[Elderhostel Mysteries & Fiction Writing Techniques]

BookMarc © #19
Naysayers and Reality

     There is law, that which is, and folklore, that which we only believe, just as there are naysayers, those who would discourage us simply because we don't fit their folklore image of a writer, and reality, the very real odds a writer faces in seeking fulfillment in this the most difficult of arts. We must ignore the former, but be aware of the latter if we hope to turn our sow's ear into a silk purse, to use a cliche. (If you'd like a deeper discussion of writing as an art, go back to the index and click on the link for poscasting)

     First the folklore.

     Agent Aaron Priest has said everyone thinks they can write a book. Everyone. And yet, in a bit of a paradox, when we first embark on our writing journey, we will find many who will ridicule what we are doing. The reason is most people can't conceive of actually knowing someone who has a written novel. When they are poo-pooing us--like that neat bit of terminology--what they are really poo pooing is their own lack of imagination. And even after getting a book published, we'll find that people will still look at it with suspicion. Like, it's not a real book, right? No, it's a fake one I made up! So the answer here is to be judicious in who we tell about stringing words together.

     Be judicious also in who we ask to evaluate our work. Some will become instant critics and hate it all, others will love everything because we did it. Neither are of any help. But a good critique group, other writers who point out both pluses and minuses and offer constructive suggestions, are worth their weight in gold. Always thank them, and never argue. Never. If we speak up and say, "what I was trying to say here was...," then what we need to go back and write what we were trying to say. On the other hand, a critique is just another view of our work. We should seriously consider it, try it on and see how it fits, but in the end, it's our work. The final judgement must be ours. But don't reject it simply because it means more work.

     You must also consider me as a naysayer. BookMarc. As we move along on this journey I'll be saying things about dramatize rather than inform, about the difficulty of getting omniscient POV right, about mixing first and third person together, but these things are done all the time. I'm just trying to give you my best cut. If you believe in what you are doing, ignore me. At your own peril, of course--ha ha. In the end, anything done well and with finesse, and perhaps a bit of luck, works. Allow me to repeat this one more time to drive it home. Anything done well and with finesse, and perhaps a bit of luck, works.

     That brings us to the reality.

     Whether you believe it or not, folks, fiction writing is an art. And like any art--painting, sculpture, pottery--the pay for the journeyman is small and in some cases non-existent.

     For each Hollywood star there are a zillion actors appearing on small stages, in little theater, as extras, or as actor/ticket-sellers. For each person on the NYT best seller list there are a thousands of midlist authors scraping by, and not scraping by. And for each of these guys, there are thousands of pre-published and maybe never-to-be-published authors learning their craft, although with the ease of self publishing today, the problem becomes not learning the craft.

     Fiction writing is the most difficult art in which to find fulfillment. An artist can hang a painting on the wall, whether it's good or not. A musician can play Mozart on a street corner. But the only venue open for the fiction writer is to be published. And to do that, he/she has to complete against all the other fiction writers in the country, and perhaps the world. Those who teach writing, especially those looking for students, often say that good writing will always win out it the end. I don't want to discourage anyone, but I don't believe it. There will always be terrific books that a publishing house won't take a chance on because it's been done before, or because it's never been done before. To fight against these odds takes real passion and the desire to hone our craft until it is a work of art. I think I mentioned a quote from Steve Martin. When asked how to succeed in show biz, he said, "Be so good they can not ignore you." The same applies to writing.

     So, if you want to make money, IMHO, sell cumquats, or write non-fiction, it sells easier and has a longer shelf life.

     But if you want to write fiction, sit down with me in splendid isolation, spin words into worlds, and in those rare moments when a phrase or a sentence slips out of the ether, so grand we have wonder where it came from, and it's a keeper, enjoy the moment, for it's like being touched by God. Many writers keep at it just for the chance it will happen again.

     It seems fitting here to repeat Hemingway's quote, "We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master."

     If you would like to personally receive BookMarcs when they are issued, send an email to Peter at easyreadingwriting dot com taking out the spaces and changing the at and dot for the symbols.

     And remember: it's always better to light a candle in your mind by reading [Easy Reading Writing] than to curse the darkness of rejections. There is an easy order link to B&N to purchase the book.

© Peter E. Abresch - BookMarc ©
February 13, 1998

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