Thursday, July 26, 2012

Crisis of confidence

For one of my guest posts, I sent a writer's-blog post to a reader's blog, and the owner emailed me to ask for something more appropriate -- which she was completely right to do, but in the course of that she said something that crops up in my head regularly.

"Who... are you...?"
John Tenniel's illustration,
Alice in Wonderland
(paraphrasing) "Who are you to give how-to advice to writers?"

My first urge, naturally, was to find a sword and fall on it because: who the hell am I? Nobody. I'm nobody. I have no grounds for advising anybody.

Then again, we're all nobody out here in the writing blogosphere. Almost all. Big-name writers aren't going to give away advice for free (and I don't blame them) because their advice might actually be worth something. Though if you've hung around the blogosphere long enough, you've heard all the advice there is about writing, in a few dozen different forms.

Honest, it's all out here. The pros can explain it more concisely, or more thoroughly, but it's all the same advice and none of it is a magic formula for becoming a good writer.

As I said in the post about seeing: oh shit, nobody can tell me what to do.

So I can spew out advice to my heart's content because all of it is worth what you're paying for it. I can't tell you what to do. YOU HAVE TO GO AND DO IT.

And also, I've observed a recent rash of statements to the effect of: I queried too soon. I self-published too soon. Too soon, too soon. As soon as someone can quantify "too soon," please let me know. I expect it will involve the magical knowledge of what a given individual's peak skills are, charted against their current level of development. I'd pay real money for that. Seriously. Can you imagine? It would be uplifting and crushing at the same time: I'm near my peak, but I'll never be as good as (famous author).

You have to start somewhere. Or, don't start. That's an option.

The Olympics always strike me as having a certain relevance to writing. Wired ran an article recently about the astounding amount of training and technology that goes into sports at that level, and I always wonder about the balance between training/equipment and raw talent. Because if you put me through a training grinder, yes, I would undoubtedly become a better runner, swimmer, what-have-you. Would I be a good one? Would I be Olympic-level?

Probably not.

Being sensitive souls, writers don't want to talk about that thing outside our control, those limitations the Great Author wrote in our character profile. Talent. Charisma. Why does 50 Shades of Grey have it and I don't?

(shrugs) You have to go out and do it. Start somewhere.

Other Stuff

My Kickstarter project is a go! Three more days to pre-order an e-book or paperback -- I've created reward options for just the books and not the other stuff.

I'm building a book blog at Disciples of the fount for book-related info, updates, etc., so if you just want to keep an eye out for when it's released... that's the place.

7 comments:

Traci Loudin said...

"Big-name writers aren't going to give away advice for free (and I don't blame them) because their advice might actually be worth something."

Are you kidding? Plenty of big-name authors are out there giving away advice for free in the blogosphere. Top of my mind is Brandon Sanderson, who does a weekly Writing Excuses podcast with Dan Wells, Mary Robinette-Kowal, and Howard Tayler, and it's been around for several years. The show itself has won the Parsec, and the four of them have been nominated/won tons of stuff, from the Campbell to the Hugo.

There's plenty more out there, but without digging up links and discussing what "big-name" really means, I have two points I'd rather make:
- That's what's so awesome about the SFF genre. Veterans of the publishing industry and self-pub method will gladly help newbie writers looking to break in. Their advice is scattered everywhere, from blogs to Google+ to Twitter, but it's out there.
- Even if there's more free material from big-name authors than I could read in my lifetime, I'm still interested in what other writers have to say as well. Why? Because everyone's path to success (and definition for success) is different. So it may be that I find the kernel of motivation or kick in the rear I need from a quieter corner of the blogosphere than from a big-name author.

So maybe it's not so much that I'm looking for "advice," as I'm looking for insight. And from what I can tell, you have plenty of that to give! So don't let people rattle you. :) Keep doing what you're doing and just know that some of us out here really appreciate it!

Liz said...

Congratulations on having your Kickstarter fully funded. That's awesome!

Someone asked you who you were to give advice to writers? Really? This person should be avoided in the future.

Who are any of us to give advice? But the whole point of the journey is to learn, and as we learn, we should help those who come behind us. People can listen to or ignore that advice, but it still should be freely given by those who have it.

And as for the Olympics: I think it's more about drive than talent. If you want it badly enough, you'll put in the work to get good. So many people with talent squander it. It's those that it doesn't come easy to that appreciate it more and will work harder to achieve it. (This was the theme of my first book. Someday I'll go back and rework it so that it can see the light of day.)

L. Blankenship said...

This is definitely an excellent time to be learning to write. I guess I was showing my age a bit there -- when I was a teenager, how-to-write books were on the few and far between side. And those specifically for SFF even more so.

Thanks for the encouragement, I appreciate it!

L. Blankenship said...

Ultimately, she was right -- what I sent her was not relevant to her audience. I doubt she meant to hit a nerve.

Is drive the only thing separating people from Olympic medals? Hmmm. Luck does play some part -- all those athletes who suffer career-ending injuries. The human body can only take so much. But when things come down to tiny fractions of a second, what else comes into play? Slightly faster synapses? Muscle memory?

Something to think about :D

mshatch said...

"Why does 50 Shades of Grey have it and I don't?"

I think you should ask yourself if that's the kind of stuff you want to be writing. The other thing is you just never know what people are going to like. There will always be poorly written bestsellers. Always. I've started to read some (and put them down), and I've enjoyed others that supposedly fell into that category. There's a whole lot of luck involved in this business and I don't know about you but I figure I'm due :)

mooderino said...

I've always felt it's up to the recipient to decide if advice is worth taking. That's how I approach advice given to me. The choice to follow that advice is 100% in my hands and any consequences will be my responsibility.

I much prefer people who let their opinions be known, even if they are stupid opinions. Hard to engage with someone who never says anything.

mood

Elizabeth Twist said...

Because much of what you write on this blog is illustrated by the problems and challenges you're trying to solve in your own writing, I don't really think of it as advice so much as you sharing your journey. It's like, "I figured this out, maybe it will help you."

"Who do you think you are?" is a creepy question.

I second Moody's opinion that anyone can use discernment when encountering a piece of advice. I like reading about other writers' experiences because it makes me think more deeply about how I approach my own writing.

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