06 3 / 2014
WHENEVER YOU SEE THIS POST ON YOUR DASH, STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND WRITE ONE SENTENCE FOR YOUR CURRENT PROJECT.
Just one sentence. Stop blogging for one minute and write a single sentence. It could be dialogue, it could be a nice description of scenery, it could be a metaphor, I don’t care. The point is, do it. Then, when you finish, you can get back to blogging.
If this gets viral, you might just have your novel finished by next Tuesday.
06 3 / 2014
That’s because, by and large, the people who are asked are successful writers, so it’s metaphysically a bit tricky to stand there saying ‘it’ll almost certainly won’t work’ when it clearly worked for you.
Here’s a tip, though. Successful writers don’t pass the MS around to all their friends after they’ve done five pages; they get a grip on grammar, punctuation and spelling (even if accurate fast typing escapes their grasp:-); if they work in a genre, they read widely outside that genre; they get hold of one of the vast number of books which, while of variable quality as far as actual writing advice goes, are usually pretty sound on the mechanics of getting agents, submitting MSS and so on; and they want to WRITE. Too many people want to have written."
06 3 / 2014
The urge writers have to try to discourage people who tell them that they want to be writers is based in the same kind of reaction they would have on seeing someone about to embark on a career in sewer maintenance. It is difficult work, often unpleasant, usually lonely, often ineffective no matter how hard you work at it, frequently disruptive to family life, usually poorly paid for many years, hard to explain rationally to other human beings whether you’re enjoying it or not, almost always misunderstood by them, and even at the best of times, equivocal as to results. In these ways, writing as a career is missing almost all of the things most people seem to look for in their work.
We try to talk people out of it because we see the prospect of them going through what we went through, and possibly — about nine times out of ten — not being able to hack it, and putting themselves through a lot of anguish and hair-tearing for nothing. We would like to spare them that, if possible, and so we try to tell them what it’s like.
Not that they believe us, as a rule…"
The poster, in one post of a long- ago discussion on alt.fan.pratchett. (Oh, for the long lost days when PTerry would wander in and out of the newsgroup just posting stuff…)
(And the rest of this, which didn’t make it into that posting:)
I go to a fair number of conventions in a given year, and when the subject comes up in conversation — it always does — the phrasing of a given person’s inquiry usually pretty clearly indicates their intent. About ninety percent of the people who bring up the subject usually say, “I want to be a writer.” Now, this frequently indicates trouble. Investigation almost always shows me that the person is concentrating on what I consider the sidelights of writing, the perks: lots of money (they think!), an “easy” lifestyle where you get to work at home and “be your own boss”, autograph sessions, paid travel to conventions, book tours, etc etc… They don’t see (and in many cases have never even given a moment’s consideration to) the dreadful hours, the frustration (even if you’re successful), the endless battle with the daily world to get the work done despite endless interruptions, the difficulty explaining this tenuous lifestyle to your family (I married another writer and am fortunately spared this business at home…but the rest of his family, except on publication dates, still wonder when we’re going to grow up and get real jobs…), and all the rest of it. I try to explain the discomforts of writing to these people. Ever so occasionally I get through. Most of the time they walk away nodding their heads and thinking to themselves that I just don’t want their potential competition and am trying to keep them out of the business. I sigh: I did what I could.
That other ten percent still gives me hope, though: the ones who say, not “I want to be a writer,” but rather “I want to write.” The immediate answer is, “Well, why are you standing here talking to me? Go home and do it!” And most of them get it, and grin, because we understand each other. Writers write. They don’t need me to encourage them. They couldn’t stop if they wanted to. No discouragement from me would stop them, either: the real writers just grin and go home and write.
I speak from experience on this one, because David Gerrold did just this service for me — rolled his eyes when I told him I wanted to write, and said, “Oh Lord, not another one — “ and I was so furious and ready to prove to this smug insufferable bastard that I was not just another one that I went off and wrote a novel. Which sold two weeks after its submission to a publisher, and got me nominated two years in a row for the Campbell. Focused fury has its uses: I thank David for the favor to this day. Perhaps I will someday, inadvertently (I wouldn’t do it for this reason alone, mind you) do someone the same service: perhaps someone will turn away from my advice about the wretchedness of writing as a career so infuriated with me that they’ll write a novel that sells immediately, and start off a fruitful career. There is always more room for good writers. Don’t be mistaken: if you are one, or working on being one, you are not our competition. You are what will make us, or others like us, more successful — for good new writers bring in good new readers, who will in turn read more books. This is another manifestation of what Melville once called “the Universal Thump”: the favor that gets passed around until it eventually makes its way back to you.
