Archive for the Writing Category

How to Break Into Occult Writing

Posted in Writing on October 26, 2014 by Patrick

Here are some suggestions for those who want to write books about the occult:

1. You have to have something to say. If everything you have to say is everything everyone else has had to say, you won’t get very far. The best way to get something to say is to go do some magic. You want to write a how-to about making wands? Then go out into the woods and get some branches and start making wands until you can say interesting things about the process. Don’t just make up some stuff that sounds good. Actually do the exercises and techniques you want to talk about.

2. You have to say it well. Hone your craft by writing, a lot, and reading it aloud. Find a few authors whose style you admire, and imitate (but not copy!) them. Learn to cite your sources. Learn to write clear English, and easily understood instructions. This could take years, and so you should get started as soon as you can. I began writing when I was about sixteen. Before the world ever saw anything I wrote, I had written five or six very bad novels, countless terrible stories and essays, and enough poems to choke a pretentious horse.

3. Take criticism. Someone who criticizes your writing is criticizing your writing, not you. There are two, and only two, ways to take criticism. If it’s valid, address it. This happens a lot, even among very skilled writers, because no one can see everything even in their own writing. If it’s not valid, ignore it. Never talk back or try to argue with a critic. It’s a waste of time. If they’re wrong, they’re wrong, and that’s okay. This goes triple for when you have published the book and reviewers respond to it. Someone gives your book a bad review? That sucks, but move on with life. You can’t please everyone. You don’t have to disparage their judgement, or attack their integrity, or respond publicly at all. Maintain your dignity. (It may be acceptable to send the author of the review a short note, but it should be friendly, private, and should say something like “thank you for your review. It’s given me a lot to think about for my next book.”)

4. Learn the business of publishing. Your publisher is not your baby sitter, your friend, or your therapist. They’re a business arrangement, and you should approach it that way. Forget all the silly notions you may have of authors being prima donnas, making demands and so forth. Meet your deadlines like a professional. Take criticism from your editors as a professional (this is the only time you can argue with criticism, by the way — but do it as a professional and only when you’re sure you’re right). Be friendly, concise, and polite in all your dealings. This goes triple if you’ve been rejected.

5. Don’t let publishers walk on you. Most publishers aren’t really cut-throat. That’s just a thing for movies. But do have enough of a backbone not to cave. The first contract they send you is a perfectly fair, acceptable contract. Don’t sign it. Instead, read it very, very carefully. If there’s something you don’t like, ask to have it removed or changed. For example, publishers will often happily send you more complimentary copies than listed in the boilerplate. If you intend to give talks, classes, or readings, ask that this number be increased. They may or may not raise your royalties if you ask, but you can always ask for a graduated royalty schedule, where you get paid more if you sell a certain number of books. No publisher will ever say “Hey, you asked for an extra 2% if you sell over ten thousand copies. That’s nonsense! The deal is off!” They might laugh in your face, but they won’t usually cancel the deal unless they say no and you refuse to budge. If they request changes, make sure you can make them before you agree. Make sure you understand how translation and foreign rights work, and if there’s not a clause for it, ask their lawyers to write one.

6. Deal with your editor fairly. If they tell you that something needs to be changed for the good of the book, don’t have a kneejerk reaction of “no way.” Think about it and make the changes if they make sense to you. If they tell you to do something that you know is wrong (like get rid of citations), tell them no. It is still your book. Your name is on it. Any input they give you on the cover is a kindness they’re offering you; most contracts do not give the author control of the cover.

7. The author never gives money to the publisher. If you are told otherwise, you are not dealing with a publisher, but a scam artist.

8. A typical size for a book might be around 50,000 words. If you write 1,000 words a day, you’ll finish the first draft in a couple months. Assume that it takes you an hour to write a 1,000 words (that’s fast!). That’s 50 hours. It usually takes, by rule of thumb, at least twice as long to revise. That’s another 100 hours for a total of 150. Research and practicing the techniques (see suggestion #1) will also probably take you a while, so say another 50 hours for that and thinking time. That’s 200 hours to write a book. You could do that in three weeks or so, working most of the day. So it is a doable task, but it won’t break down that easily. You’ll make false starts, have days that involve staring at the lawn and not writing a word, and so on. It usually takes most authors a year to finish a book, including downtime and so on. You may make, total, a couple thousand dollars in royalty on most books. $2000 a year is a very bad salary. $10 an hour isn’t great either, and would require you to write nearly all day every single day. The moral: don’t write for money. Write for the fun of it.


Misconceptions about Occult Publishing

Posted in Weird, Writing on October 4, 2014 by Patrick

I want to take a moment to clear up some odd misconceptions about occult books and occult publishing. I’m doing so because, in other areas of the net, I sometimes see some odd claims about occult authors and occult books.

1. Occult authors do not do it for the money. There’s very little money in writing as a whole, and most occult authors I know who do make a living at it actually make their money with speaking fees and classes. It’s not uncommon for an author to receive less than a dollar per book sold. A well-selling occult book might net an author a few thousand dollars. It takes about a year, often more, to write a book. Do the math. As for me, I don’t intend to make much money with my books. I write them because it’s fun for me, and because it keeps me researching and thinking, and because it’s a great way to connect with other occultists. That check is pretty nice, but it often means “hey, let’s go out for sushi” rather than “hey, let’s buy a yacht!”

