grr. in which i sound off

Right now I'm annoyed by the writers people who think ah hell, I had English 101 and 102 in college. I know the five paragraph essay backwards and forwards. And I read. All the time. Like Facebook. I'm on there 25 hours a day. And I got a story in me, man. I can write.

I'm going to say this slow and kinda loud.

You. Can't. Write.

This doesn't mean you won't be able to write, or that you shouldn't write. Not at all! It just means that you shouldn't toss your shit up on Amazon and wait for it to fly through the little magic pipe organs to Everyone's Kindle.

I've written since 4th grade. In fact, Archive of Fire is dedicated to my 4th grade best friend who got me writing in the first damn place. She's a writer, herself.  I wrote my first book the summer I turned 14.  (still have it, too. I've been meaning to get it bound.

And then I wrote in college. Took lots of coursework (for some reason I didn't finish the English degree, a couple of hours shy. What can I say? I sucked.)

Then I quit for a few years, and then I started back up 9 years ago.

9 years. Millions of words since then. Editing. Revising. Getting my proverbial ass kicked and getting back up again. Hundreds of rejections. Taking creative risks, such as writing nearly a year-long free-form story combining my characters with a friend's and writing (gasp) erotica. Taking out a solid year to write (and actively market) short stories, leaving novels gathering dust on the hard drive.  Got a little bit of acclaim, little being the operative word, and someone finally liking my work enough to cheer about it. Finally selling the book that launched my writing again, after multiple rejections, 3 reads and advisory sessions from 2 different agents... you get the picture. This shit does not happen overnight. 

Okay, to one of my friends it did. And there's a special circle in hell for writers who are quite literally overnight (by overnight, I mean within a year) successes. He knows I say that with the greatest affection...

The rest of us lowlife scum have to struggle, damn it. And so do you. So quit worrying about publishing and getting read by anyone outside your critique group and work on your craft, damn it. A million words later, then you can talk.

4 comments:

Chris Devlin said...

Here, here, Betsy!

And I really wish I could stop hearing this phrase in talks about writing craft: "Well, this won't matter soon--you can just throw it up on Amazon."

Talking about craft, thinking about craft, practicing craft, ALWAYS matters, regardless of the state of the publishing industry.

Thanks for the frankspeak.

Marne Ann said...

Bets,
I LOVE YOU! You say it true...

Anonymous said...

Two things bother me about the "you have to write a million words to be any good" philosophy.

1. It implies that nothing you do now is worth doing. So the ideas you have, you may as well just throw them on the trash pile honey cuz you can't write them good enough.

2. I barely have time to write the few good words I do, and unlike prolific writers I agonize and edit everything from the get-go. Don't tell me to just write crap, I can't do it. I'm not wired that way.

So, I figure I'll be dead by the time I get to the requisite million crap words, which makes me feel as if I shouldn't even start.

Which I suspect was the speaker's purpose in saying so in the first place - to discourage competition before they gain any speed.

Christine Hardy said...

That was me, by the way. I hit the wrong button.