Madelaine Shaw-Wong

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When Writing is Hard

Posted on January 24, 2018 at 5:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Should I give up on writing? When writing is difficult it is certainly a temptation. Why should I waste hours fussing over a paragraph, or scene, or a bit of dialogue? I could spend the time in other pursuits – exercising, or reading great literature, or catching up my favourite television series. Instead, I am parked in front of my computer screen, obsessing over words.

I think of Paul Simon’s lyrics from Kathy’s Song, when I become discouraged by writing:

“I don't know why I spend my time

Writing songs I can't believe

With words that tear and strain to rhyme.”

I am not a poet, but I understand the frustration and struggle involved in finding just the right words and phrasing needed to express myself. Words are inadequate tools when trying to describe complex thoughts and feelings. Some analogies come to mind:  Imagine the effort involved in digging a hole with a plastic spoon. Try pushing a cart with a wobbly wheel, or sweeping a floor with a worn-out broom.

Writing is hard. No, writing is painful. As Ernest Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit at a typewriter and bleed.”

Why do I struggle to put words on a page? I know, without a doubt, some people won’t like what I’ve written. They will object to my theme, my point of view, or how I express myself. I set myself up for criticism every time I publish a piece of writing. I wonder if this is a masochistic tendency, or perhaps it is my ego, though I have never been one to crave attention.

Sometimes, I feel that worse than criticism or unwanted attention is deafening silence, when no one seems to listen or care.

Most writers I know are sensitive people. That’s what enables us to do what we do. The irony is: being sensitive makes us vulnerable to unkind comments. Most writers I know are shy, and yet, we are in a profession where if we want to be successful we must be in the limelight. Why do we do it? Why do we expose ourselves to criticism?

There must be something deeper, an innate urge to produce something meaningful, something that we hope will last for generations. This is not for our own benefit, for why should we care what people think of us in a hundred or two hundred years? I, for one, want to make a positive impact on the world, or at least my little corner of the world.

When one creates something beautiful, it is beyond satisfying. A deep need is fulfilled. A beautiful story, a piece of music, a painting, or dance, “speaks” to something in the human soul, an essential part of the human experience. For me, the option of not writing is a terrible one. Life would be less meaningful.

A fellow blogger had this to say: “We need art because it makes us complete human beings… We need to understand our individual and shared history.” https://speakartloud.wordpress.com/2010/04/23/41/#comment-906

Even if I want to quit writing, I can’t. I am compelled to continue until I can no longer sit at a keyboard or hold a pen. Quitting is out of the question.

Mixing Genres. Dinosaur porn, really?

Posted on August 18, 2016 at 11:55 AM Comments comments (0)

I posed a question on Twitter recently: "Can someone define #speculativefiction? Come on I dare you."


The question was tongue in cheek and I received a couple of "likes" for it, but seriously people, what is speculative fiction? According to Wikipedia: "Speculative fiction is a broad category of narrative fiction that includes elements, settings and characters created out of imagination and speculation rather than based on reality and everyday life. It encompasses the genres of science fiction, fantasy, science fantasy, horror, alternative history, and magic realism." In other words, it's a mixed genre.


For months, I have been trying to decide what genre my novel, Quietus would fit under. It's dystopian, based on real life and set in the near future. It has a touch of horror and is a political satire. You might also call it literary fiction, which according to Wikipedia: The term is principally used to distinguish serious fiction which is a work that claims to hold literary merit, in comparison from genre fiction and popular fiction." This is a vague description. Who is to say that a speculative fiction can't have literary merit? Think 1984DuneLord of the Rings, or Oryx and Crake


Perhaps genres were invented by publishers and booksellers so they will know how to shelve books and so buyers will know how to find their favourite types of stories. What will they do now? Mixed genre stories are becoming more popular. The shelves of bookstores and Amazon are now  filling with fantasy/romance, mystery/horror, and dinosaur/erotica. (Yes, it's a real thing.) The good news is that there are so many more choices now for readers. In the mood for cowboys in space or maybe a little dinosaur porn? We got you covered!