2. Occult authors are not the employees of their publisher. Llewellyn and Weiser are not having magical wars with each other. Neither are their authors. The loyalty I have to Llewellyn is based on a series of contracts (and the fact that they work well with me, and I like the people personally). It’s not exclusive. I buy many Weiser books, and admire quite a few of them. It’s not impossible that Llewellyn may reject one of my books, and if that happens, I may self-publish it or shop it out to other publishers. No one will feel the slightest sense of betrayal or annoyance if that happens.

3. As an extension of #2, if I write a bad review of a book by an another publisher, I did so because, in my opinion, it is a book that did not set out to meet its stated aims. It has nothing to do with who published it. There’s no rivalry, and other authors are not my competition. In occult publishing, a rising tide raises all boats. If someone writes a book on Lenormand, and it sells better than mine — great! Maybe that means it’ll spark lots of interest in Lenormand and people will also buy and read my book. So if I write a review that says “this book doesn’t work,” or “this book is often plagiarized and poorly written when it’s not,” it has nothing to do with my publisher and everything to do with the content of the book in question.

4. Occult publishers used to have niches. Llewellyn published a lot of very friendly, very light books on magic. Weiser published heavier stuff. These niches are no longer the case. Llewellyn has published many serious books on magic, and Weiser has published much lighter, friendlier stuff. Sneering at an entire publisher because of their catalogue doesn’t make you sound knowledgeable. It makes it sound like you live in the ’90s. The market has changed dramatically in the last twenty years, and there is no longer any room for niches.

Perhaps I should write a post offering advice for those who wish to break into writing occult books?


Posted in Writing on February 4, 2012 by Patrick

Yay, the first draft of the book on theurgy is done.  All except the introduction, which will be finished in a couple days.  Then, it’s revision time.

I won’t know until I read over it, but my impression is that I am quite happy with it.  I think I even like it better than my second book, Magic Power Language Symbol, which is my favorite so far.  It’s the sort of book I wish I could go buy and read, which is always my touchstone for the stuff I write.

This one’s a bit of a doorstopper for occult books, too.

My next project might be some translation, depending on how quickly I can whip my Greek into shape.

“Second Person” Now Available for Preorder!

Posted in Writing on June 20, 2011 by Patrick

I am very pleased to announce that my first book of poetry, “Second Person,” has been published by Finishing Line Press and is available for preorder now. Please click the above link and scroll down to “Dunn,” where you can find it.

Preorders determine print run, so if you can preorder, it’d help me out quite a lot. Moreover, you get a discount on shipping, I believe, if you preorder from the publisher.

This book of poetry concerns the mystical connection we have with our world as a “thou” rather than an “it.” It’s about not only the relationship between self and other, but between Self and Other.

Stick Figure Hermeticism

Posted in Language, Magical Systems, Music, Writing on November 21, 2010 by Patrick

Driving around the suburbs, I see more and more cars with little stick figure families. If you don’t know what I mean, these are decals on the back window that depict the dynamic of the family: usually a father, a mother, two kids, a soccer ball, and a dog. Or some combination thereof. If you still don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a site that sells them. I am not endorsing this site in any way, and I give you fair warning: it’s in comic sans.

I kind of want to make a line of Hermetic stick figure families. I’d have two men, two (three, soon, hopefully) books, two manuscripts, an easel and some paintings . . .

It is right and fitting from a hermetic perspective that people affirm their identity by means of their children. It is even right and fitting that they advertise such things in glyphs on their vehicles. After all, our children make hieroglyphs on our bodies and souls: why not on our cars? But the magician recognizes that there are children and there are children. To create flesh-and-blood children is wonderful, but it’s also wonderful to create other children: a unique arrangement of words, a painting, a language, a new way of cooking fish, a song. We create our soul by the children we have. It doesn’t matter if anyone else likes them (no one is ever going to pay to hear the songs I write, I suspect, and certainly no one is interested in artificial languages). What matters is that before me, there were not these things in the world. After me, there is.

The only real difference between the magician and the artist, I suspect, is that the hermetic magician never puts down his or her brushes and pallet, and regards the whole world as an easel.


Posted in Writing on December 3, 2009 by Patrick

Well, Nanowrimo is two days over, and I made it to 33,000 words.  But I didn’t use the recommended technique; I outlined and planned instead.  And the writing is going well.  My current goal is 1000 words a day, and I’m about a third of the way done with the book, I think, maybe a bit more.

So I failed at Nano, but don’t mind.

A Tip for Writers

Posted in Writing on November 14, 2009 by Patrick

I learned something useful recently that I’d thought I’d share for those who wish to be writers.

A few weeks ago, during a storm of deadlines and work stress, my usual writing computer died.  It’s also a fairly high powered gaming computer, and it does this occasionally and I have to reinstall Windows.  The tech support for this particular company seems to regard that as both normal and desirable.  What they seem to forget is that it takes an entire day to install Windows.

In frustration, I went and bought a Macbook.  I will resist the urge to proselytize, but here’s what I learned:

Keep your gaming computer and your writing computer separate, and you will triple your productivity.