Thursday, 16 January 2014

Be Proud of Your Writing This Year by Dan Holloway

I'm incredibly proud of this book (available, incidentally, for Kindle UK here, other areas here, and as a paperback here). It's still hard saying things like that. I feel like Richard Gere in that scene in Pretty Woman where he says "It's taken me $10,000 of therapy to say 'I am angry with my father'". Only in my case it's taken 5 or 6 years of self-publishing to say, without a whole shockwave of trepidation "I am proud of this book."

I have mostly been one of those writers who, when asked about there books, will mumble something non-committal before quickly deflecting back to "and what do you do?" At one poetry night, the wonderful poet, raconteur, and performance artist Tina Sederholm, introducing the night in question, said "poets should stop apologising for their poems before they read them" and eyeballed straight at me as she spoke. In part, this has to do with all sorts of deep-seated inadequacies that are far too dull to go into here.

For the most part, though, the reluctance to stand up and be fully counted for my work, to say "here you go, this is what I've got, I'm really proud of it," comes from a very poor writerly habit, one I've devoted the whole of "Self-publish With Integrity" to helping people to overcome:

tailoring what you write to what other people tell you you should write. 

Now those other people could be editors, readers, your mate down the pub, beta readers or your perception of what "the market", "agents", or "the current publishing climate" requires. Bu the fact remains that every time you tweak your writing to any of their requirements, a tiny piece of your creative integrity dies. Not consciously - at the time you may well feel your creative spirit soar, feel you have hit a target, accomplished an accomplishment, achieved an achievement. And sales and reviews may bolster that feeling in a general upward spiral.

But somewhere, at some time, when someone asks you about your work, your subconsciously sliced up creative soul will stir in its lair, and you will feel the beginnings of an "erm" form in your voicebox.And that's when the whole thing is in danger of crumbling.

The one way that you will always be able to be proud, in the deepest sense, of what you do is if you never compromise what your writing means to you. Yes, you may get embarrassed explaining the, er, ins and outs of the new monster porn/cowboy romance mash-up that's been your calling since you were a teenager. Yes, you may have a very small readership for your retellings of Slovak myths in the voice of Raymond Chandler. And people may regret having asked you when you explain the inner workings of a world populated entirely by imaginary numbers that take on the form of lesser known rutabagas. But the point is that YOU wouldn't regret it. And there are so many moments I look back on in my writing life and think "if only I'd stuck to my guns." There are punches I pulled, narratives I linearised, characters I made more likeable, less likeable, themes I did and didn't develop.

So, having learned to be proud of my writing, I am delighted to present the second in my series of erotic novelettes with a social conscience set in Oxford University. They follow the journey of Kayla Dyson from North London estate to social entrepreneur and role model.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/An-Oxford-Christmas-Dreaming-Spires-ebook/dp/B00HTAXG96
It's currently free (today only) if you pop along here.

13 comments:

Mari Biella said...

Great post, Dan. I think a lot of us find it incredibly hard to be proud of our own work. I wonder, though, how we can balance creative integrity and not compromising with being prepared to listen to what other people tell us about our writing. I probably wouldn’t pay much heed to someone who said ‘Write x because x sells,’ but if someone whose opinion I respected were to warn me that something didn’t work, or would be better if I did it some other way, I’d certainly listen.

I love ‘Self-publish with Integrity’, by the way! I only wish I’d read it before I started self-publishing...

Chris Longmuir said...

Great post Dan. I've just downloaded both books and now I'm quaking in my shoes and wondering how erotic is 'erotic with a social conscience'. Will I need to take a cold shower after reading 'An Oxford Christmas'?

Sulci Collective said...

You're so right about the plethora of information writers are given as well-meaning advice that inevitably much of it contradicts itself. So how to sift the good from the bad, the right from the wrong? Don't even try. We started writing with some sort of artistic vision in our heads, what it means to be a writer, how we aim to tell our stories, so as you say, just stick to that and you'll do just fine.

A line like "your retellings of Slovak myths in the voice of Raymond Chandler" in itself proves beyond any doubt that Dan Holloway is a writer

Sessha Batto said...

Finally something I do right! I have only ever written what calls to me - I am proud of my work (which does not mean I can boast about it without becoming a tongue-tied numpty)and I always will be. I honestly can't imagine writing anything other than what sings to me, even though it would be a lot more 'successful' if I could write more mainstream stuff.

Jan Needle said...

i've put that up on facebook, dan. great stuff

Jan Needle said...

oh, i got it free as well, thanks. chris, should we take that cold shower together? (ooh, missus!)

Dan Holloway said...

Mari - thank you "I wonder, though, how we can balance creative integrity and not compromising with being prepared to listen to what other people tell us about our writing."
It so happens I wrote a piece about EXACTLY this a few days ago, outlining a three stage process we can go through to ensure that we get exactly the information we need and are able to filter out what is confusing
http://authorceo.com/2014/01/learn-bad-listener-dan-halloway/

Chris - I'll be interested to hear if you needed a shower, or if you ended up chucking your Kindle in the shower! I can't quite help myself with making my writing political in some way or other but it's basically just an (I hope) more nuanced rags to riches story that doesn't close the bedroom door :)

Marc - ha! Isn't it funny how frequently the daft examples you come up with actually sound more interesting than what you're actually writing!

Sessha - we could all learn from you - I'd say you're one of the most successful people I know

Jan - !

Lydia Bennet said...

yes another great post Dan, I shall check out your erotica, I already downloaded the self-pub with integrity book a bit ago. I see you are using a pseudonym for the erotica, Dani Ko, is there a reason for that? you write a wide variety of things as yourself.

Dan Holloway said...

Yes, it started as an experiment to do it completely anonymously and see how far I could get without using my name or any of my contacts - the answer is that it quickly became a very time-consuming job that was taking away from the writing, so it's much easier to do it as part of my other stuff

Dennis Hamley said...

Terrific post and typically so, Dan.I too have downloaded the Self-pub with Integrity and it really does what it says on the tin so thank you for that. Now for the erotica. If anyone's interested, I have a really big shower.

Reb MacRath said...

Wonderful post, Dan. My new Kindle Fire, to be ordered next week, has two treats in store for it.

Dan Holloway said...

There have been times when I've been called a shower before, but never so many times when I've been told I've caused people to need a shower!

Chris Longmuir said...

Dan, I reckon if Jan and I are in the shower together there won't be any room for the kindle so it will have to smoke on the floor outside. On the other hand we could avail ourselves of Dennis's large shower, but he'll probably want to join us. Please add names below for the cold shower party!