On “Way” and “Process” and Other Stuff

Hi Folks,

This is a personal aside. It isn’t part of the regular series, which comes out every ten days. There’s some humor here, so I hope you’ll enjoy it. If you take it seriously… well, that’s a function of your perception of yourself, not my intent.

Here’s the thing: People keep talking about me having found “my way” to be a writer. Then most often they congratulate me, as if I’d been out in the Superstitions digging test holes for the past 40 years and finally, just last week, found my “way.”

For reasons I’ll discuss a little later in this post, the congratulations are neither warranted nor necessary. The first couple of times this happened, I even told the person something like, “Thanks, but congratulations are not necessary.” But it didn’t matter, see, ’cause the congrats weren’t sincere anyway. They were merely the prelude to the dressing down I was about to receive.

So right after the congrats, that’s when the insanity starts. My assailants usually begin by saying that although they’re happy for me (a lie), my “way” won’t necessarily work for anyone else (a lie) and pretty much everybody has to find their own “way” (a lie) so “Please stop giving me advice!”

What? Really? You want that someone who is successful at doing what you’re not successful at doing but allegedly want to be successful at doing should stop passing along time-honored lessons learned that he received from other highly successful people in the same field in which you currently attempting an ongoing endeavor?

Shrug. Okay. No problem.

Seriously, I don’t care. I’m not saying that because you hurt my feelings (you can’t) or offended me (again, you can’t unless you use a firearm or a knife or a really large stick). I’m saying I don’t care because I obviously wasted my time (and I don’t want to waste anymore) passing along those lessons to someone whom I thought wanted to learn about her chosen craft.

Totally my fault. I was wrong. I should have known better. Most wannabe writers are far too steeped in myths about writing to extricate themselves. You go on back to your twenty-third draft. I have a story to write and publish.

Sigh. I really do want to help, so sometimes I do say more. That’s an unfortunate side effect of “I have the knowledge to help” multiplied by “I’m stupid enough to try one more time.” And if I do say absolutely anything else about it at all, well, everything goes downhill from there.

I have to say folks, I am constantly incredulated (a victim, perhaps, of a medical condition called persistent incredulositis that I just made up) that this sort of thing happens so often. I honestly don’t understand why so many people take offense when I offer them writing advice. I mean, if you don’t want to accept it, don’t. After all, it’s worth precisely what you paid for it. If you don’t agree with it or if you don’t even want to try it for yourself, ignore it.

Oops. There I go giving you advice again. I can just hear it. “You can’t tell me what to do! I don’t have to ignore your advice unless I want to! You’re not the boss of me!” Perhaps I should have written, “Ignore it, or not, whatever you want to do.” Seriously, I couldn’t begin to care less. Here’s why.

In the first place, the advice I pass along is fact, not opinion. It isn’t something I made up. It’s what I’ve learned from other, very successful sources. Yet upon receiving such advice (after they asked) the pretentious avant-garde set leaps to their feet, points at me, and begins jumping up and down screaming,

“That’s YOUR way! You can’t force that on me! I have a right to my OWN way! I have to spend time contemplating my CREATIVE PROCESS and mulling over my CHOICES as a PERSON and I have the right to call myself a writer even if I don’t do it YOUR way which is, you know, to actually write stuff, and you have absolutely NO right to define “writer” for me because my definition is up to me and I’m never gonna do what you tell me to do no matter what you say, Hater!”

Then they slap their hands over their ears and jump up and down and run around in circles while screaming “La la la la la!” to shut out my voice. Wow. And we’re not even married.

Okay. Thing is, I didn’t find “my” way, okay? So please stop saying that. Now, people are different. If you personally feel you have to contemplate your “creative process” or find your particular “way” or any of that, great. Knock yourself out. But don’t include me in all that. Again, I didn’t find “my” way. What I found was Bradbury’s way and Heinlein’s way and the way of every long-term, highly productive professional fiction writer who ever lived: I write.

I don’t spend so much as a second contemplating my creative process, and I absolutely do not “give myself permission” to do anything, ever. I hasten to add, if you feel you have to go through all those machinations, that’s fine with me. I just write.

Oh, and I don’t accept advice on writing fiction from folks who are less productive than I. If you’re a priest and you want to describe what it’s like to be on your side of a confessional, that’s wonderful. If you’re a surgeon and you can fill me in on what it’s like to slice through those layers from the skin to the heart, that’s great. But if you’re a writer and you are less successful and productive than I, well, that would just be silly. It would be kind’a sort’a like accepting advice on driving a sixteen-wheeler across the country from a person who has only driven her Prius around the block once a day for the last thirty years.

