Brand Building and Burying the Lede
Updated: Aug 23, 2019
I looked up the things you’re supposed to do if you want to be a successful writer. That’s a lie. My wife, Jordan, looked up the things you’re supposed to do if you want to be a successful writer. Being a decent writer is number #11 on the list. Apparently there’s quite a bit of salesmanship and networking and shameless promotion and “building your brand,” which is the worst phrase since ever and serves only to make self-important people feel somehow more legitimized.
But somewhere on the list, between “you’ll never make it, stop trying,” and “bug your writer friends to read your shit all the time,” there was a sentence or two about blogging and how it keeps you connected and makes you seem accessible. The concept is novel (no pun intended): try to get people to read your writing (blog) so you can get people to read your writing (book). Or, if you’d rather: write stuff people might like to read (blog) so you can maybe have a career writing stuff people might like to read (book).
I just finished an 87,000 word manuscript and the only thing I need to do now is write more, but not about myself (because that’s boring and selfish) and not about my novel (because we want people to buy it). Sports are off-topic, politics are divisive, and it was just announced that all movies will now be remakes of older movies but set in the Marvel Universe. So I’m left with writing about writing, which isn’t such a bad gig (though I am curious to see if Thor can save the Titanic, or if Forest Gump will have a fight in the middle of an entirely different Black Panther party).
I started writing short fiction in 2016. I wrote almost every day, purging myself of bad ideas. Of the 40+ short stories I wrote, 21 were published. I also accidentally had a poem published this year. After winning the Writers’ League of Texas Manuscript Contest, I thought seriously about writing a full length novel. I continued to think about it for most of 2017, while I worked at a lobby firm compiling statistics on water conservation in Texas. In March of this year, Jordan and I were meditating in the desert outside of Carlsbad, NM. I’m not what you would call a “good” meditate-tor, primarily due to my squirrel-like brain which refuses to turn off and is usually tuned into something basted with anxiety. So, as my nature dictates, I was sitting cross-legged trying to be serene and zenthused (it’s my word, but you can borrow it) when my mind jogged off toward death and dust and footprints blowing away with the wind. It was your basic “we’re so insignificant” trope, and I wondered if the folks who had the unfortunate privilege of coming before us were ever struck with such notions. The question begot a poem which begot a paragraph and then, ultimately, a real live book. So, because I’m trying to break the record for burying a lede, I’m pleased to announce that the number one literary agent (the ridiculously hardworking Mark Gottlieb) at the number one literary agency (Trident Media Group) in the country has agreed to represent me and my little story. Mark and his talented team at Trident will be pitching my manuscript to editors and publishers in hopes of finding someone willing to trade us money for words.
This brings us back to the brand-building, blog-writing scenario. I have achieved the latter by spewing these very sentences. I’m still unsure of the former. My brand is… something awesome. Something cool and desirable but attainable, but not trying too hard, but not not caring. Something elitist and literary, but something approachable and inclusive. Something secret and rare, but also widespread and commercial and trendy because #money. Okay, so, we’ll work on the brand part. It’s currently under construction. In the meantime, the manuscript is called Like All Things Left Wild. It’s an upmarket western taking place in the early 1900s, and it deals with class inequality, race, religion, complicated family and, most importantly, the nature of man and what makes our wheels turn. There’s violence, romance, and plenty of philosophical ramblings set against the unforgiving and untamed landscape of the Southwest.
Here comes the paragraph with all the links, because I’m good at computers. That’s a lie. My wife is going to put them in.
If that sounds cool, or if you just want to support me whether or not you actually like it (thanks, Mom), follow this blog, go like my super-professional Facebook page, and follow me on Instagram @smartymcsmartypants and on Twitter @jw_writer. I’ll post updates on whether or not my book is so bad that even the best agent in the world can’t sell it, as well as musings on the process of writing, editing, and shamelessly asking more successful people for help (thanks, Owen Egerton winner of the PEN Southwest Award for his novel Hollow which is available here, and I did I mention it’s available here).
Until then, go read something! JNW