Monthly Archives: September 2010

The insanity of the “I just wanna write fiction AND get published” mindset

I have no problem with someone saying, “I just wanna write.”   Creating art for art’s sake is a wonderful thing to do.

What drives me nuts is when someone says “I just wanna write fiction AND get published.”  That’s just crazy.  Because publishing is a business, and if someone wants to play the publishing business game, they’d better learn the rules of the business.  Otherwise, just slap a “I’LL BE IN TROUBLE” label on their back and be done with it.  Because one of the following WILL happen (let’s alternate between genders):

1) The writer will fall prey financially to a scam agent, a scam editor, scam contests, or scam publisher because she couldn’t be bothered to learn the business.  Hundreds, maybe even thousands, of dollars will disappear into the black hole of scams.

2) The writer will be gouged in pricing by a subsidy or vanity press because he couldn’t be bothered to research actual publishing costs and methods.  Hundreds, maybe even thousands, of dollars will be lost.

3) The writer will run into legal problems because she couldn’t be bothered to learn about publishing contracts so she could understand what she was signing.   If she’s really unlucky, she could find herself stuck in court for years.

3) The writer will be taken by surprise when his publisher goes out of business, sticking his books with that publisher in bankruptcy limbo.  He couldn’t be bothered to keep track of the financial health of his publisher.

4) The writer will be in financial trouble when she discovers her agent or publisher has been cooking the books.  She couldn’t be bothered to learn how to read a royalty statement, add important clauses to her publishing contracts to protect her interests, or how to track her own money.

5) The writer will run into serious career trouble when his agent dies, gets sick, dumps him, or leaves agenting as a career.  He couldn’t be bothered to learn the business of how to sell manuscripts to editors.

6) The writer will be surprised when her publisher drops her, because she couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to the print run numbers.

7) The writer will run into cash flow problems, because he couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to the out-of-print, e-book royalty rates, subsidiary rights, and reversion rights clauses in his contracts.

One thing I’ve noticed again and again at conferences is that the fiction writers I’ve met who’ve survived in the publishing business for 15+ years pay attention to the business side of publishing.  A writer can get away with ignoring the business side (if she or he is lucky) for maybe 7-12 years.  But statistically speaking, sooner or later a rough patch will happen, and the writers who survive to publish again are those who pay attention to the business side.

An interview with Jane Yolen

No major post this Sunday. I’ve got a looming writing deadline this week that must come first.

However, check out this interview with Jane Yolen at School Library Journal as she celebrates her 300th published book.   She has valuable advice to give on how to be productive and happy as a writer.

Doses of Reality: TALES FROM THE SCRIPT, and a blog post from Scott William Carter

Peter Hanson and Paul Robert Herman have gone and interviewed 50 screenwriters to create the best (as well as the most brutally realistic) documentary on screenwriting I’ve ever seen, TALES FROM THE SCRIPT.   Even if one doesn’t write screenplays, this documentary is worth seeing as a way to understand the joys and hardships of writing stories for a living.

Here’s their description of the documentary:

Screenwriters ranging from newcomers to living legends share their triumphs and hardships in this probing, insightful, and often hilarious odyssey through the world of movie storytelling. Celebrated scribes reveal the fascinating creative adventures that gave birth to beloved classics (and notorious flops). By analyzing their triumphs and recalling their failures, the participants explain how successful writers develop the skills necessary for toughing out careers in Hollywood. Candid and unafraid to name names, they also describe their collaborations with stars including Tim Burton, Harrison Ford, Morgan Freeman, Stanley Kubrick, Adam Sandler, Joel Silver, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, and Bryan Singer.

Also, Scott William Carter has written a realistic thoughtful blog post on “10 Reasons There’s Never Been a Better Time to Be a Fiction Writer.” Here’s a very small taste:

When I replied that actually they’ve got it dead wrong, there’s never been a better time to be a fiction writer, that if I had a time traveling machine and could pick only one time to be a novelist, I’d pick now without question, I’m pretty sure he thought I was smoking something.
But it’s the truth. Seriously.
Don’t believe me? Here’s ten reasons why.

Go read this long post of his.  It’s better than many articles on “changing technology and the impact on writers” that I’ve seen in Writer’s Digest or Publisher’s Weekly.

Ray Bradbury and the Enthusiasm that Becomes a Writer’s Voice

Yesterday I stumbled across a 22 minute interview with Ray Bradbury done by the National Endowment for the Arts’ “The Big Read” program.   It’s well worth watching.  There’s even a loud car purr to relax by 😀

But, watching this interview, I was struck by just how vivid and alive Bradbury is compared to some people I’ve met.  He’s refused to be mocked by the world into disguising, hiding, and getting rid of his enthusiasms, and it shows.

How many people do you know go to Paris to walk the streets while stopping to read TENDER IS THE NIGHT along the way?  It’s the actual physical act of getting out into the world and colliding with it that can generate so many new ideas.

Enthusiasms can also act as road signs of what to write about as a writer.   They can help a writer find his or her voice.  For example, a passion for astronomy could turn into a science fiction story or a literary novel about an astronomer.  And I’ve noticed how “catching” enthusiasm is.  I’m not into cars, but by watching the hosts of “Top Gear” on the BBC talk with passion about cars, I’ve caught some of their enthusiasm and am starting to pay attention to the cars and trucks I see daily.

Bradbury has priceless advice to give on finding one’s voice as a writer, both in ZEN AND THE ART OF WRITING and in this “The Big Read” interview.  Check them out.