Jan 282011
 
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WHEN NOT TO USE A PSEUDONYM AND WHY

When Bjo Trimble (justly famed as the “woman who saved Star Trek”) advised author and editor Ted White that she was thinking of using a pseudonym on a science fiction novel she was writing, told her bluntly, “Don’t. An author’s name is his or her stock in trade. It is what you want readers to be thinking of when they are at a bookstore looking for a book to read. The easier you make it for them to associate the name with a real person, the easier you make it for them to remember the name in the future.”

Ted White, then, was all for a writer using their real name rather than a pen name that would conceal their identity. It seems to work. When I go to the bookstore these days I am looking for Cathy Reichs, James Lee Burke, or the new Peter Robinson. All are real people with real names.

There are notable exceptions to this rule. Mark Twain, for instance. But there is not much confusion. Mark Twain lived so much of his life openly as Twain, that I would not be surprise if you, too, didn’t think of him first as Twain and then as Clements.

Clearly, this is not an absolute rule. None is. There exceptions. But consider carefully before deciding to make exceptions. Nothing less than your future writing career is at stake.

Consider: Suppose you create a pseudonym and then after writing several books change your mind and decide to come out as yourself and start writing books under your own name. Unless you are writing a completely different type of book now and will not be appealing to your former readers, you will lose some large percentage of your original audience, the one you developed for your pseudonym, and never gain it back. Changing horses in midstream like this is counterindicated.

WHEN TO USE A PSEUDONYM

There are three major justifications for using a pseudonym, when it may be and probably is to your advantage to hide your identity behind a made up name.

The first is that using your real name on something tgat could cost your job or customers – in short income. You could be writing a series of thinly disguised books about real people you know or work with, who would fire you or stop patronizing your business if you published it under your own name. Or, it might be works that exposed secrets of, or made fun of, your industry, job, or profession, where the results would be the same. For that matter, if you are in a profession that takes it self seriously, like banking or academe, and you seem to be writing what your bosses and colleagues consider frivolous, like pulpish mystery thrillers, it could be seen as lowering your gravitas, and you might find yourself eased out the door. Or some other variant where putting your name on the book would place you in serious jeopardy of serious financial loss.

The second major justification for employing a pseudonym rather than your actual moniker is that it would cost you friends or loved ones. This is almost always a case where you are writing about friends, family and acquaintances, and presenting things they have said and done that are embarrassing, unattractive, or that even show them in a very bad light. Things that if written under your own name, and read by mutual acquaintances, would very likely lead to the person you were describing being recognized by everyone, causing the subject of the piece humiliation and likely generate furious anger at you as well.

The third is that you are writing something so inflammatory that that it might put you in danger of losing both job/income and your family/friends. These days that often comes down to erotica. Writers living in small towns, or whose friends, families and associates are conservative in bent, are making s sensible choice when they put a pseudonym on their works. Of course, in a sophisticated city like San Francisco or New York, the effect might be the reverse, and being known as someone who writes erotica may enhance the luster of one’s reputation. Whatever the reason, today, unlike the 1960s and 1970s, many authors proudly put their own names on their erotica.

Sometimes writers producing stories and books on more than one genre will use their true names for books in one genre and a pseudonym on books intended for a different genre. At one time it was considered that if a person was going to write mysteries, and say westerns, that mystery readers would avoid books by someone who also wrote westerns because they would think the author was not really serious about mysteries. And that readers of westerns would disdain anyone who wrote contemporary mysteries with urban settings because they would feel that a writer who could do that well could not possibly capture the authentic feel of the old west. Today, however, that seems to be changing. Increasingly, readers seem willing to accept what are called crossgenre writers, who excel at producing stories of more than one type. Elmo Leonard is accepted as both a western writer and a mystery novelist, while a number of major fantasy novelists are also accepted as authors of credible, realistic mysteries.

I will have a few words to say about choosing pseudonyms in my next post.

