Five Things – Some Thoughts

Grasping for the Wind recently did a post on Five Things Every Aspiring Author Should Know.

I agree with most of what he says here, but I do have a few quibbles and comments.

1) No, you should not demand a Special Writer Cocoon (or a gazebo at the bottom of the garden, or anything else like that) in order to be able to write. I’ve been guilty of this many times – it’s less that I need a special place to write, and more that I keep telling myself I need uninterrupted time to write. Frankly, my dears, if I had uninterrupted time, I’d sleep. I don’t do that very much. I need to stop thinking that way, and start writing in the five or ten-minute chunks I can steal from the rest of my life.

No, my quibble here is that you need to write on a computer. Eventually, yes, you’re going to need to type things up…but if you like writing longhand, do it. Whatever gets you writing is good, and if that’s scribbling in crayon in a composition notebook, or writing beautiful cursive in a custom-made notebook, so be it.

2) No quibbles here. Do NOT write for the money. You are not JK Rowling or Stephanie Meyer or Stephen King. You ain’t gonna get that payday. I wish I could offer my authors that sort of payday, but the truth is…nope, ain’t gonna happen for the vast majority of writers. Do it because you love it, and because if you don’t share the stories in your head, you’ll simply explode. That’s the only way to make this writing thing worthwhile.

3) “weather report, fashion report, travel report.” Oh god, it’s funny because it’s true! I love stories that start in medias res; one of the best openings I’ve read lately was in Rachel Aaron’s The Spirit Thief, where we start out as the main character is trying to talk his way out of a dungeon…in a most unusual manner. How’d he get in there? How’d he come across the ability to talk to inanimate objects and have them answer him? Great hook for the story, right away.

4) Write like your nationality. Erm, not always. I’m sorry, but I’m an American and I write…like a Canadian. With a little Brit thrown in for good measure. It’s my personal style, and I’ve never had anyone tell me it’s jarring. Yes, it’s absolutely jarring and awful when people start throwing about terms like “lift” and “boot” and “tarmac” when they have no idea how to use them, and crowing “Jolly good pip pip!” because it “sounds English,” but that’s more an issue with jumping on the bandwagon (ie, British boy wizards sell, so even though I know nothing about Britain, I shall write about it!) than writing in a national flavour that you are not.

5) Totally true. There’s no time limit on being an author, or being a successful author. Just write, and keep writing, and edit, and keep editing, and submit that sucker (when, and only when it is ready).

Mostly, just write. Then edit. Everything else is secondary.

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10 Responses to “Five Things – Some Thoughts”

  1. Patti December 6, 2010 at 7:27 pm #

    “A writer without a computer is like a carpenter without a hammer.”

    Oh, please. If my initial drafts weren’t handwritten, they wouldn’t be written. A computer monitor just looks at my story ideas with disdain. The paper I take pen to is a much more inviting place to start. The computer’s for typing it up and tinkering. A lot of stuff gets added or rewritten when I get to the computer, but it rarely gets started there.

  2. Jason December 7, 2010 at 8:21 am #

    That “A writer without a computer is like a carpenter without a hammer” line is a terrible metaphor – and I speak here as a renowned master of metaphor, of course. It’s more like a carpenter without a laser level, or maybe some form of very useful power tool. You can get the job done without it, but for most people it simplifies and streamlines the process. Some are more comfortable doing things the old fashioned way, and won’t truck with blinky glowy nonsense.

    And I say this as someone who detests the sterility and permanence of a blank page and a pen. I’ve a lovely moleskine I got almost a decade back, and it is blank, because I never feel like I’ve got anything worth writing into it indelibly. The ephemeral nature of bits is way more comforting for me, because I can correct, move things around, etc, ad nauseum, without “ruining” anything.

  3. Kate December 8, 2010 at 12:39 pm #

    I know a number of very good writers who do their first drafts longhand; entering them into the computer constitutes a sort of Draft 1.5, letting them clean and change things. It may actually take less time to produce a quality manuscript this way, because you’re re-reading your work and editing as you type it in.

  4. Kate December 8, 2010 at 12:40 pm #

    I’m the same way with notebooks. Hell, I’m a bookbinder and I can’t bear to write in the blank books I make, if only because my handwriting is so awful.

    But I know writers who love writing their first drafts longhand, and who do amazing work. Everyone’s writing style is different, and demanding that someone use a computer is just as pointless as insisting that they write longhand…

  5. Candlemark & Gleam December 11, 2010 at 1:56 am #

    I’m the same way with notebooks. Hell, I’m a bookbinder and I can’t bear to write in the blank books I make, if only because my handwriting is so awful.

    But I know writers who love writing their first drafts longhand, and who do amazing work. Everyone’s writing style is different, and demanding that someone use a computer is just as pointless as insisting that they write longhand…

  6. Candlemark & Gleam December 11, 2010 at 1:56 am #

    I know a number of very good writers who do their first drafts longhand; entering them into the computer constitutes a sort of Draft 1.5, letting them clean and change things. It may actually take less time to produce a quality manuscript this way, because you’re re-reading your work and editing as you type it in.

  7. Jason December 15, 2010 at 7:08 am #

    Certain methods will just appeal to different audiences. I think that’s a given. The computer adds a lot of potential power to the process, but like a lot of power tools, there will always be people who feel like it also make things awkward, dangerous, or less “handcrafted”.

    Also, either I’ve misentered my email address, or that “subscribe to all comments by email” option isn’t working properly…

  8. Candlemark & Gleam December 17, 2010 at 3:26 am #

    Hm, I’ll have to check into the comment subscription. Could be something went wonky in the last code push.

  9. Jason December 17, 2010 at 4:44 am #

    It does seem to have my proper email address. I only bring it up because I figured it might be worth mentioning for troubleshooting, and to explain why I’m not more interactive in comments.

  10. Candlemark & Gleam December 17, 2010 at 5:04 pm #

    I haven’t tried doing a “subscribe all” to comments, because I sort of get them all by default, obviously. I wonder what’s going on…?

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