Tuesday, June 18, 2013

In praise of Hugh Howey

Every now and then on this blog, I'd like to talk about writers who I find particularly inspiring. Some of them can be self-published, but they don't have to be. My blog, my rules. But, since I publish my work through Kindle Direct Publishing, I'd like to highlight another author who went the e-publishing route: Hugh Howey.

Sure, you may see Howey's Wool on sale now in stores like Target and Barnes and Noble, but if I've got the story right, he first found success e-publishing his work for the Kindle. In my mind, his example is inspiring, simply because his work is really, really damn good. Listen, I want to make a living as a writer, and so do a lot of other people who try to make some money via the Kindle Direct Publishing. So, it can seem easy to compromise. I'm not naming any names, but a lot of popular self-published authors write crap. Generic, run-of-the-mill, "let me grab your attention with a generic tagline and an expensive cover, because the writing ain't that good" crap.

Maybe my writing isn't that good, but I can honestly say that I write what I like. Serialized horror-comedy about cults, the end of the world, and college. Maybe I'll make a ton of money off the books, Netflix will turn it into a series, and I'll show up at a high school reunion looking smug and insufferable. Maybe not. But I'll know that I tried to create my best work. I don't write paranormal romance, even though it is popular. I emphasize style and character over plot. I cater to a very specific set of fans, and I pepper my work with pop culture references that will turn off a lot of readers who don't like that sort of thing.

In short, I write for me, not for money.

It seems like Hugh Howey did the same. His writing doesn't conform to what is currently popular, his title doesn't grab your attention, and the cover of his book doesn't catch the eye. Instead, he relies on originality and talent. And that's praise-worthy, because that means that he's willing to give readers what they deserve: quality. I strive to provide that type of work, but it's not easy to do. Hugh Howey makes me want to try.

I download a lot of self-published material for my Kindle, and most of it isn't impressive. The language is stale, the stock characters don't interest me, and the plots. . .well, that's all they are. Plots, with nothing deeper or more meaningful to add to my life than some cheap thrills. And plot is important, sure, but who cares what happens in a book if the characters aren't compelling and the writing lacks life?

Hugh Howey's work is a breath of fresh air. Why? Because it's actually really good.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Censorship Sucks

The title of this blog post should tell you, right off the bat, what we're talking about here.

The topic of censorship may not immediately seem like it's directly related to e-publishing, but I beg to differ. I've never participated in the traditional publishing model, and I'm not against it, but I imagine that the process is somewhat different than that of e-publishing. When you've got a novel that you're uploading to Amazon, the only thing between you and publication is a few mouse clicks. If you're releasing your novel the old school way, there are a lot more steps along the line, and as such, there are more opportunities for someone to step in and demand that you excise objectionable content.

In the realm of e-publishing, the only person who can tell you to do that is yourself. And yet, I imagine that some people too often succumb to that voice. The voice that tells them they need to appeal to a massive audience in order to make a living at this. The voice that tells them not to rock the boat, lest they be forced to deal with opposing viewpoints. The voice that tells them to remain silent.

So, if I may: fuck that fucking voice right fucking now.

That doesn't mean you should pile a bunch of shocking content into your novel. If you're writing a nostalgic tale about childhood, make sure you don't throw in a violent murder scene simply so you can say that you did. I'm a comedy fan, and while shocking jokes may draw an audience in, you're not going to keep a following unless you show your fans that you actually have something valuable to say.

But, having something valuable to say often means saying what other people don't want to hear. Honestly, I suspect that most of the time, it means that. Whether it is rock and roll or revolutions, the most important advances in society have been made by people who flipped convention the finger and did whatever they damn well pleased.

True, that can have its consequences, but that's the world we live in, and I truly believe that the only reason that some "shocking" material thrives in the market is because it is taboo. If nothing were taboo, if nothing was shocking, then all the hacks who made their living by tossing a bunch of pointless sex and violence into paper-thin stories would fail very quickly.

I believe in the overall intelligence of a society, and I believe that if we're not distracted by controversy, we can sift through what is and what is not worthwhile.

So, no matter what it is you are writing about, don't self-censor. The only way to find out if your ideas are worth sharing is to go ahead and do it.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

How do writers celebrate?

I finally finished writing Episode 1 of The Dark Triad. It has been uploaded and should be available through Amazon within a day or two.

If readers respond to this series and the feedback remains positive, I foresee myself workong on it for at least the next year, though I would be happy to stay with this story and these characters for a lot longer. Normally, it won't take so long to finish an episode, but I wanted to get the first installment right. This series is important to me. The characters are based on my best friends, the college setting is based on the best years of my life, and the horror side comes from the fact that I've been fascinated with scary stories since I was a child.

