It’s a new year, and with that comes new opportunities. To start, I’m going to change how I blog.
Over the holidays, I was inspired by fellow fantasy author Bruce Blake. (Check out his blog here.) I’ve been following Bruce’s posts for several years. Like me, he’s a laid back Canadian who mostly wrote about fantasy or writing.
Bruce has done some amazing work. Be sure to check out his books if you wander over. When I go to his Amazon author page, I get inspired. This guy tells some great dark fantasy. Blood of the King (the first in the Khirro’s Journey series) is a tale of hope amidst darkness and corruption. It’s even got a Necromancer. This one’s on my to-read list.
But it’s Bruce’s new spin on blogging that caught my attention. More specifically, it was this declaration he made:
That’s right. Fuck writing, I couldn’t agree more.
By that I don’t mean fuck writing, and neither did Bruce. (Read the full post here.) The writing happens, and it’s beautiful. The thing to fuck in this case is all the pretentious “how to write better” and “how I write” stuff that’s cluttering the blog feeds like deadwood.
But I want to take this fuck a level higher. Fuck social media and humble bragging about word counts and what your MC just got up to in your WIP. Fuck writing about how you wrote your book as though you’re in a Writer’s Digest interview (unless you actually are). Fuck telling people why they should care about your book. Let the book do that work instead.
All these things flashed through my head the night I read Bruce’s post, but they’ve since festered. I nearly quit writing several times in the last few years. All occasions were related to being exposed to the “buy my book” buzz. Dread that hung on for days at a time, striking often monthly, that sense of comparison to other writers and thinking who am I kidding? It still goes on, but I’ve found better anesthetics, at least enough to keep me moving forward.
And the whole time, I went on blogging as though this struggle were secondary, as though I have to perform here with as much flare as what I try to do in the writing (and rewriting (and rewriting (and..))) of my stories.
Thank you, Bruce, for giving me a new perspective, one that’s helped me enter 2019 with a new spirit in this thing called blogging.
Here were my plans for 2019 on this blog:
-write a blog-based course on how the editing process works for writers
-write about the history of the epic fantasy genre
-write about how I make maps
Let’s play Abraham and Isaac for a minute.
All of the above is pretentious, and might not make it through the fuck writing filter. Who am I to tell you how editing works? Who am I other than some Wikipedia and Google hack to tell you the story of how the epic fantasy genre evolved? Who am I to tell you how to draw a map?
Now, hold back the dagger for a moment.
I can say a lot about how editing works. I started out as an apprentice editor in 2012 for a small press, then ventured into full-time freelance editing in 2014 when I started my own company. In 2016, we incorporated and presently our team numbers over 12 (almost 20 if we count everyone who lends a hand once in a while). I’ve seen hundreds of manuscripts go from finished draft to fully edited publication. I didn’t just see this, I directed it, using what I learned when I got started. I’ve been every kind of editor, from draft coach, to writing mentor, to developmental editor, to copyeditor, to proofreader. I’ve been a ghostwriter on 2 memoirs. I put all these hats on myself before learning how to train others to wear them under my direction. I learned what I did by reading books and articles on writing craft and the publishing business. This has carried me even further, driven by a passion for how the publishing process works and how to provide the best possible services for self-publishing authors (as well as for our newer startup publishing divisions). I’ve done the copywriting for nearly 100 publications. I’ve overseen cover art production and marketing plans for more than 70 titles. I’ve even been acquisitions editor and know the submission process as one who has been on both sides of the fence.
So, I could write about the steps involved in editing, though it would only be from my perspective. It would not be about writing, but about what I’ve learned, in the spirit of being helpful.
Item #2 gets the dagger, though. I write epic fantasy because I love it, because though I am 36 years old, there’s a part of me who still is that 8-year-old staring at the map to Wilderland, a boy who hated reading but was willing to learn how to do it just so he could see what kind of story went with that map. A boy who has never looked back (and is gradually getting better at reading as a result). So, there’s no reason to write about the history of the fantasy epic. I’m busy reading and learning about it, and writing my own epic to add to the body of work. My energy needs to go there. If I live to 100, I’ll still be that 8-year-old boy, intrigued by this world that feels ever-beginning, the prose that forever evolves like a fractal, the wonder that lurks between the lines.
Without even getting to it yet, I’ve already redeemed item #3. Drawing maps! Imagine this in my best Bilbo Baggins voice: “Oh, how I do love maps!” Yes! I could write endlessly on that.
But the fuck writing filter has helped me strain something important away: how to draw a fantasy map is quite a bit different from the kind of show-and-tell this is turning into. I will write that series of posts on how the steps of editing work, and I will write about the evolution of the map appearing at the front of A Thousand Roads next month (a 20+ year personal story), but in all of this I will be about sharing candidly about what I learned, and trying to be helpful.
Which brings me back to Bruce. Beyond his powerful declaration, is the candid style of being humble and honest. And real. So real your sentences don’t read like they were finely tweaked and perfected to attract a certain market, or appeal to a certain reader.
If you’re still reading this, then it’s because you’ve chosen to follow this blog, or you visited and wanted to check out who this John Robin guy is. But you’re reading it because you want to know more about me, and it’s pretentious to assume otherwise.
So, going into 2019, you can expect more informal posts like this. My fantasy novel is coming out in print next month! I’m excited! But you’ll get that between the lines of my posts. I’m going to assume that if you’re interested enough to read my thoughts here, then you’ll decide on your own if you want to check out my book. This is the age of Google at our fingertips, after all.
I’ll be posting all about things that are actually interesting (I hope), not things I hope you’ll find interesting. I’m following my heart with blogging, just like as a writer I’m following my heart slaving away on tome-length epic fantasy (when that is the worst career choice any sane writer could make).
There’s something fun about this, and I think for the first time since I started blogging back in 2014, I’m actually getting what blogging is supposed to be.
My name is John and I’m a writer, but you know that already, so stay tuned for more more about me, the kind of stories you won’t get anywhere but here.
(Pardon any typos. I blame the cat who is right now curled at my feet, his second choice after losing the cuddle war for the keyboard.)