A long post this morning, so consider yourself warned. (grin)
This morning, writer Mark Alpert over at the Kill Zone blog titled his post “Five Ways to Become a Happier Writer.” All well and good. I thought I was in for a real treat.
The more I read, the more depressed I became.
The five points he laid out are valid. But the stuff he wrote below them, for the most part, was “not to my taste,” as Dean says. (grin)
Now, I’m aware all writers are different. But frankly, Mark’s post left me wondering why he’s a writer at all. If you read it, I think you’ll see what I mean.
I’ve included his post in “Of Interest” below, mostly so you can see for yourself what I’m talking about.
I don’t like wasting my time posting a comment where I suspect it won’t do any good whatsoever so I didn’t leave a comment there.
If you’ll allow me a metaphor by way of pre-emptive explanation, I can’t swim very well, but I’d still do my best to save someone who’s drowning. Unless I know he chose on purpose to dive into the raging waves. Once I realize that, hey, the guy’s on his own. I’m about nothing if not personal responsibility.
But his post stirred me to include a topic here based on his five points. You can call it a rebuttal, maybe.
Topic: Five Ways to Become a Happier Writer
I could just list Heinlein’s Rules here, but that would almost be cheating. Besides, been there, done that. In fact, I need to climb back on them myself.
1. Don’t let your happiness depend on things that are beyond your control.
Like landing an agent or a traditional publishing contract. Sure, you can work toward that end if you’re of that stripe, but whehter either one actually happens is not your decision. The decision is up to the agent and the traditional publisher. In that way, striving to land an agent or a traditional publishing contract is a dream, not a goal.
I won’t go into depth about whether it’s a good dream or a nightmare. You already know my thoughts on that.
Suffice it to say re agents that a) agents aren’t licensed and b) it’s never wise to give someone you don’t know intimately control of your money. And re traditional publishers, a) the contracts suck and b) you’re only fodder to them.
The worst thing about going that route is that writer too often attach their self-esteem to whether some stranger (the agent) agrees to take 15% of your royalties for life plus 70 years and whether another stranger (the publisher) “likes” what you send him enough to pay you a pittance in exchange for all rights to your copyright, again, for the duration of your life plus 70 years.
So I agree with Mr. Alpert. Don’t let your happiness depend on things that are beyond your control. Base your happiness on goals, not dreams. If you’re a writer, write. Then get what you’ve written out there so others can read it while you’re writing the next thing.
2. A writer’s happiness is not proportional to his or her number of readers.
Well, sometimes it is. I would revise the title of this section: Don’t attach your happiness to how many readers you have. Attaching your happiness to how many readers you have is like being continually miserable because you haven’t won the lottery yet.
How many readers you have is a dream, not a goal. It’s outside your control.
If you keep learning, keep practicing (writing), and keep putting your work out there, the readers will come.
3. Write about things that make you happy.
Okay, I’d revise this one too, but only slightly: Write what you want to write.
That being said, Mr. Alpert got this one right. To quote him directly,
“f you love to write about serial killers, go right ahead. If zombies or vampires are your thing, take a stab at it. It’s much better to give free rein to your fictional passions, whatever they are, than to force yourself to write about a subject you hate, no matter how commercially appealing it may be.”
Yep. Just like it’s much better to get the work out in public so readers can find it than it is to tie it up for years while you search for an agent.
As a side note, in his next paragraph Mark describes his latest novel. And immediately turns off at least half of his would be readers, including me. Just sayin’.
4. Figure out how important writing is to your happiness, and adjust your life accordingly.
Well, I can’t argue with this one, but that it came from a professional fiction writer surprised me a little. It also made me think Mark Alpert is on the endangered writers list. Within a few years, he’ll be one of those “whatever happened to” guys.
You’ve heard me say many times, if I writing wasn’t the most fun I could have, I’d find something else to do.
If you write strictly as a hobby, that’s fine. But if you want to be a prolific writer, you have to write. And frankly, if you don’t enjoy writing, you won’t make it. No way. You might as well stop now.
5. When good things happen in your writing career, celebrate like crazy.
I agree completely. Surprised?
