Tag Archives: wisdom

Phil Sanderson’s Indy Author Toolbox!

Me

Several times during my long stint as a writer, I have often been asked:  “What does it take to become a published writer?”

These days, all it takes is Microsoft Word and an internet connection.  And that is it!  This being said, it is a lot easier than it used to be.  The only way to be published before Amazon and other pioneering online booksellers paved the way for self-publishing was that of traditional publishing, which still has not changed very much ever since the start of the industrialization of book printing.

So let’s look back at the original question:  “What does it take to be come a published writer?”

To me, any writer worth their salt should not want to become a PUBLISHED writer, but more so a distinct and seasoned one.  Grant it that no writer is perfect by any sort of means, but writers should still at least attempt to do everything to strive toward that perfection.  They shouldn’t be too scared to PAY THE PRICE and EARN THE TITLE.

Anyone can put together some literary turd, put any image on it that will come to be known as the cover for said literary turd, and call it a published book, thereby claiming the status as published writer.  All that serves is to discredit the whole movement of indy authors everywhere the world over.

So my chief advice to writers everywhere who desire to be self-published authors is simple:  Bring something solid to the table, something that will make traditionally-published authors look over their snobby shoulder with even the vaguest of worries.  In doing so, here is my advice:

First, Pay the Price!

  1. Read a grammar book cover-to-cover the same way you would a novel written by your favorite author, not only READING it, but ABSORBING the knowledge like a Bounty paper towel.  If you choose not to make it through, it is clear that you do not have the true desire to be a prolific author.  Why even bother attempting it?  If you find that you become truly fascinated by the rules of the road, then this is a true sign that you may stand a wonderful chance of becoming something more than the author of a literary turd.
  2. Read many, many different books by many, many different successful authors.  I myself have started reading several classic works.  This past Christmas, I read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  And a couple of years ago, I read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving just before Halloween…and one of my most favorite classics, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is one I will never forget!  These classics and many, many more paved the way for successful literature all over the world.
  3. If you desire to write fiction, read many, many different books about the craft of writing, plot development, creating memorable characters, creating conflict and tension in your stories, and all other elements that may be essential in creating a story that people will remember through the ages.

Next, Stay True to The Craft!

  1. When it comes time to sit down and begin your book, set a rigid writing schedule; and do  not let anything come between you and it.  Work diligently to complete your first draft.  When you finish, work diligently to complete your second draft paying close attention, looking out for errors in grammar and punctuation.
  2. It’s not a bad idea to obtain a subscription to Writer’s Digest if you can afford it.  You can learn so many valuable lessons and great tidbits of information from this one terrific magazine that has been around seemingly almost since Jesus Christ was a little boy.
  3. Let anyone and everyone you meet know about your project.  Be excited when you tell them about it.  It is the only way you will be able to get them excited about it.  If they see the thrill on your face, it may be contagious enough for them to want to experience it directly as soon as it is finished.
  4. Disregard the Nay-Sayers.  If anyone, at anytime , tells you:  “Why do you even bother?”  You look them in the eye and say:  “Fuck you!  I try, because I know I can.”  And you keep sitting back down at the chopping block, prepared to hammer out your best writing fueled by the words of the punch-bowl turd you just heard.
  5. Finally, through the entire writing process, do not write to become rich and famous.  I hate to tell you that this will probably never happen.  But write because you love it!  And content yourself with knowing that your writing will still be around long after you are gone.  For this one extreme reason, this is why it is so important to not have a literary turd survive you.  Do you really want your name to be associated with such a piece of shit long after you are gone?  This is where paying the price literally pays off!
  6. If you can afford it, DEFINITELY hire an editor worth their salt.  Also, if you can find an agent who is LEGITIMATE (…and you can tell those by the ones who say to you: “I don’t make money until after you make money”…) then you better jump on it!
  7. Don’t be scared by the advice I’m offering here.  Because even a turd nugget can be turned into a priceless gem after the editing process is completed.  Look at this as a challenge that you know you can overcome.
  8. Also be sure to avoid organizations out there which prey on new writers.  I fell into a trap of using AuthorHouse as my first publisher.  I’ve yet to see my very first penny of royalty from this organization.  They do, however, provide an excellent product…but they WAY overcharge for it.

