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So I took a month long break from the grind of writing just to have time for myself and rest. Now that I’ve written about it (getting rest), I felt a need to ‘rewind’ and ‘recharge’ myself so I can get back into the write mode. This past weekend, I made a visit to the community college where I started my goal of mastering the English language in speaking it, writing, and analyzing words. While I felt I have lost my way as a writer, this weekend was a revelation into what I believe is the big lesson I missed out on.
Loneliness is a social killer but for the serious writer, it can be what is needed to fully use your powers of concentration and creative thought. I had to remember the after class hours I spent in an empty classroom to write a short story, watching from the third floor people walking around campus. I had enough discipline to force myself to return to my seat and finish the pages I had planned to write for that day. Over thirty years later, it is close to impossible with the rise of the internet and social media to maintain that focus and commitment to the work. Not saying it’s impossible, but the need to check our statuses, pokes and notes are tempting and if one doesn’t develop the right mental control to continue the written (or typed) work, it’s easy to lose attention to what’s important.
A writer also needs an environment where he or she can thrive in creating their works. There are many, many suggestions over the internet and print media advising scribes when, where and how to write in a stable setting with or without the use of the internet. These settings as we have learned vary from a hotel room to the quiet comforts of one’s own home. On this campus, I chose to write in an empty classroom because it gave me the opportunity to write in peace. I can honestly say I never had a situation where I was interrupted while writing in this classroom and now from my visit, I’ve found out in one of the halls I used to frequent there is a writing center. Where was this when I needed it? (Big smile)
The most important lesson I’ve learned from my visit is that as many years have passed, I took advantage of the opportunities I was given and built on them. For example, I wrote two sports articles for the college newspaper. Upon transferring to a university, I wrote another two articles for the newspaper and continued until the present day. When you’ve set a goal of becoming the best writer you can be, you have to start early and produce as much as you can for maximum exposure. This fast-paced digital, social media world will make you think you haven’t done much if you allow that thinking to seep in, but as long as you keep writing and inventing ideas in your mind, you’re always contributing.
There are times such as last month where you need to take a break and just relax. It’s a good idea to sit back and allow your brain to conjure up new ideas, new works. Only you as a writer can choose when to get back into the flow of writing your new or unfinished projects. As long as you can recharge and get back into the write mode, there’s nothing wrong with taking some time off to sit back, relax, and enjoy the time you have.
Charles L. Chatmon
Authors N Focus
When I look back on my life, obviously there were opportunities to be had which I failed to take advantage of. What I don’t regret is the fact I kept on writing, keeping most of my rough drafts in a safe place. In writers workshops, I tell budding authors how important it is to keep your rough drafts of your written work for the fact you may want to go back to that poem or prose manuscript you’ve spent time on, or use a few plot elements for an upcoming story or poem that hasn’t entered your mind yet. Whether its paper or old files in your hard drive, it’s best to save every idea, every thought you’ve ever written or typed out. I still lament the fact of old plays, short stories that I wrote by hand or typed on my electric typewriter that I’ve thrown in the trash or ripped up with my bare hands. We say our mind is like a computer and reader, you may take the approach I once had, “Well I’ll just rewrite the whole thing again.” I can do that, but my misplaced arrogance will help me understand that perhaps what I wrote was ‘perfect’ the first time. Maybe I should have kept the written work so I wouldn’t have to strain myself years later on rewriting a piece that I miss.
It’s important to keep your rough drafts because as I might have mentioned it before, it could be the one idea that will help launch your writing career or get you ‘over the top’ as an author. Either way, your ideas belong to you. Before you do throw your draft away, think on these questions:
Is this a project I may come back to?
Am I having fun working on this non-fiction or fiction written project?
What am I getting out of it besides a waste of time?
