What’s In A Name?: Famous Authors Who Wrote/Write Under Pen Names

It’s safe to assume that we’re all familiar with the concept of the pen name. The pen name is a fake name – whether something that sounds like an actual name, or something that sounds more like a cool code name – used by authors to disguise the fact that they are who they are. Why authors would want to hide under a made-up persona is personal, of course. It may be that a person does not want other people to know that they’re writing genre fiction, and so would use a pen name when publishing their works. It may be that an author who usually publishes in one genre wants to write in a totally different genre, and so to avoid possible negative reactions, or just outright shock readers might experience, would write instead under another name. Reasons vary, and they can all be equally valid. They may eventually reveal who they really are, anyway, when they see that what they’re writing under a pen name is well-received and considerably successful.

Which authors, really, wrote under pen names? Let’s look at a few authors and their reasons why.

  • Famous horror writer Stephen King wrote several novels under the name Richard Bachman. It was his attempt to go around being restricted from writing more than one book a year, and also a test to see if he really was successful because he was talented, or if he just got lucky.
  • Another horror/speculative fiction writer, I Am Legend writer Richard Matheson, wanted to be known under the name “Logan Swanson” when I Am Legend was adapted into film in the early 1960s. It was done because he wasn’t happy with changes made on his screenplay. He did the trick again when his work on Twilight Zone and Combat! were edited to the point that he didn’t like them.
  • An example of an author wanting to write in a different genre this time. Famous mystery author Agatha Christie wanted to write romance stories, but understandably, her readers would have been shocked if she’d suddenly start writing them. So she chose to write under the name “Mary Westmacott,” and managed to write around six romance novels before being found out.
  • The Bronte Sisters, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, all published their first works under pen names, taking on the male aliases Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. The choice of male pseudonyms made sense as, Charlotte herself reasons, ‘we did not like to declare ourselves women, because – without at that time suspecting that our mode of writing and thinking was not what is called ‘feminine’ – we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice.’
  • Science fiction writer Isaac Asimov wrote under the name Paul French when he started writing a YA sci-fi book – that was also picked up for a TV show. He felt embarrassed about the YA sci-fi series he wrote, but eventually admitted to writing them.

So those are just some examples of authors who chose to write under pen names. And there are a lot of different reasons – from trying to avoid prejudice because they were women writers, to trying to avoid being associated to works that they’re not particularly attached to, to trying to find out if people really thought they were talented writers. What is important to point out is that each of the writers in the list – and the many others who are not in the list – wrote under pen names for reasons that may or may not be good, but reasons that meant a lot to them personally.

What do we pick up from this, though? Are we encouraging you to write under a pen name? Not necessarily. It’s fun to know which authors wrote under which names, and why, but taking on the decision of writing under a pen name yourself is an entirely different thing. There are many reasons why you should – and shouldn’t – but that will be a discussion for another day.

Other Interesting Links

Do you know other reasons why writers choose to write under pen names? Would you write under a pen name? Let us know in the comments, or tweet us @creativwriters!

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Channeling Creative Forces: The Reasons Why We Should Make Art

A few years ago, Neil Gaiman, delivering a commencement speech to graduating university students, implored everyone to do one thing: make good art. Make good art regardless of the circumstances. Make good art in the face of adversity, or happiness, and all the emotions in between. It’s an inspiring statement that can fuel our drive to do something creative, regardless of what kind of art it is, whether written, visual, or aural.

Still, what we don’t really talk about is the vast number of reasons why we should make art – whether it’s good or bad (it really depends on who’s evaluating the piece of art, anyway). In this post, I’ll talk about a few things I saw on the Internet about making art – primarily through the visual and the written media – and why we should make art. And the reasons go beyond just wanting to pen a single story that encompasses a certain experience, or to make some thoughts known through verse.

One of the more immediate ways that art is made is through the written word. Writing is a highly accessible activity that doesn’t have to take up much of one’s time – unless one is inclined to, of course. It could be quick, like a line or two that you think is particularly brilliant that you want to write down just in case you might need it later. It might be a longer, more arduous process, such as the writing, trimming, and perfecting of a poem, or the writing of a novel. It is also pretty much everywhere, and not necessarily confined to creative or literary pursuits, although we are here to talk about art.

Another is, of course, the visual medium. And as far as hobbies can go, it may also be as inexpensive as writing. Just a pen, some paper, and imagination, and you’re good to go. Of course, visual art is such a broad term, and encompasses a lot of things from paintings to sketches to sculpture, maybe even advertisements and photographs.

