Friday, December 07, 2012

The best and worst of Bruce Blake

Bruce Blake is having a significant impact on the independent author scene. In addition to writing some innovative fantasy and horror novels, he has founded the Guild of Dreams fantasy writers’ collective, which has a Facebook group page as well as a blog, where members take turns posting very interesting ideas, opinions, interviews, excerpts and lots of other stuff. Check it out — AFTER reading Bruce’s addition to the confessionals series, “The best and the worst I’ve ever done — as a writer.”

When Scott asked me to write a few words about the best and worst things I've done as a writer, it took me a while to come up with something that didn't sound cliché and lazy. How easy would it have been to say the best thing I ever did was to self-publish and the worst was to wait so long to self-publish? Both of those answers are valid, but I'm aware of the quality of Scott's writing and blogging, so I thought, “No, Bruce. That's not good enough. Scott's readers will demand more.”


So here's the real deal.

The best thing I ever did was to keep working on, reading about and learning my craft. Too broad? Let me narrow it down to a single incident. I took a writing course by mail through a major writing publication some years ago, which included one-on-one instruction from a published author in my genre. Part of the deal was that I could ask the instructor questions when I submitted my exercises, so I asked this gentleman about how much editing an author typically does. His response? “Most of the published authors I know have their first drafts published almost as-is.”

A book that changed Bruce's
writing life.
I was devastated. I hadn't been writing seriously for long at that point and was still pretty new to the idea of writing to be published, but I knew enough to realize my first drafts weren't good enough to go to print. Not by a long shot (and they still aren't). But I didn't let that deter me. I kept writing and, more importantly, kept learning. Soon after, I came across a book that changed my writing life: James A. Michener's Writer's Handbook: Explorations in Writing and Publishing.

The book included his first draft for a novel and you know what?

It sucked.

Photo of Stephen King
from Wikipedia

Photo of Ray Bradbury  from Wikipedia

Mr. Michener, author of dozens of bestsellers, proclaimed that writing really came together during the editing process. (An amusing side note: Mr. Michener wrote by hand. An assistant typed the manuscript, which the author would then edit by literally cutting and pasting with scissors and scotch tape). He said that a first draft is just about getting words down on paper, no matter whether they are good or not, and that editing and rewriting are where a writer breathes life into his work. Since that moment, I've read interviews and books by other writers who say the same thing. You know, hacks like Stephen King and Ray Bradbury.

By the way, years later, I finally tracked down a copy of one of my instructor’s books ... I couldn't get through it.

Ah, sweet vindication.
Other “best things” I've done would have to include realizing that any good writer needs the assistance of others in the form of professional editors, proofreaders and cover artists; exposing myself to other writers (though the other writers might not like it so much when I expose myself, wink wink nudge nudge); and taking it seriously enough to lose sleep and skip social functions to just get it done.

A matter of timing

The worst thing I have ever done as a writer, on the other hand, is more difficult to nail down. If I had to pick one, I think it would involve timing.

I published my first novel, On Unfaithful Wings, to Kindle in December 2011, but resisted enrolling in Amazon's KDP Select program until April (to be part of the program, your novel has to be exclusive on Kindle. I struggled with that concept, despite the fact I've sold a grand total of five copies through other venues). Doesn't sound like such a bad thing, does it? Not until you know that something changed significantly about the program around the end of March. Up until that time, copies given away during KDP free promos counted as sales. That meant independent authors could give their book away to thousands of people (my first free promo, I gave away just shy of 10,000 copies) and end up on the Kindle bestsellers list...the list paying customers see and often use to determine what books they are going to buy.

Around the end of March, the giveaways stopped counting as sales. I did my first promo two weeks later. That hesitation cost me hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of dollars. That would have to be the worst thing I've done as a writer.

Unless you include the time I killed a man in Reno just to watch him die.

Bruce Blake lives on Vancouver Island, which the rest of us Canadians know as the tropical part of Canada. When pressing issues like shovelling snow and building igloos don’t take up his spare time, Bruce can be found taking the dog sled to the nearest coffee shop to work on his short stories and novels.

His first novel is On Unfaithful Wings: An Icarus Fell Novel. He released his newest, Blood of the King, on Amazon in October. A promotional preview excerpt appeared in Written Words on October 1.

Follow him on Twitter @bruceablake.


  1. Great post, Bruce. Unbelievable that a "writing instructor" would make such a claim, though. Makes you wonder who these published authors are?

  2. all looks amazing I wish I could afford to buy a book. You look like a gift of imagination waiting to be discovered. Cheers.

  3. It seems like the "published as-is" was a common misconception. I once sent a first draft to a magazine. Needless to say that it was refused. I guess it served as a good lesson. I wonder why this isn't taught in school...