Thursday, January 4, 2018

Why Do I Do This, Anyway...?

            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.
            Sooooo... why?
            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...
            Anyway...
            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.

7 comments:

  1. I keep showing up because I've found it useful. Sometimes I find techniques I'd like to try. Sometimes I find a nugget of wisdom to keep in the back of my mind as I write. Sometimes you give name to or focus on something I've been thinking but couldn't articulate ("The Ignorant Stranger," for example). And sometimes the blog just makes me feel that this thing is doable, which is very useful.

    In any case, I appreciate you take the time to update this thing on a (semi) regular basis.

    Thank you.

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  2. I show up because you're one of my favourite authors and, increasingly, human beings. It takes a big heart to do this at all, even if you sucked at it - which you most certainly do not.

    I found you by Googling around to see when the next Ex- book was coming out. I stayed because you are always entertaining and often inspiring. Good show sir, and I hope you find this endeavour worth continuing.

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  3. As someone who is just starting out, I am very thankful for this blog. You have been immeasurably helpful.

    You have so much great information here, maybe you should think about reposting some of the classics from across the years for the new folk who would be overwhelmed by the backlog. And it's not like some of us couldn't benefit from them as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I try to repost some things, usually with a fresh coat of paint and some new wainscoting on them. Some of the examples from ten years ago don't seem quite as timely, or maybe I've just gotten a better grasp on a point I tried to make back then.

      Plus, in all honesty, they're a quick post on weeks when I'm lagging behind...

      Delete
  4. I'm already crabby and closed-off as an unsuccessful writer, but if I hit it big, I plan to be slightly less so.

    ReplyDelete