Before I get in to today’s over opinionated list—sweetly entitled, “Five Things to Consider, Aspiring Writer”—I want to let you in on an opportunity, dear reader. This past week I got a tutorial in Google+ and how to use Hangouts. Essentially, I can now shoot live tv shows broadcast on the internet with up to four or five guests to carry the conversation.
I’d like to do this every Thursday to discuss my weekly post here, but also to discuss the writing world in general, any controversies~! going on, new books, etc. What I need from you is your presence. If you’re interested in being a part of things, you’ll need the following: a Google account, a computer with camera and mic, preferably you’ll have headphones so we can avoid feedback and echo. And you’ll need a winning personality. Also, you should not be a raging asshole, because even though that might work on some tv shows, I’m not looking for it on my show. We can disagree, but this isn’t Scream-o-Vision.
If you’re interested in participating in this nonsense, send an email to ben.leroyATfwmedia.com and we’ll talk.
Now, on to today’s list!
FIVE THINGS TO CONSIDER, ASPIRING WRITER
There Isn’t Enough Time Isn’t a Good Excuse. We live busy lives! The world may or may not be collapsing! Forty hour work week turns to fifty hour. I had to go to a wedding last weekend! My son has soccer as soon as I get done with work!
Remember that episode of Saved By the Bell when Jessie Spano was freaking the fuck out with the whole “Time?! There’s never enough time! I’ll never get into Stanford…” diet pill bender?
Well, Jessie Spano was a hysterical high school girl. And if you’re listening to her and saying, “Yes, that’s why I don’t have time to write,” you’re taking your life lessons from a corny character on a corny tv show (that I happen to be able to recite nearly every line of dialogue from).
In the real world, no matter who you are, somebody else has a harder life and manages to find time to write the things in his/her gut. It is a matter of desire. You can always set the alarm clock a little earlier. If this is really what you want to do, you’ll find a way to do it. It’s not always going to be easy, it might hurt like hell on occasion, but it should also give you the most profound sense of being alive (because you’re living for multiple people) and that is payment enough.
Don’t chase trends. Remember when the Da Vinci Code was the big thing? It’s likely that even after it kinda slipped from your mind a little bit, it was still fresh in mine. Why? Because I was a huge fan? Because I was obsessed with how much money it made? Nope. Neither of those things. Mainly it’s because approximately one out of three queries I received in the 18 months following the height of the buzz were…you’ll never believe it…complete rip-offs of the Da Vinci Code. Judging by the submissions I read, 0% of them were good books. Some of them because they may have been technically well written (words were in the right places, punctuation was fine, etc.), but the stories themselves were totally derivative and lifeless. But there was also the class of people who had clearly given little to no thought about writing a book before sitting down to write Michaelangelo’s Mixtape. If you’re going to write a book, write it because it means something to you. Write it because the story matters. And for all that is good in the world, write it because your characters have something to say.
When it’s Done. It’s Done. I can speak from personal experience when I say, sometimes as authors, we get so sick of looking at our Work in Progress that we simply want to shoot it off our desk and into the world. You must fight that impulse until it is actually done. The difference between a great idea and a great book is a whole lot of editing. You have to be absolutely sure you’ve said it the way it was supposed to be said before it goes to market. You won’t be there to explain yourself. You don’t get to hold the reader’s hand to pull them where you want them to go. They go where the map takes them. It’s on you to layout the bread crumbs correctly. The first time. Even when it means you need to hack through the overgrowth and false starts you created for yourself. Is it hard? Certainly. It’s also what separates real writers from people who have a computer based hobby.
Not Everybody is going to like everything, ease off the death threats. If you’ve ever used the internet for anything, you may have noticed that some folks have strong opinions (seemingly about everything) that they aren’t afraid to voice at full volume. It’s quite possible that your book may end up with an arrow in its flank courtesy of Amazon User #529. Do those reviews suck to read? Depending on who you are, they certainly can. I’m not going to lie—even as a publisher—when I see somebody slamming a book that we’ve published I get a little bummed. But then I remember that I liked the book and other people did, and that’s the balance of the world.
The explosion of ebook self-publishing and online reviews has created a sometimes combustible playground filled with personal conflicts where reviews aren’t really about the book and authors, who should recognize that not everybody is going to love their precious baby (especially if it’s poorly written because of the When it’s Done it’s Done above), but who ultimately freak out on a reviewer for having an opinion and try to bully reviewers into saying nice things. Because, y’know, every “I love you” uttered at the end of a knife is sincere.
The stakes just aren’t that high. Do not escalate them Emo Writer, I promise it won’t help your cause and it will distract you with high school theatrics during time you could be using to develop your writing talents.
We’re All Gonna Die. Back when I was an emotionally fragile teenager combing through old literature for moody quotes to write in my well-worn high school notebook, I found this one particularly upbeat gem from Aldous Huxley:
“A belief in hell and the knowledge that every ambition is doomed to frustration at the hands of a skeleton have never prevented the majority of human beings from behaving as though death were no more than an unfounded rumor”
Don’t meditate on that one too long, it’s actually kind of a bummer. But basically I just want to let you know that we’re all going to die. Armed with that knowledge, may I suggest to you that you should live first and if you’re concerned about being forgotten, one way to improve your chances of sticking around in the collective conscience would be to write a really great book.
For more stuff about books and life, visit my website here.