Posts Tagged ‘social media’

Last time, class, we considered the question of the classic advice, “Write what you want to read.” We concluded that it was good advice, so long as one is prepared to accept that one may be the only person in the world who wants to read it. (Or one of a relatively small handful.) This leads us to wonder, however, what other timeless bits of advice have only limited benefits? And how are they limited?

Let’s begin by acknowledging that no one writer’s career path is the same. (Honestly, if we acknowledge that, we can dispense with the rest of this post, but that would be kind of pointless. So let’s simply accept it as an underlying theme.) Just as no writer is going to reach success by the same route as any other, no one set of “rules” is going to apply to every writer. But as one who has been haunting the edges of this business since submissions were made on paper, through the mail, I’ve seen a great many truisms float by my eyes, and I’ve come up with some opinions:

Write what you know. This is good advice. Indispensable, actually. As classic as “Write what you like to read,” but more philosophically obtuse. The question always comes up: “What do I know about spaceships/dragons/zombies?” The answer is that this is not what the advisor is talking about. Fiction of every kind is about people. Write what you know about Life. Then dress it up with zombies.

All authors need a web presence. Well, yes and no. You should have some kind of web page, because readers like to know about their favorite authors, at least listing a basic biography and bibliography. But you don’t need a blog, unless you want one. In fact, if you’re not into the Internet at all, don’t create a page. A neglected web site is worse that none. Same goes for other on-line experiences.

Don’t pay to be published. This is absolutely true. You don’t pay a publisher, and you don’t pay an agent. Ever.

Don’t quit. If you persist long enough, you will be published. Again, yes and no. The only guarantee is that if you do quit, you won’t ever make it. But there’s no guarantee that persistence will always win–although it is an odds-on favorite.

You can break the rules when you’re successful. Well, yes, sometimes, but you may need to break the rules to be successful.* The question is not whether people will let you break the rules, but whether you can break them well enough that people allow it. You may do that first time out; you may never do it. If the story demands it, do it, and let the chips fall where they may.

Self-publishing is the only way to go. You keep all the control, and you reap much more money. This is highly questionable.  No one really knows how self-publishing works. There are a thousand ways to succeed, and a million ways to fail. People who say that self-publishing is the One True Path are as bad as those who swear it is the wide road to Hell. It may be for you, and it may not.

Writers should refrain from taking political stances on social media. Gauge your audience. Are your views such that they will disagree with you? Strenuously? Then you should probably keep your thoughts to yourself–at least by that name. On the other hand, if you think it will help, go for it. Activists like to write; why shouldn’t writers…activate? Just be prepared to take what comes.

Show, don’t tell. We finish with another classic, one of the few real “rules.” Pretend you are the reader, experiencing the story through your protagonist’s eyes. Instead of writing that, “He came upon a village,” tell us what he saw: “A collection of one-story huts, built of ill-fitted timbers plugged with dried mud that would have washed away in the first rain, were such a thing ever seen in this parched land.”

Writing is a lot like life: The only good rules are those which are so infuriatingly vague that you can spend decades trying to figure out what they mean. Try not to think of it as “vagueness” so much as “wiggle room.” Write a story you’d like to read, and make it entertaining. Just don’t get so caught up in following someone else’s rules that you don’t define your own. (Except no. 3. Always follow no. 3.)

*Please don’t ask me to define success. You have to define it for yourself.



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