Talk Talk

I went to a great talk this past weekend. Michael Larsen and Elizabeth Pomada (literary agents to be found here) came and spoke to our division of the California Writers Club. They were engaging speakers and they came to talk to us about what each of us needs to be a successful writer and why now is such a great time to be a writer.

Well, according to the talk to be a successful writer you need commitment, passion and focus. Obvious? Maybe. But I argue, not as obvious as you might think. I talk to a lot of people who want to be writers. I don’t talk to a lot of people who have written books. I don’t mean published books. I mean just lots of words on paper (or computer screen). So many people intend to write. So many people want to write. Not many people do write.

Hearing Mr. Larsen and Ms. Pomada speak was an inspiration not necessarily because they told me something I didn’t know, but because they confirmed what I did. And because, more importantly, they brought their own passion with them. This is a pair of people who love books. Who appreciate writers. Who want more books to be in the world. Who want every voice to be heard.

If you get an opportunity to hear them speak, take it.

And why is now the best time to be a writer? Well, for me, it’s a bit Dickensian. It is the best of times and the worst of times. As Larsen and Pomada pointed out, there are more resources available to writers to self-publish and self-promote. An eager audience is reading more than it has in years, though not necessarily in the ways it used to. However, big publishing houses are spending less time and energy on new writers and more on established writers.

Is it a great time to get rich on your writing? Oh, probably not. But there are so many ways now to get your voice heard.

You could blog, for instance.

Well, Ms. Pomada, whom I spoke to at the end of the talk, was kind and encouraging. She does not represent fantasy and so I was unable to make a pitch to her. If I had thought about it sensibly beforehand, I’d have gotten a pitch ready for my mystery novel. It’s a little short (55K words instead of 60K) and so I’ve been sitting on it.

Oh well, I’m going to shine it up for the conference I’m going to (in two weeks!).

Writing & Procrastinating at the Same Time

I have a friend who is also an aspiring author. Let’s call her Kelli. Kelli said to me that she was busy working on her writing and I asked how far she’d gotten. Kelli said she hadn’t started the novel itself because she had been busy working it out first, summarizing what she wanted the novel(s) to be.

She’d been doing this for some time, it seemed to me. I asked her if she was planning some unusually byzantine piece. It turned out she was creating a long and somewhat complicated story, but what was really going on was that she’d write a summary, look it over and either find problems with it or decide it just wasn’t good enough. Those things decided, Kelli would start her summary over.

At first glance it seems like Kelli’s being productive. She’s not. She’s procrastinating.

Summarizing is not writing. Summarizing–for some authors–is a necessary step before diving into the novel headlong, a sort of putting your toe in to test the water. While full summaries are not for me, I totally accept it could well be for others, Kelli included.

That said, repeated summaries, edited summaries, rejected summaries are like putting your toe in the water, and deciding to wait a few minutes because it may be warmer later. You wait, then put your toe in again. Still not quite warm enough. You wait and put your toe in again. Nope, still not warm enough. This is the surest way to guarantee you never have that swim.

Summaries, even the most perfect, will change when the writing starts. While some writers create a plot and stick to it and there is no variation (their novel is basically a fleshing out of their summary), for most authors plot holes will be found, character development will change your view of events, subplots will morph to serve your story in ways that hadn’t occurred to you before your novel started its slow crawl toward completion. The perfect summary, no matter how long you work on it, will not be exactly your novel and the more time you spend summarizing, the less time you spend really writing.

A novel is a cold pool. You can wait for it to warm up, but it will only get so warm. Sooner or later you must dive into it, temperature mostly unknown, complete lack of knowledge about possible sharks, electric eels or rips in the time-space continuum lurking in the depths. You must swim, and you must relish the adventure that swim represents.

Remember that editing is where your book really starts to work. You can’t fix the book before you write it. Summarize if it’s your thing, but once the summary is done, the very first summary, write.

Write. Write. Write. Write!

When you’re done with that, write some more.

Then edit.

New Year’s Resolutions

I don’t really make New Year’s resolutions as a rule. However, this year I’m going for it in regards my writing at least.

In no particular order, these are my writing resolutions.

1. Blog more.

2. Get an agent or at least try like the dickens to do so.

3. Get a short story posted up on this blog as a writing sample.

4. Get Book II of the The Marsh King finished.

5. Start Book III of The Marsh King.

6. Start organizing second trilogy to follow The Marsh King–The Red Prince.