These are the questions you as a writer have to ask before jettisoning a rough draft you feel you may or may not feel invested in. Look, there are tons of articles and blog posts that will show you the benefits of keeping a first draft but if I have to leave you with any advice (such as it is), remember this: hold on to all of your written and typed works and save them in a ‘cool’ place like a folder on your hard drive or actual folder at home. No matter where you keep them, I believe when you’re looking for another project to work on, it’s best to rethink and restart a piece of work you didn’t finish or didn’t believe fit comfortable the first time.
Just stay focused and continue to write. It will all come together for you in the end!
Charles L. Chatmon
Authors N Focus
The art of writing should be an even playing field.
As it stands right now in early 2017, there is a logical debate going on between critics of the Master of Fine Arts degree (MFA) and those who support it, believing it has a place for anyone pursuing a writing career. There are many articles for or against the MFA but as an objective viewer watching the debate from afar, does it really matter?
For example, I enrolled in an English creative writing class in college over thirty years ago which allowed you to write whatever you wish, only to face stern criticism as you read your piece in front of an unsatisfied professor and other students with writing experience not afraid to state their opinion. The first two short stories I submitted were met with less than a positive response. The first story was of my own creation, not written for the class. The somewhat ambiguous ending in their eyes prompted a lot of probing questions that did not live up to their standards. The second short story I wrote exclusively for the class was a bit more polished and grounded in reality but again, it was deeply scrutinized by the professor and classmates who did not found it appealing to their taste. While I submitted the first two short stories, one I wrote strictly for myself but wanted to share, I wrote another story I had finished a year prior as a personal creative venture. It was a literary project I wrote for myself. It was not meant for the class so when I read the first four pages of what I wrote in print as an eleven page tale, the reaction based on the tension I interjected between two of the main characters caught the ear of my professor who wanted to hear more. My classmates with a critical eye could not find anything to gripe about. I was pleased for once I wrote a satisfactory piece that I felt like writing and not because I wanted to give a good impression to my professor. With that third short story that is a short story I created for myself, it allowed me to move forward and write the short stories I felt like writing without the influence of my professor or critics. Could you imagine what would have happened if this same professor told me I needed a MFA to be a ‘serious writer’? If I were told that back in the 1980’s, I would have considered it but I feel a degree could not simply replace the hard work, time and dedication I put into creating the best work possible.
Besides, shouldn’t be the effort one puts into their writing that ultimately counts instead of obtaining a degree that a select few, including agents feel is a ticket to success? While this author is not against any aspiring writer working hard to obtain a MFA, those of us who stopped with only a Bachelor’s Degree or even writers without either one shouldn’t be judged on their lack of dedication, drive and motivation. It should be the individual writer’s decision on how far they wish to take their career and creative projects.
What I learned from that creative writing class is that there will always be critics, those who have reservations about your creative projects and those who will simply wish you nothing but failure because in their eyes you will never be good enough or talented enough to meet their standards. As long as you as a writer continue to believe in your stories, do your homework by retaining the literary knowledge to succeed and study other famous writers who have found their measure of success, you will also find the same whether you’ve earned a MFA or not.
Charles L. Chatmon
Authors N Focus
LOS ANGELES, CA – Chatmon’s Books is proud to announce the return of the Authors N Focus web series. It will feature interviews with new, established authors including segments on the latest trends in the publishing world and on upcoming literary events in the Southern California area. Scenes from the Compton Urban Book Expo will kick off the new show in March.
For more information, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line ‘Authors N Focus’. Due to the number of possible requests, we plan to reach everyone in a timely manner.
Thank you for your support. We look forward to our latest ventures in promoting literacy!
About Chatmon’s Books
Founded in July 2008, Chatmon’s Books is an online bookstore selling books to a wide range of readers. The bookstore showcases a diverse inventory, holds writers workshops and empowerment luncheons for new and aspiring authors as well as small business owners.
About Authors N Focus
Authors N Focus is a website with interviews of new or established authors, writers and poets, resources for the aspiring author, and notes of trends in the industry. We also focus on the challenges of producing a first book as well as offering our thoughts and opinions on the state of the writing world today. Authors N Focus is a subsidiary of Chatmon’s Books.
