Advice From Successful Writers

Saturn After Equinox, Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, ISS, JPL, ESA, NASA

One of my greatest distractions from writing is reading what other writers have written about the craft. This is no minor area of publication, for if you happen to visit any decent-sized bookstore, you will see quite a few book titles that deal with this subject matter. Some may be writers with great name recognition such as Ray Bradbury, Stephen King or Orson Scott Card, while others may be known mostly to other writers, such as Mary Pipher or Dorothea Brande.

Anyway it is always fun to read comments by other writers, especially when I have a deadline due the next day.

Another item that has been making the rounds of literary journals lately, are lists of writing rules, which seem to conveniently come in quantities of ten. Actually, this is a great concept for readers like myself , who can now browse through a simple short  list instead of tackling  a whole book, just to receive literary advice. I might even get my assignments in  on time.

Recently, February 20, 2010 to be  exact, “The Guardian”, a highly respected British newspaper, has jumped into the game and published several lists of ten from a selected short list of contemporary writers. In an article titled, “Ten Rules For Writing Fiction”, the newspaper has published an online article that features lists from Elmore Leonard, Diana Athill, Margaret Atwood, Roddy Doyle, Helen Dunmore, Geoff Dyer, Anne Enright, Richard Ford, Jonathan Franzen, Esther Freud, Neil Gaiman, David Hare, PD James and AL Kennedy. Though not familiar with every name, the lists provided a fun read with some good laughs and sound advice. Here are my personal favorites. Hope you enjoy.

1. The first 12 years are the worst. (Anne Enright)

2.  Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down. (Neil Gaiman)

3.  The two most depressing words in the English language are “literary fiction”. (David Hare)

4. Do not place a photograph of your ­favorite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide. (Roddy Doyle)

5. A problem with a piece of writing often clarifies itself if you go for a long walk. (Helen Dunmore)

6. Have regrets. They are fuel. On the page they flare into desire. (Geoff Dyer)

7. Marry somebody you love and who thinks you being a writer’s a good idea. (Richard Ford)

8. The way to write a book is to actually write a book. A pen is useful, typing is also good. Keep putting words on the page. (Anne Enright)

9. Do back exercises. Pain is distracting. (Margaret Atwood)

10. Remember writing doesn’t love you. It doesn’t care. Nevertheless, it can behave with remarkable generosity. Speak well of it, encourage others, pass it on. (Al Kennedy)

extra rule (Elmore Leornard): My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

So there you go. Advice from the experts that is guaranteed to steer you in the right direction. This little tidbit came from an Australian literary agent’s blog, entitled “Call My Agent”, which is an excellent resource for writers, who have completed their first (or second or third) novel and are seeking representation. Check it out.

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Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad E-book

a glass of beer
a glass of beer

Last week I had the privilege of attending a Mediabistro function in downtown Boston. The get-together was held at a popular watering hole. right in the center of Boston’s financial district. It was the first time I’ve ever attended such an event, but I have taken several classes through the organization, and so for a good hour or so, I got to hob nob with some of the professional writers, who make their living around the great city of Boston. No great superstars here, just some entertaining and hardworking people , who seemed to know what they were doing and were fun to talk to.

New York City Skyline, credit; NOAA.gov
New York City Skyline, credit; NOAA.gov

Now Mediabistro is a national organization, for they are also active in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and a handful of other major American cities. In fact, other places around the country had a seasonal party that occurred about the same time that the Boston party happened. Their website is fun and informative, especially their award winning  blog called GalleyCat.  Also check out their other blog, eBook Newser, which is entirely devoted to the up and coming e-book.

And just this week in New York, Mediabistro sponsored an e-book summit, an event which drew speakers and participants from all over the country and beyond. Anybody who wants to know how the conference went can find a very nice twitter transcript here, but this is really not necessary because the subject of e-books is all over the internet, especially if you follow the blogs of some of the more popular literary agents.

For example, Nathan Bransford recently undertook a survey among his readers to see how the e-book was faring. And guess what! The new format is gaining popularity. You can see the poll results for the last three years here . Also from Nathan is this post on November 23 of this year entitled, “The Top Ten Myths About E-books”.

Here’s another agent blogger, Agent Sydney, discussing e-book deals on the very informative agent blog, “Call My Agent”. Basically, this agent is saying that if you have already published an e-book, it might be more difficult to find a literary agent, because you have taken away the possibility of allowing the agency to handle e-book rights. And finally here is some advice from Jessica Faust at Bookends on the subject of something called e-publishing.

But the question of the day remains; is the e-book going anywhere with its limited commercial success and increased popularity? I am of the opinion that it is not, but I will be the first to admit that this assumption is anywhere from an educated hunch to a wild guess. Best of luck and good searching.

Truly, Everett Autumn.

Boston Public Library
Thinking of Escher, photo of Boston Public Library by E. Autumn