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Jan 202011
 
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Please read this if you just had something rejected:

It’s part of being a writer. Everyone gets rejected. Repeat after me: EVERYONE GETS REJECTED. This does not mean you are a bad writer or a bad person. Stories get rejected for all kinds of reasons, from “just not the right style” to a just plain grouchy (or really dumb) editor. Take a few deep breaths, do a little research, and send the story right out again or put it in a drawer, forget about it, remember it again, take it out, read it, and realize it really is DAMNED good. Then send it out again.

Never forget that writing is subjective. My idea of a good story is not yours, yours is not his, and his is not mine. Just because an editor doesn’t like your story doesn’t mean that everyone will, or must, dislike it as well. Popularity and money don’t equal quality, and struggle and disappointment don’t mean bad work. Keep trying. Keep trying. Keep trying.

Think about the rewards, about what you’re doing when you write. I love films, but I hate it when people think they are the ultimate artistic expression. Look at a movie – any movie – and you see one name above all the others: the director, usually. But did he write the script, set the stage, design the costumes, act, compose the music, or anything really except point the camera and tell everyone where to stand? A writer is all of that. A director stands on the shoulders of hundreds of people, but a writer is alone. Steinbeck, Hemmingway, Austin, Shakespeare, Homer, Joyce, Faulkner, Woolf, Mishima, Chekhov – all of them, every writer, created works of wonder and beauty all by themselves. That is marvelous. Special. That one person can create a work that can last for decades, centuries, or even millennia. We pick up a book, and through the power of the author’s words, we go somewhere we have never been, become someone new, and experience things we never imagined. More than anything else in this world, that is true, real magic.

When you write a story, you have created something that no one – NO ONE – in the entire history of history has done. Your story is yours and yours alone; it is unique and you, for doing it, are just as unique.

Take a walk. Look at the people you pass on the street. Think about writing, and sending out your work: what you are doing is rare, special, and DAMNED brave. You are doing something that very few people on this entire planet are capable of, either artistically or emotionally. You may not have succeeded this time, but if you keep trying, keep writing, keep sending out stories, keep growing as a person as well as a writer, then you will succeed. The only way to fail as a writer is to stop writing.

But above all else, keep writing. That’s what you are, after all: a writer.

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Please read if you just had something accepted:

Big deal. It’s a start. It’s just a start. It’s one sale, just one. This doesn’t make you a better person, or a better writer than anyone else out there trying to get his or her work into print. You lucked out. The editor happened to like your style and what you wrote about. Hell, maybe it was just that you happened to have set your story in their old hometown.

Don’t open the champagne; don’t think about royalty checks and huge mansions. Don’t brag to your friends, and don’t start writing your Pulitzer acceptance speech. Smile, yes; grin, absolutely, but remember this is just one step down a very long road.

Yes, someone has bought your work. You’re a professional. But no one will write you, telling you they saw your work and loved it; no one will chase you down the street for your autograph; no one will call you up begging for a book or movie contract.

After the book comes out, the magazine is on the stands, or the Web site is up, you will be right back where you started: writing and sending out stories, just another voice trying to be heard.

If you write only to sell, to carve out your name, you are not in control of your writing life. Your ego and your pride are now in the hands of someone else. Editors and publishers can now destroy you, just as easily as they can falsely inflate you.

It’s nice to sell, to see your name in print, but don’t write just for that reason. Write for the one person in the whole world who matters: yourself. If you like what you do, and enjoy the process: the way the words flow, the story forms, the characters develop, and the subtleties emerge, then no one can rule what you create, or have you jump through emotional hoops. If a story sells, that’s nice, but when you write something that you know is great – something that you read and tells you that you’re becoming a better and better writer – that’s the best reward there is.

But above all else, keep writing. That’s what you are, after all: a writer.

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Jan 132011
 
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No Muse Is Good Muse

So it’s another one of these columns where I will speak less about the specifics of SEO writing then the approach I think best suits the working writer, or the one who wants to work. Whatever it is you’re doing, SEO work (writing copy with specific keywords for search engines) editing or if you’re lucky enough to make fiction writing your main gig, I think it behooves a writer to wait for his or her muse.

