Mark Terry

Thursday, June 03, 2010

I agree with her

June 3, 2010
I highly recommend reading Kristine Kathryn Rusch's post on Giving Up On Yourself.

Years ago, a ballsy writer friend of mine called the writer Harlan Ellison (also a friend of mine) who is known for his brilliant work and his outspokenness. My ballsy writer friend asked Harlan if he would read my friend’s work and tell my friend why the stories weren’t selling.

Harlan said he could tell my friend why the stories weren’t selling without reading them.

My friend expressed surprise, thinking that maybe (through some blind chance) Harlan had seen the stories. “Why?” my friend asked.

“Your stories aren’t selling,” Harlan said, “because they’re crap. And until you learn how to write good stories, you won’t sell anything. Period.”

I’ve heard that story from my ballsy writer friend and from Harlan. The only difference in the telling is the coda to both versions. Harlan says he’s gotten that call from different wannabe writers over the years, and our mutual friend is the only one out of all of them who actually has a writing career.

My ballsy writer friend says Harlan’s response was a wake-up call. It was also accurate, or so my friend says (and I’m inclined to believe him, having seen more than my share of wannabe writers’ work). My friend buckled down, learned his craft, and now has a name you’d recognize.

I wouldn't have put it as brutally as Harlan, and I do think good work gets ignored by the publishing industry for one reason or another, but mostly I think a lot of unpublished work deserves to be unpublished.


Blogger Alan Orloff said...

I agree, too. (FWIW)

9:25 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

If that writer was really ballsy he would've asked Harlan what was going on with The Last Dangerous Visions....

1:23 PM  
Blogger LurkerMonkey said...

I read her whole post ...

It's interesting, because I ask this question sometimes. Is it giving up on yourself if your self-pubbed e-book makes a few thousand bucks? Even if it's not very good ... and you couldn't sell it to NY ... and you don't get tons of feedback. But you manage to promote effectively enough to sell a few thousand copies and make a little money. Does that count as giving up?

I suppose it depends ultimately on what your goals are.

9:25 AM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...


I don't know . . . the more I read different people's opinion on e-pubbing and so on the more swayed I get UNTIL I read pile of crap after pile of crap. It's NOT taste (I am the first to recognize WELL-WRITTEN horror, say, even though it's not my genre . . . and I have read some bodice rippers by friend with beautifully crafted words). It's not taste. It's truly about craft (in my opinion).

2:39 PM  
Blogger Aimless Writer said...

Hmmmm...lesson learned. Back to the drawing

6:07 AM  
Blogger sex scenes at starbucks said...

Write write write, and then write some more. People get so caught up in what has gone before when real artists (the successful ones) continue to look forward, always.

I'm good at that with my art, not so good with my writing. But this is a nice reminder...

8:20 AM  

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