wrote a Historical Novel? So what, so did the next guy. Wrote a Young Adult piece? Who cares, so did she. Her over there. Yes her, she wrote a Fantasy, Horror, Young Adult novel too. In a world where there are seas and seas of Self-Published books, it is not the concept of the story itself that is so different. I believe there are tons of books with similar themes. I also believe that every book has a question that needs to be answered, a message it is trying to deliver, or a problem that it attempts to solve and each author has to answer that question or reveal that message or provide a solution to that problem in his or her own unique way. This, the answer, is what makes him or her stand out. It is the unique combination of that authors own persona as well as his or hers approach that is different and that makes that author either stand out or blend in with the sea.

I’m sure authors whose names we all know have been influenced by others, of course. But they have also become known for their individuality. There is always something slightly different about how one author approaches a subject as compared to another. Terry McMillian and Sista Souljah are both talented writers, but Souljah can’t write like Terry and Terry can’t write like Souljah. For each to be successful, each will have to bring something to the table that is different in order to become their own name brands.

Dear Self-Publishers: You Are Not JK Rowling

It is not up to us to write like those who’ve become successful financially and globally. It is up to us to write in a way that works for us, according to our individual personalities and our individual styles.  It appears that everyone wants to have the answer to how to Self-Publish a book. The truth? There isn’t one. At the end of the day we have to write stories that people want to read and lets just say the JK Rowlings are already taken. I’d be willing to bet that a book written with less than desirable grammar and poorly promoted can still be read IF it’s an engaging story. Writing is, after all, story telling which is not something everyone can do.

This, the skill of writing, tends to be overlooked when it comes to advice or discussion on self-publishing. I’ve seen tons of advice on how to promote, why it is important to get a story edited, why book covers should be appealing, ISBN Numbers, the list goes on and on. I’ve spoken myself about the importance of these factors, why they are important and so on. Except, I do not hear much about the actual skill of writing; the craft of story telling. Poor books is not always because the book cover is bad, the editing is crappy, or that the marketing skills are poor. No. It is because not everyone can write a book. I’ve read Traditionally Published books with tons of grammatical errors and yet people love the stories because they are told well. There is a skill there that draws readers in. Toni Morrison said it best when she said that obviously some aspects of the field can be taught, but you can’t teach skill or talent. I love to sing, but I am not going to walk into someone’s studio and record an album. While I’m sure my voice is decent, singing is not a skill that I have. I would much rather let the Alicia Keys and Whitney Houston’s have at it. As for my voice? Well, that is what showers are for.

As for the purpose of this post? Well, we’ve all heard it before: Be yourself, everyone else is taken.

Clowns Are Creepy

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It was in the early 90’s when the image of clowns changed for me. Not that I was much of a fan anyway, but one event made it that much more clear that clowns were creepy little creatures; cowards who hated themselves so much that they hid behind make-up. What grown man or woman wants to bounce around with a red nose? And why do you look like that? Anyway, something was going around the projects about a serial killer dressed as a clown who went around kidnapping children. At the time I was only about seven years old and I can remember being released from school early. Everyone had to have someone to pick them up from school and walk them to their building. While there was no adult to pick me up, being a twin always had its perks; it’s called having a lot of friends. So a large group of us walked home together. I even had a weapon, a super sharp pencil that was prepared to slice and dice the first orange or red Afro I saw coming. It didn’t occur to me that the pencil could break. And how would I sharpen it again? Nope, never crossed my mind, nor did my second grade education prepare me for such an event. I suppose I could just pencil stab him to death, not sure how that would work. Maybe he’ll get lead poison or something, who knows.

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According to the rumor, the killer targeted children by standing next to mailboxes and eating bananas. I’m not sure why he would be eating bananas; an obvious indication that someone had probably just watched Stephen Kings IT and made the whole thing up. But that didn’t stop us from believing it. As we walked passed the first mailbox, our hearts caught in our throat, trying to walk as silently as childhood footsteps would allow. In the end we would make it home safe and sound. But when I went to sleep that night there he was, that ugly looking clown. I was looking out the window of Chicago’s Robert Taylor Homes to the building next door where someone else was also looking out the window. Yea you guessed it: the clown. He smiled until his cheeks almost reached his ears and his teeth looked as if he had painted them yellow. Suddenly however, he ran away from the window. “Oh no! He’s coming over!” Before I knew it a clown was in my living room chasing me around the couch. Even though it was just a dream this was a very serious situation. Yea, looks like someone would definitely not be invited to the next birthday party.