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ironchef texmex
June 20th, 2004, 08:31 PM
Okay guys, the writer's pond has been getting a little stagnant lately. We've all been having fun imposing our ideas over in the fantasy forum and it's time to get back to business. So here goes:

When I first started trying to write I read an article written by Isaac Asimov. In it he stated that he sometimes received letters from new writers asking him for tips. He then refers to something that Mozart once said when asked a similar question -

"You are young. Start with something very simple and work your way up to symphonies."

"But Herr Mozart," said the youngster, "you wrote symphonies when you were considerably younger than I am now."

"Ah," said Mozart, "but I didn't ask anybody for hints."

Translation: If you have to ask, then get in line with the rabble and beg for your meal.

I always hated that. I hated the condescending tone of his articles and for awhile I hated him. Then, when I started rooting around on this site I found the author section and noticed that the question of an author's, shall we say, unnaturally high self-confidence, came up in discussion more than once. It got me thinking.

Aspiring writers usually have a pretty lengthy period of banging their heads against the wall. Most get rejection letters for years before finding the promised land. So what if there's a character trait that actually gives some an advantage over some others. Arrogance.

Would someone who shrugs off a rejection letter because they believe that their writing is excellent, won't accept the notion that it's not, and just keeps trying, have a sort of 'survival of the fitest' advantage over a more humble writer. Or is that not it at all. Would something like cockiness just keep a writer from recognizing their own faults and improving their skills.

Is any one mind-set better for an aspiring writer than all the others?

June 20th, 2004, 09:21 PM
I think it's better to believe in yourself. Arrogance takes this to the extreme and while I think you have a point, it will probably burn just as many bridges as it erects.

June 20th, 2004, 10:34 PM
I'm going to agree with choppy.

Arrogance doesn't allow you to better yourself. It blinds you to the reality of your ability. Because, even if you think that story/novel is great but editors don't, you always have to keep it in the back of your head that even if you think its pretty good, it could always be better. Also, you also should remember that it could be worse, too. (People are too pessimistic. Nothing wrong with having alittle bit of pride.)

Overall, the way to go is to be humble, hard-working and stubborn.

Just a tangent for conversation: I've only met one author at a bookreading (Gene Wolfe) and I found him remarkably humble. I sure wouldn't be if I could write like that! Anyway, those of you that have met other authors, what did you think about them? cocky or not? Any stories to share?


ironchef texmex
June 20th, 2004, 11:22 PM
I think it's better to believe in yourself. Arrogance takes this to the extreme and while I think you have a point, it will probably burn just as many bridges as it erects.

It sounds good. But belief in what? Think about it. If you're sending your manuscript to a publisher who gets 5,000 unsolicitated scripts a year, and published 5 or so new authors a years, then what kind of odds are we talking about? 1 in a 1,000.

So when you 'believe in yourself' and you send your baby out fourth class, what are you really believing? *That you might be the one*, the one in a thousand. If that's not cockiness then it's at least some serious chudspah!

Camrick, I like what you said. Stubborn. I'd be interested to hear about other authors too. I'm wondering if maybe it's the top-tier folks who have the most cockiness issues. You know, being told you're wonderful all day long and letting it go to your head.

Still, 1 in a 1,000 odds and spending all the time that we spend. That's a whole lot of stubborn.

June 21st, 2004, 12:49 AM
This is all my opinion, so take it as that. And as usual, I'll be wordy in my reply. I know that before I even start typing.

Cockiness comes with large egos. This is usually from what was just said. Someone is pumping a person's ego so hard for so long, they think they're the best in the business. These people are usually good when they start and have a waning lifetime of publishing (they get worse as times goes on). These people will normally come from a comfortable existance and not have to struggle much to make it.

Arrocance is a trait you're born with. These people are really good at what they do, no doubt. The problem is they feel untouchable by the 'unclean' and set themselves apart from the pack with a haughty attitude and snub those beneath their class (even other professionals). These people normally come from priviliged lives. You usually respect these people until you meet them.

