Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Because it Can't be Overemphasized

Writers write.

I want to put that all alone because it is the central point of this blog. It's all about the writing. Everything else is fundamentally by way of amplification or refinement.

I'm teaching an advanced class on writing fantasy at the moment, one aimed at people who've completed at least one novel and who are serious about pursuing publication and I've told them several times that if they only take one thing away from my class it is this:


On the broader stage, I am trying to teach them techniques of craft, ways to think critically about their work, and how to form alliances with other writers to help them move forward. I'm showing them how to put together synopses and to see and talk about the hooks in their work. I am exposing the realities of the hard slog that is the norm in the quest for publication. I want them to understand the realities so that 50 or 100 rejections become a mark of honor, a sign of things written and submitted instead of a soul-crushing obstacle. But amongst all the lecture and critique and questions asked and answered I keep repeating two things.

1. Take everything I say as a tool to be used or discarded as it suits your needs. If something I tell you helps you to write, use it. If it stops you, discard it and find something that gets you writing.

2. There are 1,000 and 1 ways to write a book and every one of them is right. Find what works for you and use it to write.

Are you seeing a theme?

Write more. Write again. Revise. Send out. Write more. All of those things are predicated on the initial writing. You achieve success in this business by the expedient of writing, improving your writing, and not giving up. The formula is a simple one to lay out but it can be awfully hard to follow, especially the not giving up part.

Being published takes time and effort and deep down-in-the-bone stubborn. It takes craft and talent and luck and more than a little blood sweat and tears to boot. But mostly it takes this:



Jordan Summers said...

Is this an online class?

Anonymous said...

Great way to sum up the core advice. If ya had to put it on a cocktail napkin...

I was just thinking about this after yet another friend just quit writing. Another vivid reminder that it's all about writing and writing and writing and you either push through the frustration at how much work it is, how may drafts it can take, or give up. Made me realize- yet again but every reminder always makes it sink in deeper- that ya gotta find the place where you're doing it for yourself and for the joy of writing itself. As you've often written here. For good reason.

Another friend just made his first sale to a major SF magazine this week, and what's his 'secret' - the man writes and writes and writes. Doubts, frustration, all that and more, but just keeps writing. Yeah.


Kelly McCullough said...

Jordan, I'm afraid not.

It's through the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, though most of what I teach can be found here on the Wyrdsmiths blog if you go through the Wyrdsmiths index (top of the right sidebar). In fact, the blog has a greater depth of material then the class in many ways, though there are things in among the classroom handouts that I can't post here for various reasons.

Jordan Summers said...

Thanks Kelly. :)

Michael Damian Thomas said...

I still think I would prefer a muse whispering genius into my ear...

C.S. said...

"You achieve success in this business by the expedient of writing, improving your writing, and not giving up."

Thank you! This was particularly well received today!

Anonymous said...

Heinlein's Rules for Writing:

1. You Must Write
2. You Must Finish What You Write

Nike's Rule for Writing:

Just Do It.

Kelly McCullough said...

Thanks CJD.

Jordan, you're welcome.

Michael, I don't know, wouldn't that rob the victories of some of their meaning?

Carole, glad to be of service.

trev said...

A scriptwriter friend of mine used to say this to me all the time. I've never forgotten it. It's the best advice in the world for anyone who wants to be a "real" author.

Writers write. It's just what we do.

Rick Bylina said...

It's very simple on a basic level. It's so very hard to master.

The only rule: writers write. Everything else is a guideline.

My tag line for five years now. Three novels completed. Six partials of 20K+ and 430 rejections. Not sure if I'm bad or hard-headed. :-)