Happy holidays everyone!
Thank you for your support of Authors N Focus for the past ten years. We plan to be back in 2017 with more interviews, publishing trends and information to new and aspiring authors.
Until then, we wish you a safe and happy holiday season!
-Authors N Focus
(presented by Chatmon’s Books)
Note: This was written back in 2005. Hope this is a source of inspiration for new and aspiring authors reading this.
My literary journey as an author began in the summer of 2000. I’ve been writing poetry (among other genres) for a long time and had been seeking a publisher by attending many spoken word events, poetry readings and book club meetings. Ironically enough, a good friend of mine had invited me to her book club’s annual summer festival. After I read a few poems, I informed the audience that I was looking for a publisher. A gentleman at the event heard my plea and pointed me toward a well-known publisher of African-American authors. I later attended the publisher’s workshop the following month.
I suggest a subsidy publisher if you’re a novice in the book selling business. Perhaps you lack marketing experience or have no clear idea on how your first book should be compiled and presented. Maybe you’re a mother with children who can’t find the time to self-publish, or your job doesn’t give you much time to compose your book by yourself. Perhaps you’re retired and that first book is in your head and ready to come out. Whatever your life situation, if you do not want to endure the hassles of publishing a book by yourself and don’t care for the troubles of a mainstream house, then subsidy publishing may be the avenue for you.
What is a subsidy publisher you might ask? A subsidy publisher, in the form of payment, will edit, format, market and distribute your book for you. However, once your book is finished, it is the subsidy publisher’s property. You will receive a royalty from the publisher for your works as a small percentage of the sales costs.
Let me add this: you do not have to stand on the sidelines while your book is being created if you have ambition and want to learn the tricks of the trade on how your works are marketed and distributed. I made more of a creative contribution to The Voices of South Central than I did with The Depths of My Soul. I chose the book’s content, the introduction and in fact, the order in which the poems are listed. These achievements can be made if you have a subsidy publisher who is willing to work with instead of against you. While it is fact that your book is the sole property of the publisher in major bookstore sales, there are ways to retain your profit through attending book festivals, expos, and special events. Build and maintain relationships with book clubs. Just as a self-publisher does the legwork, you must do the same. Out of the store selling means the profit belongs to you when you make interpersonal sales. You do have that choice. Keep in mind subsidy publishing does come with a cost; you pay for your content to be published and once it is, it becomes that publisher’s property. However, if you’re willing to transform this journey into a long term plan by studying, learning and then applying your input to your book, then it is worth it.
Charles L. Chatmon
The Depths of My Soul
The Voices of South Central
I say the same thing Ray Bradbury said. He said, “God bless you, write 52 stories a year.” Write. You write. That’s the only way. You keep writing and if you have any talent at all, which of course is a necessity, you will get better and better as you write. But you got to keep writing. You should not go to those classes or seminars or sit around some guru and talk literature. You’ll never get anywhere that way. It’s pleasant. It’s enjoyable, but the only thing a writing class has to offer is that you have to write. You should instill that in yourself. Be persistent and constantly write in whatever field that appeals to you most. You’ve got to keep writing. That’s the only answer. – Richard Matheson
I read this quote by the late great author Richard Matheson and it was an eye opener. You mean you don’t have to take any of the many Masters programs set in secluded, lush areas like forests or beachfronts just to learn the basics of writing? All you have to do is sit down and write? You can’t get better by sitting in a class listening to a contemporary author warning you that your plot devices aren’t up to par and your dialogue sucks? Yes, it is possible not to take a class for that. Writing or learning the art on how to is a very lucrative business these days.
This is a new year, and aspiring authors have a right to feel excited. This could finally be the year it all comes together, their first book published. They may consider spending hundreds of dollars to live it up on some resort while learning the ins and outs about the craft. If they took the time to understand what Mr. Matheson is saying, perhaps they’ll find out taking some time out of their day and writing is the best getaway of all.
