Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Smart Things--A Bunch

Nola J. Moore saying smart things about collaboration.

Michael Damian Thomas saying smart things about in-group slapfights, a post triggered by this smart post on the same subject by Cristalia.

John Scalzi saying smart things about making the time to write. I'm not wholly in agreement with him on this one, but I think his is one good way to look at the issue.

Justine Larbalestier saying smart things about how you judge your own success. She picked up the topic from Maureen Johnson's excellent post on not judging your success by the numbers.

This last pair hits a tender spot for me right at the moment in that I'm feeling a little bit stalled as I wrap up WebMage without yet having sold any of the other books that I've written. I have high hopes for several of the series I've got out on submission at the moment, including the one that I hope will be continuing my relationship with Ace and Penguin, but none of that has happened yet and books that I was sure would have sold years ago are still hanging in space. Don't get me wrong, I'm delighted with the quality of work I'm doing for WebMage and simply having books in print and the opportunity to write more is a huge privilege, but some days I still feel that I'm hitting a wall. I've written several books now that are simply better than the ones I've currently got in print and it's sometimes very frustrating to know that they haven't yet seen the light of day in any significant way.

Of course, hitting a wall and then hitting it again and again as many times as it takes until it falls is a pretty good description of how this business works in general. It's just that sometimes the bruises that generates weigh more heavily on the mind, and for me this is one of those times. Which makes what Justine and Maureen have to say all the more important for me personally at the moment.


Bill Henry said...

Regarding JS's suggestion that if you forgo an hour of watching television a day, you can write a novel in a year: nah.

Or okay, maybe you can, but the novel you'll have at the end of that year will read like you wrote it in the hour a day when you might better have been watching TV.

Another way of putting it: how many of the Wyrdsmiths who are in the novel-writing business got there (and stayed there) on the hour-a-day plan?

I'm not saying you (necessarily) have to "give things up" or "suffer for your art" to be a writer. But to succeed, I think you do have to commit to it, and invest in it, as wholeheartedly as you would with any other profession.

Kelly McCullough said...

Which is pretty much why I said I wasn't totally in agreement with Scalzi on the subject. I had to give up more than that as did most writers I know, but it is a good place to start.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the shout-out, Kelly!

Sending all the good vibes out to anyone considering your other projects, too - I know they are totally worthy!

Michael Damian Thomas said...

Thanks for the shout out. :-)

I also disagree with the details of Scalzi's post. I'm with him about the need to make time to write. His plan, however, wouldn't work for me. I don't have a writer switch in my brain. I need a block of time away from my distractions. It usually takes me about 45 minutes to become creative. Once I'm there, I can produce that wordcount.

In general, I'm not a big fan of THERE IS ONE TRUE WAY TO WRITE posts.

Douglas Hulick said...

I think we may be focusing too much on the "one hour" aspect of Scalzi's post and missing the larger message, which is: if you want to write, you have to make time to write. Maybe that translates into an hour a day, or a couple, or three three-hour blocks a week, or what have you -- the point is to look at what else you are doing besides writing and carve time out of that.

There are plenty of times I have only managed to cull out an hour a day to write. Before both kids were in school, I had to take it where I could get it, and often as not that was somewhere between 9:30 and 11:00 PM at night (assuming I wasn't too exhausted to stay upright). Heck, sometimes that is STILL the only time I find. But even with that, and a couple kid-induced hiatuses, I still got a book written and revised and am half-way through another.

We need to remember that not all writers have an afternoon or most of an evening to spend at the keyboard every day. Those of us who have lives/spouses/life styles/jobs that allow us to hit the keys at least part-, if not full-, time are fortunate indeed. But we are also the exceptions.

I agree that an hour a day may not be ideal, but it is something that most people can find in their day. And if they can find that, they may find more; but even if they don't, if they manage to train themselves put words on the page every day, so much the better. I expect it would take more than a year to write a book using Scalzi's method, but so what? If the book still gets written, who cares? The point is they are writing, and whether that is an hour a day or three, I think that's a solid success.

Kelly McCullough said...

And Doug has hit on the part of Scalzi's post that I do agree with, which is that it starts with taking what you can get.

Bill Henry said...

Huh. Is the larger message of JS's post about "making time to write"?

The post I read was concerned first of all to take a swing at the romanticized idea that a writer must “sacrifice” and “suffer” for his or her art, and to offer in its place what I've always taken to be an equally romanticized notion: that the hard-working, level-headed, can-do genre writer can make art by working just one hour a day—a novel a year!

Beyond that, if there’s a larger message to the post, it seems to be a sarcastic stab at the idea of artists and art with a capital “A”:

“I think the whole ‘you must be willing to suffer for your art’ thing is overrated and is generally bruited about by people who want to make writing look like some amazing, holy process or whatever.”

And moreover a stab at a sort of clich├ęd image of a certain kind of artist as leading an overly dramatic (tumultuous, strife-filled) life, as if that’s some kind of pose or performance:

“but going out of one’s way to make one’s life more difficult just seems more trouble than it’s worth.”

Artists, if I’m reading JS’s schema correctly, are really no different from dentists and firefighters and accountants, and making art (an hour a day!) is kind of like getting what you want by cutting out cereal box coupons.

In the final paragraph lies the moral of the story: “So yeah, no: Don’t give up everything for your art. Just turn off the damn television for a bit . . . you’ll still have a job and loved ones at the end of it.”

In so many words: Don’t fall on your sword for your art. Keep your day job.

Advice that, no matter how I feel about the rest of the post, I’d be inclined to agree with.

Kelly McCullough said...

That's certainly one of the messages, but not what I read as the primary message. For me that was that it can be done without killing yourself and in your spare time if you're disciplined about it, with the subtext that writing books starts with committing the time.

Bill Henry said...

If you take out paragraphs 4 through 6 (326 words of a 608-word post), yeah.

I'm just going by what I see on the page. When more words get spent on the secondary message than the (ostensibly) primary one, I start reading with great interest.

Anyways. To work.

Kelly McCullough said...

Fair enough. I admit to reading with my Scalzi snark filter firmly in place and that does tend to cause me to gloss some of what he writes as hyperbole.