cross-posted from my vampire flynn blog
ah, my first blog post here. i apologize for not contributing sooner, but the life of a writer is a busy one, especially when one is a vampire seer. i would say more about what i have been up to these days, but… you know…
rest assured you shall read about it eventually.
formalities aside, what brings me here is a blog post i happened upon recently which inspired me to muse upon the literary process. you can read it here, but suffice to say the author had a few opinions centered around ten canards seasoned writers offer to aspiring writers. pause for a moment to take a look at it. i shall wait.
finished? very well, then. you can see the author makes a set of his own points to counter the bits of (in his opinion) not-so-sage advice presented to the masses. it is humorous, but in the place where i stumbled upon this link, the first bits of commentary from their writing community could be best summed up as ‘fuck the establishment’. others went on to have more helpful things to offer and while my comments echo some of theirs, i still felt obliged to weigh in.
now, i consider myself something of a bohemian, and thus chuckle at the “fuck the rules” mentality, but the rules often exist for a reason even if they are misguided. in several of the blog author’s points he makes just as broad-sweeping of an assertion as the people who have determined these canards should be in place, which goes to show one that writing is a personalized venture with few consistencies outside of proper grammar and spelling.
i hope this does not prove to be too long-winded, doing a point by point evaluation. humor me a trifle.
point 1: “some people should give up. most people should give up.”
i appreciate the fact that he clarifies his objection, and in fact, he gives a rather valid piece of advice. “consider your audience.” advice on any topic is not ‘one size fits all’ and neither should it be for writing advice. no, not everybody should do this. and assuredly most people should not. those of us who have toiled over the fifteenth draft of our manuscript weeping bitter tears over the fact that we still cannot fix chapter seven would spare anybody that agony. especially when we are doing it in the wee smalls trying to make a deadline.
but this does not mean we brush aspiring writers off nonchalantly either. some writers are rougher than others at first. some need a few classes and a swift kick in the ass to get started. some need a mentor who can patiently show them the tricks of the trade and help them hone their skills. sometimes it truly does take writing every day for years before you become a clever wordsmith. the dividing line in this is: how much effort are you willing to put into being a writer? warn the pilgrims of the dangers which lie in wait and do not be the arbiter of if and when they should give up.
point 2: figure out when to show and when to tell
yes, very true, however the canard of “show, don’t tell” does not exist to be a universal rule. i have never seen a professional argue as such, and when i catch amateurs doing it, i nod politely and go back to what i was doing. 😉
as the song goes, you have to “know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em”. to say either suggests there is an appropriate time for one and while the author here admits as such, the canard is a response to the natural inclination we have to hand-hold our readers. the best stories are the ones where most things are implied, where the soft brush of a hand and the warmth of a touch is better stated than the explanation that one is feeling the first stirrings of love.
assuredly, this is one canard i beat myself up regarding, because it is the “rule” i need to hone most at the moment.
point 3: if you have to tell someone to stop over promoting themselves, chances are they are beyond hope
god bless twitter. *sighs* yes, this is one where i am inclined to agree with him, because i witness it every bloody day. i see more promotional tweets from my fellow wordsmiths than i do anything else which indicates they are a human being who has some interest in anything other than their latest novel, now available on kindle. it may or may not increase their sales, but they come off as a used car salesman more than they do a fellow traveler.
needless to say, i shall not be tossing myself on any grenades for their benefit.
this is not to say any self-promotion is a bad thing. we do need to market – traditionally published and self-published alike. if you are little more than a canned joke and an advertisement, though, know i am tuning you out.
point 4: you do not have to be so careful about what you say online.
i do not post nude photos of myself, but i agree that people can be too overcautious. this is the salesman mentality again, suggesting you do not wish to alienate any potential customers.
i am a vampire author and poet. obviously, i do not lose sleep over what i say. 😉
point 5: aim for the top of what?
my amendment to the canard: set goals for yourself. make them realistic, avoid arbitrary milestones, and do not be afraid to build upon them. and whatever you do, do to the best of your ability. i see so many people settle for half-assed mediocrity and just as many aspire for greatness without learning what it even means to be great.
point 6: “it’s all intersubjective”
well, at least this is a step above existentialism.
and some people do not revise enough.
the world of self-publishing has a bad name right now because of how few people give a damn about proper editing and maintaining a modicum of professionalism. if you cannot be bothered to learn these things, you should stay the course of traditional publishing, where there will be quality control checks along the way.
but, i digress.
my need to revise varies on a day by day basis. sometimes i write brilliance with my first attempts and sometimes i write garbage. better point to make: sometimes you do not have to jettison everything and start over again. sometimes rewriting is not the answer. and sometimes it is. sometimes chapter seven simply needs to “die in a fire” and be reborn as something else entirely, especially if it is not working by the fifteenth draft. and sometimes all it needed was an extra sentence at the end of the fifth paragraph.
this is all part of the “spooky art.”
point 8: “lots of people don’t write everyday and do just fine”
we writers are a superstitious lot sometimes. where sports players have their lucky jock strap and unwashed socks, we have our favorite pen and the notebook we use for this book and our customary cup of coffee served at precisely nine a.m. there is no magic in the items themselves.
the magic is in the ritual.
this is what we thrive in. ritual. some writers do need to write every day in order to maintain their focus. Some of them have a hard time getting back on track after spending too much time away. the important point to this canard: no matter how many times you try to teach a writer how to write, they still have to go and do it themselves to get better.
practice, practice, practice.
and yes, you do have to practice. if you are one of the lucky bastards who was birthed knowing how to not only tell an engaging story, but properly pen it, then i have two words for you:
fuck you. 😉
most of us need to work at it.
point 9: arbitrary goals are nonsense
yes, i do agree. as he pointed out in his experience, the lady who kept sending in half-formed garbage not only wasted her time, she wasted his. set goals for yourself, yes, but as i stated above, make them realistic and meet them with your best effort. if you cannot produce a quality story every week, then figure out how long it takes for you to actually craft a tale worth consideration and do it. period.
george r.r. martin took how many years to finish a dance with dragons? granted it might have been one or two too many, but it was better than him meeting an arbitrary deadline with crap. charlaine harris of sookie stackhouse fame publishes one book a year as part of her contract and the last few books have been horrible, in my opinion.
point 10: writing is like writing. period.
amen to that. 😀