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Must Read : Writers' Block Party • Page 6 • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

Must Read

What's going on in your writing world? Connect with the writing community here and talk about whatever's on your mind.
wrtrsblck
 

RE: Must Read

Postby wrtrsblck » Fri Jan 27, 2006 9:28 am


Jamesaritchie
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RE: Must Read

Postby Jamesaritchie » Sun Jan 29, 2006 5:30 pm

A couple of things here. First, there's nothing at all wrong with simply writing for the love of it, but writers who do so are a tiny minority. An extremely tiny minority. And I've found that most who do claim to write simply for the love of it still submit their work, still get depressed when it's rejected, still exhibit all the symptoms of someone who really does want to be published. Most often, I don't buy the argument at all. It's usually a cop out. If you're really writing simply for the love of it, then stop adding to the mountains of slush. The vast majority of those who write fiction do want to be published, that's just how it is, and do try anything and everything they can to make it happen. I think most of us aim our advice a this camp of writers.

There's really little we can say to those who do not want to be published, who do not take writing as a business, who do not care whether or not they find a way to land in the top one percent or so of writers who manage to earn money from their fiction, who do not do everything they can to make their writing as good as it can possibly be. And make no mistake here. Publishing is about quality, and the process of trying as hard as you can to become published can and does make one a far better writer. But writers who really and truly do not want to be published, who really are writing purely for the love of the process, shouldn't take offense at anything a published writer says because that published writer probably isn't talking about you or to you.

Because at least 99.999% of all wannabe writers are deeply serious about being published, this is where the emphasis is going to be, whether in forums, magazines, or how to books. It wouldn't make any sense at all to have it otherwise. And what does it matter. If you really are writing simply for the love of it, then write and be happy.

And there really is far more horrible writing out there than good writing, and bad is bad, whether you're trying to be published, or whether you just write for the love of it. Writing strictly for the love of it does not in any way mean you can write well enough to be read by anyone except a diehard masochist. Neither does writing for publication.

I'm all for encouraging new writers. But I'm not for lying to them. Telling anyone and everyone who tries to write fiction that they, too, can be a successful writer just isn't so, and can do a lot of harm. Few things are sadder than an encouraged dream that never comes true. It's easy to say that the only failure is not trying, but it's also nonsense. If you can't fail, you can't succeed, and failure isn't just a possibility in writing, it's the high probability. Take a look at a wannabe writer who has been trying for twenty years, and who still can't write well at all. Not everyone can learn to write well enough to be published, or even well enough to be read for enjoyment by anyone who isn't your mother, and she's probably lying to you. Lives are often ruined by holding onto dead dreams long, long after a new dream should have been the goal.

Which does not, of course, mean people should not try. Trying is the only possible way of knowing whether or not you can succeed, and trying to be published is the only possible way of knowing whether or not you can ever be good enough to be published. But they should go in with their eyes open, they should understand that this is a highly competative business, and that there is a realistic time to try, and a realistic time to move on. They should understand that despite all the reasons you can list why this or that was rejected, bad writing is, in the end, almost always the cause. You can get rejected once or twice or ten times for other reasons, but in the end, when no one at all wants what you wrote, it's because it simply is not good enough. A writer who doesn't understand this will probably never write anything that is good enough.

As for trade secrets, they are none except tp write well, to tell a good story, to fill that story with good characters, and to write realistic, approproate dialogue. Who you know doesn't help a bit. Never has, never will. Who you are can help, but even here there's much misunderstanding. People look down on celebrity writers, but for every William Shatner who uses a gost, there are ten celebrity writers with a ton of talent. Acting makes for natural writers. The world of acting is the world of writing, and most actors spend more time dealing with the written word than do most wannabe writers. Actors not only read scripts, they write them, rewrite them, doctor them, and often improve greatly on what the writer did. Actors read novels and short stories by the bushel, and the only reason more actors aren't on the fiction bestseller lists is because most of them prefer writing scripts and acting over writing novels.

But while there are no trade secrets, there most certainly are tips and tricks that can be extremely helpful. And sometimes these tips and tricks learned thrugh years of practice can be guarded a bit more strictly than they probably should be.

