September 24, 2011

Advice for aspiring writers

No, I'm not qualified to give advice to any aspiring writers. I'm talking about an article that prolific comic book writer Ron Marz penned giving advice to his 10-year-old daughter. The article is titled "Advice to a 10-Year-Old", but it applies to anyone who is thinking about writing full-time.

I got a chuckle out of his first piece of advice -- "I will tell her that if she wants to be a writer, she has to be a reader" -- because of my last blog post about writers who don't like to read.  :-)

The remaining advice is all good. Not only does he give tips on how to be a writer, but he paints a realistic picture of what the life of a full-time writer is like. Warning: it's not as glamorous as you may think. You will wind up working all the time, and even then, your income isn't assured. I don't want to be a full-time writer right now (because I like my "real job" profession, not because I don't like being a writer), but I'll keep Marz's advice in mind if my goals change in the future.

September 15, 2011

Wanting to write without wanting to read

I came across a article titled "Writers who don't read" that talked about the growing number of young writers who don't like to read. At first, the article made me angry at these aspiring writers because I believe that the two prerequisites to writing well are (1) reading a lot and (2) writing a lot. Anyone who thinks they can be a good writer without reading is just crazy. My love of writing grew out of my love of reading. I'm not a great writer (yet), but I wouldn't even be half the writer I am today if I didn't read so much throughout my life.

Then the article got me thinking about something else. It offered the open-ended analogy, "Wanting to write without wanting to read is like wanting to ___ without wanting to ___". Then it diverted to a discussion about culture today. Well, there is something that I find troubling with today's culture, and that is the amount of trash on TV. For example, I hate reality shows. I watched one episode of the first season of "Survivor", and I tried a couple of other reality shows years ago. Since then, I avoid them like the plague. So I can see how someone can want to make good TV shows without wanting to watch TV. As long as you don't want to watch what's on TV today. You still need to watch well-made TV shows from the past, or the handful of good shows today (e.g., "Fringe", which I am a big fan of).

So if there is any truism to wanting to write without wanting to read, it would be if you don't like what publishers are cranking out today, i.e., sequels and cookie cutter stories from the same handful of authors. But there are plenty of good books that have been published in the past. You still need to read.

September 12, 2011

Why I write?

It's a sad commentary that I felt the article "80% of People Quietly Despise Their Lives" described me so well. It's not that I hate myself or my life, but I can honestly say that I "dislike the things [I] must do in order to make the living that will allow [me] to continue disliking [my] life".

But this isn't a post to gripe about life or to solicit pity. It's to talk about what makes my life more worthwhile, namely writing. There was a thread on the Kindle Boards a couple of weeks ago that asked whether authors enjoyed writing (vs. editing, marketing, etc.). I thought it was ridiculous that any author would say they don't enjoy writing, but some actually did. Why write then? My writing takes time out of my day that I could spend watching TV, playing video games, reading, or going out. So why do I do it? Because I enjoy it! Not because I want to become rich and famous, and not because I have to do it.

Ironically, when the article talks of how to become part of the happy 20%, it mentions devoting your life to a purpose. One example it gives: "It might take you 20 years to write your novel, but put a sentence or two on a page every day." Since I started writing regularly again last year, I've found that the times that I write are some of the best parts of my day. I'm in a better mood when I write, and conversely, in a worse mood when I go days without writing. So even if I never become a best-selling author, I plan to keep writing for years to come, until it stops making me happy.

September 3, 2011

Write YOUR story

Dean Wesley Smith is an author whose blog I recently started following. His latest post is about not trying to write what's "hot". The article interested me because I thought of doing so for my next book. Wouldn't it be easier to sell a book, I thought, if I wrote in a popular genre? Why don't I try to copy Amanda Hocking and write paranormal romances? Or write thrillers like Joe Konrath? In the end, I decided not to because that would be too hard. (Especially if I were to write paranormal romance, which I don't even like reading. I can see myself writing a thriller later on because I like that genre, but I don't have any good ideas right now.) 

Smith offers some guidelines for authors who are tempted to write something because it's hot:

1. Never talk about your story with anyone ahead of time.
2. For heaven’s sake, never, ever let anyone read a work-in-progress.
3. Never think of markets or selling when writing.
4. Follow Heinlein’s Rules, especially #3 about never rewriting.
5. When an editor says they are looking for a certain type of book, ignore it.
6. Get passionate and protective of what you write.

Underlying the rules is the principal that when you edit your story, you should do it only to fix mistakes, not to tailor the story to someone else's liking. I need to keep these guidelines in mind if I ever contemplate writing a story for someone else in the future.