Mark Terry

Monday, January 29, 2007

Writers Are Full Of Crapola

January 29, 2007
See, I finally wrote it. It was only a matter of time. You're probably here on my site either because you think because I make a living as a writer, I must have some pearls of wisdom on how you, too, can make a living as a writer. (Of course, I'm currently averaging $400 a month in 2007, although I'm owed over $20,000--any day now, any day now... There are days when you can have it, namely when the Visa bill comes around).

Or perhaps there's just something here that keeps you mildly entertained for the two minutes it takes you to read it.

That's all well and good, and thanks for coming by, I hope you get your money's worth.

We're all full of shit.

For a while there every writer had to have a website, and a hardy few decided to try a forum and probably what happens is readers meet there and talk about something else. Now that blogs have taken off, every writer, successful or not, is espousing some approach to writing, the writing life, marketing, the business, how to get an agent, how to get an editor, how to write query letters, how to blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

God, as much time as I waste on other writers' blogs, you'd think I wouldn't be such a damned hypocrite. But doesn't a tiny piece of you wish that we'd all cut it out with the Internet equivalent of an Informercial and go back to writing the stories that you like? Remember when the only thing readers gave a damn about was when the writer's next book was coming out, not what pearls of wisdom they were crapping out of their shells every day?

I read this recently on the Bookends Literary Agency blog. They're not my agents--although at one time or another I've had manuscripts rejected by them, but that's a large club--but I find her straightforward, non-snarky (ahem) approach easy to swallow.

How you write is truly personal, which is why I'm often amazed, and sometimes frightened, by the number of workshops authors will attend on how to write. Or the number of conversations I have with my own clients (people obviously having success with what they're doing) on how they can do it differently. Why fix it if it's not broken? Sure you can always find new techniques that might work for you, but let me tell you this, you are never going to be able to do it the way someone else does. How one person writes is not necessarily the best way for you.

I wish I'd said. I'm reminded yet again of Raymond Chandler giving a lecture on writing and being badgered on how to do this and how to do that, and finally jumping to his feet and shouting, "Write it any damn way you please," and stomping out of the classroom.

The point being, I think: write it.

Mark Terry


Blogger Ron Estrada said...

You're starting to sound like my wife. She claims all these workshops are ruining me. She's probably right. I keep saying, "You have to know the rules before you know how and when to break them." It sounds good in theory. Maybe I'm full of crapola. In fact, I'm sure of it. Our voice is there, we just have to have enough faith in ourselves to let it out.

12:32 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Ron, I'm 2/3 of the way through "Murder on the Side" and I'd be shocked if you got anything out of a workshop. That isn't to say they're worthless--as Clive Cussler once noted, (and I'm not a big fan of sports metaphors, but he's right), when football players (or whatever sport) show up for the new season, they start with the basics all over again.

Read Gary Provost's "Make Your Words Work" and write and write and read and read.

1:09 PM  
Anonymous spyscribbler said...

Nah, I'm here because I'm fascinated by people, and I've decided that you're one of the people I enjoy reading/reading about. And you do offer wisdom; thank you, Mark!

Someone once said that we can only teach what we need to learn. I blog to learn, and to cheer and psyche myself up when I get down. I have no idea why people stop by, LOL.

And about the workshop thing. I agree, but I also have an idealized hope: Me, long publishing career behind me, sitting in the back of the room, still learning and loving most moments of it. I've already ruined one hobby/love by turning it into a career. I have both eyes open, but I have no intention of letting that happen to my writing.

1:55 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

"I've already ruined one hobby/love by turning it into a career."

I understand. I can't say that I have unalloyed love of writing like I used to. It's freighted with too many other things--like being forced to write things that bore you or irritate you so you can pay the bills. But I still love it, nonetheless.

2:10 PM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

You write about your life as well as about writing and you take a very practical approach, all of which I find interesting. But there's far too much yak yak yak about writing and selling writing. I think we can pick a few blogs that appeal to us and stick with them. From what I know about a lot of the bloggers and blog readers I come in contact with -- they don't need workshops, or lessons, or for another writer to instruct them on how the other writer likes to do things. They need (if they aren't yet published) perseverence and luck. Period.

I always have looked askance particularly at all the sf workshops. Sf editors are heavily involved in teaching them. So if one learns to write the way they prefer and then submit what they are teaching to them...well...I guess it increases your chances but what's the accomplishment really?

3:24 PM  
Blogger Shannon said...

I'm a newbie at the whole blog thing, reading and writing. I read your blog, Mark because I used to believe getting published was equivalent to belonging to some magically elite club and you had to be a hermit or live in a building full of publishers and editors in NY, etc. But, along with great insight into the business, you give me hope because you're just a normal (well, I don't know you but you seem normal guy that enjoys writing and has had your hard work pay off. It's nice to know just that alone can be a successful formula.

As far as writing a blog, I only started that because in the real world I am a hopeless introvert and blogging is helping me get used to letting other people read what I write. Scary stuff.

7:07 AM  
Anonymous Keith said...

Is it an informercial if I just like talking about myself?

8:10 AM  
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10:43 PM  

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