Let me tell a story I haven't told in a long time. Once upon a time, back when I first started selling western novels, I took part in a roundtable discussion with a google of other writers, nearly all more famous than I'll even be. I was there because they needed a western writer to fill out the genre pool, and I was the only one available at a moment's notice.

At some point the subject of tricks and secrets to getting published came up, and everyone denied having and secret methods. Later, however, after the discussion was over, when food and drink were the serious subject, secrets again came up, and one writer reluctantly admitted to having a secret trick they used that seemed to help their fiction sell much better. As the evening wore on, other writers slowly admitted to having their own tricks and screts, and I finally admitted to having two secrets myself. . .tricks I'd learned the hard way that seemed to let me give an editor what he wanted far more often than not. By the end of the night, only two or three writers still said they had no trick/secret that helped them sell.

And you know what? Even though every writer there was a professional, and several were very famous, not one writer would share his trick/secret with the rest.

I suspect the reason no one would share was because deep down inside we probably knew, or believed, that our tricks/secrets weren't really tricks or secrets at all, that we probably all used the same ones, that all we really knew was how to write well through long practice. But we still wouldn't share, and who knows, maybe it was out of fear of looking foolish, or, shoot, because on some level we really did believe these tricks/secrets were our talismans, our lucky charms, perhaps even a bit of magic bestowed upon us by our various Muses, and revealing them would remove the magic. But for whatever reason, not one writer would share his or her tricks/secrets, even with our peers. Funnier still, at least three of these writers had written how-to books, and admitted to not including their tricks/secrets in the book.

Make of this story what you will. There are no trade secrets. Who you know doesn't help a bit until AFTER you become published and an editor then knows he can call on you and get what he's after. Before you're published, even God has to go through the slush pile.

There are no trade secrets. But perhaps there are lesser secrets, lesser tricks, learned through years of trial and error, guarded by those who have visited the sanctum sanctorum and walked away with the ancient knowledge of How To Please Thine Editor.

I don't know. I really don't. But that discussion, fueled by good food and enough adult beverages to make anything we said questionable, left me wondering. We can't know how much we don't know. A secret is, by definition, something we don't know. So I'm left to wondering. I know what my tricks/secrets are, but not those of others. Are they the same as mine? Or radically different things I not only don't know, but can't imagine? And, of course, I wonder if any of us really have secrets? Maybe what we really have are insecurities. We fear shining a light on our secrets for fear of revealing them as insecurities. Hmmm.

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RE: Must Read

Postby Diana » Mon Jan 30, 2006 12:19 pm

Thank you James.  This was the first thing I've read today at the forum, and I think it'll be the last, because now I am going to write.  What you wrote was the most encouraging thing I've heard in some time.  Thank you!

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RE: Must Read

Postby yudelka » Mon Jan 30, 2006 12:52 pm

That's deep, James! Seriously, beautifully written too. Thanks for sharing that story. Now, you leave me here to wonder. Hmmm. I'm wondering and wondering....

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RE: Must Read

Postby OmenSpirits.com » Thu Jun 28, 2007 7:25 pm

I like this thread. :) 

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RE: Must Read

Postby Tails » Thu Jun 28, 2007 10:26 pm

You know, reading from Georganna's first post to the final post here made me decide to post here myself, because I feel that this matter concerns me as well.

I'm a kid. A few of you may already know that. I am probably one of the most inexperienced, or maybe to a number of you, naive wannabe wash-ups here on this forum. But I am probably one of the strongest as well (not to sound conceited). You see, as I read that article, I found no offense.

I have never received a rejection because I have never submitted my work. The reason I haven't done that is because I have not finished my novel yet. I've been working on it for three and a half years-- since sixth grade, now pushing onto my sophomore year in high school. I have worked so hard and so long on my novel that sometimes I just stare at the word document on my computer in dull silence and say, "Wow."

But I will tell all of you this honestly-- I do not believe my book is remarkable enough to be accepted the first time by an agent. Outrageous to hear from a kid, eh? Most kids my age strongly believe in their writing abilities. And, well, they talk more than they cough up. 

See, I am not the type of person who believes that my book has the utmost splendor at this point, or at least enough magnificence to be accepted immediately by an agent. No, I believe in rejection. As I read the article Georganna posted about that woman who had received 25 rejections, I simply said to myself, "I'm gonna beat that record. I'm aiming for 26."

