Weekly Update: Why Are Writers Writing about Writing?
Yeah yeah yeah, this is my third installment of my weekly update this week, but I’ve got things to say. I won’t mention that Sputtery Truck is all Sputtery once again. I’ll do that in my fourth installment of the Weekly Update. Or I’ll just fix the darn thing and shut up about it.
I’ve noticed lately (okay, I’ve always noticed) that there are a lot of writers talking about writing. It doesn’t matter if it’s about how to write a book or a short story, how to write a synopsis, how to write a query letter, how to find an agent, how to self-publish your book (OMG search on ebook pricing and watch the results. Good Gravy!). One thing I know for sure is that there is an abundance of information that others have written and called advice. Yes, I’ve been guilty of it as well. On more than one occasion, one more than one podcast, on more than one blog.
What is it with writers writing about writing?
Mike Stackpole said it best that writing about writing and (more often that not) talking about writing is sometimes more fun that actually writing. Writing is a lonely thing to do and many writers, given the chance, will talk about what they do ad nauseum. Yes, again I’m guilty. But I’ve always wondered, even as I look back at my own writing advice, what was the point?
Sure, there’s the chance to teach someone else about writing. There’s the opportunity to interact with other writers who may like your wit or your turn of a phrase. There may even be a chance to interact with other writers that you wouldn’t have had the opportunity to interact with had you not written something about writing.
But overall, what’s the point?
I ask this for two reasons. Let me start out with #1: Other authors most likely won’t buy your book. Sure there will be those close friends that will pick up your book out of support. There will be some that may actually read it. But for the most part, other authors (and mostly wannabe authors) will read your advice and you’ll never even hear from them. It’s a painful cycle that less than 10% of those who hear or read your words of advice will ever interact with you. Trust me. I see my numbers on my Unorthodox Writing Tips. I know who’s engaged me in conversation. I’ve talked to other podcasters with writing advice podcasts. I know some of their numbers compared to their amount of feedback. It’s severe.
Why did I stop posting Unorthodox Writing Tips? Because it wasn’t accomplishing what I had intended to accomplish. It was words I wrote that served no purpose. (Well hey! Why am I writing this post?). Pfft, procrastination, most likely. I guess just making an observation. An evolution from writing advice to writers to writing articles for fans. This one is somewhere in the middle I hope.
Now I’m going to say something that will either come off as profound or just annoy everyone I know. All writing advice is crap. All writing advice is worth your time.
It just depends on who you are and where you’re at with your writing. Honestly. Almost all the writing, editing, pricing, etc, advice that I read isn’t important to me. I’ve been involved with the writing community, reading writing advice, trying things out, doing things and failing, doing things and succeeding, for going on 20 years now. I say that and it scares me a little bit. Now much of that 20 years is on again and off again, but I’ve been wanting to be a writer for very long time. It’s just recently that I’ve gotten serious about applying everything that I’ve read, said, and learned. It’s been a very long road to get to where I’m at and I’ve taken my lumps along the way. I won’t lie. It’s been really hard and I don’t expect it to get any easier any time soon.
Will this stop anyone from offering up advice? Probably not. I wouldn’t begrudge anyone doing something that makes them feel good when it comes to writing. Like I said, it’s tough, it’s lonely, and camaraderie is a good thing. If you can surround yourself with a great bunch of writers than more power to you! Keep at it for as long as you feel you need to. Build great friendships. Interact and learn! Don’t just interact. Expand your thought process beyond just reading of listening to that advice. Engage with people. Get out of your comfort zone. Give feedback to those that give you that advice.
I posted an unorthodox writing tip that was rather ironic. When to say when. When to stop taking advice and just write. There’s also a point, I feel, where a writer needs to stop giving advice and just write. That’s where I’m at these days.
Yes, last year I wrote a lot. I blogged a lot. I wrote a bunch of writing advice even. I took some of that advice to heart. That’s why I’m not writing advice any more. It wasn’t getting me what I was hoping for and that was to attract fans. Yes, there are a couple writers that are fans of my work, but for the most part, those who read my work aren’t writers.