We’re familiar with so many forms of art, but again, I’ll lead you back to the question of why we should make art in the first place. Artists in their respective fields have weighed in on the issue already, as the post “Why We Make Art” by Jeremy Adam Smith, published on the Greater Good Science Center website, proves. Smith asked some artists to answer the question why, and the responses are diverse. Gina Gibney, the artistic director for the Gina Gibney Dance Company, for instance, shares this:

I make art for a few reasons. In life, we experience so much fragmentation of thought and feeling. For me, creating art brings things back together.

Harrell Fletcher, who started the website Learning To Love You More with Miranda July, responded thus:

In my case, the projects that I do allow me to meet people I wouldn’t ordinarily meet, travel to places I wouldn’t normally go to, learn about subjects that I didn’t know I would be interested in, and sometimes even help people out in small ways that make me feel good. I like to say that what I’m after is to have an interesting life, and doing the work that I do as an artist helps me achieve that.

For Fletcher, making art appears to open the world to him – a wonderful reason, certainly, to make art. Then there is James Sturm, who responds to the question thus:

Perhaps the only insight I’ve gained is the knowledge that I have no idea and, secondly, the reasons are unimportant.

The view that the reasons for making art are unimportant is interesting, certainly, and not the kind of perspective you’d come across everyday. Or at least, perhaps something that people won’t admit to. In a way, however, Sturm’s response can be related to the idea that art serves so many purposes and cannot be boxed into a single. Make art – the reasons, whether you have them or not, are not that important. What is important is that you make them. In any case, art can have various meanings, besides, to anyone who’s beholding it, or reading it, or listening to it.

“Why make art” is not a question that can only be answered by supplying personal reasons, however. In Sean Kane’s article for Tech Insider, 7 science-backed reasons you should make art, even if you’re bad at it,” tells readers exactly that: scientific reasons that answer the question of why you should make art. In the article, Kane says:

Painting, sculpting, dancing, making music, and all the other artistic pursuits have benefits that go far beyond pure enjoyment or cultural creation — these activities can also strengthen your brain and improve your mood. Here are seven reasons to give yourself time to make art, even if you think you’re bad at it.

The science-backed reasons may surprise you. Mindless sketching (under certain circumstances), for instance, actually helps you focus. Writing about your problems can help you cope with them. Making art can basically act as one huge stress reliever. And in this day and age, we need all the stress relief we can get. But the benefits of making art are there, and should be reason enough for you to make art, if in case you’re someone who has no gigantic literary or artistic ambition that you’re itching to fulfill.

I’m sure there are a million and one more reasons why we should make art, and I doubt I’ve been able to cover them all in one post. However, it’s safe to say that the general, big vision, the big picture, that we want to put into view is this: we should make art because making art heals, fulfills, and communicates. Making art allows us to talk about certain subjects and deal with certain things. It helps us to share or articulate our experiences and thoughts with others. It allows us to touch others’ lives. With these ideas in mind, we can safely say that whoever you are, you should make art. Even if it’s just one doodle, or one line, or one note at a time.

Interesting Links:

I’ve rounded up a few links related to the topic. Check them out!

Do you know any articles or reasons – personal, scientific, or otherwise – why we should make art? Do you have art to share? Let us know in the comments, or tweet us at @creativwriters!

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Rising From the Ashes: Accepting Rejection

Pretty much everyone knows that most people who have become successful originally started from the bottom then made their way up. It’s a fact of life – one should work hard to achieve their dreams. These dreams become the individual’s drive to do something, motivating and making them soldier on regardless of how many failures and rejections get in the way.

Soldiering on is, of course, easier said than done. Just as it’s a fact of life that we’ll get rejected a lot over the years, whether it’s for a job or for a manuscript that we’re trying to get published, it’s also a fact of life that it’s not easy to deal with. Far from it, really. Rejection the first or second or nth time may be enough to get you to think that maybe what you’re doing isn’t really for you, and there’s no point in going on and walking the same path. Of course, some may have an easier time accepting rejection more than others. Still, whoever you are, it helps to understand the possible reasons why your work is getting rejected – and then rising up from the ashes and moving on from there.

So let’s get started. Rejection needs no introduction – it simply means that your work is not deemed fit for publishing, for reasons that probably won’t be disclosed to you. It doesn’t mean that what you’ve written isn’t good. It just means, perhaps, that what you’ve written doesn’t fit the vision that the agents you’ve sent your work to are envisioning. It certainly helps to have that mindset. So first, you do have to try and understand what goes on in the selection process, and then understand why you get rejected – and really, it’s not personal. In the article “25 Things Writers Should Know About Rejection,” author Chuck Wendig gives some twenty-five excellent things writers should be aware of when faced with rejection. It’s a list worth reading – especially if you need someone to help you shape up after the initial rejections you’ve received – but the last item is particularly valuable and worth taking into heart:

A writer without rejections under his belt is the same as a farmer with soft hands; you shake that dude’s hand and you know, he’s not a worker, not a fighter, and wouldn’t know the value of his efforts if they came up and stuck a Garden Weasel up his ass. Rejections are proof of your efforts. Be proud to have ‘em.

