Monday, August 23, 2010

Allen Lists Twelve Writing Lies

Anne R. Allen, author of "The Big Ones" in Genre Wars, lists twelve popular misconceptions about writing. Excerpts:
1. Writers make big money. How many times do you hear "You're a writer! Will you still talk to me when you're rich and famous?" Tell them to rest easy. It's not likely to be a problem. Even "successful" writers need day jobs these days. Royalties and advances are shrinking at an amazing rate. ...

2. Genre fiction is easy to write. People will tell you to start out with something "easy" like a romance/mystery/kid's book. Don't even try. If you don't love a genre and read it voraciously, you'll never write it well enough to publish. ...

6. With talent like yours, you don't have to jump through all those hoops. The old saw about 10% inspiration / 90% perspiration is 100% true. Talent without skill is useless. That means skill at writing AND hoop-jumping. Learn the rules and follow them or nobody will ever find out about that talent of yours.
Read the whole thing. All of Allen's points are good ones, but the three above are my personal favorites because so many people seem to trip over them. An old friend got bitten the writing bug a while back and would tell his wife that short fiction was their ticket to the big time. By all accounts he was a very good writer, but after a few years without any success he moved on to another hobby. That incident was an illustration to me of Allen's second supposition: Be it genre or literary or interstitial or whathaveyou, the only way we can hope to prosper in this writing thing is through sheer love of it, that and that alone.

(Picture: CC 2009 by
koalazymonkey)

20 comments:

C. N. Nevets said...

Um. Don't show this to the people that are selling me a yacht "on faith."

Loren Eaton said...

Sir, may I suggest that you take the yacht and plan an extended vacation? I hear Laos is lovely this time of year.

B. Nagel said...

Let me get this right. You're saying that I shouldn't bet the farm on that "first million."

Hmm.

Domey Malasarn said...

Cool list. #2 rings true to me. The more I write the more I'm turning to other genres to learn things I can't learn from literary writers. Each genre requires its own skill set.

Loren Eaton said...

B.,

You have a farm? Are you looking for any writer/MBA students to till it? My resume is most impressive.

Loren Eaton said...

Domey,

The more I try it, the more I'm convinced that any writing is hard. Fun, perhaps, but also challenging.

C. N. Nevets said...

Loren, I would actually go to Laos at the drop of a hat. lol Bet you weren't counting on that, were you?

Also, B. you have a farm? Are you looking for any writer/anthropologist to till it? My CV is most impressive.

C. N. Nevets said...

And, yeah, I think mysteries are the hardest things for me to write.

B. Nagel said...

>_<

While I do not have a farm, I am growing pumpkins in the backyard for my brother's approaching wedding. They're doing fall themed decorations and growing pumpkins is cheaper than buying pumpkins.

So, if I may rephrase, I guess I shouldn't bet my pumpkins.

Anne R. Allen said...

Loren, I'm glad to hear my blogpost spoke to you. Thanks a bunch for spreading the word. I wish somebody had told me this stuff a decade or two ago.

S.D. Smith said...

That is really good, my friend. Thanks.

Yeah, people think I'll be rich "when your book comes out."

I think not.

Loren Eaton said...

Nevets,

The real question is whether or not Laos is nice for the rest of your life.

Loren Eaton said...

B.,

I'm just trying to grow grass in my backyard. Ain't going so well, truth be told.

Loren Eaton said...

Anne,

Thanks for writing it; it's a good list. The get-rich-or-successful-or-whathaveyou mindset is so engrained into or psyche that I think it's good to be reminded of its danger.

Loren Eaton said...

S.D.,

Wanting to do anything "just for the money" is a bad move in my book, no matter if it makes you rich or not.

C. N. Nevets said...

Loren,

If you ask me, somewhat likely.

If you ask my wife, not a chance.

On balance, *ahem* not a chance.

Loren Eaton said...

Ah, we've all been there, haven't we?

Chestertonian Rambler said...

On the "don't do anything for money" side, I completely agree.

The wealthiest member of my family was the biggest supporter of my decision to avoid a particularly lucrative career--as he demonstrated, the reason he makes so much money is not that he is obsessed with money, but that he did something that he both loved and is good at (running small businesses.)


Appropros of nothing, I think you'd appreciate the following quotation from recent fantasy supergiant Patrick Rothfuss:

“‘A couple of hundred years ago, literary fiction realized, ‘To write tragedy, we don’t need a king!’ Fantasy is just now starting to make that same realization, because we’re a newer genre. We don’t need a goblin army. We don’t need The End of the World. Not that those things are bad. I’ve seen them done well, but unless they’re handled with skill, they become cheap props (even worse, cheap, overused props). Just the story of a man’s life – a person’s life – is fascinating if you tell it the right way.”

Chestertonian Rambler said...

Link to more excerpts:

http://www.locusmag.com/Perspectives/2010/08/patrick-rothfuss-worldbuilder/

Loren Eaton said...

I know a few people who've made loads of cash without doing what they love, but they're few and far between. Most of the folks who aim for millionaire status just because end up broken and neurotic. Didn't someone say that a man who excels at his work will stand before kings? The best way to excel is to love it.

I haven't heard of Rothfuss. Sounds interesting. Might have to check his stuff out.