I want to strike the right blend between laughs and actual terror. While the main goal of this series will be to provide light entertainment to people who know what it is like to be an uncool kid trying to make the most out of college, I wouldn't mind actually scaring people every now and then.

Most importantly, I just hope people enjoy this series. Few things are more rewarding than entertaining people who, unlike your family and friends, don't feel the need to provide you with positive feedback.

Anyway, how does a writer celebrate finishing a writing project? By starting another one, of course. And so, I'm going to get my ass moving on Episode 2, which will be available within thirty days.

This is a good feeling.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Finding Motivation

It can be difficult to find motivation if you're a writer. I know that I'm supposed to claim that a true writer has such boundless passion for the craft that it is nearly impossible to tear oneself away from the computer, but -- with some exceptions -- I've found that to be, well, bullshit.

Writing may feel good. When I'm in the middle of writing something I truly care about, time seems to stop. But the same can be said for when I'm working out, or when I'm cooking a meal. Plenty of things are enjoyable when you're doing them, only to seem like difficult tasks when you're not doing them.

Sometimes, for me, it's like that with writing. While the stories and jokes and descriptions in my head entertain me, the thought of sitting down and actually committing them to the page isn't always attractive.

In other words, I understand what it's like to sometimes lack the motivation to get some writing done. And I'm here to admit that's fine for a writer.

But last night, I was hanging out with my girlfriend, watching, um, The Carrie Diaries. (I made her watch Goodfellas after that, so I'd call us even.) I went to college with one of the key actors on the show, and though I didn't know him well, we hung out at many of the same parties and with many of the same people. And that got my ass in gear.

Sure, I'll admit that I'm jealous of him. I think that jealousy can be rather harmless, if you don't let it change the way you feel about someone else's success. Jealous or not, I still want him to continue making a living as an actor, because I admire what he chose to do with his life. He found something he loved and, despite probably hearing from countless people that it was an unrealistic goal, dedicated himself to it until he actually got somewhere.

That's what I want for myself. While I don't think there's anything wrong with taking on a nine-to-five job and living a comfortable, happy life, personally, I want a little more. I want to really strive towards doing what I love to. Honestly, I don't need to make a ton of money, I just need to make a living, with a little left over at the end of the week to go out to the bar with some friends.

So, while there are plenty of reasons to give up on writing and just accept that I'll never be able to make a living doing this type of work, there's one key reason why i shouldn't give up: because I don't want to.

And if you don't want to give up, then neither should you.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


I am of the belief that gratitude is one of the most important forces in the world. By thanking those who have been helpful to us, we not only make them feel as though their efforts are worth something, but we also allow ourselves to truly realize how fortunate we are to have certain people in our lives.

I am by no means a tremendously successful writer (yet). That doesn't change the fact that I've been published, I've been paid to write, and I've arrived at that moment in my life when I truly think that it is possible for me to make a living doing this, provided I am willing to put in the necessary work.

As I am writing under a pseudonym, I'm not going to name any names in this post, I'm merely going to give a general thank you to anyone who has ever encouraged me to be a writer. Teachers, friends, family, so many have given me the confidence I needed to see this goal as a legitimate possibility, instead of a pipe dream.

So, I thank you, and resolve to make you proud by continuing to write.

And while I'm at it, allow me to thank anyone who is reading this. It's difficult to be a writer without any readers.

All the Best,


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Writing Tip - Use Fiction to Relive the Past

I'm always reluctant to give advice to other writers. That's probably not the best way to begin this post.

See, as this is a blog geared towards writers and readers, I do plan on providing you fine people with some words of wisdom from time to time. But I'm also of the opinion that what works for one writer may be utterly useless for another. We all have different opinions regarding what does and does not qualify as "success," and I feel as though that fact alone makes it hard to dole out advice to other writers. We hold ourselves to different standards.

Still, just as you can't let your excuses for not writing hold you back, you can't let your doubts about the validity of "writing tips" keep you from providing what may be valuable information to others.

When it comes to non-fiction writing, I tend to be fairly business-like. My job is to get the work done. Fiction, on the other hand, is a playground for me, and everyone knows that the point of a playground is to have fun.

Sure, you want to write something that sells, or something that touches readers, or something that you can be proud of, but the work of writing, if you're going to spend so much time doing it, might as well be enjoyable, right?

