Tag Archives: Writing Process

Writer, identify yourself!

JOURNALIST and writer Michael Burge spent over six years writing full time, including three years contributing online articles, before embarking on the publication of a range of books across 2015-2016, titles he wrote while developing a social media readership.

The Write, Regardless! series of no-nonsense articles explains how Michael went from a good writer, to an Amazon bestselling author (without getting ripped off along the way).

Is Write, Regardless! for me?

“The reason that manuscript remains unpublished is not the sick, sad, selfish world, but because you have not published it yet.”

Here’s a checklist. I’ll be honest and upfront in these posts. I’ll also keep things light, because I have just finished publishing some very serious books, and I need a lift! I’ll link to Wikipedia quite often, so if you don’t like updated, peer-reviewed, democratised information, Write, Regardless! is definitely not for you.

Wikipedia? Are you serious?

I regularly consult Wikipedia because many online entities don’t really want us to know exactly how they work (so they can charge us money). At Wikipedia, other people have spent time sharing how things work, and I’m assuming you’ve got enough of a bullshit monitor that if someone hacked Wikipedia and posted: “Marilyn Monroe was actually a donkey”, you’d work out they’re trying to trick you, right?

If you don’t identify yourself as a writer, no-one will do it for you.

Hopefully you’re coming with me on the crazy ride that the Write, Regardless! series will be, aimed at anyone who can write, or perhaps has a ’embarrassing’ manuscript sitting in a desk draw or on a computer somewhere. The reason that manuscript remains unpublished is not the sick, sad, selfish world, but because you have not published it yet. Time to get real, join the publishing industry, and do it yourself. Many thousands of successful writers have taken this path before you. Many have been ripped off by charlatans, and I am here to help us avoid that.

Don’t start by writing anything

Writing is way down on the list of jobs you need to start doing. I’ll assume you know how, have some work under your belt, and a regular writing schedule. Your first task is to identify yourself so readers can find you. There are a few ways to do this. The ones I know about are Gravatar and Google. Because you are the best spokesperson of your work, in fact probably its only spokesperson, eventually you’ll want readers to find you.

Gravatar is good

A ‘globally recognised avatar’ does a really cool thing – wherever you participate on the internet, a Gravatar lets your identity follow you, and if people like the comment you made on The Huffington Post, they’ll be able to find your website, and therefore maybe get interested in your writing. That’s called being discoverable. If you’d rather hide behind a name like ‘Hawkwind Gamester of the Windy Witches’ and have no identifiable online presence, go for it, but best put that name on all your books, not your real name. If you want people to start identifying and understanding you, and therefore your books, get a free Gravatar account today, with a real headhot of yourself. Gravatar accounts go hand in hand with WordPress websites (more on those in coming articles).

Google is good

A few years ago, Google got even savvier than it already was and started allowing people access to a Google account linked to all kinds of portals, including Blogger (the alternative to WordPress for website hosting). The best part about a Google account is it lets Google know what you’re up to. Don’t be scared! Telling the world’s largest online information aggregator what you’re up to is called publicity, essential for publishing (see what I did there? The root word is the same in publish, publicity, publication… your public, darling). Sign up for a free Google account. Here’s mine.

Set and forget your Google and Gravatar accounts

You’re not going to need to go in and out of these places very often (phew). Eventually I’ll explain how to update them automatically without leaving your website. For now, the only other thing to do is to keep a list of your account names and passwords – you’re going to end up with a few of them during Write, Regardless! Keep them somewhere safe and accessible.

google-monster-1Keeping online platforms in their place

Online platforms will continually promote ‘bells and whistles’ (attractive additional features or trimmings). Very often, they’ll try to trick you into thinking you need ‘premium’ products, or provide extra information like your email address or your mobile phone number, in order to increase your security levels or to maximise your visibility. I have the most basic accounts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Storify, Google, SoundCloud, YouTube, Canva, Ingram Spark, Amazon Author Central (don’t freak out at this list, I will explain them all in future articles) Gravatar and MailChimp, and until recently the free WordPress account, which I upgraded only so I could host video/audio marketing content. Stay on your guard when navigating online platforms. Don’t click ‘yes’ unless you’re sure you have to. ‘Cancel’ or ‘skip’ buttons are best unless you’re 100 per cent sure you want to alter something.

