Saturday, January 23, 2010

Time again for those beginning writer rules

While at Arisia, I ended up in multiple conversations with aspiring writers who were seeking the magic formula for success as professionals. I told them the truth: there is no such formula. I did give them a few basic tidbits of advice, and some asked that I post those tasty morsels here. Though I think they're obvious and available online from a zillion different places, I said I would comply with the requests. So, for those who asked, here are the few rules I believe might help you become a successful writer. Note the word "might;" there are no guarantees, and, in fact, the most likely outcome is that you'll fail. Hence the first rule.

If you can possibly not write, then don't write.
It's a mug's game, so back away from the table if you can. There's nothing particularly special or magical about writing.

If you must write, then write. Write as often as you can. I recommend at least once daily. Write no matter what happens. Writing is amazingly special and magical. (Yes, this contradicts what I wrote above, but you shouldn't be reading this if you can possibly not write, so one ray of encouragement seemed reasonable and appropriate.)

Finish what you write. Fragments and clever scenes and nifty images are fine for impressing your friends, but no one's going to buy them from you.

Try to sell what you write. Hey, you said you wanted to be a professional; professionals get paid to write.

Unless someone with a job is supporting you and giving you health insurance, don't quit your day job. You have to assume you'll make precious little money after you're a success, and essentially none before it.

That's it. Those are the big rules. There are zillions of smaller rules, but if you don't learn the ones above, their smaller cousins won't help you.

Don't be surprised, by the way, if it takes you a long time to figure out which of the first two rules you're going to follow. The gap between when I first sold a short story to a professional market and when I accepted the second rule above was about 23 years and 1 month.

You'll probably either learn faster than I did or never learn.

Good luck.

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