Monday, July 11, 2005

Every writer is different

I'm not sure how this term can ever be considered arrogant, but there it is. It is apparently arrogant to admit that what I do may not work for other writers, and what they do will not always work for me. It's arrogant to admit that everyone has to find their own path when they learn to write, and while some things I do may help others, not everything I offer will. We are not all the same writers working on the same stories, with the same free time to work, and the same abilities and needs. I've spent most of the last eight years working with new writers, and I think I'm pretty well qualified at this point to say that there is no single answer. Is it arrogance for me to admit that I have some qualifications in making that statement? No more so than saying that I've lived the last eight years with cats, and they're not all the same either. It's a fact and nothing more.

Personally, I think it's arrogant to accuse other writers of obviously not trying to improve if they don't improve in your own certain way. (Which is what happened at FM.)

Or maybe it's arrogance to believe that if a number of people don't happen to agree with you, that they are all the ones obviously in the wrong -- even when they repeatedly post that what you call yourself doesn't matter, but applying a term like wannabe to others can be taken as negative, and here's why. Ah, but some people are unwilling to admit that they could learn something from others, that they might not be totally correct, and that -- yes, having used the term and gotten a negative response from a few people -- that really does seem to be the case.

I really liked Linda's line: 'The dictionary is a record of what words meant when the dictionary was written.' I love words and looking up both what they mean and what they meant in the past. The Urban Dictionary -- filled as it is with definitions from people using the words right now -- is a wonderful resource for both contemporary writers and science fiction writers.

If someone says 'if you aren't making sales you obviously need to change the way you work,' is it arrogant to point out that you (and several of the people he was addressing) have had many sales, and don't work in the way that he does, so it's obvious this is not the path for everyone. And for that matter, asking if he has made any sales, since that was the point he brought up. (I had not read his blog at that point and didn't realize he had only recently adopted this new form of writing. I do expect him to be published. He writes very clean sentences, is knowledgeable in grammar and punctuation -- and that puts him a head up over a lot of other people. I cannot say if he actually knows how to tell a good story, though.)

Every writer is different. I guess that's pretty arrogant to admit that none of us has all the answers -- and probably even more arrogant to be willing to help others where you can with what knowledge we have gathered.

Here's some real arrogance for you -- this is a note from an acquisitions editor whom I had worked with before at a different small press/ebook publisher. She now has one of my novels and is reviewing it for another company:

[i]BTW, unless you've lost your touch since last I read something of yours, this reading is rather a formality--I won't keep you waiting long.[/i]

I told her that meant she would absolutely hate the book by the time she was done, but I appreciated the comment.

Yes, I am going to talk about my publications now and then. In fact, I don't do it often enough. Because I'm mostly working in electronic and small press, that means I should be out pushing my work more. What I need is a marketing plan, and I thought this year was going to be the one I got my act together -- but FM, DTF, and Vision have taken every free non-writing moment I have.

My new chapbook has the quote from C.J. Cherryh on it again -- she said to use it on this one too since it was so appropriate for the work. Honor Bound was the first one and Star Bound is the second. They're available from Yard Dog Press, a wonderful micro-press company with a good record for sales and awards.

I will have a short story out in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine soon, too. I am really looking forward to that one!

I have three more novels in the Dark Staff series to go. I think the next one will either be late this year or early next year. I have also sold the second Singer and St. Jude novel to DDP.

I have only five things out at the moment, but I've made seven sales so far this year. I have two novels almost ready to go out (Muse and Glory for those keeping track).

I have written 80 class/posts for the two year novel course at FM. I have the last 22 listed out and some partially outlined.

I have three more novels outlined and I've started the research on another one -- a very intricate piece that I'm really looking forward to writing, though it may not be until next year.

So far this year I've written eighteen articles, ten short stories, two full novels and three half ones (yes, number of novels is down, and yes I need to get them done!). I've edited two full novels and part of another one.

I write every single day and I have for DECADES.

I have two other rules that I live by -- finish everything you start, and finish it with a year of starting it.

I do not expect the rest of you to adopt any of those rules. I know that you don't work the way I do, and what I find helpful and a good prod to keep working isn't what you will find works for you.

Every writer is different. Don't anyone ever make you believe otherwise.

Edited -- It is beyond arrogance to ignore the fact that nearly everyone who has posted here or at FM has said that it doesn't matter what a person calls himself, but for many people the term wannabe is negative and will get a bad result. You cannot change the fact that these people have that reaction. It's a statement of fact. No one fears the word wannabe; they don't like it. There's a big, difference. I would expect someone who claims to be a writer to be able to read and see that difference.

Oh hold it -- You aren't a writer. You're a wannabe writer: someone who wants to be a writer, so that means you can't be one now. I guess that's the problem. I don't know what you're doing with all those words, but it's obviously not writing after all. I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, but I could be wrong.

