Tag: publishing


Posted on by Steven Savage

(With NaNoWriMo coming up, let me give you a bit of a boost)

So you wrote a book. You self-published it or may self-publish it. It’s just that, down deep, you think it’s kind of crappy. Guess what, I don’t care if it’s crappy – it may indeed be crappy. I want you to know why this is great.

First, let me note that it’s probably not as bad as you think. The ability to see our work as awful is a blessing and a curse to writers, but I oft find writers suffer from low self-esteem over egomania. We just notice the egomaniacs who think their crap is brilliant as they stand out.

So, now that you have this manuscript you’re vaguely disappointed in, perhaps even published, let’s talk about what’s great about it.

What’s Generally Awesome:

  • It’s done. You can move on to your next project.
  • You managed to actually write a book – kudos. That alone shows a level of strength, talent, commitment, obsession, or lack of self-control that’s commendable. Many people couldn’t do this – you could.
  • You learned you care enough to get a book done. If you have that passion that puts you ahead of people who never try.
  • You can always publish under a pseudonym. In some cases this is the best idea depending on subject matter.
  • At least the book is committed to history. You are a historical snapshot and people may learn from your experiences.
  • You learned more about self-publishing in general, and perhaps the publishing industry from your research. You can use that later or in other projects.

Technical Skills:

  • You learned how to better use writing tools like word processors to get this far. That can help you in your next book or other projects.
  • You learned how to use formatting options and/or self-publishing tools to get the book ready for publishing. You can use that for other projects or in everyday life.
  • You learned how to use publishing services like CreateSpace or Lulu. You can use it again or teach others.
  • You learned how to make a cover for your book, or buy one.  Sure the cover may be bad, but it’s something.

Writing Skills

  • You learned a lot about writing. Yes, the book may not be good, but it is at least coherent enough for people to understand. You managed to figure out how to make that happen.
  • You developed some kind of writing system and tested it – even if it was randomly flailing. You can build on that (or if your method was bad, discard it).
  • You (hopefully) get some feedback. Be it from pre-readers or editors or readers, you’ve got feedback or have the chance to get some. It may not be good, but it’s a chance to grow.
  • You learned just how publishing works, from issues of ISBNs to royalty-free photos. That’s knowledge you can use in future books and elsewhere.
  • You learned about genres from writing within one, from comparing yourself to others, from researching. This can inform your next book, your sequel, your rewrite, or just provide helpful tips for others.

Personality And Habits

  • You developed enough courage to finish and perhaps publish it. It might not be under your name, it may be flawed, but it takes a certain level of character to complete a work. You have it or developed it.
  • You learned a lot about your hopes, fears, abilities, and personality doing this. It might not have been pleasant, but you learned it
  • You learned how you write as you completed the book; do you write well alone, at a coffee shop, etc. You can use this for your next project.


  • You meet people along the way. It may be an editor, a cover artist, a fellow author, someone thank thinks your work is awful. Some of these folks are people you can grow with, who can help you grow – and whom you can help grow.
  • You (hopefully) discovered writer communities along the way, or at least hard more about them. Those are people who can help you next time, be supportive, be friends, or point you at interesting work to read.
  • It may not be good, but how many of us were inspired by not-good things that had some good stuff? Your work might be a stepping stone for others.

The Future:

  • You can at some point rewrite the book and do it right. What if it’s really a glorified rough draft you can revisit when you’re more talented.
  • At some point you can take your book off of your website or out of bookstores or whatever (if self-published). If you’re truly worried, there are options there (and you still enjoy many benefits)
  • You can do a sequel to address the flaws of your work and improve as an author. I’m sure we all know series where the first (or second) book was not the best of all of them.
  • You could always decide the book should be free and let others build on it.
  • Maybe the book would be better as something else – a game, a comic, etc. Now that it’s done perhaps it can be reborn in a better form.

So your book sucks.  But you have a book, and that’s awesome!

(Remember I do all sorts of books on creativity to help you out!)

