Writing; it be not looking good

It’s been some time since I wrote any fiction. Ideas are swirling in my mind as well as looking up at me from the notepad where I jotted down stories I want to write.

Other things took precedence over my writing, they did. 

Of course, if I want to be a writer, the first requisite is to write regardless of what societal, personal, or temporal pressures weigh on my capable shoulders.

I’ve sat on my edited NaNoWriMo novel for nearly a month and it’s time to re-read it, see if it needs a bit more spit-shine, and send it out. BUT . . . I should have been working on my next project, putting down a thousand words a day or so. 

Instead, we got our house ready to sell. This despite the fact we have no idea what we will do if it sells.

I’m also waiting to hear if I’m accepted at Viable Paradise. I think I’ve hinted before that I’m of two minds about it. On the one hand, I think I would like to experience it. On the other hand, I have a natural adversity toward authority, toward lectures, toward structured learning, and toward the perception of rules or formulas for “doing stuff”.

A few days ago I read an article that reminded me an old adage about people flocking to places where gold was discovered. I’m paraphrasing, but the saying went something along the lines of the sure way to make money from gold mining is to sell stuff to people doing the digging.”

THIS was the article in question, and it deals with the proliferation of businesses aimed at wannabe authors, budding writers, and anyone wanting to unleash upon the world the bestseller bottled up inside of them.

The above article references THIS other article written by a literary agent who bemoans the proliferation of writing courses.  He uses the same anecdote as I do:

“The people who really make money out of gold rushes are the ones selling the shovels . . .”

These days, there are an unprecedented number of people writing. More important, an unprecedented number of people wanting to write with the specific goal of getting published, and the industry is responding to the perceived writing rush.

Someone somewhere pegged me as being interested in writing, and I get a lot of advertising from people telling me they can get me published, or they can teach me how to write so that I get published, or that they know the secret to getting published.

But, here’s the caveat:

“On the face of it, it is paradoxical that while it’s never been easier for authors to get their books into print, there has never been a worse time to be an author. Author earnings are down and the number of writers able to make a living out of their work is at an all-time low.”

Yeah! That gets me fired up to write, to apply myself, to learn as much as . . . wait, what?

He (or she) even makes a comment about Kindle Direct Publishing, one of the routes I am considering. Here’s what the article says about it:

“Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) looks like a self- organising slushpile for their publishing programme; when will KDP authors realise they are second-class citizens?”

Yeah, I know that. I read the terms associated with the program, and they are not doing me (or anyone who submits their work) any favors.

But, I listen to a lot of authors, editors, and agents interviews, and here’s what I’m hearing . . . it’s tough to break in. It’s nye impossible to get an agent to respond to you, and unsolicited slush pile submissions are basically nothing more than wasted paper. 

I’m being literal; some places still want a manuscript mailed in. In fact, Viable Paradise wanted a printed manuscript despite the fact they require a digital version be e-mailed even before submitting the paper version.

Going back to those interviews I listen to, one is constantly reminded of the value of making connections. Knowing someone increases the odds your stuff will eventually have a pair of eyes on it. I see that in photos as well. Given two similar photos, you’re likely to give a higher rating to the photo by someone you know.

Also in the same interviews, one is likely to hear comments regarding structure, plot, character development, the importance of a good opening, how the middle does the bulk of the work, and how the ending delivers on the promise to the reader. Writing “lingo” is bandied about, and one is left with the impression the writing itself is something structured; formulaic, even.

Perhaps it is, and that’s why these training seminars are springing up all over. Writers  want to know “the secret” to writing well, getting discovered, and making a boatload of money.

In that first article, there’s also a reference to Ryan Boudinot’s controversial essay.

That’s one sobering essay; it forces me to pause and take a hard look at myself. Specifically, pursuant to the following points:

Writers are born with talent.
Boudinot’s contention is that either someone has what it takes or they don’t. This goes counter to a lot of stuff I have read, but he’s not wrong. I can accept that someone who is a marginal writer can work hard and become moderately successful. But someone with innate talent will be a great writer with less effort. He calls them The Real Deal. He also says he can count the number of Real Deals he crossed paths with on one hand . . . with some fingers to spare. That done makes it difficult for me to realistically consider I might be one of them Real Deals. I have a huge ego, but I have to admit the odd are not good.

If you didn’t decide to take writing seriously by the time you were a teenager, you’re probably not going to make it.
This one hit hard. I’m in my sixties, and just now looking to apply myself to writing. It’s not that it can’t be done; it’s just that “You have to be crazy about books as a kid to establish the neural architecture required to write one.” Well, I read a lot when I was younger but I was not crazy about books. Books were just something that entertained me.