In an article on writing cross-genre, http://www.writing-world.com/fiction/crossgenre.html, the writer says, "Learn about the different genres. Read as much as you can of each, before you decide what you want to write. Your writing will read true if you write what you enjoy. If you don't like reading paranormal or suspense, don't attempt to write a story combining these two genres. Once you find your niche, your writing won't be forced. As Vivian Zabel states, "learn (your) craft and master writing good stories and books. The rest will follow."


http://www.themillions.com/2011/09/why-are-so-many-literary-writers-shifting-into-genre.html. The writer here says that many literary writers are shifting to genre. "What’s going on? Is it a mass sellout, a belated and half-hearted attempt by writers to chase the market? Are they being pushed into genre by their agents and publishers? Are the literary novelists simply ready for a change, perhaps because even the most exalted among them have a miniscule readership compared to genre superstars? Or are two disparate worlds finally merging?" 


In any case, I will write the best books I can, regardless of genre, and hope my readers enjoy.

The Hidden Truth about Self-publishing

Posted on August 11, 2016 at 3:30 PM Comments comments (0)

I have found this writer, Derek Murphy, www.creativeindie.com, helpful in exposing the truth about self-publishing. He tells it like it is. "The first book you write will probably be terrible because you're learning how to write." Most traditionally published authors don't earn out their advance, making less than 10% per book. Self-published authors have to learn everything from scratch. Most don't realize the amount of work involved. Some small presses make you pay for some of the services and then want to split the cost. It may be harder to be published by a traditional publisher if you are self-published, unless you can show sales figures of greater than 5000 copies. Makes sense. Who would take a chance on an author who doesn't know how to promote?

Read his article here: http://www.creativindie.com/the-horrible-hidden-truth-about-self-publishing-that-nobody-wants-you-to-know/ ;

His honesty is a breath of fresh air to me. It's easy to get bogged down and confused by the many false promises of predatory self-publishing companies.

None of this surprises me, the learning curve and the amount of work involved. I published Cradling the Past in the days before e-books. I realize the task is daunting, but I am not discouraged. I write the best books I can and intend to market them as best I can.

As for financial rewards, I'm not counting on it. I write because I want to write.

Predatory self-publishers

Posted on May 25, 2016 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (2)

I have spent the last two days researching possible publishers for my novel, Quietus. My head spins from the number of options open to me and it's more than a little scary.


I can send Quietus to traditional publishers who accept only about 1% of unsolicited manuscripts. Many don't take manuscripts at all unless you have an agent. (One needs an agent to be published and must be published before one can find an agent.) Sigh. If, by chance, I become "one of the chosen" I would have to submit to whatever changes their editors want and receive only a small portion of the royalties. After an average six month wait to hear back from them, the process from acceptance to print takes about two years.


I will need a marketing plan because even the trad publishers have felt the pinch of the economy and the onus would be on me to promote my book.

http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/build-a-platform-start-blogging/7-ways-to-develop-an-affordable-marketing-plan ;


Traditional publishers are experts in the business and could easily accomplish what would take me ages to learn. Also, to have one's book accepted by a traditional publisher would put me among an elite class of authors. Despite the surge of self-published authors and success stories, there is still a prejudice against self-publishing, that you're "not good enough" to get a real publisher. 


Since I self-published Cradling the Past, the Biography of Margaret Shaw, in 2007 under my own label, Nosehill Publishing, (of whom I am the sole employee and contributing author,) the internet has exploded with companies eager to help me publish my book. Unfortunately, many of these companies are predatory and are most eager to take my money. 

http://theworldsgreatestbook.com/self-publishing-scams/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/penny-c-sansevieri/-authors-warning-signs-th_b_5008425.html

I feel I need a degree in law to distinguish the good guys from the bad. A third option is that I could publish again under Nosehill Publishing, taking on 100% of the work, but also 100% of the control and profits.

I wish I didn't have to deal with the crap. All I want to do is write.