It’s great advice, something to keep in mind, and something that can help you get back up and start writing again. Or at least begin reading whatever you’ve sent, now with an objective eye and a heart open to the flaws that your work has. Rejections are, as Wendig says, a sign that you’re doing something – and the more you do something, the more you improve on it, right? In a way, yes – but also learn from the rejections and try to understand what you’ve done wrong.

With that said, what could be the actual reasons why agents reject author submissions, in the first place? Like I said earlier, it’s not really personal – and novelist and photjournalist Heather Hummel talks about this in her blog post for The Huffington Post, Why Agents Reject 96% of Author Submissions.” Reasons can range from something simple as spelling and grammar (which should be reason enough for you to stop procrastinating and proofread your work!) to concerns like genre confusion and weak query letters. These more, say, technical concerns may easily be forgotten in the process of actually writing your work – and may be something  you fail to remember when you decide to get out and submit it to different publishers. Remember that there’s more to writing than actually writing your work – and that the more you familiarize yourself with important concerns as submission guidelines and query letters, the better your chances may be of getting accepted.

Now let’s recap what we’ve said so far. Rejection is not personal, and there are many reasons why you can get rejected. Now it’s easier for you to look back and see what you’ve done wrong, and start working again! But hold up – maybe there’s something else stopping you, and it’s probably that nagging sense of doubt that you won’t be able to get your work published, anyway. Well don’t worry – I’ve already said earlier that a lot of people who are successful had to work hard for it. You probably know it already but wouldn’t believe it still, but many big-name authors whose work have gone on to become classics or bestsellers have experienced rejection, the same way you’re experiencing it now.

Okay, so who are these authors, exactly? A quick Google search will lead you to a lot of lists detailing how authors got rejected by publishers. Alice Vincent’s article on The Telegraph, The rejection letters: how publishers snubbed 11 great authors,” is one such informative list. You’ll find that all manner of writers – from T.S. Eliot to J.K. Rowling – have been rejected, one way or another. Stephen King’s Carrie, for example, was rejected by a publisher, because they were not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.” Of course we all know by now how big Stephen King is, or how successful Carrie has become – even spawning movie adaptations. Herman Melville’s Moby Dick was also rejected by Peter J. Bentley, who wrote: “While this is a rather delightful, if somewhat esoteric, plot device, we recommend an antagonist with a more popular visage among the younger readers. For instance, could not the Captain be struggling with a depravity towards young, perhaps voluptuous, maidens?”

There are more lists on successful people getting rejected – whether they’re writers or not. 20 Brilliant Authors Whose Work Was Initially Rejected,” on Buzzfeed, and the article Best-Sellers Initially Rejected” on LitRejections, are two such pages showing you that, yes, people who are big now had to struggle with rejection before. Lists like these should help put things into perspective – if or when you get rejected, just remember that you’re part of a long line of authors who had been rejected initially, but had found their way up afterwards.

So there. Hopefully this pretty long article has helped you to ultimately understand, cope with, and move forward from rejection. Again, all this is much, much easier said than done. But just keep your eyes on the prize, and eventually you’ll get to where you want to be.

Did you like this article on rejection? Or maybe you know more articles about successful writers who got rejected? Whatever your thoughts are on the subject, share it with us in the comments, or tweet us at @creativwriters! 

 

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Practically Speaking: Practical Writing Advice from Writers, for Writers

We’ve talked – and written – about a lot of stuff related to writing, and some of them are quotes and writing advice from authors both big and not-so-big. And while a lot of pieces of advice, and a lot of quotes, are helpful and inspirational, sometimes those big pushes won’t always be enough. You’ve listened to stuff like “write what you love,” “write what you know,” and the not-always-reliable “show don’t tell.” You’ve seen people give you advice, and you’ve seen people tell you they can’t give you advice, because writing’s an individual experience and everyone else’s advice can only get you so far. You’ve tried to process material and learn from what others have done, and tried to do or to deviate from what’s been done before. And all of this is well and good when you tell yourself that you just need to get some more motivation – even just a tiny morsel of it – for writing.

But writers don’t need only advice to keep them motivated. Writing is, after all, more than just the act of writing. Throughout the writing process and beyond, there are practical tips that any writer can find useful – whoever you are, whatever genre you’re writing in, and regardless of what how motivated or un-motivated you are.

Here are some amazing and very much useful practical tips that you don’t always get when you ask people for writing advice!

“Read craft guides.” This one’s from author Marissa Meyer, who writes in her blog:

I have read dozens and dozens over the years, and I learn something new with every guide I read. Some are full of general advice, while others focus on one specific craft element like setting or characterization. There are also books on living a writer’s life while maintaining your sanity, or setting goals for yourself, or how to market your work once it’s published.