What there is unfortunately way less room for in this difficult market, is writers who aren’t sure what they’re doing, and writers who are uncertain of their craft, or their audience, or their vision. Publishers will not buy their books. Publishers are shorter of money than they ever were, and the market has shaken out, over the past six or eight years, many writers who were insufficiently strong to hold their audiences. If you enter the field, know that it is a field littered with the corpses of some of these people’s careers, and you had best be aware of it. Those of us fortunate enough to have survived this cull will tell you the market is tough right now, because it is. No good soldier permits future comrades to stumble out into a minefield without warning.
So if you can be discouraged, you should be, to spare you unnecessary suffering: isn’t there enough of that on the planet already, for pity’s sake? And if you won’t believe those of us who’ve been through it, then I don’t know what else to say to you. But as far as I’m concerned, David is quite right about the occasional need to discourage the discourageable. And if you can’t be discouraged, you’ll go ahead and write, and good luck to you. (I don’t mean that casually: random factors can make a successful writer as easily as a good writing style.) Just be aware of the dangers, and then enjoy acquiring and practicing your craft… because that enjoyment is the only result you can be guaranteed, the only one worth relying on; and success without that joy is not enough. Be happy, and love what you’re doing. Because once you’ve started to work out how to handle the difficulties, there’s a lot about writing to love. :)
It’s surprising how well that dates, for something written (originally) in 1994. Plus ça change…
06 3 / 2014
"Here’s the truly extraordinary thing: [Paul] Ryan’s report never once mentions America’s savage increase in inequality over the last half century. But poverty is precisely and directly connected to widening inequality because (1) when most income goes to the top, the vast middle doesn’t have the purchasing power needed to get the economy out of first gear, which causes high unemployment — especially for those with the least skills and education: (2) when income and wealth are concentrated at the top the rich have enough political power to reduce their tax rates, and as real median household incomes drop the middle class doesn’t have the will or ability to pay more in taxes — with the result that tax revenues can’t pay for adequate education, social services, jobs programs, and job training needed by the poor; and (3) when the income ladder elongates, upward mobility is far harder because movement up the ladder results in less gain. That Ryan and company don’t mention any of this shows how utterly ignorant he and his colleagues are about what’s really happening to America."
06 3 / 2014
"Cakes have gotten a bad rap. People equate virtue with turning down dessert. There is always one person at the table who holds up her hand when I serve the cake. No, really, I couldn’t she says, and then gives her flat stomach a conspiratorial little pat. Everyone who is pressing a fork into that first tender layer looks at the person who declined the plate, and they all think, That person is better than I am. That person has discipline. But that isn’t a person with discipline; that is a person who has completely lost touch with joy. A slice of cake never made anybody fat. You don’t eat the whole cake. You don’t eat a cake every day of your life. You take the cake when it is offered because the cake is delicious. You have a slice of cake and what it reminds you of is someplace that’s safe, uncomplicated, without stress. A cake is a party, a birthday, a wedding. A cake is what’s served on the happiest days of your life. This is a story of how my life was saved by cake, so, of course, if sides are to be taken, I will always take the side of cake."
06 3 / 2014
Celebrate, for today someone is picking up the keys for their first killer robot.
A newly minted witch is casting their first spell. A ghost is haunting for the first time, a skeleton is creaking as it raises from the grave, an alchemist is cackling with peels of horrific joy.
The wide, wild world is full of darkness and wonderment.
But now I have competiton.
Get better at what you do.
06 3 / 2014
"People want to believe gender is something that’s essential, and people repeat these essentialist ideas all the time. ‘Oh, women do that’ and ‘Oh, men do that’ and the reality is that all women don’t anything. We as individuals do what we do, you know, and sometimes that’s informed by gender and sometimes it’s just who we are. And I think all that just makes people really, really uncomfortable because they don’t want to think about who they are."