Why you should kill all your original ideas.

14 02 2010
b

Evacuate? In our moment of triumph?

I think you overestimate their chances!

Just wanted to get that out of the way right off the bat.

Last AD&D Question is finally answered. Robert Burl answered: They let you move silently in any conditions. Straight outta the DMG RB!

New question: Which character classes can turn undead? Impress me.

I want to discuss your obsession with original thinking. What’s up with that? Don’t you know that right now you had better be producing semi-romantic teen vampire fiction? Don’t you know it’s the age of post apocalyptic zombie fiction? That is all you are allowed to write!

Why am I saying this? Well for one thing, many in the business will tell you it’s true. I will share an anecdote. A couple of years ago I shopped a novel around for awhile. My first attempts were to agents for the most part with the thought that, much like a Rumba®, I could let the agent loose in my living room, go write something else, and in half an hour the agent would have sucked up all the dirt in my carpet and have a book deal at Tor for me to look over. Obviously my novel didn’t get the bights I wanted but on two occasions I was contacted by an agent that told me that my writing was good, but my subject was all wrong. I don’t have the letters that I received, but they went very close to: We don’t think we can sell a novel about sentient computers manifesting Jungian archetypes, but we think you are a talented writer. If you will put together an end of the world zombie novel for us or Anne Rice-esque vampire tale, we think we can take you on as a client. We are looking for between 70-100k words. Make sure you think in sequels.

I go back and forth between thinking of myself as an artist. I really like Phillip K. Dick’s occupational self-description of, “crap-artist,” and I think that sums me up well. At the time I received those letters however, I was very much and artist- no, I was an artiste’. If I could go back in time and change one stupid, mundane thing that didnt really matter regarding the trajectory of my life, I would change my response to those letters. I would have written 75-100k words of shit. I would have thought sequels. I would have created a character named Renaud that grew up in revolutionary France, moved to New Orleans and had a homo-erotic ‘man-friend’ that he ultimately undercut and emotionally destroyed. I would have then enjoyed the 75-100k income that selling such shit brings a writer.

This would never have happened of course. I would have written about 30k words, gotten super bored, and went back to writing about world controlling AI that dream about snakes eating their tails. Or, alternately, I would have finished the crapfest and sent if off to the agent who would have used it to keep his or her desk level, slush pile from blowing away, or as a wasp/bee swatter. Either scenario is more likely.

What am I saying? I’m saying that you cannot afford to think of writing as a living. It is at best a not-for-profit you run to annoy your friends and embarrass yourself in front of your in-laws with, so you can afford to pay no attention to what is selling. Why should you? You are taking my advice and reading like the guy from the Twilight Zone that breaks his glasses, so you’re not in a vacuum. Influences will filter into your head and make you part of the literary conversation. Your unique voice will be added to those around you, why affect an accent? If an agent or editor ever suggests to you what kind of novel, or story to write because that is what is selling, you tell them that they can either give you an advance or (mature warning) fuck off.

It is a rare thing. Every editor whose work I admire says the same thing: their minds are empty, open skies waiting for the next dove of inspiration to alight on their dharma and defecate into their publishing shakra. They will print anything that is good and satisfies even a minimum, tangential quotient of their publications mission statement. Agents are sales people in the end. Many are great and lovely entities that will be a tiger for their client and earn their keep with cunning and acumen. But many are also Rumbas® that will simply get stuck in between your bed and closet door causing, bouncing back and forth until the juice runs out and your dog pees on them.

That’s the science of fiction my babies.

Remember the birdsnake and keep it wholly.

Next up: more of the same, and I reveal the secret to successfully completing your short fiction. Okay I’ll reveal it now- coffee, but I’m going to make that funny.

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One response

15 02 2010
maggiedot

“embarrass yourself in front of your in-laws with” – Hooray! That’s pretty much the only thing I think I’m doing right! ^_^

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