“Find three trusted readers, not just one.” A valuable tip from Brian A. Klems, published on Writer’s Digest. It’s a tip that makes a whole lot of sense, as – Klems notes – “reading is subjective,” and different readers will react differently to your draft. One may find strong points, for instance, in the parts which another reader thinks is weak. Three readers will provide three perspectives, and gives you the chance to decide which parts could and should be revised. Klems writes thus:

So when you’re ready, find three trusted readers who will review your draft at the same time. Don’t read their critiques until you have all three. That way, you won’t be crushed if one person doesn’t respond the way you’d hoped, and you’ll be able to pick and choose the suggestions that most resonate with you. It’s your novel, after all. Input is absolutely critical, but in the end, you have to sift through it and be faithful to your own voice.

The post “Practical Tips on Writing A Book from 23 Brilliant Authors.” We’re not gonna cut corners here. This entire post has a lot of great practical writing advice and should be read in its entirety. Here are some of my favorites.

Advice from Bill Wasik–

The first tip is that readers expect books to be exhaustive on their subjects. That doesn’t mean they want the books to be long — it means that they expect that you will cover all the basic ground that needs to be covered to understand the subject, even if they know some of it already.

This is a basic piece of advice, but it can’t be overstated when you’re trying to go from magazine-length to book-length writing: hone your outline and then cling to it as a lifeline. You can adjust it in mid-stream, but don’t try to just write your way into a better structure: think about the right structure and then write to it. Your outline will get you through those periods when you can’t possibly imagining ever finishing the damn thing — at those times, your outline will let you see it as a sequence of manageable 1,000 word sections.

From August Kleinzahler–

I find it helpful sometimes — and still to my surprise — trying to explain to someone what it is I’m trying to write about, usually someone bright but in a different intellectual zone, and not a writer. Or, likewise, in a letter or email to such a person.

And from Jonah Lehrer–

My one piece of advice is to insist that your editor be brutal — there should be red pen on every page. At least in my experience, the book only gets decent during this phase, as all the darlings and digressions get killed. It’s such an important process, and yet too many editors are too meek (or overworked) and too many writers resist their edits. A good editor is a great thing.

As you can see, these pieces of advice run the gamut from being useful during the writing and pre-writing process, and being useful after writing. And there’s certainly a whole lot more out there, and will often involve stuff when you get down to business: should I self-publish or shouldn’t I? Where do I take my work now? How should my work be marketed? You probably won’t rest easy until you actual get the finished work in your hands — and even then there will still be a lot of hoof-work to be done.

But always remember that there’s a place to start, and often it starts at the beginning of your writing process. Be rigorous in every aspect of your work, and eventually, you might be the one dishing out some great practical writing tips!

Do you know any other great, practical writing advice? Let us know in the comments, or tweet us at @creativwriters!

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Unreal Realities: Writers’ Tips on Writing Science Fiction

Science fiction is one of the biggest genres in literature, and with good reason. By nature, science fiction (alternatively SF or sci-fi), is concerned with speculation, exploring the “what-ifs” of our universe with regards to what is scientifically plausible in our current time. That means understanding, or at the very least acknowledging, what we currently know about science in general: the laws of physics, current trends in engineering, biotechnology, psychology, and all other branches of science both soft and hard. In the end, what counts is that SF accepts our currently reality, but at the same time makes it strange. Darko Suvin, an academic whose main interest is SF, said that SF as a genre is characterized by two devices, one of them being the novumThe novum essentially entails a “strange newness” – something familiar made new and unfamiliar, yet plausible. That is what SF strives for.

Understandably, SF, with its general preoccupation with fictional inventions that could exist, may be a daunting genre for those who want to write in it. It could especially be a concern for those who do not have an extensive background in the sciences. Even with SF clearly being fictional, the whole idea that SF stories are generally rooted in existing scientific principles entails an understanding and capability to write about technical material. One will notice that there are a lot of SF writers who do have scientific backgrounds. New Wave Science Fiction writer J.G. Ballard had a background in anatomy. The Three-Body Problem writer Cixin Liu worked as a computer engineer. There are doubtless many more SF writers who have an intimate understanding of whatever scientific material they are writing about, and a quick Google search would yield that.

But should the “science” part of science fiction deter all others from working on SF? Turns out, it probably shouldn’t. As Susan Stepney notes in the article “The real science of science fiction,” published on The Guardian, a lot of SF writers have arts and humanities backgrounds, and make up for a possible lack of formal technical training by doing research:

SF authors do their research. They tend to read widely, to generate ideas, and then think deeply, to focus in on the details. In the age of the author blog, readers can observe (some of) the authorial process. A lot of research can go into a book, much of it hidden, or even discarded. Inferior authors will info-dump every little last detail they’ve discovered; better authors weave their research seamlessly into the story, discarding what doesn’t fit.

