Over the past three years I’ve self-published two books, and based on that I get e-mail from three different groups of people. First there are the people who bought Commodork: Sordid Tales from a BBS Junkie, who typically ask (or simply want to trade stories) about Commodore computers or BBSes. The second group, people who bought Invading Spaces: A Beginner’s Guide to Collecting Arcade Games, want to talk about old arcades, where I buy my games, and how much I paid for them. But then there’s the third group: people who have questions about writing and self-publishing books.
I remember the first time I saw Steve Hartman on the CBS News. Steve figured everybody in America has a story to tell, so once a week on the CBS Evening News Steve would throw a dart at a map and travel to whatever city the dart landed on. Once there, Steve would pull out a phone book, open it to a random page, randomly point at a person’s name, and go interview them. More often than not, Steve ended up interviewing some pretty interesting Americans, completely at random.
Like Steve I think everybody has at least one good story in them, but most people either don’t know where to start, or don’t know where to go when they’re finished. I will never forget the man who approached me in Chicago at a book signing table. After purchasing a copy of Commodork, the man confessed that he had no interest in the book and just bought a copy because he wanted to pick my brain about self-publishing. After the crowd dispersed, the man and I ended up talking for more than half an hour. Although I am no expert in either writing or publishing, the man was looking for advice and encouragement; I gave him both.
Simply by going through the process of writing and self-publishing two books myself, I have information to share. About a year ago, I sat down to capture some of that information. The things I wrote didn’t turn out to be long enough to be a book, but were too long to be a single blog post. Ultimately I divided the long (long) essay into different topics, and turned it into a web page.
This new section, titled “On Writing” (as a tribute to Stephen King’s book by the same title) is a collection of bits of advice, most of which were originally written as answers to questions people have asked me over the past three years. Everything in that section of my website has my own blood, sweat and tears mixed in. The examples are my own. The advice comes from doing things the hard/wrong way. Trust me, I would love to travel back in time and read this before writing my first book.
Over the weekend my friend Charles politely reminded me that I’ve been promising to post “On Writing” for over a year now, so here it is, warts and all. It’s not 100% complete, but what’s there is there and what’s not there yet is slowly being filled in. If you have questions, please ask them — chances are, it’ll end up added to the collection.
Go read. Then, go write.