Thursday, April 19, 2012

SM Johnson ~Thursday Morning Coffee ~

~For writers and readers who aspire to be writers~

Let's have coffee, shall we?

So, now that I accidentally wrote a 3 part Thursday series on reviews and reviewing, and about how I try to learn from reviews because I am always working to learn more about my craft, let's talk about that.

Craft. What is it?


craft [kraft, krahft]

craft   [kraft, krahft] Show IPA noun, plural crafts or,for 5, 8, craft, verb
an art, trade, or occupation requiring special skill, especiallymanual skill: the craft of a mason.
skill; dexterity: The silversmith worked with great craft.
skill or ability used for bad purposes; cunning; deceit; guile.
the members of a trade or profession collectively; a guild.
a ship or other vessel.

verb (used with object)

9. to make or manufacture... [omit] with skill and careful attention to detail.

I love that last part - to make or manufacture with skill and careful attention to detail. Because that's the goal of writing - to bring others into the world we create, to convince and encourage them to buy into our world, to love or hate or, at the very least, believe in our story people.

Today I left a writer's helper site because it really was not devoted to improving craft. The site was in actuality devoted to drinking the self-promotional Kool-aid. It seems to exist to convince writers how best to manipulate statistics, reviews, reviewers, and readers into buying books, even if those books are of inferior quality. The site is just a site, kind of a tiny corner community, and the participants are exceptionally enthusiastic to a degree that sometimes causes me to grind my teeth. Oh, how the little group of core members lavish praise upon one another with multiple exclamation points.

Image from Moddb
They teach how to compare your book to pop-culture, to create a cover blurb that sells millions of copies because it's so dang clever.

Here are the ones I tried on: 1) Like Twilight, but without the bad writing, lame characters, and sunlight sparkle. 2) Just like Twilight, except the vampires drink human blood and burn to ash in the sun. 3) Vampires that are not a cross between Twilight and anything.

Anyway. Let me add a disclaimer here. I am feeling more damaged than usual due to having read the Hunger Games Trilogy between last Friday and now. So I am, indeed, quieter, more introspective, and more negative. Such a mood will certainly die off, probably after a good night's sleep.

In the meantime, I want to express some gratitude. Gratitude for writers like Robert B. Parker, Greg Isle, Suzanne Collins, Lee Child, Anne Rice, Harlan Coben (to name a very few) who craft exceptional stories. 

Gratitude for huge, commercial companies who've made writing their business - like, say... Writer's Digest. There's nothing subtle about WD - they exist to make money from wanna-be writers. 

Yes. They do. Trust me. They offer subscriptions to WD Magazine, push the Writers Guide (submission bible) for sale, and have numerous pay-to-participate on-line webinars. They have a whole catalog/book club library of books about writing.

WD is a business. But it is a business devoted to helping writers improve craft, and to that end they do an exceptional job. If you pay for a WD webinar, you are going to learn about something.

Watch for this issue from WD - Soon!
Heck, I get a regular email update however often it gets sent out, and I've learned things from WD columnists that I haven't learned anywhere else - and it was FREE.

Like this article by Steven James: How To Raise Your Character Above The Status Quo

And this one by Hallie Ephron: How To Write Effective Supporting Characters

I am grateful for the questions my husband, the non-reader, asks. He reads slowly, but he reads every word. If there's a discrepancy, he'll find it. If there's something that I didn't explain very well, he'll tell me.

I am grateful that I've had the opportunity to hold my paperback in my hands. Even though ebooks sell better. There's still something about the flipping pages thing that is fucking phenomenal to me, the writer.

Most of all - I'm grateful to the writers who demonstrate exceptional craft, people who can, with a twist of a pen or a tap of the keyboard, both enlighten and devastate me - sometimes in the same moment.

And I will be forever grateful to those individuals who are dedicated to teaching the rest of us exactly how to have a similar effect on our readers.

You all are my heroes.


  1. Yes! I think it takes a special person who wants to really improve what they do rather than just take the easy way out!

  2. Hi Meg!

    It takes all sorts to make the world go round, but I'd rather spend time writing one or two exceptional stories a year (and getting better and better at creating them) than writing quantity to create a unexceptional back list. HOWEVER - and it's a big one - not every reader is as picky as I am, so there is room for all of us.

    I just really appreciate the people who take time the time to teach me what I can do better.

    Thanks for the comment!