Research is not the work of only one person, meanwhile. Writers are often told to “write what you know,” and in the event that you don’t know much about what you’re writing, you should try to “know what you write.” Stepney says that a lot of SF writers work with or consult actual scientists, which may generate some new and unique ideas:

Pair an SF author and a scientist, and see what results. One great example of this approach is the quartet of Science of Discworld books by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, and Jack Cohen. In each book, Pratchett writes a short Discworld novel that exhibits some scientific properties of interest; in alternating chapters, Stewart and Cohen then explain the underlying science.

Stepney’s example suggests that science and the art of writing fiction have to work closely together in order to weave great SF story.

Writing SF may still seem daunting, certainly. I had the opportunity to contact SF author Teresa McLaughlin, who gave the following tips for writing SF:

  1. “I would advice sci-fi writers to think about what they want to piece of technology to do. It might seem like magic now, but eventually, the technology will be invented.”
  2. “Think of some conditions, elements, or technology that might aid in its invention, and talk about that. My experience tells me that the technology does not have to be described in detail, just mentioned matter-of-factly. They can even do some free research on Google, to find out whether someone is working on developing it. That way, they can find more details to bring into the story, if that works for them.”

Teresa’s advice echoes what Stepney has insinuated – that SF is fiction supplemented with research. However, as Teresa McLaughlin notes, technology or SF elements don’t have to be detailed. In other words, SF shouldn’t appear like a complicated scientific research paper. It could be backed by details and technicalities, but the “fictionality” of the scientific inventions and concepts in the story should still be there, and should allow the reader to have room to imagine for themselves how things work.

Given all this, it is, of course, important to know in the first place whether or not you do want to write SF. Dedication and the sheer desire to write SF might be enough to propel you to read about what you want to write about – whether it’s a general, sort of scattered research, or more in-depth – and everything else will hopefully fall into place.

Finally, a general piece of advice from Michael Moorcock:

Read. Read everything you can lay hands on. I always advise people who want to write a fantasy or science fiction or romance to stop reading everything in those genres and start reading everything else from Bunyan to Byatt.

Relevant Links:

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Happy Endings?: Quitting Writing

Behind every finished book, short story, poem, or play, is a timeline of seemingly endless revisions and edits, and countless nights of frustration trying to finish a draft. It’s no secret that writing is more taxing than it looks. It’s not just about writing, but articulating, and articulating effectively.  And there are a lot of times when you believe that what you’re writing is not good, and what you’ve articulated isn’t engaging. And these are the times when we think that it’s better to quit writing. Do something else, perhaps, and put writing aside.

The question is, though: should you really quit? There’s no single correct answer to that question, definitely. The first thing you might do is weigh the pros and the cons of quitting writing. But then you’ll also have to ask yourself what it means for you to quit. Do you quit trying to be a “serious” writing, writing to get published? Or do you quit writing as a hobby, and focus on other things instead? You may ask people for advice, but it’ll vary, of course. And it won’t be easy when you try to decide.

In his article “How De We Know When It’s Time to Quit Being A Writer?“, Chuck Sambuchino shares his own story. It’s worth reading, certainly. However, what stuck to me was his parting words. He places us in a position where we’re compelled to think about whether or not we should just quit writing. And then he says:

The answer, of course, is simple: Can you quit? Chances are, you probably cannot. So keep writing, Dear Writer – because that is what you are. Whether or not you have a novel in bookstores. Whether or not the whole world has read your writing. Whether or not anything of yours is ever published, as long as you live, you are still a writer. It is part of who you are. Keep writing. It is never time to quit.

It is definitely nice advice, and one that we’ll want to follow. You’ll probably not want to quit if you’ve always loved writing, anyway. But while you may soldier on, there are some who do not want to continue. Lisa Kerr shares her own experience in the article “Why Quitting Writing Was the Best Thing That Happened to Me:

Quitting gave me what I needed to feel healthy again; it gave me the distance from what (and who) was unhealthy for me. I needed to enjoy writing again without the self-imposed pressure to publish with a leading agent. I needed the freedom to drink a beer and sew some crooked triangles on a quilt. I needed to get dirty with watercolors in my studio—splashing paint around, digging in the colors with my fingers. I needed to stop being worried about the cutthroat people I’d worked under.

For Lisa Kerr, trying to force herself to write was already becoming unhealthy for her. It wasn’t a question of being passionate about writing. It was a question of whether or not writing was still something she enjoyed. And distancing herself from writing gave her the energy she needed to get back on track.