Then there’s point #2 (you thought I forgot about point #2 and was just going to keep rambling, didn’t you? Sure you did. Don’t lie. I know I almost forgot about point #2). Writers are a needy lot. Needy like “please give me validation! Please publish my work! Please help me be a better writer! Please help me fix this story!”
Okay, stop it! Just stop right there (I almost said write there, LOL). Once you’ve stopped I want you to do something. Assess where you are as a writer. Are you just starting out? Have you been writing for 30 years?Are you unpublished? Have you been published multiple times? One thing that you’ll understand is there are different levels of need when it comes to being a writer.
One level is those just starting out. They are desperately seeking validation. They want to know what they’re doing is good enough. They want someone to pat them on the bum and say “good writer, have a cookie”. They want to get their work out into the world and have everyone rave about how good it is.
Sorry starting writer. Your writing is crap. It’ll be crap for a long time to come. Trust me on this one. No matter how badly you want validation, you’re not there. You just aren’t. You won’t make 100% of your free throws your first time on the court. You won’t run a 4 minute mile your first time and the track. You won’t write a best seller the first time you sit down at the keyboard. It’s just not going to happen. It’s a learning curve and for some people it’s steep and will take years to over come. Others will run up a little hill and be on their way. It doesn’t matter. You will need time to learn your process and no one on this Earth can learn it for you.
That being said… quit asking. I’m about to unsubscribe to a dozen writing forums because there are SO many needy writers out there asking the most basic of questions. I’m pretty sure most of them are looking for a magic bullet to make them a better writer. I know I was on that quest for years. What did I do? Did I ask and ask and ask and ignore ignore ignore?
I read and read and read. I read in my genre, I read out of my genre, I read novels, I read short stories, I read magazine articles, I read books on writing, I read on websites, I read in forums. I did this for a few years before even participating in the discussion. I wanted to have a certain level of knowledge that I knew wasn’t going to be bestowed upon me by the great writing fairy in the sky.
I also wrote. I wrote bad fiction with a crazy, wild-eyed need! I had a desire to get stories out of my head to get the voices to stop talking to me. I had ups, I had downs. I finished a lot of stories, I didn’t finish twice as many as I finished. I wrote, I submitted, I got rejected time and again. I let it get to me and stopped writing. I picked myself back up and tried again.
What am I trying to say? I’m saying that no one just handed me the ability to write a novel and to complete what I started. I worked very hard to be able to write the stories I write. Some are good, some a terrible, but overall I enjoy my own writing enough to keep at it. You may not like what I write. Others may think I’m totally nuts writing the dog poo that I put on a page. Hey, art is subjective. (someone once said about my writing : Wow! That’s a lot of dialogue) . None of that matters (well, except people liking my work. That’s the point of this whole post is to find an audience.
I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of authors have stopped giving you advice. J.A. Konrath blogs only lightly compared to when he started. Mike Stackpole hasn’t put out an issue of the Secrets in months. Jake Bible has stopped podcasting (an giving away his fiction). Of course there are many more, I’m just listing a few that have changed their tactics. There will always be someone to fill the void. There will always be a lot of advice out there.
My point is to not ask, but do you due diligence first. Do your home work. Don’t just ask and wait for someone to do it for you. If you want to write you cannot be lazy about this. You need to put in the hours, the days, weeks, months, years to actually improve your craft. You need to finish a story, book, collection of books. Only then will you realize what those stories are lacking and be able to either truck that novel, rewrite that novel from the start, or chop it into pieces and try again. Do the work needed to get better. Don’t expect someone to tell you how to get there. This is an individual path and you must take it yourself.
Wow. That’s long. Isn’t it? Where I’m going with all this is that there is advice out there if you look for it. There are some great books on writing if you look for them. This advice will never get bad or grow stale. It’ll come from published authors and unpublished authors alike. Some will still doling out advice, others have moved on. Writers will always write about writing just like they will always talk about writing. Why? It feels good.
Until Next Time!