In today’s Journal
* Quote of the Day
* Topic: A Cautionary Tale
* Of Interest
* The Numbers
Quote of the Day
“[I]t’s equally important to put the book aside and write another.” Mark Alpert
Topic: A Cautionary Tale
Author Mark Alpert, in the Kill Zone blog today, posted what he calls the “Lesson of the Decade.” Please go read it now.
The first three paragraphs have to do with nostalgia rather than writing. That’s fine. But those and the lesson he imparts in paragraph four (see “Quote of the Day” above) are the best parts of the post.
Unfortunately, he didn’t take his own advice.
The rest of the post is sobering. When I consider how many impressionable young-in-the-craft novelists will probably read it, the thought is actually frightening.
I shudder to think what might have happened to my own writing career had I read Mr. Alpert’s post back in late 2014 when I started my first novel.
Had I submitted that novel to a traditional publisher, and had the publisher accepted it, today I would have published five novels.
And writing would be no fun at all. It would be strenuously laborious at least, not to mention boring. I would have to drag myself through writing each novel, revise and rewrite and “take years” to write each one.
I would strive to make every word perfect (something that isn’t possible even in the tight form of poetry), and I would be sorely disappointed at every turn.
If my stories were perfect, why wasn’t everyone buying them? And of those who did buy them, why wouldn’t everyone love them? Why am I not a multi-millionaire?
Not too long ago, Mr. Alpert himself expressed disappointment that writing novels hadn’t delivered the monetary riches he’d been led to expect — by other writers who pass out exactly the same kind of advice he posted in this article.
So I cheated a little in the Quote of the Day above. I took it slightly out of context because, as it’s written above, it’s great advice.
Here’s the whole quote (emphasis added):
“Aspiring authors come here for advice on how to revise their novels, but once you’ve completed all the revisions and done everything you can to perfect the manuscript, it’s equally important to put the book aside and write another.”
This is just head-shakingly bad advice. Because you can’t “perfect the manuscript.” What is or isn’t perfect (or even “good”) is up to each individual reader.
Consider, the author is the first person to read his or her work. So s/he revises, rewrites, and fine-tunes until it is “perfect.”
S/he submits this “perfect” manuscript to an agent (another reader), for whom the manuscript is NOT perfect. The agent requires additional revisions.
So the author goes back to the salt mines, revising further. The agent finally submits the now-“pefect” manuscript to an acquisitions editor (another reader) with whom she has a professional relationship.
To cut this short, let’s say that finally, the manuscript is accepted for publication — well, contingent on the author revising it further to “perfect” it.
Back to the salt mines.
But FINALLY the acquisitions editor deems the manuscript “perfect.” To cut additional length off this post, let’s assume the publisher agrees with the acquisitions editor.
So when the manuscript is finally published (having been read and deemed “perfect” three times by three different readers), it should sell millions of copies, right? After all, the author, the agent and at least one publisher have deemed it perfect.
But those three people are only readers with opinions. Of all the “regular” readers who buy the book, a few think it’s perfect (or close), some like it and some think it sucks canal water from all 50 states.
Tada! Anyone get the feeling maybe the author was spinning his wheels and seeping deeper into the muck while revising and rewriting?
But let’s rewind a bit. This is as good a time as any for a year-in-review post.
As I wrote above, “… had I read Mr. Alpert’s post back in late 2014 when I started my first novel … today I would have published five novels.”
And that’s since late 2014. This year, 2019, I would have published the fifth one.
But I was fortunate. Instead of seeing Mr. Alpert’s post back in 2014, I read a post by Dean Wesley Smith, a long-term professional fiction writer.
And I finally came to understand that “perfection” (what’s good and what isn’t) lies strictly in the perception of each individual reader. It was a pressure-relieving revelation. I’m not responsible for readers’ taste, to wit,
1. My job is to write fiction, to tell stories.
2. The READER’S job (not mine) is to judge those stories.
As a direct result of that realization, writing is actually fun for me. Beyond trying to avoid typos and misspellings, I don’t have any responsibility for the readers’ perception of perfection. None.
And this year alone, even taking three months off, I’ve written and published 10 novels, 1 novella and 4 short stories.
Since October 2014, I’ve written and published 44 novels and 8 novellas. And since April of that same year, I’ve written and published almost 200 short stories.
So which would you rather be? A writer? Or a reviser-rewriter endlessly chasing EVERYONE’S definition of perfection?
It really is all up to you.
No fiction writing yesterday and probably none today. My focus is on a very enjoyable visit with my wife, youngest son and eldest grandson. More than likely I’ll return to my WIP tomorrow.
Talk with you again soon.
See “How Good is Your Agent?” at https://mystorydoctor.com/how-good-is-your-agent-2/. Read this even if you don’t have an agent, at least if you’re looking for one.
See “Anthology Markets” at http://angiesdesk.blogspot.com/2019/12/anthology-markets.html.
Fiction words today…………………… XXXX
Nonfiction words today…………… 950 (Journal)
Writing of Jonah Peach (tentative title)
Brought forward…… 4416 words
Day 10… 1490 words. Total words to date…… 25649
Day 11… 1544 words. Total words to date…… 27193
Day 12… 1554 words. Total words to date…… 28747
Day 13… 4102 words. Total words to date…… 32849
Day 14… 3538 words. Total words to date…… 36387
Day 15… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX
Total fiction words for the month……… 33822
Total fiction words for the year………… 431387
Total nonfiction words for the month… 13400
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 316660
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 748047
Calendar Year 2019 Novels to Date…………………… 10
Calendar Year 2019 Novellas to Date……………… 1
Calendar Year 2019 Short Stories to Date… 4
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 44
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 197
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31