Sharing information

Online platforms will sometimes ask your permission to share your information with your followers, which you’ll want to do, since it’s these networks of friends, family and interested people who are our readership base. Say yes to those prompts, it’s simply a legal requirement of the platform to ask.

Internet fears

The internet can be a big scary place, and rip-off merchants are out there, sure, but I have not come across any real monsters. The only times I have wasted money on my publishing journey was through being ill-informed. The main internet shenanigans I see are the corporate obstacles that big companies place in the way of their competition, and sometimes writers have our pathways impacted by these shifts that are out of our control. Move bravely between giants!

WRITE REGARDLESSRecap

Get your free Gravatar and Google accounts sorted, start a safe place for usernames and passwords, then get on with your day job secure in the knowledge that the internet now knows who you are. Don’t be scared, because that means readers! (Whoosh! There go your internet fears!).

An extract from Write, Regardless!

© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.

 

Proof that you can read!

A Writer drowning in words.

I’M proofreading my first two publications right now, and I’m aiming to complete around 140,000 words in under a week.

It’s an ambitious task and thankfully I have some assistance, however, as an independent publisher (a fancy way of saying ‘self-published’, which carries a terrible stigma), this is my self-inflicted creative penance.

Cue the violins! Independent publishing is not all it’s cracked up to be!

“It’s no wonder everyone’s avoiding checking their own work – it was always a relatively crap job.”

Sure, it’s liberating when you don’t have to run decisions past anyone, but when it comes time to hit that publish button, where the quality of the finished product is concerned the buck stops with you. What’s worse it that although they pay very little for our books, quality has very high value placed on it by our readers.

If you’ve ever watched TV talent shows you know how risky stepping into the limelight can be for singers who have not been massaged into the public gaze by management and stage training. Quality comes across only when contestants have a decent amount of singing ability.

How cringeworthy is it when wobbly performers compete week after week slightly off pitch or rough on the high notes? It doesn’t mean they’re not talented, but it’s almost a relief when they get voted out, leaving the stage to more assured vocalists.

Art is a bitch that way, and writers have all the same potential to seem extremely unattractive in the public domain. No matter how schmick our book’s cover or what publicists we’re tempted to pay, we are prone to get voted off in the first paragraph.

Part of being match fit is ensuring our words are the best they can be, which means either paying for copy editing and proofreading, or doing it ourselves.

I’ve chosen the latter, because I have the skills, but this week I have wondered if this was the wisest course of action.

All writers have patterns. We use language in wildly different ways, and, despite appearances, there is no one language standard when it comes to the written word.

My particular weakness is hyphenation. If I can manage to slip-in an inappropriate or un-necessary hyphen, I will.

Yes, we have spell check and grammar guides in our word processing software, but do you know which standard of which language yours is set on, and have you ever tried to change it?

Yes, there are dictionaries, but have you ever wondered how many?

5113847621_10e4cbdb2e_bThe factual answer is nobody knows, but that doesn’t stay the judgmental hand of the average Grammar Nazi, who I imagine scanning free samples of eBooks instead of buying them, seeking out the errors as a form of bloodsport.

Language is an organic, ever-changing entity. To successfully proofread something, writers need to accept that they’ll capture the language they’re using for a brief moment before it continues its evolution.

If you decide to DIY your book’s proofreading, doing so consistently within that moment is your job, and that’s the really hard part, especially for the generations of writers who were not taught grammar at Australian primary or secondary schools from the 1970s, when it was deemed unnecessary, a directive that continues to this day.

I know several writers who claim to be unable to proofread their own output – journalists, mainly, who’ve had the luxury of sub-editors for decades.

But sub-editors are being shafted by media organisations across the English-speaking world, leaving journalists to proof our own articles.

It’s no wonder everyone’s avoiding checking their own work – it was always a relatively crap job that should be royally paid for, when at its core it’s basically clearing up the shit written by others.