If you open up any writing trade magazine today, you’ll see these excursions are well advertised and many all with the assurance the budding writer will learn something new from their participation. A class on sentence structure may be what they need to boost their confidence, motivate them to write that first book. As Matheson says, You should instill that in yourself. Be persistent and constantly write in whatever field that appeals to you most. Persistence pays off, it’s an asset for the author who wants to move from ‘aspiring’ to ‘published’.
Our busy workdays and twenty four/seven media driven world won’t allow us to have a break, a few hours of our time to ‘get better’. We are bombarded with more distractions than in the days of Matheson or Bradbury yet they should also motivate the aspiring author to dedicate a pocket of time to a hectic schedule.
What this all comes down to is having the will to write. Maybe a class on writing from a contemporary author might help, and these classes or courses are needed however, after the instructor has given the student all they need to know on how to improve their style, it still falls on the aspiring author to write. You have to wonder how many students have taken these writing courses over the years and wound up reaching their literary goals of publication and winding up on bestselling lists? Matheson is still advising us today, long after his passing that the best training a writer can receive is to just sit down, write and put words to paper. No one should expect a masterpiece on the first try, but the budding writer won’t get better if they’re not persistent and dedicates to perfecting their literary skills.
The follow up to Matheson’s answer from this interview is “You’ve got to have discipline.” Matheson tells the interviewer:
That is your discipline. If you have to force yourself to write every morning then maybe you’re in the wrong field. If you wake up with a song on your lips and rush to your typewriter, then you’re in the right field.
Persistence and discipline without looking as writing as a chore separates the good from the great authors. We can overburden the authors of this generation with rules and regulations not necessary for their development. If they took on the attitude that they should write as much as possible so they can gain confidence and get better, perhaps the craft wouldn’t be as troublesome to them. All of us who are writers should take Mr. Matheson’s words to heart and concentrate on simply putting our words down on paper.
Charles L. Chatmon
Authors N Focus Extra
YOU’RE AN aspiring author with dreams to break into the world of literature. You have an idea in your head, ready to write or type it out, sending it to an editor, obtaining a copyright for your idea all the way to publication. You find out your book – the baby you’ve been working on so diligently – is the same as Barbara the Bookseller’s in genre, characters and plot. Yet, you plan on jumping the ‘Imitation Lit’ bandwagon so you took a chance and now you have to face the fact readers would rather prefer Barbara’s book to yours. You decided to ‘write for the market’ and wound up with lower book sells than Barbara, who is making a killing.
This is one example of aspiring authors who dared ‘write to the market’ or ‘write to the trend’. Remember when vampires were the big rage? Charlaine Harris was the talk of the literary world around 2008 when the HBO series ‘True Blood’ aired, based on her Sookie Stackhouse novels. Alan Ball, the producer of the show according to the story, browsed through the bookstacks of Barnes and Noble, found Ms. Harris’s Dead Until Dark (the first installment of the Stackhouse series) and from that, True Blood began to take shape. Of course the success of the show prompted other aspiring authors to take a bite of the vampire genre (as well as regular television networks) and added their own spin to it. Eight years later, no one is really talking or writing much about vampires any longer. While the attention has shifted to dystopian societies under the Young Adult genre which spawned the Hunger Games and Divergent series in both print and movies, no one is for sure where the next big genre will be. This is where you, the aspiring author can take advantage.
Perhaps you have a manuscript languishing inside your hard drive or laptop. Maybe it’s buried under a mountain of notes or hidden in a folder. Whatever the reason aspiring author, this is the moment, this is the time for you to revisit your project and write. It may take time and although you may or may not reach the status you desire in the literary world, taking the first steps to create that first, different masterpiece is within your reach should you decide to take it.