In the end, it is you who can decide whether or not you want to quit. You should weigh in pros and cons, and decide if you want to quit for good, just plain quit, or distance yourself from your writing for a while. In the end, choose what’s healthy for you, and things may fall into place.

To end this post, here’s a link to an article: An Open Letter to Writers Struggling to Find Their Courage. May it give you help and hope.

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Write Fantastic: SFF Authors on Self-Publishing

The books everyone sees on display in bookstores’ shelves more or less went through a traditional publishing process. It was a product pitched to a publishing house, edited by a professional editor, publicized, marketed, perhaps promoted tirelessly, both online and off. But a lot of authors know that the traditional publishing process is a lot of work, too. And for some, the end product might not feel like it was worth all the effort. There is, however, a different avenue to get books published: the self-publishing route.

Self-publishing is exactly that: you publish your own work instead of getting them through so many different channels. Many authors saw it as a golden opportunity, especially as authors like Amanda Hocking became successful through self-publishing. There is, however, a problem with that kind of platform, as Ben Galley points out in his article on The Guardian, “Is the self-publishing stigma fading?“:

The brutal truth is that when you can publish anything, people will do exactly that. The market was flooded with indie literature and, sadly, a large percentage of it was substandard. Bad editing, awful covers, and mediocre content were rife. Advice was scarce, the methods many and varied.

And this is true. But, as Galley points out in the same article, there are a lot of independently-published works that are also good and worth readers’ time and money. Self-published authors themselves acknowledge that it’s not easy to get your work noticed in places like Amazon, where a lot of other works are being sold. Self-published works are being consumed, however, regardless of whatever genre they’re in. More works means more books for readers to discover. Thinking about the sheer number of books that one can come across on the Internet is daunting, certainly, so it’s definitely helpful to look at lists (like this one by author Michael J. Sullivan, about his favorite self-published fantasy works).

For authors, meanwhile, who do want to explore self-publishing, some successful self-published authors have already shared their tips over the internet.

Author Hugh Howey, who wrote the post-apocalyptic novel Wool, says that he originally tried to go through the traditional publishing route. In an interview originally appearing on Wired.com, he shares:

…I kind of got peer-pressured into going that route and ended up with a small press and everything went well, but I guess what I saw was, the way that they were publishing it, all these tools were available to me, so I thought, “I can do this.”

Ultimately, he decided to self-publish:

Self-publishing, for me, was a way of getting published and the other way took years of querying, trying to land an agent, trying to get a publishing contract, a year from the publishing contract to actual publication, so it was never about making money or trying to get into bookstores; for me, it was all about writing stories and trying to distribute them.

It was helpful to Howey, certainly, and the exposure his book got only encouraged him to write more.

Another fantasy author, David Dalglish, had believed that self-publishing wasn’t good. He writes, in his guest post for Fictorians:

In college I’d taken plenty of Creative Writing classes, and my favorite teacher had a single day each semester devoted to discussing the pure business of publishing. I still remember what she said: self-publishing meant the end of your career as a writer. You’d never be taken seriously again, because self-publishing was the route of the desperate, and those unwilling to put in the time and effort to get published traditionally.

It did work for David Dalglish, who was, originally excited just to have five people he didn’t know pay for the book he published. As for advice or tips on self-publishing?

The terrible truth is, I’m not sure what worthwhile advice I have to give. Why?

Because if I tried self-publishing from scratch right now, I’d fall flat on my face. That’s how much the self-publishing world has changed. Let me explain. Self-publishers are like locusts (I’m serious, hear me out). For every one person that is respectful, and putting time into their craft, and willing to abide by the rules, there are five who won’t, and will simply swarm in, regardless of the damage it might cause. So one of the earliest ways I got sales was by chatting with people on the Fantasy forums on Amazon. But once people realized that could earn sales, those forums were bombarded with spam, sock puppets, people recommending their own books regardless of the topic. Once upon a time, a reader could make a post saying “I just finished this book by David Authorguy, and it was great!” and you’d nab ten to fifteen sales just like that. The same went for the 99 cent price point. It was an easy way to get noticed, and undercut competition. But now? Pricing 99 cents does nothing, absolutely nothing, to make you stand out.

Dalglish’s guest post was written back in 2012, and the self-publishing may have changed since then. Regardless, it’s still not an easy task getting your work noticed through different channels – self-published or otherwise. But Dalglish’s words on the subject of publishing and writing are worth taking into heart:

Keep writing.

And I don’t mean crank out crap. Imagine that you have a fan base out there, one you’re steadily growing. Every book you write, make sure it’s something that audience will love and devour. With each new book, you’ll gather in the new, and satisfy the old.

I’m starting to ramble, so I’ll cut it off here. In short, if you want to self-publish, go in wide-eyed, your pride swallowed, and your ears open. Treat your readers, who are also your paying customers, with respect and courtesy. Don’t make excuses, but instead have the best editing you can have, the best cover, the best formatting, and the best presentation. Most of all, the best story.