Those who start from humble beginings very often stay humble. If they don't end up with ego pumpers on their side, they will stay humble. If they don't let success go to their head and realize that great talent didn't get them to where they are -- their fans did -- they'll stay humble and appreciate everything they gain from their writing. I'd have to say, the honesty and fact that they're here, I'd lump RAS, Gem, and Barclay (as well as a host I can bring up off the top of my head) into this category.

All these above would relate to those who've hit some sort of stature in their given fields. Of course a mid-list author can have any of these traits, but that's not going to give them success. What do I think will help with success. I think most of us in this forum (not yet published) have it.

Tenacity. Stubbornness will only get you so far. The mule eventually gives up and gets dragged along. This is a game you can't quit. All of us here are looking for the right angle, the best timing, the best formula. We're all trying different things and sharing those ideas. We're not willing to let something as simple as a rejection get in the way of our dreams. To us, a rejection is one step closer to publication. Every rejection is another editor who read your work and may remember your name the next time it comes through (I'll share my thinking later). The only way to win -- to win I mean get published -- is to persist and let nothing stand in your way. This isn't arrogance, this isn't cockiness, this is wanting something and going after it.

Myself (I said I mention it), I'm looking at getting my name in front as many editors/publishers and fellow authors as I can. This year alone I've written 39 short stories (33 + the 5 exercises here and 1 I haven't posted anywhere and will possibly never let a living soul read it). I've put 9 stories on my own personal web page. I've put 5 here (and I'm working on the next exercise). I've got 5 I'm currently editing. The rest are either published (5 so far for the year) or in the process somewhere. I've had rejections, yes. When I get a rejection, I try to look at the advice (if any) and decide if they were right or not. If I don't think so (it is my story after all) I'll do a spot polish on the story and ship it out again. I know I'll find a home for certain stories. It's just a matter of hitting the right editor at the right time.

I don't want to be arrogant, I don't want to turn into an ass. I do want to share my stories with as many people as possible. I've already had a level of success and it's made me hungry for more. If I ever do 'make it' I'll still come here. I like the fact I can voice my opinion. I like to offer my view of the world. I hope I'm not boring anyone :). My hope is one day I'll find a home for my book(s) and I'll be able to join the ranks and see people from the other side of the table. As Terry Brooks said (and this was the best advice in his book Sometimes the Magic Works): It's not about you, it's about the fans. If the fans didn't buy your books, you'd not be sitting there in the first place.

Sorry to be so long winded today. I didn't get a chance to work on any stories. :). Tomorrow is another day though. WOO~HOO!

James Barclay
June 21st, 2004, 05:15 AM
For me, determination was the key. Maus, your tenacity paragraph about sums it up. (And thanks for the humility bit. I, of course cannot comment on it without appearing arrogant about how humble I am and therefore falling into a paradox never to be seen again, but I appreciate the thought)

Yes, you have to have a belief in your ability though that doesn't have to express itself as arrogance but more, you have to take the (often many) hits on the way to your goal. There's no getting round the fact that the straight chance of getting picked and published is relatively low but you have to believe that someone, sometime will recognise your talent.

My editor once said that it was a safe bet that about 95% of his slush pile at any time was not publishable. So, if you have the confidence to believe that your work is in the other 5%, your chances improve... then, all you can do is slip the rejection letters into your file, improve your work and submit again.

If you give up, then I'd say that says everything about your desire to be published.


June 21st, 2004, 08:00 AM
As a writer I think you need a combination of confidence in your work, that the story is good and interesting to the reader, but at the same time you need to be open minded enough to realise that it can stll be improved perhaps in the pacing, description or other elements of story telling.
Writers (or anyone for that matter) who think they know it all prove nothing but their own ignorance.
Another thing to remember is that someone will always hate your work regardless if your a unpublished newbie, or a millionaire bestselling author.
Work on your weaknesses and never give up your dream.