A muse, if one exists (and I have a hard time believing in the concept) ain’t  gonna put food on your table. If you are a writer, write. Stop blogging about writing, stop tweeting or twatting about it, stop professing to people that you write and you have the great American novel on your hard drive awaiting completion. Please do me, your family, friends and fellow writers a favor…just fucking write!

If you have a job that will pay you to move those stubby little digits across a computer keyboard and the job is paying you what you feel is a honest wage, then you best get on the job and start writing, cause the worst thing to be is a writer waiting for inspiration while money passes you by.  Be inspired all you want, feel the vibe and the verve and the shuck and jive, stand on your head if you have to, but one need remember this writing thang we do, especially if one is writing stuff like SEO copy, is a job. Negotiate a good pay, stay off your twitter-really nobody cares how many followers you have, it doesn’t give your meaningless existence any more weight-and write.

The only way I ever got the jobs I did or the one I presently have is by working. I either worked directly to solicit the job, or my name was given to someone from work  I did previously, or  what little rep. I do happen to have I got by…yes, say it out loud with me kids….by working writing!

The nuts and bolts of SEO writing I can sum up for you right here, right now…either find or have your employer give you the keywords he or she want to get into the copy, write clear and concise copy to your employers specification, put those keywords in the copy judicously, have the copy make sense and make sure to stay on your point in the words allotted. Don’t stuff keywords by keeping the ratio pretty well even through-ut your paragraphs and you’re mostly there.

But none of the paragraph above will mean doodly unless you…that’s right, say it with me again kids…unless you write. Unless you work. Unless you get up off your ass (or sit down on it), turn off the PDA, close the Facebook account-believe me if you log on an hour from now you’re not going have missed a blessed thing-and welcome the muse called commerce and do your job. You’re a writer right? Writers right. If you think for a millisecond that what you do is really all that more important than anyone else’s job, that you are on the fast track to inspiration because you do something ‘creative’, that you’re any more special then the dude that picks up your garbage, then do me a favor, go on your Twitter account and tell all your friends. They believe they are just as special

For the rest of us slobs, I say, keep writing.

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Jan 062011
 
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Can you believe that it’s been a year since we started this blog? I’ve been so lucky and blessed with the company I’ve been keeping here, started new projects with some of them, worked with others for a more prosperous career and ultimately helped a ton of you to become better, more educated writers. The purpose of this blog was and is simple: Educate the writer on the craft of writing erotica in any form, be it a little hint of smut here or a lot of sex there.

When I chose the players, I had an idea in mind. Not only did I want to partner with other professionals, but I wanted to bring something different, a powerhouse of well rounded talent that you the writer would benefit from. Becoming a successful writer isn’t just about writing a great story. It’s never been just about that. Though that IS the secret to making money, right? Just cracked the formula, didn’t I?

Sort of.

A great story is one that not only reads well, is written well but reaches a broad audience. Using the proper words to create images in the readers mind helps define your style as a writer but it also gives you potential for an even greater opportunity to capture market share. We’re not competing against one another, but rather working towards a common goal of enjoyment and entertainment, albeit sexual in nature. Some of us want a little romance, others want a little kink, and still others are uncertain until they’ve been exposed to your work.

Having stories that fit an audio market capture that all important sense many of us miss out on. It’s important to understand what audio erotica is and why we’re talking about this.

A need to be varied and flexible with story craft is important too. So is the desire to crank out fresh material.

All of these things plus the rest of the previous blog entries all come down to one thing in the end. You, the author. What IS your author platform? What is the hook, line and sinker you’re going to use once you’ve written that great book to sell it to a publisher? Are you familiar enough with the marketing aspects of basic blogging so that once the work is released, you can effectively market it?

The problem for most new writers is still that they have trouble wrapping their heads around all of the above mentioned things. That’s why we’re here. WriteSEX adds value to your platform, helps your career grow. If you’ve questions, we’ve more than likely got answers.

Because a world without questions, only has answers. I will resume story craft on my next post. For now, we’ve solidified a unique group with well over 100 years of combined experience in writing. And it’s my sincere belief that 2011 will be the year of the writer.

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