Jim C. Hines (jimhines) wrote,
Jim C. Hines

Bad Writing Advice

1. My pop quiz for writers regarding public (online) behavior, over at SF Novelists.

2. Mind Meld presents some of the Funniest Writers in the History of SF/F, including my contribution at the end. (Leading to a new question for the pop quiz -- when asked who the funniest authors are, do you proclaim yourself to be one of them? Really?)

3. I need to give away another copy or two of The Stepsister Scheme [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy]. Last time we did a joke contest. Any suggestions or preferences for this giveaway?


One of the panels at Millennicon this weekend was "How Not to Break Into Publishing," talking about all of the bad advice out there for aspiring writers. Needless to say, there's enough bad advice to keep the panel going all weekend. ("Don't have credits to add to your cover letter? Lie!" "Want to really grab an agent's attention? Slide your manuscript under the stall when he's doing his business!" "Don't like the submission guidelines? Ignore 'em!"*)

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you a prime example of how not to break into publishing. Russet Noon is "the tribute sequel to the Twilight saga". Fanfiction is one thing, but this sucker is supposedly going on sale later this year. Anyone care to take any bets as to how long before Stephanie Meyer's lawyers reduce the whole lot of them to a smoking crater?

::Grabs the popcorn::

My first contribution to the panel was that anyone who tries to tell you "This is the One True Path to publishing success" is probably full of crap. That might be the path they followed, but talk to a dozen authors and you'll get a dozen different stories about how they all broke in. The stories will probably have some things in common (the writer didn't interrupt an editor's poopy time, didn't try to sell his/her fanfiction book, etc.), but few of us follow the exact same path.

Another issue that came up is that the longer a writer has been publishing, the less useful his or her story is likely to be. I got into trouble because I believed I had to write short fiction before trying a novel. 30-40 years ago, that might have been true. But at the time I was trying to break in? Not so much. I ended up spending years working on short fiction before trusting myself to try novels. The short stuff is fun and I enjoy writing 'em, but I prefer novels, and I wish I had started them earlier. Makes me wonder how long it will be before I'm completely out of touch with the new crowd of eager young authors....

It was noted that posting your book on the web and waiting for editors to swoop in and discover you generally isn't a great idea, unless you're John Scalzi. But for every John Scalzi, there are thousands of UnScalzis. Guess which one you're likely to be?

We also talked some about publicity once you've broken in, and the idea that writers must blog and have a web site. I actually agree with the web site advice. You want to have some minimal presence that will allow people to track you down if they want to do things like buy your books, invite you to contribute a story to an anthology, find out who your agent is so they can pay you lots of money to make a movie of your work, and so on. But telling authors they must blog to succeed?

Blogging can help sell books, sure. Heck, I know a number of readers here have picked up my stuff as a result of the blog. But I do it because I enjoy it, and because it lets me network with other writers and readers, not because it sells a few more books. (Don't get me wrong, I'll take all the extra sales I can get ;-) It takes a long time to build up an audience, and a lot of writing to maintain the thing. If you want to write one, great! But don't do it expecting a noticeable effect in your sales.

So what's the worst advice you've ever received?

*Apparently this tactic only works if you're ccfinlay

Tags: writing
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