Finally, I don’t offer advice on what I don’t know to be true. I just don’t. I also don’t claim to be what I’m not, although certainly what anyone else chooses to do in that regard is strictly up to them. I mean, if I called myself a mechanic or plumber or firefighter or lawyer or doctor or grocery store clerk, I would feel compelled to actually fix engines or plumb pipes or fight fires or practice law or practice medicine or spray water on vegetables. But I’m not any of those things.

I’m a writer. I write.

Harvey

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks!

A Tip and Resources for Writers of Short Fiction

Hi Folks,

Dean Wesley Smith is the professional long-term fiction writer whom I consider my mentor. He’s made his living with his fiction for over 3o years and has well over 100 novels published through traditional publishers. This is back before traditional publishers lost their minds and made their contracts completely one-sided.

I emailed Dean about my most recent (at the time, back in November, 2014) short story, “Saving the Grenlow”:

“Seriously doubt I’m up to Asimovs or any of that yet, but I did just post (yesterday) my latest short story of the week, an SF piece a little under 3,000 words based on one of our assignments in the SF workshop. I think you might like it if you get time to drop by.”

His reponse?

“Wow, Sheila [Williams, editor] would be angry if she read that. How dare you pre-edit her magazine for her? And it clearly hasn’t sunk in yet for you that writers are the worst judges of their own work. You are going to need to learn that and stop devaluing your work with false judgements.”

So there you go. As some of you know, I don’t usually “devalue” my own work. That particular time, the groveling just snuck up on me, probably because I was talking with my mentor. But his “How dare you pre-edit her magazine for her?” really hit me. Duh. Don’t devalue your own work with false judgments. Seriously.

Topic of the Day: Traditional Publishing for Short Fiction

Don’t misread this. I would NEVER advocate going the traditional publishing route with novels, not the way traditional publishers’ contracts read right now. Don’t take my word for it. Check ’em out for yourself. And when you read the part that says your book belongs to the publishing company until it goes “out of print,” remember that “print” now includes ebooks, which literally NEVER go out of print. Be careful out there.

On the other hand, there is absolutely nothing wrong with making a quick few hundred dollars on a short story BEFORE self-publishing it to Amazon and Smashwords, right?

If any of you would like to find traditional short story markets that pay professional rates, DWS and another person in a workshop with me suggested checking these sites:

Duotrope at http://duotrope.com

The Grinder at http://thegrinder.diabolicalplots.com/

Also, look for some of the big annual short story anthologies, like the ‘Best Short stories of XYZ year” and some of the major genre annual anthologies. They’ll list the markets the stories came from, as well as a list of markets that were considered for inclusion.

The Pushcart Prize anthology also has great lists of nominated magazines, with addresses.

With short fiction, of course, you should always follow their guidelines. To not do so is an insult.

So there you have it. Believe in yourself. You believed in your story enough to write it, so submit it and see what happens. There’ll be plenty of time to self-publish to Smashwords and Amazon when rights revert to you after traditional publication. After you’ve pocketed that three hundre dollar check.

‘Til next time, happy writing!

Harvey

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks!

Announcement — WooHoo!

Hi Folks,

Just an announcement today.

I’m ever cognizant that there are writers too far away to attend my on-site seminars and writing intensives. And frankly, I’m not doing many of them anymore anyway.

To that end, I put together some audio lectures. There are several on various aspects of the craft itself, and today I decided to put the best technique I’ve ever learned back in the lineup.

It’s called Writing Off Into the Dark. If you know any writers who might be interested, please let them know. They can get all the information on all the lectures at http://harveystanbrough.com/lecture-series. For Writing Off Into the Dark, scroll down to Lecture 12.

Pssst. I first discovered Writing Off Into the Dark not quite a year ago. I began applying it and Heinlein’s Business Rules in mid-April of 2014. Since then, I’ve written 52 short stories, 3 novels and a novella in just over 313,000 words. I’ve written another 29,000 words on my current novel. What’s really cool is that 275,740 of those words came since 1 October 2014. And what’s even cooler than that is that from January 1 to February 16, I’ve written just under 110,000 words (109,763).

All because of Writing Off Into the Dark and Heinlein’s Rules.

Now granted, this is not the way your English teacher or your critique group says you should write. Then again, my English teacher never wrote and published a novel. And as for critique groups, if the members are more widely published than I am and have a larger readership, I’ll listen.

Thing is, this is how Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein and all the pulp writers and every long-term professional writer out there writes. That’s good enough a recommendation for me. (grin)

Anyway, all the audio lectures are good. I suggest you swing by and look at them, especially if you haven’t taken my seminars or if you missed a few. Once you sign up for one, you can listen to it as often as you like and come back to it whenever you like.

Back on the 21st with the next regular post.

‘Til then, happy writing!
Harvey