If you complain about not having time to write, please do us both a favor and drop out.
Uh-oh . . . I opened this post with not having enough time to write.

You don’t need my help to get published.
This is interesting and counter to what I read. He says that “in today’s Kindle/e-book/self-publishing environment, with New York publishing sliding into cultural irrelevance, I find questions about working with agents and editors increasingly old-fashioned. Anyone who claims to have useful information about the publishing industry is lying to you, because nobody knows what the hell is happening.”  Well, crap! Now we are back at self-publishing.  I mean, I can see the advantage of controlling one’s entire work-stream, but it also means I have to do a lot more than just write . . . I have to socialize, sell myself, advertise, promote . . . all stuff to which I have a strong aversion.

It’s not important that people think you’re smart.
This was not what I thought he meant. He’s referring to efforts of writing “clever”. Instead, he proposes writing that’s motivated by the desire to give the reader a pleasurable experience really is best. On that regard, we are in agreement; I not only prefer reading stuff that is entertaining, it’s also what I strive for when writing. I want readers to enjoy reading. Don’t know if I accomplish my goal, but that’s what I keep shooting for. How do I do that? I write stuff that entertains me and assume there might be a few more like me out there. 

He has one more: It’s important to woodshed.
This is what he means: “I advise anyone serious about writing books to spend at least a few years keeping it secret. If you’re able to continue writing while embracing the assumption that no one will ever read your work, it will reward you in ways you never imagined.” I can only partially agree with this. My readership is such that I have no need to “keep it secret.” Essentially, it’s as good as secret. I fully agree with the second part; I have no illusions about people mobbing my virtual writing portfolio. I write with full knowledge I am my biggest fan, and that yes, a few more people will derive enjoyment from it, but that number is really small. 

People write thinking their efforts will be recognized as something special, that they will be discovered, that they are going to be the exception to the rule (the rule being most writers would starve without a day job). In that regard, I am somewhat privileged. My writing does not need to succeed for me to keep food on the table. 

So, what this post all about? I think it’s my way of telling others and myself that writing as a vehicle to financial rewards is an unreliable form of transportation. Yes, some make it. But even many who “make it” have to keep their day job. 

Truthfully, I hope to one day bring in some cash by way of my writing. It needs not be much; just something I can point to and say “yes, I am an author.” In the meantime, I will continue to practice, push myself, and most of all not give any money to people who claim they can ensure my success . . . except Viable Paradise. If they accept me, I still think I want to experience it. And no, they don’t claim completing the seminar ensures success.

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.


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About disperser

Odd guy with odd views living an odd life during odd times.
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14 Responses to Writing; it be not looking good

  1. haydendlinder says:

    Loved this post but your comment about doing 1000 words a day reminded me of Steinbeck. He said he had a chronic case of writers block and if he was able to do 6 words a day then he was doing good. With that in mind I think your fine… Well, I mean you’re a cantankerous old fart, but I mean writing wise your fine. Yeah.


    • disperser says:

      It’s not writer’s block . . . It’s different stuff taking a higher priority.

      . . . and I have new farts as well; I’m diligent about improving everything I do and am.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. British author Mary Wesley started writing in her 70s. That gives you ten years and me twenty.

    I liked the articles, the Boudinot one was good.

    You will read, or should have done, that even being accepted for trad pub that you will need to work at self-promotion after the initial burst of publicity they provide.

    I was quoting for some editing work last year, and the potential client said, oh, someone else has expressed interest, they say my work needs x, y, and z. What do you think?

    I said I thought sounded like said person had been on a course. After I got the job my client told me my assessment had been spot-on.

    There is a lot of formulaic writing going around, some of the rules are valid, not so much to write to them though, as to apply them to the parts of your novel that don’t sing enough.

    That’s it. This comment is over. No stuff below.

    Liked by 1 person

    • disperser says:

      I was pondering Boudinot’s article . . . he comes from a literary background, and from everything I’ve read and heard, literary types tend to look down on Science Fiction and Fantasy. Parts of his article sound a bit snobbish. I don’t know that there is anything I could write that would, for instance, meet with his approval.

      In that respect, I preferred Agent Orange piece as it dealt with problems spanning all writers regardless of genre.

      As for my age, I don’t really see it as a barrier per se since in many respects I’m indistinguishable from much younger people (except for wisdom – I gots loads of it, but that was also the case when I was younger). However, the age does come into play when it comes to establishing a reputation and build a following.