It’s easy to write “Imitation Lit’ novels or stories. Consider the number of books flooding the market with the same plot, characters and writing styles of a J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Zane, Omar Tyree and others. If you go to any bookstore, you’ll see Imitation Lit in full display with titles that identify close with the genre. For example, we had an Authors N Focus Facebook group page where we had so many authors writing in the same genre with the same style of book covers posted on our photo gallery, with links that described the same ‘cautionary’ tales……do you begin to understand our decision to abruptly end the group. There was no one who dared to be different, no one who offered a genre different than the one we observed on our timeline daily. If you want to stand out, write a novel or non-fiction book that has a different slant on a familiar story. Otherwise aspiring author, your hard work will be part of a market already saturated with sameness, which is what you need to avoid at all costs.
Readers will reward you if you have a fictional tale or non-fiction subject that is interesting, funny, and makes them feel it was well worth it to spend their hard earned money on your book. Not only will they support you, but the possibility they will share your work with friends, family and other book lovers or book club is high. No one can really tell whether or not your first work will be a success, only you aspiring author can ensure it by putting in the work, trusting only your voice, seeing your vision in your manuscript and all within it. You cannot write like Barbara the Bestseller, but you can write like yourself, so now is the time to stand out, make your literary dreams a reality and be different. Dare and trust yourself to be that way.
Charles L. Chatmon
Authors N Focus Extra
I read a book by Les Brown who is a motivational speaker and author called Live Your Dreams. Published in the 1990’s, there is an excerpt in which Mr. Brown laments the loss of one aspiring author who had an idea for publication – only to see their life end and manuscript unfinished. It reminded me of Prince who planned to write his memoir and unfortunately, it will never be completed. All of the stories that could have been introduced by potential new and outstanding writers will never see the light of day, for they are hidden deep in the grave. This is the reason why I needed to publish a book so that readers can see what thoughts I had on my mind, what’s on my heart to share.
The years pass by so quickly. I remember celebrating the release of The Depths of My Soul fifteen years ago, happy that I finally achieved a goal of publishing a book. It wasn’t on the top of my list when I made the conscious decision to become a writer, it was a goal that eventually entered my mind. With the release of another book on the way, I am determined to share my artistic gifts before it’s my turn to rest in the grave.
I encourage all aspiring authors to follow your heart, take that leap, write and then work to get your book published. There is no greater feeling in the world but to see your name, your completed manuscript in print. I’ve ran into many authors who have a story to tell, hard at work on their project only to see life get in the way of their dream. You shouldn’t let this happen to you, make whatever plans you have to see your dream come true.
Distractions can be a nuisance. My rants against social media are a reminder I need to take the time and work on my own stuff. It’s far too easy to be seduced to the call of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or any other service that takes up too much of your time. You’re a writer, so it makes sense for you to….write. Forget about who’s following you or unfollowing you, who’s on your friend’s list and which elementary, junior or senior high school friend (and crush?) is on your search list, if you want to make your dream come true as an author, you have to write. Time is much too short.
For those of you who are ‘aspiring’ to write that first book, please make the conscious decision to do it right now, RIGHT NOW! Don’t wait until you lay on your deathbed lamenting the time you could have used to reach your dream. When I started AOL nineteen years ago, there was an woman who posted her works on a message board. Now she’s become a well-known bestselling author with two movies based on her literary works. That can be you so-called aspiring author if you decide to focus working on your project. The decision is yours. I can say no more but I wish you well. It’s up to you to make your dream a reality.
Charles L. Chatmon
Authors N Focus Extra
Via a friend’s Facebook post, I happened to peek at an article called ‘Fandom is Broken’. Written by a movie critic named Devin Faraci (thank you sir!), he mentions Anne Wilkes from Stephen King’s Misery, who forced author Paul Sheldon to bring her favorite character back to life by writing a manuscript which appealed to her needs of reviving Misery Chastain back to the land of the living.
More importantly, Mr. Faraci in detail reveals the challenges for writers and other creatives to deal with an overwhelming horde of fans who insist the character(s) they love should always have a happy ending, no matter what. I will agree with the author of the piece that real drama does not operate like that, nor does good, solid storytelling. In the 21st Century, fandom is built like a fast food restaurant where you ‘have it your way’. Last time I checked, good stories are not Burger King.
