Friday, January 26, 2007

Words of Writerly Wisdom, and a Whine

Here are some words on writing from On Writing Horror that resonated with me.

1. Perhaps to transcend categories others have invented for us, we have to be both dead -- long dead-- and "classics." (Joyce Carol Oates)

2. Yet talent, not excluding genius, may flourish in any genre, provided it is not stigmatized by that deadly label "genre." (JCO)

3. We understand that fiction is a lie to begin with. To ignore the truth inside the lie is to sin against the craft, in general, and one's own work in particular. (Stephen King)

4. If she (meaning his wife) had suggested that you can't buy a loaf of bread or a tube of toothpaste with rejection slips, I would have gone out and found a part-time job. (King, recalling his early days).

Number 4 above brought back a few unpleasant memories. Throughout the early and mid 1990s I did a lot of short stories and a lot of non-fiction. I didn’t make a living at it but I always made some money, sometimes $50, sometimes a few hundred, sometimes a few thousand (for non-fiction). I never took a summer off in those days because my wife always said we needed the money to cover insurance and such. I wrote around the edges: at nights, during Christmas break, on weekends. But in 1998 I spent almost a whole year of spare time writing on the book that was to become Cold in the Light. I passed on non-fiction stuff, barely scribbled a short story or two. I had a goal. And that year I earned $13.50 from writing. I remember when we went to figure our taxes for the year and I told my wife how much I’d made from writing, she burst out with this huge, spontaneous laugh. I can still recall it; it still echoes. As JR suggested on his blog today. Sometimes the hooks are buried deep.


Anonymous said...

I haven't made any money on my art or writing for 15 years. That's a deeply burried hook for me. But I keep doing it anyway.

I feel split about the genre label. I can understand how a writer can be pigeon-holed by a label, which is bad. Other times, I love the label and the idea that a writer is a "horror" author and you can always count on him to write horror.

But I think a writer should be free to write anything.

Heather said...

I haven't made any cash to date by writing. I've not been doing it long and I write very slowly. I won a contest once with a $25 prize but they never sent it to me.

At this point in time, I don't really care whether I make any money or not...I'm in it for the education and the challenge. I'm sure over time this will change.

As for genre - If a writer has a good enough marketing team behind them, they should do ok crossing over don't you think?

Steve Malley said...

It takes a fair bit of mental toughness to hang weather those slings and arrows.

The important thing is, you did finish COLD IN THE LIGHT. And found a publisher for it.

And went on to do more and more and more!

Great stuff!

RK Sterling said...

I'm with Steve on this--you hung in there and you published that book! That's nothing to sneeze at.

I figure I'll be lucky if I make $13.50 this year on my writing--I'm just one of five authors in an anthology with a new e-publisher, so seriously, how much will that make? But even if it's just $3.50, I'll still be proud of it, as you should be of yourself as well.

Sidney said...

Yeah, with writing I think the main thing is that you play the game, not how much you make. Of course I think it's true too if you're a writer, you can't not play.

I love the Faulkner quote - "A writer is a creature driven by demons. He doesn't know why they chose him and he's usually too busy to wonder why."

On No. 3, I always love to tell people if they question or criticize: "Okay, you caught me. I made the whole thing up."

Michelle's Spell said...

I loved this post! Nothing is better than support for a writer. Emotional support is the thing -- money is secondary. The first time I got paid for my writing, I kept the check instead of cashing it. It meant more than the money.

Susan Miller said...

I loved King's book "On Writing" and found many useful tips in it. In regards to genre my inclination is to say that we can label ourselves into nonexistence. I love the Faulkner quote mentioned by Sidney. Writers must write. It is rather instinctual.
Thank you for the post.

Danny Tagalog said...

This is the kind of post that gives me hope. I'm probably around the same age as you were when you started writing in the early 90s - and it gives me hope. I'm doing academic stuff at the moment, but hope to move into doing creative stuff a.s.a.p.

Cheers DT

JR's Thumbprints said...

The first time I made money for a short story ($200), it didn't get published. My wife said, "Perhaps they felt sorry for you. Or maybe it's their funny way of telling you to go elsewhere."

Charles Gramlich said...

"Ouch," JR.

Erik Donald France said...

Great post and comments. Love it! Keep on keeping on and congrats on the book! I also liked King's memoir/writing guide.