Though Mr. Alpert and I have different notions of “good things.” (Ah, there it is.)
When I finish a story that’s particularly difficult — like the third book (chronologically) in the Wes Crowley series, during which I had to tie the story into books 4, 5, and 6, which I’d written previously — I’m glad and relieved because it frees me up to write the next one.
But most of the time when I finish a novel I almost grieve. I’m leaving behind characters and a storyline that I grew to love as I was writing it.
So when do I celebrate? When I start a new one.
Writing a story brings me great joy, so why would I celebrate coming to the end of it? But I know writing the next one will bring me joy too, so I celebrate new beginnings. Doing that also helps me get over the grief of finishing the previous one.
I suppose it’s all a matter of attitude, and that’s what this topic is really all about.
I’m never happier than when I’m writing, so most of the time, Heinlein’s Rules 1, 2 and 3 are easy for me. Rule 4 is a bit of a stretch sometimes because it forces me to cling to what I’ve finished a little longer, but I do it. Grudgingly. And I do it mostly because I enjoyed the story so why not let my readers enjoy it too?
As I say at the end of every post over on the author site, Happy Writing! And I wish Mr. Alpert the same.
If you aren’t familiar with Heinlein’s Rules, you can get an annotated copy free right here.
I spent the first couple of hours of the day dawdling and writing the stuff above. Then I spent another hour adding a few new posts (culled from this Journal) to the Pro Writers blog at HarveyStanbrough.com.
After that, I opened a Notepad document and talked to myself a little about what I want to write next. I had three immediate ideas:
▪ A return to Nick Spalding and Marie for Book 5. They’re on their way to their next adventure, talking about things winding down (even among humans, only so many wars can take place in one time period). And something transports them to a different time period. Of course, I won’t know what transports them until I write it. When they “land,” they do what they do while getting used to the time shift. Over the course of the book, they also learn how they came to be transported and how to use the device (or whatever) intentionally, thus opening up the possibility of more books.
▪ A return to Blackwell Ops in the same structure (stories within a novel) but with a different main character. A place like Blackwell Ops has several major operatives, each skilled in a different specialty. This could go on for awhile, letting one character per book tell his or her story (though maybe bringing in another character to assist at times). And of course, in the future we can return to Jack Tilden and other characters, but all under the umbrella of Blackwell Ops.
▪ A return to Stern Talbot, PI. A little over three weeks before he succumbed to COPD, my friend Kenneth Flowers wrote “I love your detective stories and will always compare everything else to them.” Is that a good catalyst, or what? And to be off and running with Stern Talbot, all I have to do is ask another character to drop by his office and give him an interesting case. And of course, I know who the next Talbot book will be dedicated to.
And another budding series (futuristic magic realism) was born in The Keeper of the Promise, and a few of my SF novels are practically begging for sequels if not series.
So as I wrote a few days ago, I’m not hurting for ideas.
For today, though, other than feeling my way into a few of these ideas, I won’t do much in the way of writing fiction. I’ll see what my bride has planned and we’ll do that.
Talk with you again soon.
See Mark Alpert’s “Five Ways To Become A Happier Writer” at https://killzoneblog.com/2019/01/five-ways-to-become-a-happier-writer.html. Go in with a container of rock salt under your arm.
See “Walking the Moors With Agatha” at https://alisonholtbooks.com/walking-the-moors-with-agatha/.
See “A Typical Day” at https://www.deanwesleysmith.com/a-typical-day/.
NOTE: Writer Chuck Wendig uses rough language liberally and often unnecessarily. Consider yourself warned. Just in case you might get something useful from it, see “In 2019: Persist, Persist, Persist” at http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2018/12/31/in-2019-persist-persist-persist/.
Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 1600 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 1600
Writing of (novel, tentative title)
Day 1…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXX
Total fiction words for the month……… 1628
Total fiction words for the year………… 1628
Total nonfiction words for the month… 5410
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 5410
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 7038
Calendar Year 2019 Novels to Date………………………… X
Calenday Year 2019 Novellas to Date…………………… X
Calendar Year 2019 Short Stories to Date……… X
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 37
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 7
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………… 193
Short story collections…………………………………………………… 31