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More What You’d Call Guidelines…

Over at Making Light, James MacDonald explains How to Get Published.

Before I go any further, let me state for the record that MacDonald knows his stuff.  He contributes good writing advice at Making Light, Absolute Write, and elsewhere.

That said, I’m gonna argue with a few of his points now, ’cause what fun would it be if we all agreed with each other? :-)

To be a writer, you must write.  Absolutely, 100%, yes!  However, MacDonald goes on to give the oft-repeated advice, “Write every day.”  Good advice, but not an iron-clad rule.  I write five days a week, but generally don’t write on weekends.  I believe writing every day is a good goal, but ultimately, it’s important to find the schedule that works for you.  The important thing is that you’re writing.

On the day you reach THE END, put the book aside for six weeks.  Let me put it this way: I wrote, revised, and started submitting Goblin Quest [B&N | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon] over the course of six weeks, and that seems to have worked out pretty well for me.  Distance can be a very good thing, and these days I usually try to do a short story or something else between drafts/books as a palate-cleanser.  But once again, writing is like the Matrix: some “rules” can be bent, while others can be broken.1

Now find a publisher.  This is exactly what I did when I finished Goblin Quest, actually.  It’s not the path I’d follow if I had to do it all over again today.  Publishers are slow to respond (2.5 years in one case), and they ask for exclusivity.  Personally, I would go directly to querying agents, and let them submit to the publishers.  Authors have sold books both ways, as you can see in that First Book Survey someone did earlier this year.

I remember being a new author trying to break in, and assuming that Advice = Law.  If a pro said I had to sell short stories before selling a novel, then by Asimov’s Sideburns, that was what I must do!

It messed me up more than once.  So while I think it’s incredibly important to listen to authors who have this sort of knowledge and experience, it’s also important to remember that none of us have the Gospel of Getting Published.  (And I don’t believe MacDonald is trying to preach Publishing Gospel, but I know how easy it is for new writers to take things as such.)

That said, MacDonald gives some good advice, and those working to break in could do much worse than to take a few minutes to read his post.

  1. With most rules, things generally turn out better if you make sure you understand the rule before you break it.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


Dec. 7th, 2010 04:12 pm (UTC)
Good advice in general--I've read similar from Stephen King--but, as you say, not every way works for everyone. I'm much closer in the put-the-book-aside-for-six-weeks-and-cleanse-your-palate thing (actually, I tend to do six months, though that may change now) but writing every day? Nope. If nothing else, I have strange geeky hobbies that involve running around in the woods pretending to be a wizard six weekends a year, so...no.

I try to either write *something*, even if just a lengthy LJ reply, or to do something creative and storytelling-related, just about every day. I don't know if that's a getting-published thing, but my brain tends to go twitchy and strange otherwise.

Dec. 7th, 2010 06:12 pm (UTC)
Writing something every day can be a good thing too -- helps keep the writing "muscles" in shape, even if it's not the fiction muscles, if that makes sense?

I think a lot also depends on the assumptions and the goals of the writer. Someone hoping to be a full-time commercial writer doing multiple books a year should probably plan on writing most every day; but someone with different goals may not need to do that.
Dec. 7th, 2010 07:22 pm (UTC)
That's true!

I'd like to be a full-time commercial writer, eventually, but I doubt it will happen--if nothing else, the state of health care in this country means I want to be associated with a largish company for a good while yet.
Dec. 7th, 2010 07:42 pm (UTC)
Not sure I agree about writing every day even under those circumstances. Unless I'm getting tight on deadline I write five days a week and take weekends off because that helps me keep it in the mental box labeled "job."


Jim C. Hines


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