June 21st, 2004, 01:58 PM
As Terry Brooks said (and this was the best advice in his book Sometimes the Magic Works): It's not about you, it's about the fans. If the fans didn't buy your books, you'd not be sitting there in the first place.

You can't imagine how much I disagree with that. It's all about you; forget the "fans". The fans aren't paying you to write the stories; they're paying you to let them read them. How much you depend upon the fans' pecunary and ego-bolstering response is up to you. But at the time this becomes more important than the writing you compromise the writing.


On second thought, I don't so much disagree as try to figure out what to make of it.

1. Should I try to make for the most comprehensible text possible, to allow for a maximum number of potential readers? - A decisive NO. Easy texts aren't what I want to write, and they aren't what I want to read.

2. Should I make changes in my text, to suit the market place? - Possibly, although I wouldn't want to put my name under anything that doesn't conform to my conception of what's the best version. Some changes are okay, some are not. It's not that I think that I know better, but it's I who will have to take responsibility for the text; none of the readers have to do that.

3. Should I write the occasional thank-you story? Say, I'm tired of my character, but they love him, so what the hell... (cf. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - Sherlock Holmes)? - Sure, why not. It's not like I lose something in the process...

4. Should I be friendly/polite to them when they make demands on my time? - Definitely. But then, shouldn't I be friendly/polite to anyone who makes demands on my time?


Anyway, those of you that have met other authors, what did you think about them? cocky or not? Any stories to share?

I've never met an author, but I agree that we'll have to get a bit more concrete here.

For example, the Ironchef has mentioned Isaac Asimov and the condescending tone of his articles. Interestingly, I found the tone of Mr. Asimov's articles more ironic than condescending. And quoting Mozart on aspiring writers is the right thing to do, IMO. I find that writers waste to much time looking for the "right way to write", when they could be writing and looking for their own voice in the texts they produce.

All you authors out there: The readers know NOTHING!!! It's all about you!

Be a humble person, by all means, but don't let that get in the way of your writing. I want to hear your voice, not my echo!

June 21st, 2004, 02:56 PM
I guess my point got a bit muddled at the end of my post. Let me try and clarify.

I don't disagree with you that writing is about you. I agree 100%. My point is getting published is NOT about you. It's about give and take and giving readers what they desire. Though you can produce text that people will love to read, I doubt that your vision will be 100% intact once you get it published unless you do everything on your own. Then you'll have to fight against the publishing giants and big names to get your story read by the masses.

My point was that you'd not be writing for a living if it weren't for the fans buying your novels. Even if I never get a label to publish my works, I'll still write. I'll sit here day after day and write. I'll never quit doing it. It's more for me than anyone else. But to get published is my pie-in-the-sky dream and I'm willing to go through the give-and-take gyrations to get my works into the hands of the masses. I'm willing to allow portions of my text to be changed to make it marketable. I'm not going to think I'm the best damn writer around, for to do would be literary suicide (in my opinion).

So in the end, I've got two points.

1) Write for you.
2) Publish for the fans.

Unless I'm mistaken, that's the point(s) both of us are trying to make.

Gary Wassner
June 21st, 2004, 03:47 PM
This can be a very circular conversation. If you give readers something great, then they will like it. The marketplace really shouldn't play any part in what someone writes. But we all know that it does. But look at all the great exceptions to the rule: James Joyce, Tomas Mann, Christopher Isherwood, even Richard Brautigan in his own quirky way. I don't believe for a moment that Joyce cared about the marketplace and what readers want. What about Nietzsche? Brilliant! Insightful! Perceptive beyond belief! Popular? No way. As far as he was concerned, if the masses like you then it's almost axiomatic - you are mediocre. Talk about arrogant! He was arrogant beyond belief, but he was a genius and he was a lunatic. There were periods in his life, some of the most prolific ones, during which he could not even find a publisher to publish his work!