Friday, July 14, 2006

How to succeed at or survive writing

Posted by Trent Walters at 1:53 PM
Various authors (and editor) on writing:

Lou Anders
Paolo Bacigalupi
James Gunn
Kij Johnson
Susan Linville
Pamela Sargent
Robert Sawyer
George Zebroski

James Gunn opens by quoting Fred Pohl:

1) way of desperation (story due tomorrow -- write fast and furious
2) way of inspiration (write when muse strikes)
3) way of sanity (4 pages/ day -- pay bills)

All three ways work. Must write.

So what are the secrets of production?

Robert Sawyer: Everything seems suddenly more important than writing:
8-hour day or word count (2000) (for first draft)
Can call it a day once hit 2000. You have incentive
If you’re in middle of something, you can pick right up.

(Gunn -- Yes, Hemingway, but Gunn prefers finishing scene so he could think about next scene.)

Kij to Sawyer: How affect revision?

RS : Overwrites 125,000 -> 100,000
Writing is hard work

JG -- if you love to write, you're doing something wrong
GZ -- what if you like to suffer writing like I do?
JG -- Likes rewriting since all need to do is tinker. M.s. slows down -- no worries. Start at beginning and work way to slow-down

GZ -- accretes -- find things missed. A “put-it-inner”
KJ : 6500 story. Accrete parts -- wants to study character, add subplot. Just keeps adding
RS: Outlines
GZ: Programs brain to write w/o Think of whole thing at once. Wake up to new story holes, every week. Never at a loss
Creative dreaming -- dream lucidly -- wish fulfillment that make sense
Dream -- workable is first
Van Vogt woke self every two hours

RS: Typewriters forced serial writing. Wordprocessor does not force linear production
GZ: Disagrees. Wrote end of Macrolife first (20,000 words)
JG: Writers make excuses for not writing. Writes in office with door open. Write whenever and however you can
GZ : Stealth writing, the secret shift. If something occurs to you, write it down.
RS: Doesn’t schedule vacations during 1st draft. Doesn’t worry if he misses a day. Just finished a novel. Between assignments.
GZ: Sometimes waits[wakes up?] to writing.
RS: Don’t write linearly, because always some portion you can work on
KJ: If you’re bored with writing, then skip ahead. You might find you don’t need those scenes.
GZ: Learned that every part should be the good stuff.
LA: Elmore Leonard: Doesn’t write the bad stuff
JG: What do you do after a workshop? Send stuff to get published. Marked difference for writers. Editors evaluate coldly. Always write with a purpose and know what that purpose is: To move somebody. All should contribute to final effect:

GZ: Infinity One. Walked in, hand-delivered.
RS: It doesn’t matter who you are. It’s the story.
PB: William Gibson advised to write short. PB wanted write cooler, differently. John Clute & Elizabeth Hand advised on his story: de-Cyberpunk it--gun to write different
KJ: Important to meet people
PS: No confidence. Sold 1st story to Ferman after GZ fetched out of wastebasket. Got tough for a couple of years. Could not meet editors.
PB: Gordon Van Gelder rejected next 3 stories, still rejects.
KJ: Skill will rise, but also luck and also people you know (nice, intelligent, clean, regular contributor vs. other )
PS: Clean m.s. Short cover letter (says “I am sane.”). Presentation should be...
LA: ...human.
GZ: Being nice to editors can do trick.
PS: But you don’t know it wasn’t the story that sold the story [as opposed to being nice].
LA: [to verify GZ's point] Won’t solicit stories from jerks. Too many good writers to work with. Won’t look at unsolicited or unagented. Agents who know science fiction. Bought Infoquake thru slush. Reads some short fiction mags, reads for van guard of what’s happening in field. Attend cons, read Locus. Rule for networking: Only approach if you have something to offer in return. Be a reviewer.
JG: If you're going to review, learn how to review, for god’s sake. [silent applause from Trent]
KJ: Began in small press -- now had a publication credit. Kind of a slush process. Next story was medium press, Pulphouse. Then pro: Amazing. Met people. Worked in publishing. Met more people. Good, disciplined, and passion. But also circumstance carries you over.
JG; Not in favor of cover letters. You don’t have to sell yourself. William Gibson sold a few small stories. Terry Carr noticed.
GZ: Terry’s editorial policy was, once author established himself, to let author have last word. Locus makes writing feel like a horse-race.
RS: Gibson: World con in Australia so it didn’t matter that he was unknown. Ace Special -- got less money. Paolo right -- write better. Story has to be about something. Have to have something worth saying. Try to do something major. If you aren’t socialable, hide. If you are, socialize. If you don’t present well, hide
JG: [as an aside] Pohl introduced book as Necromancer at Nebula. Gibson thanked everyone for helping write Necromancer [as opposed to Neuromancer.]
DT: meeting people helped her realize that what she thought was a rejection was a request for a rewrite
LA: Publishers do less to promote. You need to be out there pushing. Need charisma.
RS: You have to get out there and sell. Sign your own books. Though do not try to sell people. Put in hands of people who will appreciate.
JG: Reinforcing DT’s story, JG told Pat Ford to send Schmidt. But Ford didn’t understand Schmidt didn’t reject. JC standard rejection: “It’s amusing but it ain’t SF.”
GZ: Pohl: When I didn’t care about the buck, it took care of itself. Best results were writing his own stories.
RS: Stanley Schmidt called despite many rejections. Shoot high first.
LA: Sometimes writers over-submit to editors. Get sick of seeing their names/stories.
PB: You may not know if it’s a good story. By time I finish, I hate all stories; they're worked until I’ve done all I can.
SUL: Rejection doesn’t mean the story’s bad.
RS: Yes, Paolo’s right. Get it as good as you possibly can, FIRST. First drafts can piss off editors.
PS: Especially true for anthologies if already have another -- even if they think is genius.
LA: Don’t have time to read whole m.s. if he know it’s wrong, even if knows the guy
JG: on Pohl, re: Heinlein. Write, finish what story, revise only at editorial order (Gunn unsure if he agrees with this standard of revision), send until sells. Persistence is name of game. Can’t categorize story even if rejected--“Old Folks at Home” rejected because slick by SF mags, rejected by slicks because SF.

Economics of being a writer

GZ: Diversify: edit, articles, interviews. Persist. If you chase money, you end in disaster.
LA: Marusek: Alaska log cabin, salmon, 2 hours of graphic design/ day
KJ: need marketing support
GZ: Joseph Conrad: Go forward any way you can. Willfulness generates
PS: Careers: supportive spouses, sympathetic to writers. Pick boring job that doesn’t drain creativity
GZ: It's like "Stargold’s End": Invent your way out -- willfulness
JG: Only recently could people make a living at writing. Mostly people had dayjobs. James Blish got writer’s block each time dropped day job. Some of best writing is by part-time writers.
GZ: You’d be surprised on how much you can live on.
PB: What do you want out of writing? Tie-ins. To make living -- sacrifices needed. Half-time job.
GZ: Write stories constantly; they’ll come back to help you.

PS: This was an attractive profession to those who love to read and read. Grew up reading Charlotte’s Web, Bambi, Nature of the Universe
PB: Wanted to be best-selling author. Early ego kept him going--feeling that he would break out. Inspired by New Yorker, newspapers, biographies.


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