I've found that one of the most effective ways to enjoy the playground that is fiction writing is to remember a time in your life that you miss, and make that your setting. I've been out of college for three years, and for someone who dealt with social anxiety for about two decades, college was an amazing experience for me. While I excelled academically, I also learned how to let go of some of my insecurities and just have a good time. Since graduating, I've desperately wanted to relive the experiences I had during that period of my life.

My upcoming series, The Dark Triad, will accomplish just that. Although it is a horror-comedy that is about as grounded in reality as Ghostbusters or John Dies at the End, plenty of the details sandwiched between the Satanic cults and zombie attacks are pulled directly from my life. The narrator is based on myself, the main characters are based on my friends, and the first episode begins during the summer before I went off to college. As the series progresses and these characters go off to school, I'll definitely incorporate a lot of what I miss about those years into the story.

No, this does not mean that it will end up being thousands of words on the subject of cheap beer, video games, and studying, but it does mean that I'll be able to revisit a time in my life that I miss.

(And, ya know, if enough people buy it, maybe it'll let me be a writer and enjoy this period of my life even more. There's no point in being ashamed to admit it: I want to make a living as a writer, and I'm willing to do whatever it takes to do so.)

Anyway, that's my advice for you. If possible, use your fiction as a vessel to bring you somewhere you want to go. It doesn't even have to be a place from your own life. If you're working in a genre like fantasy, I can only hope that your own life doesn't much resemble the world in which your characters live -- though if it does, you must live one badass life -- but that doesn't mean it can't be the type of world you would like to visit if you could.

Like I said before, as writers, we all want different things, but I think that a good many of us want to have fun. This tip can help you do that.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

An experiment

Greetings, Reader! Since this blog is aimed towards people who like to write and people who use the Internet, two groups which are notorious for clicking away from a page that doesn't immediately grab their interest (writers because they'd rather spend their time writing, people who use the Internet because it has destroyed our attention spans), I'll try to keep this brief and to the point.

First of all, let me introduce myself. I am not Adam Lexington. Adam Lexington is a pseudonym I adopted, in case this whole following my passion thing doesn't pan out and I'm forced to take on a real job for the rest of my life. If this all works out, maybe I'll reveal my true identity one day. Writing that sentence kind of made me feel like Batman, just now.

Anyway, what I can tell you now is that I'm an aspiring writer with an interest in e-publishing. I started freelancing when I was in college and have been keeping at it fairly consistently ever since. Major accomplishments include having work published on Cracked.com, working under Mali Elfman (her dad makes pretty awesome music), and also writing for Christopher Smith. None of that work was published under this pseudonym, so don't go looking for it.

Smith, as you may know, is author of the page-turning (or, since this is the digital age, page-clicking) thriller Fifth Avenue, which has spawned sequels, spinoffs, and well-deserved success for its author.

A few more folks out there -- Amanda Hocking, Johne Locke, J.A. Konrath -- appear to be finding success publishing their fiction for the Kindle, and I want to try my hand.

This is going to be a little different, though. Although I love the format of the novel, the possibilities inherent in e-publishing got me thinking.

See, I've been watching a lot of TV lately, which is a nice way of saying I've been unemployed. Good TV shows allow characters to develop over time, allow plots to grow more intricate as the series progresses, and allow storytellers freedom to work outside the bounds of the traditional three-act structure. While individual episodes and overall seasons may conform to a "rising action - climax - falling action" rhythm, on the whole, the TV format still gives its creative team the ability to follow a few characters over the course of a long span of time, and that interests me.

So, I've got my idea. The story is called The Dark Triad. It's a horror-comedy about three friends who, the summer before they begin college, find themselves involved in a secret cult's maniacal scheme to take over the world. They'll spend the next four years of their lives (and, if I enjoy writing about them that much, maybe even a little more) trying to enjoy the experience of higher education while constantly facing threats from an evil secret society with supernatural powers.

Each "episode" will be within the 20,000 to 30,000 words range, published via Kindle Direct Publishing and priced at .99 cents each.

This is where I get to be unprofessional. I really, really, deeply hope that some people respond to this idea. I know that horror-comedy is a pretty small niche market, but The Dark Triad will allow me to constantly visit some of my favorite topics -- the supernatural, my college experience, and characters who are a little more than loosely based on my real friends -- and I'd love to know that others out there enjoy reading this series.

Of course, that means I'll have to do a good job writing it. The first episode is almost ready for publication, but there's still work to be done. Thanks for taking the time to read this, since I promised to keep it short and may have failed to deliver on that promise.

Stay tuned for important updates!