What counts, in the end, is that authors work hard to write great books, and then work as hard to get them exposed to the public. It’s definitely not going to be simple or easy, and it might take a few tries to get things going, but there’s certainly reward to get from writing good works and publishing them through the right channels.

What else?

Here are other helpful links that you might want to check out:

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Link Round-Up: The Vast World of Fantasy

Recently, we’ve all been treated to another new piece of the Potterverse: details on the American wizarding school, Ilvermorny. In fact, those wizards and witches blessed enough – or those muggles who have their own Pottermore accounts – had already been sorted into Ilvermorny’s houses.

The constant addition of details into the Potterverse canon may come off as Rowling’s attempt to breathe new life into something that’s already passed its prime, but it also tells everyone – fans of the Harry Potter series, readers, and the general public – that there is still much to explore and to be found in the fantasy world of Harry Potter. The continuous expansion and fleshing out of the series’ universe – even years after the seventh book about Harry’s life came out – serves as a testament to the flexibility and vastness of the world, and of fantasy as a genre, in general.

This post will be a short – but sweet – one: a list of links directing you to websites, lists, articles, and writing advice about fantasy books. This one’s to tide you over until the next big post – which should come out soon.

So – without further ado: the vast world of fantasy!

  • Top 10 Women Writers of Fantasy (Part 1) – fantasy fiction appears to be a male-dominated field. However, there are a lot of excellent women writers of fantasy who should be read by any good fantasy fan. This link provides a partial list of those excellent writers – so if you’re looking for a good read, you may want to consult this list.
  • Top 10 Fantasy Worlds in Literature – We’re all familiar with Middle-Earth, Narnia, and Harry Potter’s wizarding world. Perhaps we’re even familiar with the Wheel of Time’s setting, or Ansalon. These are settings we might know by heart now, having read and reread books and journeyed over and over again with our favorite characters. However, fantasy settings aren’t strictly tied to high fantasy books. This list provides a good sampling of fantasy worlds in literature – from Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland, to Thomas More’s Utopia.
  • Top 15 Fantasy worlds in video games – Video games have always been great when it comes to immersing people, pulling them into virtual worlds. Certainly, games are no stranger to all things fantasy. This article lists down the top fantasy worlds in video games – so far – in which thousands of video game players have spent countless hours in.
  • Brent Weeks’ Writing Advice – Something for the writers out there. There’s a lot of writing advice on the Internet, but today, we’re looking specifically at Brent Weeks – author of the Night Angel trilogy – and his advice on writing fantasy.
  • Brandon Sanderson Writing Lectures – And finally – here’s a link to the masterpost of the first series of video lectures conducted by Mistborn trilogy and Stormlight Archive author Brandon Sanderson (whom you may also know as the guy who finished Robert Jordan’s the Wheel of Time series). Certainly helpful for budding young fantasy writers who really need solid advice from an expert.

There! Have a great time looking through the links. And if you find some more interesting fantasy-related links for everyone, just let us know in the comments! (And if you haven’t yet, don’t forget to get sorted and find out what your Ilvermorny house is!)

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The Power of Influence: How One’s Creativity Can Influence Others

We always talk about inspiring and influencing through creativity and creative works, but although it’s something we know instinctively, it always pays to have some great, concrete examples of how creative works have influenced others. It pays to acknowledge the fact that, of course, being influenced is inevitable. Once, one of my professors overheard a creative writing student claiming that they’re adamantly avoiding reading anything because it will affect their writing. My professor scoffed at this, and I would have, too. Attempting to deny others’ influence – so long as it’s good influence, the kind that makes you productive – may very well equate to denying your own work any relevance in any genre, in any aspect of life. It denies acknowledging your own roots – how you’ve come to fall in love with art and creativity, in the first place, or how you’ve come to think and act in certain ways. Influence is important, in other words, and it pays to always know what your influences are, for your own work to spring from them.

In this post, I’ll run through a few works and articles in which famous writers and artists acknowledge how existing works have already influenced them, whether the influence is on a specific work or on their entire creative oeuvre.

The Ecstacy of Influence by Jonathan Lethem

  • Speculative fiction writer Jonathan Lethem released this collection of essays that, as the title suggests, largely discusses what has influenced him in various points in his life. Lethem talks about his relationship with the works of various writers and artists, from Philip K. Dick and J.G. Ballard, to Marvel works. It’s an interesting collection because you’ll be able to see how Lethem reacts to the figures that have shaped his life and form his interests – even as he speaks in his own voice and talks about his personal experiences.
  • Dwight Garner wrote about Lethem’s book in the New York Times. Read it here.

