Indie Writers Advice #231: Keep Your Eye on the Ball

Like a lot of Indie writers, I can easily get tangled up in the differences between us Indies and trad-published writers. Because we are all still fighting so hard for credibility and to wave away the stench of self-published from our books, we  can tend to spend too much time focusing on the manner or way that we become published.

I’m an indie filmmaker as well as an indie author. I remember waiting at the orthodontist’s office with my middle schooler a couple of years ago and listening to him refer to me to the receptionist as his Mom, “the geek.” It totally surprised me that he would see me that way, but when I really thought about it, it was a correct assessment. As a film editor, I spend a lot of time with the technology to get the project I’m working on to turn out the way I want. I am always on the lookout for the latest software to help me do my job and, of course, I’m constantly updating and refreshing my existing tools. Fact is, because I consider myself an artist, I never saw that I’m also a computer geek. I read an article recently (in one of my geeky film editing e-zines) that was a response to a video editor’s concern that the new, cheaper version of Final Cut Pro (a video software editing program that was extremely expensive and had a big learning curve) meant that everybody would be competing with him now for jobs. The article responded to him by making the point that I think we would all—whether as writers or video editors—do well to remember: our tools are not the things that matter. They are just the method that makes the thing that matters, happen.

What matters is the story.

Strip away all the social media and the promotion, the blog tours and the technology involved in producing the end product—whether it’s a video or a book published through Smashwords—and what you have left is the story. And it is the story that lasts. The story is not platform dependent, it is not technology dependent. It is even, amazingly, the answer to all those authors out there concerned that they will not be able to contribute (and therefore compete) with the new multimedia aspects of fiction coming as sure as tsunamis follow earthquakes. You can stop worrying. Because as much as I love them, it’s not the gizmos, the gadgets, the fads or the gimmicks  that matter a damn in our business.

Have a good story. Tell it well. Period.

Roll credits, fade to black.

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18 thoughts on “Indie Writers Advice #231: Keep Your Eye on the Ball

  1. I am not an indie writer, but I am a reader, and a business writer with a strong interest in creative writing, and from what I’ve seen so far, self-published books are ridden with typos and often poor grammar. So, maybe indie writers can spend some time revising their writing and even go as far as to hire a good (good, not cheap) editor? I tried reading one self-published book not so long ago. I couldn’t go past the first chapter – I tripped over dangling modifiers almost on every page. It’s a surefire way to lose credibility.

      • A very dignified response to a somewhat abrasive comment. A very good post, and motivational to those who might lose courage in the face of all the technological advancements in the world. I myself am in the beginning stages of attempting to get my first book published. It is a daunting task, but your little grain of wisdom is well-received. Thank you!

  2. Great post! Be proud of your geekness Susan. The word has really expanded in the las decade and it’s acceptable to be geeky. It’s even preferred for some of us.

  3. It seems that’s the one thing I see a lot og writers on Twitter forget. I only see promo tweet after promo tweet, and when I (sometimes) decide to check the book out, it’s often a lackluster experience. The story is what so many love about books — how to put a book together is secondary. =)

    All of this to say that I agree with you wholeheartedly.

    • Thanks, Elisa. It’s true, the story will always be Job One! 🙂 Or should be, at least. Good for you, tho’, for giving the indie tweeters a chance by checking out their stuff. I do the same thing. Thank God for Amazon’s “Click to Look Inside” feature. You don’t even have to download a sample to see if you like it. You can take a quick peek and easily tell from the first few pages if the author’s skipped a few too many rules along the road to publication!

  4. Good post! Unfortunately, “tell it well” is something that evades a lot of self published authors. It’s so important to hone your craft.

    • Or at least hire a decent copy editor! But you’re right, Jennifer, most of us are constantly working at becoming better writers: taking the workshops, reading the books, and writing, writing, writing. If you love to do it, you want to do it well.

  5. The rule in any craft is to first TELL THE STORY WELL, but there’s another more important truism, it’s the STORY THAT COUNTS, a good story poorly told is still a GOOD STORY. The same as a bad story is still a BAD STORY no matter how much LIPSTICK you smear on it.

    • I agree with you, Jon. As much as it annoys most/many readers (and I am one) to see bad grammar and weird, distracting formatting, a great story will, I think, transcend the poor telling. Amanda Hocking said one of her reasons for why she wanted to go with a legacy publisher was because she had gotten so many complaints from readers about her sloppy editing. (I have to suggest there was another solution to this beyond signing a contract with a traditional publisher, like hiring a freelance editor) but the point is, she became a mega-e-book seller because so many readers were willing to look past the messy wordsmithing to the awesome story.

  6. thanks for answering and the point about knowing the craft of writing. which is something I confess I don’t know. I sit down at the computer and write my stuff (before the computer it was a yellow pad) and write a sentence, maybe five words, and then another, then one in-between or after, then read and start changing or adding words until it feels right. as my art teacher would have said until it “sings”. and you know sometimes it does. some times it’s a struggle. sometimes it flows. but the truth is I have no idea of how to write, how to compose a sentence, punctuate, spell or construct this or that. usually I tell myself it doesn’t matter it’s the story that counts and usually I believe it….and then there are times like now, that I wonder if maybe I need more than my gut to tell my story?

  7. I’m an Indie fan, if there is such a thing. Whether it be coffee, music, books stores, or writers. All things being equal I’ll support the indie every time.

    I used to watch an awful lot of live music when I lived in London and saw atleast one band a month that should have been famous, or atleast signed to a label. They weren’t because what most A&R guys were looking for back then was a safe bet.

    Those same bands can now record, distribute and sell their work and build a following and I love that.

    Same for writers, artists, photographers.

    All the software does is get us in the door. We still have to produce great content – that’s the one thing that hasn’t changed.

    Your posts are such great conversation starters – thanks!

  8. Glad to hear that you’re a filmmaker & editor as well. This is a perfect age for content creators working in different mediums. Songwriting has always been my business. Writing fiction is just another form of expression. For the intrepid writer, there’s a lot of open road ahead.

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