– Steve


Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Something that came to mind while working on the last entry for the history of adaptations is how publishing and, indeed, writing, has changed over time.  While series have been around for some time in several genres, from mysteries to westerns to science fiction and fantasy*, Over time, though, the length of novels has been growing, not just in page count but in story.

A few examples before continuing.  Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë and released in 1847, has anywhere between 350 to 500 pages, depending on edition, and covers the title character’s life from childhood to adulthood in detail.  Eyre was also originally published in three novels, not one.  A Study in Scarlet, the first novel-length Sherlock Holmes novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is slightly over 100 pages.  A Princess of Mars, the first of the John Carter of Mars series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, is 186 pages.  Daybreakers, part of the Sackett family saga by Louis L’Amour, is 240 pages.  Casino Royale, the first 007 novel by Ian Fleming, clocks in at over 210 pages.  Jumping ahead, Firefox, by Craig Thomas, is over 380 pages and A Game of Thrones, the first of the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin, is over 835 pages.

If the above paragraph made your eyes glaze over, longer novels gave way to shorter ones which then were muscled away with longer novels once again.  Casino Royale was fully adapted as a movie.  Firefox was adapted in full, but details were lost along the way to keep to the core of the book.  Comparing the two original novels, there was far more happening at different levels in Firefox, from Gant’s infiltration of the Soviet Union to the monitoring of the mission by the head of MI-6.  Casino Royale kept the focus on Bond and his investigations.  The two stories fall into the Cold War-era espionage genre, but Firefox gets into greater detail.

In the fantasy genre, doorstoppers are de rigeur today.  Earlier works, like Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian series and Burrough’s John Carter and Tarzan series, were of a length that allowed entire books to be fully adapted.  A Game of Thrones, however, required a TV series to do the novel justice.  Martin has a large cast, with each character having his or her own plotline.  There is no way that a movie could hope to encompass everything happening.  The game changer in the fantasy genre was JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.  When it gained in popularity in the Sixties, a number of future writers became inspired by the scale of the story.

What does the expansion mean for adaptations?  First, the best format for the adaptation may no longer be a feature film.  While movies still have the cachet of being the premier form of entertainment, they have a time limit.  Few movies lasst longer than three hours, and most are two hours or shorter.  Casts of characters have also grown, which leads to either having a large number of actors or rolling several characters into one.  Both have pitfalls.  A large cast means that a favourite character might get only a few minutes on screen.  Combining several minor characters into one conglomerate means a new character appears.

Adding to the complexity is that, while series seem to be on the wane in science fiction and fantasy**, multi-book epics are the norm.  Stories like JK Rowling’s Harry Potter, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy, and Martin’s unfinished A Song of Ice and Fire all provide a challenge to complete.  The Harry Potter movies dropped several elements just to get as much in as possible.  This task had added difficult as the successive books in the series got longer and more detailed and intricate.  Both Harry Potter and The Hunger Games needed to split the last novel into two movies to wrap up the story properly.

The expansion of stories may be one of the reasons why comic books are a popular source today.  Comics have had ongoing plots mixed in with one-issue stories in the past, and today’s focus on writing for the trades still allows for an arc to be easily adapted.  Even if a story needs to be compressed, it is still possible to get a popular story filmed with minimal loss of detail.

Peter Jackson’s recent film treatment of The Hobbit may be the vanguard of a new approach to adapting novels.  Provided that the book is popular, adaptations may no longer be kept to just one movie but as many as needed.  Again, there is a risk.  If the first movie doesn’t perform to expectations, the rest of the film series may never be made.  The Mortal Instruments fell to this fate, with just one movie, City of Bones released to a lukewarm reception.

In short, adapting novels to movie form, a tough task of balancing audience expectations with practical and budgetary demands to begin with, now has added problems in terms of including the full story.  There is no simple solution.  The best that can be done is to see what works and what doesn’t.

* Including planetary romance, which includes the John Carter of Mars novels.
** Excluding tie-in novels and urban fantasy.  Tie-in novels exist to take advantage of an existing property, acting as an extension.  Urban fantasy appears to be taking its cue from both fantasy and from mysteries, where there are single plot arc series leading to a pre-planned ending and series that return to see how characters are faring.

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