Tag Archives: J D Hughes

Self-publishing or self-satisfaction?

5 Oct

As I grapple with the idea of self-publishing my fiction due to the apparent impossibility of getting anywhere near a traditional publisher, I’m reminded of the misdeeds perpetrated by some members of the virtual writing community that bring the whole enterprise into disrepute. It’s sufficient to make me hold back for the time being. This post may not make me popular with some of my friends in the virtual world, but some things need saying. Here’s a little advice for the worst offenders.

Reviewing your own books on Goodreads and Amazon – what the feck?, as they say – and then having the temerity to award yourself five stars out of five… it takes some nerve! If you were really serious about the business of writing, you couldn’t possibly be so satisfied with your own work. The ability to be self-critical is an essential skill for the serious writer. Without it, you can’t move your work forward.

And then, it turns out that all of those other readers supplying your five-star ratings are self-published authors themselves. You scratch my back… If you want to be taken seriously, you can’t be dishonest with your potential readers. My traditionally published non-fiction work scores a mere 3.60 on Goodreads, reviewed as it is by people who don’t know me. Clearly, it doesn’t cut the mustard, then, despite the print run selling out at £40 per copy.

Some of these authors are churning out three or four books a year! I suspect that this is made possible by compromising the teensiest bit on quality… And that’s to say nothing of the relentless self-promotion that seems to go with the territory, the endless tweets, Facebook and Goodreads statuses bleating on about this or that five-star review of an author’s work that render social media almost unreadable. A key part of this strategy is to follow thousands of other writers and readers on Twitter so that they follow you back then ‘unfollow’ them, creating the illusion that you have hordes of fans and admirers (to borrow a phrase from the late Vivian Stanshall). And what is it with self-published authors and genre definition? Young adult romantic urban dark fantasy… Really? And why isn’t anyone writing books for grown-ups any more? The commodification and infantilisation of culture go hand in hand, it would seem.

This picture of my garden in spring has nothing whatsoever to do with the post, but it lightens the tone, doesn't it?

This picture of my garden in spring has nothing whatsoever to do with the post, but it lightens the tone, don’t you think?

You are not an ‘indie’ writer. You are self-published. At least let’s be honest about it. Let’s make the term respectable by cutting out all of the above instead of hiding behind euphemisms. Euphemisms are employed to cover up truths. What is there to hide? Independent publishers are small ones not owned by the big multinationals, not individuals who publish their own work.

Ah, I hear the counsel for the defence counter, but most of these misdemeanours occur in traditional publishing too. That charlatanism happens elsewhere constitutes no defence. I’m as critical of traditional publishing as I am of self-publishing. Indie music labels genuinely sought to cut out much of the corporate malpractice in which the big labels indulged. If self-publishers are to have any moral authority, they must do the same.

‘Lies that tell the truth’, someone said of fiction. Or at least, I think they did. And if not, I’m claiming it. Novelists make things up but they do so to tell us truths about what it means to be human. A good writer is honest in his intent. Pretending that your work has been impartially reviewed and evading the fact that you’ve published it yourself is dishonest. It doesn’t bode well for what may lie between the covers (pun intended).

There are honourable exceptions. My friend Mari Biella’s self-published works are genuinely good and she doesn’t endlessly trumpet their existence. J D Hughes’s infrequent self-promotion is witty, at least. The problem is that the claims of self-published works of quality are drowned out by the proclamations of self-aggrandising pulp merchants.

All text and images © PSR 2014

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Four Questions about the Writing Process

3 Apr

My writing friend, Lauren Sapala, very kindly tagged me into a blog hop. Tagged me? Blog hop? I had no idea what these thing were, of course. It meant that I’d be answering four questions about the writing process then nominating four more writer/bloggers to do the same. So I asked four friends whose writing I admire. And only one of them was willing to take part… There was some unease about the ‘chain letter’ nature of such enterprises, something about which I also have my doubts. But since it was Lauren asking me, how could I refuse? Lauren’s blog is much more useful than mine and always worth reading whenever you’re feeling in need of inspiration to write. Besides, I’d already thought about my answers, so here they are. Lauren nominated me because she’s a fan of this blog – kind and crazy woman!

Upon What Are You Working?

I’m working on a novel at the moment. It’s reached the 80,000-word mark. It employs a rather experimental structure. There are elements of the fantastic in it and the world in which it’s set is both ours and not ours. It gives me the opportunity to make up places and languages and so on, all of which is good, clean fun. More than anything else, the novel’s about exile, loss and alienation. It turns out that it’s deeply personal too, which surprised no one more than me.

How does your work differ from others in the genre?

That’s a tricky one for me to answer as I neither read nor write genre fiction. The whole idea of genres strikes me as a convenience for marketing departments and I’m much more interested in writing, imagination and ideas than I am in packaging and advertising. Young Adult Dark Urban Romantic Fantasy… erm, no, thanks. Re-writing something similar to an original work so that it can easily be marketed is the precise opposite of creativity to my mind. It’s just too limiting, in the wrong kind of way. This is probably one of the reasons why my fiction has yet to be published! So I’ll take Gormenghast over written-to-order fantasy any day, Brave New World over a-la-carte science fiction.

I don’t feel that it’s for me to make claims about the otherness of my work, though. It differs from the writing of Borges and Kundera, say, or from Calvino and Perec in that it’s not as good as theirs… I play with words and ideas. I fool around with narrative structures, with the relationship between author and character. I tell tall tales. Whether what I do is in any way original must be for others to decide. Is there anything new under the sun?

Why do you write what you write?

I’ve always loved books. I’ve been writing forever. I strive to create the sort of book that I’d want to read myself. It’d be nice if my fiction reached a wider audience but it’s almost a matter of indifference to me, in the final analysis. I write because that’s what I do.

How does your writing process work?

It doesn’t always. I once spent seven years writing something and then binned it… The overall idea for a project generally comes to me in a matter of moments. Sometimes, it’ll be placed on the back-burner for years. I’ll then plan out an arc for it and write by infill. Several ideas may be conflated into one book. I always know where my stories are headed. I never write books in narrative order. I edit as I go along. When a manuscript of sorts has emerged, I’ll read through it, re-drafting. I’ll repeat this process many times over. It takes a long time. I have to fit writing into the gaps between work commitments. It’s not a method that I’d recommended to anyone else.

Another of the author's writing perches

Another of the author’s writing perches

Below then is a link to the only one of the four bloggers who agreed to take part!

P K Read – champagnewhisky.com 

Paula’s superbly written and informative blog concerns itself mostly with environmental and rural issues. As the name implies, she also writes about booze from time to time… It’s an eclectic mix and never less than interesting. I’m reading the draft of Paula’s novel at the moment. And darn good it is too!

Amendment! 

Another of the writers whom I invited has accepted the blog hop challenge – he’d been away from his computer, carrying out research in foreign lands. So please meet Mr…

…J D Hughes – jdhugheswriter.wordpress.com

J D is an occasional blogger. Quite sensibly, he spends considerably more of his time actually writing novels rather than blogging. His most recent book is called And Soon the Song. You can find extracts from his fast-paced and highly imaginative fiction on his blog. And when J.D.’s posts do appear, they’re skilfully written, cogent and funny.