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Thread: Really Bad News for Aspiring Writers

  1. #1
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    Really Bad News for Aspiring Writers

    Just what we need, right? More bad news!

    I don't need to tell you how difficult, if not impossible, to "break in." Some of us have been experiencing decades of frustration. Unless one specializes in specific genres, such as Young Adult fiction, SF, and Romance, no respectable publishing house will accept "unsolicited" manuscripts. Since there are practically no mainstream magazines which publish fiction--and now, as the Mother Jones article states, fewer literary journals--it's nigh impossible to establish a track record, required by most literary agents who seem to be legitimate (i.e.without upfront reading fees.)

    Despite the fact that the rise of desktop publishing has managed to expunge a little of the stigma attached to the option formerly known as "vanity" publishing, this is not a choice for those of us who are financially bereft.

    So what is an aspiring writer to do? Please read the article and weigh in.

    It's okay to commiserate-- I'm with you 100%-- but what we really need are
    solutions!

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    riding a cosmic vortex MystyrMystyry's Avatar
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    On the surface it seems disastrous, but the reality is that we're already swamped with so much to read that for the reader-writer it doesn't make a tot of difference. For the writer who thinks that their 'masterpiece' deserves to put them on the literary map and everyone's lips at the Saturday cocktail party, it was always a struggle unless you were a devout secret misanthropist who would rather promote (first to the publisher, then the readership at large) than write, or one of the rare few that luckily caught a gap in the market and seized it.

    If your purpose in writing is money then there are easier, more efficient ways to make it (like the lottery or Bingo for example). Most writers I've met do it as a meditation or personal therapy, not as their main (dependable) income - but there are exceptions, like columnists and now some Bloggers.

    The trick it would seem is to first define your demographic, and then target your words at them. Call it genre writing, but it's the case that Harry Potter will never appeal to the majority, just a sufficiently large base to make the author a lovely sparkling bundle after the chance hit of the first - but later there was anticipation for what was to come next, and odd little leaks, and also a movie, and seemingly unlimited advertising budget. And for what? A load of, in essence, tedious crap!

    Better for everyone not to aim to be that successful really.

    Anyway, very few literary works are The Great One, rather some become popular by word of mouth, and others by being genuinely 'novel. As for short stories, writers who became successful at it always had to write (and submit, and rewrite, and resubmit) a ton of them - masochists for sure, but we're all thankful for their die-hard attitude

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    Quote Originally Posted by AuntShecky View Post
    So what is an aspiring writer to do?
    Write while also working another job and keep pushing their work until it gets somewhere, maybe? Isn't that what writers have been doing for decades, if not centuries?

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    The trick is to get a good publicist. Don't bother to write until someone knows your name, as unless your name is in the public consciousness, no one will read you anyway. If you are female and have an enormous bust, a few photographs displaying it in the paper on a regular basis will probably make you marketable. Success in some sporting endeavour may aid the physically gifted male, but there is always crime. Commit some terrible atrocity and make a big splash, then sell a story. Over here there is some kind of law which prevents a fellon from benefiting financially from his crime, but you could always write something fictional when you get out and your name will be a passport to fortune, or at the very least, an agent.

    Make yourself famous and it won't matter how badly you write; you will have an audience.

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    riding a cosmic vortex MystyrMystyry's Avatar
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    Ah yes! The modern cult of looks, celebrity, notoriety, and/or personality! I completely forgot about those attributes!

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    The problem the article is describing is that literary publications at universities are not likely to be subsidized in the future. They will have to make a profit to survive which means they will have to have a paying readership which means that writers they publish will have to be interesting to those readers.

    This is not just a problem for writers, but also for editors and others producing those magazines. They can expect to be replaced if they don't produce something that sells.

    I don't see anything really wrong with what is happening and the author of the article, Ted Genoways, provided a solution to the problem at the end of the article: "write something we might want to read".

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    Dear Lord, what am I to do? I have neither an imposing bust, nor newspaper headline cover.

    The answer. Keep plugging away. Don't insult your intelligence, but most of all your creativity to public opinion poll tastes. You might be six feet under, when first "discovered."

    Having said that, it is perhaps easy for me to pontificate, having made my dough already.

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    Yep. Don't do what you love to do because it's too hard. The most important thing is to be comfortable, even if it makes you oddly sad in a quiet way.






    J

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    Registered User Darcy88's Avatar
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    Work a day job like the vast majority of other artists do. Write in your free time and write for the pure enjoyment of writing, not for the accolades. If you're good and you put your stuff out there eventually some amount of recognition will come. Writing is a big part of my identity, but I've finally reached the point where I have accepted the necessity of an uncreative day-job or career and am content to write 2-4 hours a morning or night and plug away however long it takes until I achieve literary success, even if it takes decades. Ultimately I write for myself alone. I know when my stuff is good and when its ****. Writing something good fills me with a warm sense of accomplishment regardless of whether or not it is ever going to be read by anyone.

