Joyous arbitrary point in the solar orbit! Or, as some people like to say, Happy New Year! Hope 2018 hasn’t been too rough on you so far.
At the start of the year I try to scribble out something about why I keep writing this ranty blog week after week (sometimes twice a week) for year after year (over ten years now). It’s not like I’ve got thousands of fans checking this page all the time. Heck, I see the numbers. The average post here barely gets 200 views, and I’m willing to bet a good handful of those are bots looking to drop some spam links about great opportunities mining bitcoins or something like that...
Please don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the eyes I get. I’m honestly amazed by the half-dozen or so of you who’ve reading these rants for years now. Since long before I was considered any kind of pro.
But let’s be honest. If you added it all up, I probably put 80-100 hours a year into this blog. I could write a third of a novel in that time—a novel I’d probably get paid for. Heck, that’s three other books I could’ve written in the years I’ve spent here.
Hardly the best use of my time.
Well, for a long time (and still sometimes) it came from frustration. It’s annoying to watch a movie or read a book and see people make basic storytelling mistakes. Not “oh, I didn’t like that choice”—full-on mistakes.
And I see a lot of them because, in my self-flagellating way (oh, get your mind out of the gutter), I tend to watch a lot of B-movies. Because I believe people can learn at least as much from the bad stuff as the good stuff. Possibly more from the bad stuff (think of it as a literary Anna Karenina principle, odd as that sounds). So I watch the B-movies, break down problems, and then rant about them here when I spot recurring patterns of mistakes.
Writing these posts also helps me figure out stuff, to some extent. I’ve approached some problems in my own writing from the angle of “how would I explain this on the ranty blog” (sort of like going to the doctor and saying “I’ve got this friend who’s been having, y’know... problems...”). And once I’ve figure out a way to avoid a problem, I like to share it with all of you and the bitcoin bots.
But there’s one simple reason I do it. The same reason I look forward to doing the Writers Coffeehouse every month over at Dark Delicacies
I wish there’d been something like this when I started out.
Seriously, back in those heady days (when half the writers were shrieking about how papyrus was going to mean the death of clay tablets and anyone who didn’t adapt immediately was soooooo Old Kingdom) it was tough to come across decent writing advice. Of the four fiction-writing instructors I had between high school and college, one was fantastic, two were okay, and one was just bad (as a teacher and especially as a writing teacher). There were only two writing magazines that were easily accessible (and I say this as a college student whose campus had a huge newsstand). The internet at this point was pretty much just six trained ravens, at least three of which were out at any give time carrying messages and they always made that horrible screeeeEEEEEEEEEchhhhhhhh...
The idea a professional writer would toss out advice at random was just mind boggling to me. Even when I got in touch with a few, like Ray Bradbury or Lloyd Alexander, the fact that they responded clearly had to be the exception, not the rule. And I still see that mindset today—that pro writers are these crabby, closed off people who clawed their way to this point in their career and will scare off anyone who tries to take their perch from them.
That’s nonsense. To paraphrase a friend of mine “other writers aren’t my competition.” Writers help other writers. We offer those little leg-ups we wish we’d gotten from the start and try to steer folks away from the bad advice we followed for too long.
So that’s why I do it. Because I want to help people. Because there isn’t much solid writing advice out there, and a lot of what there is tends to be about how to make a million dollars by self- publishing your novel about the great Bitcoin heist of 2019. Because it’s kinda fun.
Seriously, though... why do you keep showing up?
Speaking of showing up, next time, I’d like to talk a little bit about them. And what they know.
You know who I’m talking about.
Until then, go write.