Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Going over what I will present to the kids on Friday...

Everyone is a writer, because we are all telling each other stories all the time, everywhere, and in any way, shape, or form story-telling is possible. The difference between a professional writer and everyone else is two very simple tasks.

First, I won't just stop at spilling a story out and leaving it alone. I will go back to line one, and try to edit that line into the greatest line it can possibly be. I will do the same for line two. And three. Then, I will do it again. Professional writers are professional editors of our own writing. We try to make our stories the best they can possibly be through multiple drafts.

The second thing I do differently? I send my stories out to people who pay money for the stories, in the format that buyer wants.

That's it.

There are no short cuts. If someone says, "I will give you a short cut if you give me fifty dollars", they are scamming you. If someone says "I will help you with your work as an editor if you give me fifty dollars" they are also scamming you. Never pay money to anyone who says they can make your road to publication easier.

The road is simple, but it isn't easy. Write new stories, make them better, and submit them to market in the way the market wants to see them.

The challenge is writing stories that stand out from all the rest. The way to do that? Read everything you can, and look to the authors you enjoy reading. Find out what they recommend. Different processes produce different products. Sometimes a Creative Writing degree is your best path. Sometimes it is your worst.

One thing that I believe all writers can agree on is this: pursue your interests. Anything that sparks your mind, whether that's international finance, nineteenth-century warfare, ancient sumerian myths, modern urban architecture, art history, etc. etc., go after it. Pursue the things that spark your mind. Ultimately, it will feed your writing.

That includes your college major choices. Writers come from all backgrounds and all walks of life. We are engineers, actors, janitors, accountants, teachers, librarians, parents, and bums. There isn't one path, or one way. However, different processes do produce different results. The same kind of process that produces a romance writer will not produce - generally speaking - a literary biographer.

If you'd like to get college advice from a writer so you can be a writer when you grow up, find a writer you like to read, and ask them. Write them a letter, or a e-mail them, or look for what they say in interviews to see what they suggest. Different writers will give you different answers, and the best people to ask are the ones you like to read. Because, different methods will produce different results.

The same is true of that question "How do you write a novel?" Everyone's answer is different. We are all completely correct. And, our processes produce very different results.

The only thing we all really have in common is that process wherein we don't just stop at writing a story. We edit it to make it the best story we can. Then, we send it to the people that buy those sorts of stories in the format those people request.

Writing is very simple. But it isn't easy. The only way to succeed at writing, is to master a very difficult craft, and continue to develop mastery. The better you get at writing, the more you realize how much you still suck.

This is a constant, daily activity that I do. I go to my computer. I type new stuff. I edit what I have typed. When it is done, I send it to market. If I'm good enough, and worked hard enough, and developed enough craft, the market will recognize this, and buy the story.

Simple process, but very difficult job.

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