And Finally!  The Tools of the Trade!

With all of this said, every writer should have some tools at his arsenal.  These are the tools I recommend:

  1. Good Laptop!  You can use a typewriter, word-processor (if they still make these dinosaurs!), or a desktop computer.  But I personally prefer laptops.  Because sometimes you can do some of your best writing in a coffee cafe!  Nothing like a ravenous stream of caffeine to wash away the old writer’s block!
  2. Laptop Bag (I use a messenger bag that holds my reference books as well!)
  3. Memory Stick or USB Drive (Keep Your Manuscript Here for Backup!)
  4. Decent Internet Connection
  5. Good Dictionary & Thesaurus (You Can Also Use http://www.dictionary.com )
  6. Good Reference Books (Some of Which are FREE!)  I’ll even include links where you can get them!
    1. Publish on Amazon Kindle with Kindle Direct Publishing
    2. Building Your Book for Kindle
    3. Book Cover Secrets and Shortcuts
    4. The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need
    5. Crafting Novels & Short Stories (for those wanting to write fiction!)

These are the more important tools in my writing arsenal.  I hope you may find them to be just as vital as you carry them along on your writing journey.

In this article, I hope I’ve successfully conveyed the importance of paying the price to be a good writer and staying true to the craft, as well as also having provided you with what I feel are some very good tools to get you started.

Well to those who have asked me the question,  “What does it take to become a published writer?”, I hope this successfully answers it.  However, I DO urge you to start asking yourself:  “What does it take to become a SUCCESSFUL writer?”

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Little Red Chevette

 

Image

What most people did early in their lives, I did a little bit late.  

For example, most the people I talk to lost their virginity when they were between the ages of 14 and 18.  Not me!  I was SUPER shy before joining the Marine Corps at the age of 18.  Even afterward, I was not AS shy, but it always took me plenty of liquid courage to go up and start talking to girls.  Sure, I was trained to kill communists in dozens of different ways, but no one ever trained me to be a seasoned gentleman.

Secondly, most of my fellow classmates went to college much earlier than I.  My Filipino father, upon finding out that I was thinking about enlisting in the Marines at the age of 18, offered to send me to college in the Philippines.  “Our family is wealthy over there,” he explained.  “You will have servants working for you.”  But I had never been there and had no desire to live there without having ever visited.  Thus, I did not go to school until after I finished my seven and a half years in the Marines utilizing the G.I. Bill benefits in which I had enrolled.

Lastly, driving was another thing.  Truth be told, I was terrified of getting into an accident and killing either myself or someone else or maybe even both!  So at the not-so-tender age of 23, I finally got the courage to learn to drive and eventually get my license.  This was in Jacksonville, North Carolina.  I was at the twilight of my womanizing days and had — previously to getting the right and means to drive — had always gone out with friends who drove or took the bus (in California, the state of my first Marine Corps duty station, they actually had an incredibly convenient and efficient transit system!).  But the secretary at the Joint Public Affairs Office at New River, North Carolina, was selling a 1983 Chevy Chevette for only $600.  The year was 1990, and I was what some called a party animal and what others called a pussy hound.  The truth of the matter was that I was an idiot who could have started my education in those years, but chose — instead — to piss them away in bars all across the state of North Carolina.

Though I did not enjoy wisdom in those carefree years, I did instead enjoy making some fond and fun memories:

  • My First Screw  

No, this was not the first time I lost my virginity.  That had been in a Mexican brothel when I had been stationed at Camp Pendleton.  There was this one screw I kept in the change cubbyhole next to my gearshift.  I usually did this to get a laugh from my friends when we all would go through the drive-thru’s at various restaurants.  Whenever an attractive girl would hand my my food, I would cast a wolfish smile and say:  “Wanna screw?”  This went on until this one girl told me, “Sure”.  And I actually gave it to her!