      While I’m probably indistinguishable from a young person in many respects (relating to behavior), I likely have a different set of values, worldview, and outlook in life. My interests are probably not aligned not only with young people, but people in general. I estimate this would make it difficult for me to both write fiction and connect in real life with the majority of the population. That’s likely true even accounting for the fact one can and does write about stuff they don’t necessarily believe or advocate.

      I do see the change in how books are sold as a barrier. I view that whole self-marketing thing as a huge obstacle. The befriending of agents and editors to even get my stuff looked at is an even bigger obstacle. Going with self-publishing is no better as I would still have to get my name out there in addition to writing “good stuff”.

      I look at the deal John Scalzi just signed (http://whatever.scalzi.com/2015/05/25/about-that-deal/) and looking at his career path I see a number of discouraging things. One, many of the conditions that facilitated his success are no longer in place. Let me clarify my use of the word “facilitate”; it does not imply that he had it easy, or that he made it absent of a large amount of talent.

      It’s simply that things are different now, and while many will have equal success, they will do so under different circumstances . . . but they will be extraordinary circumstances. Then again, perhaps so were his.

      The bottom line is that I have very modest goals for the time I have left. It would be nice to get some things published, and it would be nice if I can bring in something like a modest $2K-$4K a year from stuff I do. I say modest but I have no clue what people make. I remember reading that the average author only makes about $500 per year (basically, sells one or two short stories).

      Still, the $2k to me seems within my reach . . . but I could be fooling myself, as so many people these days seem to do.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. colonialist says:

    I think I am like you in that I like writing the stuff I like to read. If I enjoy the finished product, I assume other people will – that doesn’t always seem to work, but …
    I am also arrogant regarding formulaic writing and regard with contempt all the tips like not using adverbs, and keeping the sentences short, and either not writing a book of more than 50 000 – 80 000 words or pruning it down to that. A recent reviewer said one of my novels was too long, and I took a good look at it – seriously, I couldn’t find anything that I didn’t feel would make the book the poorer for removal.

    Liked by 2 people

    • disperser says:

      I try to balance me liking my stuff with keeping a critical view of it. It’s not easy, but I try imagining being a stranger and chancing upon what I write. Of course, since it is imagination, it can go either way.

      The problem with writing, as it is with commenting, is that it’s sometimes difficult using written language for the expression of varied and complicated thoughts and emotions.

      Because of it, I tend to drift toward keeping things simple since, at least for me, both reading and writing are an escape from the complicated. It’s also why I keep a lot of literature outside the confines of my interest.

      And yes . . . my assumption that if I like it others might as well is constantly being proven wrong. Strange that because books I like by other authors are well received and successful. So, if it’s not the genre, the story, the pacing, and the tone, what is it that keeps me from being a gazillionaire famous author?

      . . . perhaps if I wore a wig . . .


      • colonialist says:

        If the wig works, lend it to me please.
        And, yes, one needs to be critical and also to respond to feelings of readers/editors. Errors are no problem. Suggestions I sleep on – but only sometimes adopt.


  4. Those ARE sobering points!
    I encourage you to keep writing, Emilio! I think you have a gift to write!
    A million years ago I sold two poems to magazine and made some $$$….but I write because I’ve always enjoyed writing and because it is good therapy to (for) me. :-)
    HUGS!!! :-)


  5. AnnMarie says:

    Since there is no obvious route to success, then follow the route that feels best to you. Really, one never knows when success is going to pounce on you. And I prefer to think it will eventually.


  6. sandra getgood says:

    I enjoy reading what you write. I don’t have any particular advice to give, as I am not a writer myself, but some of the comments above make a lot of sense, and I definitely wouldn’t discount them because you know that these people do like you and would enjoy seeing you succeed. So would I. It would give me great pleasure to go into a book shop and buy one of your books, or find a magazine that featured one of your stories. Interestingly enough, I do think that sometimes things happen because they happen, without explanation. I like AnnMarie’s comment about success pouncing on you, which sounds just about right to me.


    • disperser says:

      Thanks, Sandra, for the confidence in my writing.

      I have to admit I lost some of my focus since we decided to move. Initially, because of all the work associated with moving. Then, because of the election and what I see as a world at risk. Then, because we’re not yet settled.

      The good news is that I’m regaining my writing focus. Slowly, but it’s coming back.

      . . . I’ll see what I can do about giving you the opportunity of buying something with my name on it . . . er . . . with my writing in it. I don’t want it to be a news item about me falling into a volcano.


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