I had just thought you were an unpublished writer, but if you insist on being a wannabe, I guess that's what you are.

You can call yourself an armadillo road kill writer for all the rest of us care, but if you call others the same you best be prepared for the reactions.


Vernieda said...

If multipublished authors like Michelle West and Elizabeth Bear have told me the same thing -- that every writer is different and that what works for them may not work for me -- I hardly think your saying it is arrogant.

Nonny said...

It's always seemed arrogant to me for a writer to insist that hir way is the Right Way.

If someone isn't getting published, then maybe it means they're doing something wrong. It might mean that their work is not up to par yet, and there's nothing wrong with that--no one starts out writing publishable fiction. It takes time, and different people learn at different rates.

It could also have nothing to do with the quality of their fiction. It could simply mean that the writer isn't submitting to the right markets--or is sending them at the wrong time. (I can't tell you how many times I've had markets say, "I loved this story, but I recently bought something very similar in tone. Please send something else!)

There are far too many factors to point and say, "Your way doesn't work for you." I think the only people that can truly give that opinion are those who have been working in close conjunction with the writer for a long period of time and see that what they're doing isn't helping. Even then, you don't out and say, "This isn't working." People are stubborn creatures. Stating something in that tone of voice is only going to rile tempers and piss them off. Saying, "Hey, you seem to be having trouble with X, have you tried Y?" is usually a lot more diplomatic.

Not that many people seem to bother with diplomacy. :P

Gabriele C. said...

It's also beyond arrogance to ignore the request to not link to someone's blog.

Well, I don't bother reading the stuff over there any longer. Waste of time. I better stick to Zette's 2YN course. *grin*

Seriously, many suggestions made on FM are worth trying, and some I have adapted to my routine. I've changed from someone who thought outlines would dry up my creativity to a writer who finds phase outlines helpful for most of my work, because I tried it instead of saying it's wrong, lol. Another suggestion I tried does not work for me: I can't write a first draft without editing. It blocks me to know the thing sucks mashed potatoes through a straw (Nano *shudder*), but that's me, not Zette, Holly or whoever else. In the end, it's the final product that counts, not the way you get there.

(non-wannabee writer :)

LJCohen said...

Hi Zette,

I have been following this discussion on your blog and my feeling is words matter. (Gee, what a revelation! A writer saying words matter!) They do. The old adage our mothers told us 'sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me' is utter nonsense. Words are important. Words are sacred. Perhaps the formal definition of 'wannabe' is not negative; its modern connotation certainly is.

I am not a 'pretend' writer. I *am* a writer. But I am a begining writer and I love being at FM because I am exposed to so many writers with so many paths to writing. I play with them, try them out, find out which ones work for me.

So far, I have discovered that daily wordcount goals motivate me, outlines keep me honest, and I hate writing scenes out of order. What works for me now, may not always work for me. What works for me may not work for someone else.

Keep telling it like it is, Zette and keep up the good work at FM.


Gabriele C. said...

Lol, wordcounts tend to frustrate me. But that's why we have those spiffy sig icons like "wordcount/no wordcount writer" on FM. Maybe we should have a "no wannabe writer", too. -:)

LJCohen said...

PS--Zette--I love your dragonfly picture. If you look at my blog, you'll see why. :)


Zette said...

(I actually thought of you when I posted it. I have a couple others around here somewhere that I'll eventually use, too.)

For the rest of you -- the kind of 'discussion' going on between our two blogs always intrigues me. I like to read what others are saying, and see if I can figure out their logic. So far the only logic I've seen from 'the other side' seems to be 'there should be only one view of the world and langauge and that's my view.'

This side has continually posted that others can (and should) use whatever terms they like, but this is why we don't like it on our side. I'm not sure why that seems so difficult to understand, but it's fascinating to see how he twists it to mean that we are attacking other writers.

Jean said...

I find this exchange amusing--mostly for how this guy really seems to bug you and several others. I checked out his blog, and I consider him virtually unreadable. It could be me, but I decided he's writing the blog only for himself, so it makes sense to him. If not, he's not an author I would ever consider reading. Me? I have the luxury of being able to ignore him. I'm comfortable with my writerly status.

Congrats on your successes this year, Zette. They're really starting to pile up again, and I know it's been a tough year for you in many ways.

Carter said...

If he's unwilling to listen to other people's views and give them due consideration, how will he ever improve his writing? That's the real arrogance here. If he's so good that he can dictate to the rest of us how we should work and think and talk, how come he ain't rich and famous?

I, too, tried to read his blog. He won't be on my Blogroll right now.

Vernieda said...

Carter - Unless I'm mistaken, I don't think he has a very high opinion of workshops and/or crit circles. That's my understanding from skimming his weblog.

Carter said...

Verneida - I'm not going to say what I think about that. Zette probably wouldn't like that kind of language in her house. :-)