  • My First Accident

My first accident occurred during the winter not long after I purchased my Chevette.  The morning had been misty, and I had been running late for work.  So I did not have time to let the windows defrost properly.  So I was dumb enough to try driving under those conditions.  It was all doable until the sun was causing an impossible glare.  And my friend had seen that I was coming up fast on a car stopped at a small intersection.  And I plowed it!  My entire front end looked like lettuce.  The back end of this guy’s mid-sized automobile looked absolutely fine!  

I eventually took the car to a body shop where they rigged a chain to the front bumper on one end, and to the  ground on the other.  They reversed the car, pulling the front end back out the way it needed to be…simple, but effective!  Then they just tapped all the dents out of what was left of the evidence.

  • My First Near-Miss

At one point, I tried to pass a car on a two-lane highway.  But the Chevette was never really known for its powerful engine.  But my new driver confidence failed me, and I ended up in a ditch to the left side of the road stuck in some mud.  Well I was with two other Marines.  And one of them got out of the car and used a tree-branch to try to move the car into a better position.  Well, when I gunned the engine, the car tires splattered mud all over the place, and he was covered!  But at least we were home free with no damage to the vehicle!

  • My First Customized License Plates

My first customized plate was simply:  PLAYBOY.  I chose it to be funny, but at the same time serious.  It was funny, because the last car a playboy would traditionally drive was a Chevette.  But the serious thing was that I was the real poor-man’s playboy!  And I actually did manage to pick up a few girls in my little red Chevette.  And many of them laughed their asses off when they saw the license plate.  When it came time for me to renew my license plate, I changed it to PAID 4.  

  • My First Punchline

One of the girls I picked up in a bar resulted from a funny little punchline I used:  my car itself!  I was in a nightclub and met this one girl I felt quite desirable.  We started talking, and she actually asked me:  “So what do you drive, Phil?”  I told her a red “‘Vette.”  And when we both left the bar and she saw what I drove, she laughed her tail off.  

  • My First Theft of a Minor

I have only stolen two times in my life.  The first time was when I was only 8-years old.  And I stole a car, if you can actually believe it!…a MATCHBOX car.  And I never could play with it, because I was afraid some policeman might see me and arrest me on the spot.  So I almost learned my lesson.  In what would eventually become my car many, many years later, I stole once again.  This time it was beer.  I alluded to this event in my first novel (2018: An Uncivil War).  This is what had happened.  An underage girl and her friend both asked me and a buddy — we were in a liquor store in Wilmington, NC — to take their money and buy a case of beer.  I promptly explained that was against the law.  So she said that if we would do it for her, she would allow us to take her to a party.  The problem was that these girls were gorgeous and we were horny!  As I was waiting in line to pay for the beer, two other guys came into the store.  And they invited them to the party too.  So the new problem was that they wanted to drive over with them instead of us.  So, after I paid for the beer and gave them back their change, they asked me for the beer.  I simply told them I needed to maintain appearances, since my car was parked right out the shop’s window.  “I’ll follow you guys,” I told them.  But instead, my buddy and I slipped away over to Wrightsville Beach where we met some other girls and shared the beer with them!

In 1993, I sold the Chevette to a Hispanic staff sergeant of Marines and used the money to purchase a black Buick Somerset, complete with sunroof!  Then from there, I’ve also owned a Ford Explorer, a Mercury Topaz, a Ford Taurus SE, a Chevy Prizm, a Ford Taurus SHO, a Ford Winstar, a Honda Accord, and the Honda Element and Hyundai Elantra I drive today., So my little red Chevette may have been the cheapest ride I’ve ever owned.  But it’s also given me some of my most precious memories!