What Red Flag?   12 comments

A strange malady that seems to infect aspiring authors is a form of color blindness. In particular a blindness to the color red. Often when a red flag shows up in their story they have an immediate tendency to turn it into a transparency. This usually manifests itself as having to explain/defend large parts of the story.

I’m not saying that there won’t be a handful of people who don’t get it, you can’t please everyone. But when there are a significant number of folks getting stuck on the same thing. Something is wrong and explaining/defending it isn’t going to make it go away.

It should be obvious at this point that for your story to work, you are going to have to follow every copy around and explain the same points to every reader. Now, I’m not the smartest guy slogging through life, but I’m pretty sure that is not a viable option. I’d also be willing to bet that the average reader isn’t going to wait for you to show up to explain your genius to them. Their just going to dump the story, experience buyer’s remorse, and cross you off their reading list.

As I said, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but that just doesn’t seem like a sound business strategy to me. And make no mistake, dear readers, unless you are just writing to please yourself, this is a business. A business that depends as much on repeat customers as it does on new ones. Deliberately sacrificing repeat business for the sake of your ego is a sure trip to has-been land. If you ever make it out of never-was land in the first place.

There is a wonderful little business book by F.J. Lennon called; Every Mistake In The Book: A Business How Not To. (Yes, I read business books as well, because this IS the publishing business, and I want to succeed at it.) Mr. Lennon has made just about every business mistake you can think of, and a heck of a lot that you haven’t. So when he says to do, or not do something, I have to bow to his experience. After all, he has already paid the price for that mistake… damned if I want to pay it too!

Hear are just a few pearls of wisdom he learned the hard way, but they apply to the business of writing as well as any other. Ignore them at your own peril.

Give the people what they want, not what you think they should have.

In other words, if you are ignoring the red flags, explaining/defending every little point YOU want to keep in your magnum opus, you are giving the people what you think they should have, not what they want. Mr. Lennon lost his first company doing this, you’ll lose your career. If you ever get one in the first place doing this.

Make money, then art.

This goes right along with the above. Before you begin to make these fantastic art driven vehicles for your amazing prose, you better be a brand first. To do that you have to garner a reading public and hold onto them. Otherwise, consider a career writing fan fiction for free. (To be honest, I personally wouldn’t risk it then. Readers do not have to stay with you and there are literally millions of up and comers waiting to take your place.)

Above all else, don’t make crap.

This should be self explanatory, but I’ll bet that it isn’t. If you are just starting out, not a brand name author, turning out what you want, and shooting for high art that has to be explained/defended to more than one person… you ARE turning out crap. It’s that simple.

Readers want to be entertained. They do not want to have to scratch their heads, wonder WTF you mean by those new words you made up, or where in hell your going with this. They want you to guide them through your story as effortlessly as possible.

If you find yourself having to explain/defend large portions of your story, that is a big red flag. Pay it heed, or ignore it as you will. It’s your story, your career. Believe me, the big name authors won’t really care that much, because you won’t be taking any readers away from them any time soon.



12 responses to “What Red Flag?

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  1. From your blog, to their eyes. Unfortunately, they don’t see the red flags and refuse to admit they’re there. I’ve come across a few like that. When they start to explain, I just smile pretty and nod. πŸ˜›

    • Not a bad ideas at all, Darke.

      For myself, I do exactly what any readers they may be lucky enough to get do. Back slowly away, pray it isn’t contagious, and scratch them off the list.

      It’s a waste of time arguing color to the blind. But, maybe, just maybe, I can help another aspiring author to avoid that pitfall, and realize, we are not working for ourselves. The reading public is our boss, and if you can’t please the boss… (As Vince Mcmahon says, “Your Fired!”) πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜€

  2. Story first!

    Yes I like this, or I think that, and the reader should. All the above is bunk. Beta readers are gold, and if they get hung up it is our job as the author to untangle the mess!

    Great post! This is a business, we all must be professional. That means paying attention to those red flags.

    I’ve said this before as I too am participating in the writing marathon. Check your ego at the door. Story first.

    • The thing that baffles me, Dean, is; where are these flag ignorers getting that ego in the first place?

      It could barely, (just barely), be justified if they were multi-best selling authors, but for an aspiring, unknown author to have an ego that huge from the word go is simply arrogance… or just plain delusion.

      Wonder how they’ll react when an agent, or publisher tells them the same thing? Scratch that… I already know. Anyone wanna lay odds that they’ll never get a foot in the door with that attitude? (I need the money) πŸ˜‰

      • (I’d like this article, except I don’t have a wordpress account. Sad face.)

        I think part of it is that people like that are above par in a non-writing world. They can spell, they can string sentences together, and maybe they don’t spit out the same sort of drivel that makes up 80% of fanfiction.net (having spit out some of that drivel, I feel justified in saying so). And getting non-writer friends, or fair-weather writers to compliment your work can be better than an air compressor when it comes to inflating your ego. Unfortunately, just because your story outshines “My Immortal” (reader beware if you look that one up) doesn’t mean it’s actually GOOD.

        I actually know a few people who are adamant that they’d rather never get published than change their work to please somebody else, and all I can do is shrug and say “Well, then you won’t. I’m glad that your story pleases you, though.” When people insist on having it both ways, though…

        Well, the general assumption is if I bash my head into a wall enough times, I’ll forget how offended I am by their attitude.


        Also, love the article, Peter. This used to have me written all over it. Yodant has grown a steel skin since then!

      • My Immortal… Oh my sweet giddy aunt! I did it, Moon!! I looked it up! It’s gonna take mind bleach and several fifths of 151 proof rum to get that outta my head now… but it’s my own fault. πŸ˜‰

        And please don’t bash your head. I need to see Bones of Babylon in print. It’s on my to buy immediately list… along with several others. πŸ˜€

        Actually, Riley… Grown Yodant has. Beyond her years wise she is. (‘Nuff said… bet ya can’t guess who else is on that list.) πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜€

  3. Good article, Peter!

    • Thank you, Susan! πŸ˜€

      Every so often I pull one out… Now, if I can just remember how I did it. πŸ˜‰

      • If I may hazard a guess, I’d suppose it would be inspiration– the kind that comes from being genuinely agitated by the actions of another person. That might just be me, though. I’m bad with displacement ^^;

  4. Wonderful post Peter, especially in light of recent events that I have no idea about!

    • LOL!

      Actually, Dawn this post is something that has been brewing for quite a long time. I’ve seen the same reaction from so many different aspiring authors that it became a bit of a pet peeve with me. In particular the habit of reacting in a condescending and dismissive manner.

      That’s like getting slapped in the face for trying to help someone out, especially when they have, more, or less, asked for your help.

      I’m not saying they have to listen to anyone, as mostly we’re all in the same boat. Unknown, unpublished (traditionally), and generally undeserving of such monstrous EGOS.

      I don’t mind trying to help, and I certainly don’t expect my word to be the voice of the Gods… But having my face spit in for doing so is the easiest way to get a permanent seat on my bad side.

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