it's a great life, if you don't weaken (matociquala) wrote,
it's a great life, if you don't weaken

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Madam Ranty Pants on writing

I'm on a generally good mailing list for writers (Hell, I'm on several generally good mailing lists for writers), which I've gotten a great deal of great good advice and moral support out of over the years.

But every so often somebody has to tell the new kids the bad news.

I hate to be the one to break this to you, but writing fiction is right up there any other creative art as one of the hardest things to learn to do well.

There are no rules. There are only patterns of things that have worked for other writers.

There is no magic, quick way to learn to do it.

There is no button you push to get published. There is no book you read to learn to write well.

The so-called 'million words of shit'' --or John Gardner's dictum to his graduating students, "Good job. Now go write for ten years and maybe you'll amount to something"-- is probably an understatement of the amount of work
it takes to learn to be good at writing fiction. There *is* a certain minimum amount of talent that helps, but talent really doesn't have much to do with it unless you're one of those rare, freakish savants who writes like an angel from some ridiculously young age. Like John Keats, say, or Peter S. Beagle.

Hard work does it. Practice.

There's no answer to your question, because it's different for everybody. If you *really* want to be a good writer, you will work at it. If you don't, you won't. It's that simple.

It doesn't matter what you count. It doesn't even matter if you *keep* count. I've frankly probably written closer to three million words of shit, *only* counting fiction, and I've been doing it for seventeen years now. And I'm just **barely** good enough to get published, and not consistently: I had a rejection today, and one yesterday, on two of my favourite short stories.

And even when you get halfway decent at it, you realize that you still have a tremendous amount to learn. It's an unmasterable skill set. One can *always* get better. And the process of learning, like the process of writing, is different for every single soul who tries it.

There's a very uncomplicated way to improve toward publication.

1) Write. Write a lot. Write every day, if you can.
2) `Read everything you can get your hands on, and learn to read
critically. Include books on writing fiction and screenplays in that
reading, fiction and nonfiction and poetry and plays and cereal boxes. Just
3) Write more.
4) Submit. Suck the rejections up and learn from them. Find good
critical readers, and listen to what they say.
5) Write more.
6) Realize that it's not about publishing a particular story or novel,
but just about improving all your skills
7) Don't quit.

Please note, this could take the next twenty years. Or it could break tomorrow. That's life. That's writing.

No Guarantees.


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