In today’s ever connected social media world, writers are indeed walking blindfolded on a very narrow tightrope in building and nurturing a fan base. It’s important for writers to communicate with them, but their fans should not dictate what the next creative project should be. Hard as this may sound, fans become fans because they like a writer’s work or simply like the writer. Fans also become invested in a character like Misery Chastain, like Anne Wilkes. If something happens to change the reader’s perception of their favorite character like Captain America, fans will take up internet arms to display their displeasure, outrage, total disgust of where the author is taking the storyline. I would suspect a decade ago, fans didn’t have a feeling of ‘entitlement’, that they were just as content to see how a story would play out amid the twists and turns along the way. Fans used to have more faith in their favorite writer to ‘stick the landing’ and make the story count. Today, even bestselling authors on their own blogs complain about the immature treatment they receive from a group of people who claim to love a certain writer’s work, but raise cane about it.
This is movie related, but there’s no better example of fandom running amok than what happened to director (and writer) Joss Wheldon because of a particular comment in Avengers 2: Age of Ultron. He wrote a scene in which Natasha Romanoff, AKA the Black Widow (through flashbacks) was subject to a variety of procedures that left her unable to have children. This left an emotional toll and in one fateful statement, she mentions to Bruce Banner (aka the Hulk), “You know what my final test was in the Red Room? They sterilized me, said it was one less thing to worry about. You think you’re the only monster on the team?”
The internet went bananas, especially on Twitter. Social Justice Writers were outraged! The headlines from at least two sites prove that!
Io9: Black Widow: This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
The Daily Beast: Avengers: Age of Ultron’s’ Black Widow Disgrace
The reaction to the Black Widow’s admittance of her sterilization set off a firestorm heavily criticizing Wheldon to the point he was forced off Twitter. Submitted for your (dis)approval, here is the screenshot from disgruntled fans who had plenty to say: (watch how Wheldon handles the responses with class)
In one fell swoop, Natasha Romanoff became Misery Chastain. A sterilized, ‘monstrous’ Misery Chastain who became a talented superspy who could kill when needed, but not bare children. Paul Sheldon had it so lucky! He only had to deal with a psychotic, mentally disturbed Anne Wilkes who under different circumstances, could have created a profile on a Fanfic website and continued her own adventures of Misery. The 21st Century ‘fans’ are looking for symbolism, not story. They’re looking for ‘representation’, not plot. They are unwilling to be less excited to delve into the challenges a certain character must go through in order to overcome, and more excited that Misery needs a girlfriend because it would be a huge boost for the lesbian community that Misery has……..
This is madness. Enough, seriously!
Writers of fiction are not social activists because we the public feel they should be. They have a choice to present deeper issues (not just social) that are a part of their world, not because we feel they should represent ours. Keep in mind in fiction these are characters, protagonists who we root for and feel we have much in common with as readers. An antagonist is a character we cannot wait to see their comeuppance. In the world of ‘real life’, berserk fans who send nasty tweets to their favorite writers because of a scene in a movie or passage in a book they despise like, need to slow down and understand it is fiction you’re reading or seeing, nothing else. The author’s job is to make readers actually read a book and/or create engaging characters that we have empathy for and want to succeed. Opinion pieces that focus on anything not relating to the character, such as representation, image, etc, is a huge waste of time. Sorry to state the obvious. Not that it’s any less important, but it’s not the writer’s job to push for a doll of Black Widow or to promote her in other departments he or she has no control over. The best they can do is write a story and hope you enjoy it. That’s all.
I invite you to read the Fandom article linked on the bottom of this entry so you can see and judge for yourself whether or not you’re one of the fans guilty of contacting your favorite author on social media for the sole purpose of complaining and not constructively criticizing their work. I feel authors appreciate constructive feedback that will help them become better storytellers in the future. In today’s uncompromising fandom, criticism borders on outright insanity which authors definitely don’t need or deserve.
Charles L. Chatmon
Creator, Authors N Focus Extra