Turning Point: 1997-2008 by Hayao Miyazaki

  • Turning Point: 1997-2008 is a collection of essays, notes, interviews, poems, and illustrations by – or conducted with – Hayao Miyazaki, the ever-famous director of such films as Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, and is just about synonymous with the Japanese animation studio, Studio Ghibli*. This is just a half of the series of books revolving around such a collection of material from Miyazaki, but 1997-1998 talks primarily about three of his most famous films – Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Howl’s Moving Castle. You’ll read in the notes and interviews about Miyazaki’s influences – and it’s not the kind of influence on which Miyazaki was compelled to build on, if that makes sense. Miyazaki shows that influence is not always following a certain tradition or style set by certain artists. He talks about Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, which he saw was a misrepresentation of certain aspects of Japanese history. He in turn attempted to amend this in Princess Mononoke. He talks about how Osamu Tezuka has influenced him – but only through certain works, and not Astro Boy. It’s an interesting read, certainly, as Miyazaki gives a lot of great insight on his work, and on what foundations he built them on.

A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi

  • Manga artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s  A Drifting Life is one huge book. Using manga as the medium to deliver his memoir, Tatsumi shows what the sights and sounds of his childhood were, what kind of world he was growing up in, and the effects of it all on his work. He was, like Miyazaki, inspired by Osamu Tezuka – but his was a glowing, wide-eyed, absolute admiration towards the Astro Boy creator, whom he managed to meet during his childhood. The book shows not just Tatsumi’s admiration for Tezuka, but also the other factors that influenced his manga style – films (the techniques used in which he incorporated in his work), existing four-panel manga (which he tried to distance himself from when he wanted to innovate), and the people around him. It just goes to show that influence isn’t just from one writer, or from something absolutely positive – influence goes in bits and pieces. How to craft everything was left to Tatsumi himself.

These are just a few works that show how others have managed to influence artists and their creative works. I repeat – it pays to acknowledge others’ influence. If you don’t particularly like how you’re being influenced, attempt to subvert it, or try to make something new out of it. If you like how the influence has come across to you, then by all means work with it. Creative works and creativity pulse with life — not just yours, but also others who have come before you, and who have lived and done their work before you. Consume a lot of material, and use them to your advantage. Let influence make you grow. The good work will certainly follow.

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Writing and the Internet: Why the Internet is Your Friend

These days, it’s absolutely easy to find information on just about anything. Considering that we’re living in the age of the Internet, where virtually the entire world is connected and is accessible through all sorts of gadgets, it’s not surprising that any regular person can find out about the basic things in most topics, from medicine to science to literature and beyond. News articles are archived, how-to’s are available, and online encyclopedias – from Wikipedia to Encyclopedia.com – can be good repositories of information. Obviously, the Internet won’t be conferring degrees in astrophysics to the regular armchair Internet surfer anytime soon (and it is important to remember that not everything on the Internet is reliable information, and that the good researcher should check and cross-check information before deeming it accurate), but when you need a quick brush-up on surface knowledge on many topics, then the Internet can be hard to beat, really.

All this talk about the Internet — well, what does this have to do with writing, and why should you be concerned about the Internet as a repository of knowledge if you’re a writer? The answer might be painfully obvious, but it is almost as easy to ignore. There’s a saying that goes “write what you know,” but obviously no one knows everything about everything. So following that, “write what you know,” but if you’re not sure about what you’re writing, the next step is “know what you write.” Writing isn’t just about spinning pretty words and vivid sentences into wonderful scenes. A lot of times, in writing, you find that you’re tackling certain topics you’re not entirely sure about, whether they’re technical or otherwise, and you feel like you’re hitting a dead end because you’re not sure if you’re writing about these particular topics properly. What would those familiar with those certain topics say if they come across your writing? We’re all scared of misinformation, and of writing inaccurately, as inaccurate content hurts your text and the chances of readers getting immersed in it. Moreover, your credibility as a writer may also be put at risk.

And here, at this point, is where the Internet comes in. When you write, make sure to do a bit – or a lot, depending on you, really – of research on what you’re writing about. It’s not simply about character development and location, looking up tips on how to write certain kinds of characters or subvert certain tropes. While those are important for your craft, and especially if you want to set yourself apart from existing pieces of written work, those aren’t the only things that you have to pay attention to. Medical scenes, the recovery period of the human body, politics, functions of machines – they’re all very important, as well. You don’t have to go incredibly in-depth to learn anything and everything about, say, about behaviors of certain bird species (this is creative writing, after all, and not a thesis on bird behaviors), but at the very least, you do have to know basic information that’s related to what you’re writing about. Don’t be afraid to use search engines and look up blogs that give out writing tips! There are a lot on the Internet and they’re useful. Good writing is backed by good research — and it will make your writing all the more engaging.

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