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    Or you can just self-publish, like a certain LitNet poster.

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    leak a sex tape of yourself with some celebrity or politician and then, in the 15 minutes of fame, mention that you write books.
    "If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life." -Thoreau

    Ní mar a dtarraingím mo chuid anála ach mar a dtugaim mo ghrá a bhfuil mé i mo chónaí
    (Not where I breathe but where I love, I live)

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    OMG! (as the kids tweet and text.) I've spent the last four or five decades pursuing a profession that is as passé as vaudeville!

    Getting one's manuscript read and accepted has always been an extremely difficult endeavor, even in earlier decades when a mainstream market for short stories still existed. The odds of one's byline ever appearing in The New Yorker are even slimmer than winning $100 million in the lottery. Now with increasingly numbers of academic journals folding, --as explained in the Mother Jones article -- yet another possible option has been lost. (Not that there was in any way easier to find placement among the young editors who can be more discriminating than William Shawn ever was.)

    There are a few "little" or "literary" magazines still around, but if you're thinking of submitting material to them, I can't remind you enough how important it is to be familiar with the publication. I don't mean just the "submission guidelines" --such as not sending anything in the summer months-- I mean in the type of fiction that the journal publishes.

    Read the back issues. Few of us can afford to subscribe, but we can try to look for "free" stories on line or bound volumes of past issues in public libraries. You might find that the majority of selected stories are quite different from the kind of stuff you write, in choice of subject matter, if not in quality. You'll save a lot of time, postage money, and heartache if you decide not to submit your stories there.

    Read The other night I finally caught the film, Quills, on cable tv. The movie was rough to watch; understandably so, since it was about the Marquis de Sade and his obsession for writing porno amid (perhaps justifiable) censorship and confinement to a mental institution during the Napoleonic Era. Despite its stellar acting, the movie was shocking, but I learned something from it. The "Abbé" in charge of the mental hospital looks at the extensive book collection which the Marquis had been allowed to keep in his cell and remarks: "Yet you never read them. You write more than you read--the mark of a true amateur."

    We may (we hope) not be sadists or degenerates, but are we "amateurs"? Besides the unfortunate definition as non-professional, the word literally means "one who does what he loves," as Jack of Heart's comment implies. A popular mantra of the 1980s was "Do what you love. The money will come." After all these years, we're still waiting, just as we're waiting for the 1980-style "supply side economics" to "trickle down."

    In the meantime, those of us with a compulsion to write fiction have no other choice than to follow the VQR editor's advice: "Treat writing like your lifeblood instead of your livelihood. And for Christ's sake, write something we might want to read."

    Finally, the title of a documentary about the jazz trumpeter and Schoolhouse Rock star, Jack Sheldon, is Trying to Get Good. That's what we aspiring fiction writers should do -- try to "get good." Even if it takes 50 years. Keep writing, keep posting --for free -- on sites such as this one on the off-hand that the cream might rise to the top (if it doesn't curdle in the meantime.)
    Last edited by AuntShecky; 02-25-2012 at 06:33 PM.

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    riding a cosmic vortex MystyrMystyry's Avatar
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    A mate of mine who used to be a professional stand-up is now teaching comedy writing at university. His students (still studying) are experiencing no problem having their work accepted by television and radio, some are getting their plays performed, and so far two this year have signed book deals (I don't know the previous years ratio).

    When this year's crop were asked if they dropped his name, they all said no (they didn't want to sabotage their chances at a career).

    I expect the way it works is that he's an infectiously funny and enthusiastic bloke who just automatically puts you in a good mood if you were otherwise not feeling up to much.

    My advice to young writers would be to seek these sort of people out rather than crappy internet articles about hard it all is, and how we're all getting ripped off, and going to Hell etc

    New jokes and one liners never go out of fashion - in fact the one thing the world craves is humour.

    Would you rather your blurb to read:

    'A serious and penetrating discourse on the machinations of the current political landscape' - the Publisher

    or:

    'Hilarious! I laughed until my head fell off!' - the Author

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    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Spot on MM.

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    Word Dispenser BookBeauty's Avatar
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    I agree wholeheartedly that writers have a tendency to write more than they read. And reading is likely as important, if not more important, than the writing itself. I have certainly been guilty of this crime.

    The sad fact that fiction seems to be dying out is a symptom of a much greater issue.

    Everything is becoming increasingly about profit, and entertainment. People's attention spans fade faster than they can keep up with their Facebook pokes, and Twitter feeds. The line drawn between the appropriate, and the downright crude and perverse, continues to fade as well.

    The global economic crisis is likely the root of the problem, which can only be made better if the economy were to be made sustainable, instead of its continual growth, making it a necessity for everyone to sell-sell-sell, buy-buy-buy, at an increasing pace-- An eventual impossibility, and an inevitable crash.
    There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. ~Oscar Wilde.

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