I can see why many of you are offended presently. No one wants to be told the harsh truths of publishing, of reality, goodness sake. But you know what? I'm not offended. I've faced enough criticism in my short lifetime to accept the rough truth. I think we can all find that layer of thick skin within us, look over the article, and recognize that it is not trying to bring us down. I believe Georganna posted that because she wanted us to see an example of what kind of thing happens to average, hard-working people dealing with the publishing industry. Why should you find offense in that? Granted, it's at first hard to take it all in, and I don't know how the "panty-waist" thing added to the encouragement, but that's what happens.

How would I know, right? Well, I wouldn't. I'm simply trying standing at the point of rationality here. It's painful to think that we may never make it as published authors, but to target others for bringing on that agonizing feeling doesn't change anything. I'm not taking sides under any circumstances.

The important thing is, we're all here to gain support from others who are after the same dream-- to become published. Now, don't tell me any of you are participating in this discussion without really, REALLY wanting to be published. Then none of this would make any sense.

I sincerely doubt anyone is trying to crush anyone's dreams. I know that I'm not offended, and let me tell you, I'm striving like crazy for that same dream. I want it badly, but I know it doesn't come without hard work, dedication, and some seriously thick skin. And you know, I'm willing to face rejection and such proudly because the forumites here have stressed to everyone the importance of believing in ourselves and, of course, developing some seriously thick skin.

I'm glad I checked out this thread. It's full of very inspiring posts by some very dedicated writers. Why, it's made my day at...12:23 A.M. Cool.

Well, now for the remainder of random rambling...

1) I don't read "how to" books. I'm from Afghanistan.

2) I'm glad Lisa mentioned the thing about our friends and family being bored to death with our [writers] constant discussion of writing. It's very true.

3) I can't stop talking at...12:26 A.M. Cool.

Okey-dokey, then. Time to sleep.

~ T. Reshad


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RE: Must Read

Postby cibo » Fri Jun 29, 2007 4:05 am

Am I the only one who doesn't think the article was discouraging at all? I feel like the lone dork, but sorry Georganna, I actually found it heartening. 

First--the friend/author she had lunch with?  That wasn't disheartening--sounds like she did something right.

And sure, twenty-five rejections, years to publish--but she only gives a hint/brief explanation why.  And the hint is illuminating.  Her book idea wasn't timely and marketable.  I think what people don't hear and James in particular is always pointing out is it's about the writing, yes.  But it's also a business.  If you're getting rejected, there's a WHY.

Show me an article about someone where everything was right--the writing, idea, execution, etc.--and still couldn't sell it.  Now that's discouraging. 

I found the article exciting and beyond helpful.  It reaffirms what everyone has been saying.  You need to write a killer book.  But agents and publishers don't want what they can't sell.  And they will never decide if they can sell it if you don't follow the "rules"--submit correctly, research the best market, etc.

Nope.  Didn't feel this was discouraging at all.


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RE: Must Read

Postby KeithMN » Fri Jun 29, 2007 5:39 am

You know what the WD forums have done for me? They've taken away all the anxiety of whether I'll be published or not. Do I want to be? Yes. Do I need to be? No. I will always write and I will always submit. I just refuse to get caught up in the game of it all anymore. The ups and downs of the stress levels -- it's not worth it.

I'm going to consider it more like a hobby (submitting) with paperwork (keeping track of queries, submissions, etc.,). If the requirements say to give them two months, that's what it will be. After that, I'll mark it as a no-go and resubmit to someone else. In between all of this paperwork, I'm just going to keep writing and keep submitting. I refuse to be disheartened and discouraged. I'm going to keep the joy of it all and not let the business side of being published ruin that. This all started out as a lot of fun for me and I refuse to let anything spoil that. That's just me though. I'm not saying everyone should think this way. It works for me.

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RE: Must Read

Postby Georganna » Fri Jun 29, 2007 6:25 pm

I have no idea how anyone found this thread to dredge up from January 2006 or why they did. Other than myself, James, and Linda Lisa (? this is why I hate screen names) a new set of people now post. At the time, I had been criticized for being too honest and straight-forward. That's what provoked the initial post (and, of course, the confirmatory article in the magazine). It had absolutely nothing to do with critiques.

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