Thursday, 15 July 2010

Advice blogfest

This is for the peevish penman blogfest, and represents some random scraps of advice about writing that I think are important, but probably aren't.

  1. It isn't about the goblins. I first gave this advice elsewhere, but its an important one for fantasy writers. Fantasy creates a distance that you can use to explore things, play with ideas, and comment on the "real" world. Use it. Writing about goblins for their own sakes is boring. Writing about them because they behave the way we suspect we might secretly quite like to is far more fun.
  2. Have fun, and be funny. This might sound strange coming from an occasional purveyor of quite violent urban fantasy, or from the person who gave the above advice. The thing is, I think that my writing improved out of sight the day I decided to start making fun of things, because it was what I really enjoyed doing. If you have the same urge to try comedy, do it.
  3. Invite real criticism. There is a danger sometimes of not reacting to criticism well. I know I don't (in fact, it is only the cost issues that prevent me from putting together a suitable robot army to deal with critics. All donations welcome). The trouble is, it's easy (especially online) to fall into a situation where everyone says "yay, it's brilliant!". So you think your work is brilliant. And then you send it to an editor.
  4. Publication is not the goal. For some reason, people see that moment of publication as success. As an end point. It isn't. It's a start. Look beyond it, to growth and sales and eventual world domination (did I mention my robot army?)
  5. Did I also mention that you should have fun? I think that one is worth repeating. So many people get into this really intense "I will write and write, and do millions of writing exercises, and be incredibly serious until I succeed" mode where they have to get their words done each day, and they have to submit to so many editors. Relax a little. Remember that even with all this perseverance, the odds are not in your favour. It might seem unfair, but you can do all of this for years and not come out of it as a success story. Now, if you're being incredibly serious about it all, that is heartbreaking. You've spent years doing things you don't like, for nothing. Or you could do things you do like, enjoy the process, and probably end up writing better things anyway.

12 comments:

Mesmerix said...

Hey Stu, awesome advice. I especially like #1, as it's a method I've learned to follow in my own writing. Thanks for sharing!

Andrew Rosenberg said...

Every time I add something fun, it doesn't fit with the story. >:(
But there is a character archetype called the "Trickster" who is important to have.
Characters can get seriously depressed and it's the Trickster's job to lighten the mood and give perspective. Maybe that's what I need to add...
Nice advice!

Jamie D. said...

I think that's the best advice I've read yet - just have fun.

Oh, and the robot army thing. I think I need one of those...

WritersBlockNZ said...

I loved the "It's not all about goblins" line hehe. As a fantasy writer that one rang true. Wonderful post.

Lauren said...

What I love about fantasy is you can put people amongst goblins and they are still people. You are right, it's very much not about the goblins but about what you can say about life etc when goblins are about.

C Bailey said...

It could be all about the goblins in a more metaphysical way.

I love to add humor into my work and try not to offend. That fails often, but sometimes it doesn't and the results are amazingly worthwhile.

Thanks!

Dawn Maria said...

When it's my turn to get a piece workshopped, I wear boots. Black, sexy boots that make me feel like a real bad ass.

Because a bad ass wouldn't break down while receiving feedback. Loved your post.

Hadassah Fey said...

Great advice for all writers. I'm so glad to meet someone else who's ultimate goal is world domination. ;) Your advice about fantasy writing is great -- I write sci-fi/fantasy and it's so true; what's great about the genre is using the world you create to comment on the world you live in. Great post, thanks for sharing.

Why, it's Clark! said...

Outstanding advice, Stu, every word of it. And I'd like to get in on that robot army (I have a high school reunion coming up in a couple of years).

Icy Sedgwick said...

I agree with the fun part. I always used to write that weird kind of 'urban fantasy' that doesn't fit into any genre, and then I started flirting with more humour within that, and my work started getting a better reception. And you know what? It's way more fun to write!!!!!

Fun is seriously underestimated these days.

All hail the Robot Army.

L'Aussie said...

I like your advice, esp about not being so serious and the reality of publication. Yes, writing can be fun so let's enjoy it..:)

Olivia J. Herrell said...

I've discovered that writing makes everything in my life better.

Great advice, thank you!

`that rebel, Olivia