I have one tip for writer-proofreaders aware of the reality that self publishing is expensive – shut the windows, put the cat out, tell your partner not to come knocking, and simply read your work so damned well it’s like the last time you’ll ever read it.

And I have one tip for writers willing to pay for proofreading – no matter how much you pay, it’ll never be perfect.

© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.

Check out Michael’s book on indie publishing.

 

How to write wrong

READY TO POUNCE Survuvung feedback can feel like a game of cat and mouse.
READY TO POUNCE Surviving negative feedback can feel like a game of cat and mouse.

AFTER dabbling on and off ever since I could articulate words, in mid-2009 I started writing full time and haven’t stopped.

Working through plenty of strong emotions (and day jobs), I blasted through my blocks to self-expression and found my voice in fiction, plays, journalism and memoir – genres I had tried but given up hope on long ago.

Along the way I’ve collected a little wisdom about how the world reacts to what writers write.

It’s not always pretty – there are plenty of detractors out there waiting at their keyboards to knock writers into silence.

Writers are generally very observant beings – our art reveals an ability to dig deep inside and tell the stories we find. The easier we make it look, the more it drives people who have trouble expressing themselves into fits of jealousy.

So, ‘you’re wrong about that, you know’ is a very common response to the courage it takes to write.

You’ll get it at social gatherings, on the social media, and sometimes from friends.

But one person you’ll very, very rarely hear it from is another prolific writer. We know the hard slog that goes into the job.

Here are my tips to writing ‘wrong’ …

Use the criticism

After your first few ‘you’re wrong’ experiences, you may find yourself getting a bit upset at someone making a point of being negative. A good way to remedy the shock is to write about it. That’s exactly what I am doing right here, right now. Never go silent for fear of someone deciding you’re wrong. Just keep writing.

Check your sources

Then check them again. This is not just the job of the journalist. Often, an accusation of ‘wrong’ comes from a readers’ need to highlight an inaccuracy, sometimes very publicly. But you’ll be surprised how often you go back to your research material only to find you were more correct than you originally realised. ‘Wrong’ is an easy accusation to make, but it’s harder to wear with confidence in mixed company unless you’ve gone over your sources properly.

Self correct 

Online publishing allows instantaneous correction of just about anything. If you’ve made an error, from a typo to a mistaken claim, correct it! Across the heavily political history of publishing, this ability is an incredible luxury that a writer could argue people lost their lives for. Use it.

Subject ‘experts’

Many have invested time and money into becoming experts in certain fields, and they sometimes feel they have cornered the subject against every other writer. Expect little support from such people – they’ll get upset and angry if you write on ‘their’ subject, or close-up altogether. Explain your use of their source material, sure, but never be afraid to add to the story without their approval or permission. They’ll tell you you’re ‘wrong’, of course, but you’re getting used to that now, right?

SSSS
IT’S EASY to knock others from behind your keyboard.

Old fashioned knockers

There are few things more hurtful for writers who use the social media than the throwaway dismissal or casual drubbing from one of our ‘peeps’. Facebook has become a tender trap for their ‘friendly’ fire. Knockers are the hardest critics to recognise, because their message can be slow to dawn on us if delivered in a sustained manner over a long period of time. Deleting a few of their condescending, corrective comments is usually all it takes to deliver firm return fire about their lack of form.

The right of reply

Pieces I’ve written have attracted polar feedback. The same works have been called ‘uplifting’ and ‘undisciplined’; ‘powerful’ and ‘hurtful’; ‘insightful’ and ‘misguided’. I try not to soak up either praise or criticism, which is easy to say and hard to put into action. In the fine balance between listening to a readers’ feelings and honouring my own, I tend to listen to myself, because to assimilate the opposites in my readership might end in this writer silencing himself, and I stayed silent for long enough.

WRITE REGARDLESSIf all else fails …

What I am still learning is how to adopt that iron-clad ego it takes to put my work into the public domain, and leave it there despite the wall of wrong. But I am developing a suspicion that all a good writer needs is the brio of a damned good judge. Objection? Overruled!

An extract from Write, Regardless!

© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.