Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Things I Won't Do to Support My Writing Career

There's a side to the writing life we don't talk about, although thousands of us labor at it daily. I'm speaking of publicity, promotion, the fascinating selves we show the world. It's nothing new. Hemingway understood the value of his suntan and his safaris. Fitzgerald and Zelda knew what they were doing when the frolicked in Parisian fountains. Today we frolic in public for much the same reasons, and with the same studied care. We just do it with keyboards and clicks.

Don't let me fool you; I'm not made of nobler stuff. I'm vain, frivolous and incurably silly, and I crave approval like a golden retriever. And while I write for many reasons--love, longing, pain, generosity, selfishness, frustration--one of these is certainly the wish to entertain. Having been entertained myself several times, I can say with certainty that it's a pleasant sensation.

I hope, furthermore, to become a figure of preposterous influence in world affairs, and such power cannot be seized but through fame. Invisibility is death. Facebook is forever. This is especially true for writers. We must put ourselves out there. We must share far more than our work. Let the form be moving confessional or monkey caper, so long as it floats our name before the many. We must dance, we must post. And I shall.


There are capers I won't perform, sins I won't commit for stardom. Here's my initial list.

Things I won't do to support my writing career:

1. Lie.

2. Adulterate my writing. This includes such travesties as contests in which the prize is the winner's name inserted, like a goody in a box of breakfast cereal, somewhere in the text. Needless to say it also includes product placement of any kind--including, of course, Maggi soup.

3. Slander, stab, betray, poke or verbally puke on other writers. They are not "the competition." They're family. Of course sincere critique is another matter; I'm speaking here of unwarranted nastiness. I do, however, reserve the right to skewer anyone who goes out of his or her way to be a Frank Miller or a V.S. Naipaul (that is, a wanker or an asshole).

4. Write about anything I don't take genuine interest in, no matter how marketable. 
      4b. Attempt to repackage my writing to fit a current fad or hot subgenre.
      4c. Inject popular motifs (ducks, zombies, iPads, etc.) where they don't naturally fit.

4. Ridicule the opinions of others.

5. Water down my own.

6. Praise work because it's popular, or because the writer is famous.
     b. ...dismiss work for the same reasons.

7. Babble on (aloud or online) when I have nothing real to say, out of love for my own voice.

8. Think of my writing as product--or God forbid, content. This is the ultimate corruption.

I expect this list to grow--there are many sins to choose from, after all. Suggestions welcome.


Stephen Deas said...

I'm right there with you, my friend. "Honour cannot be won, it can only be lost" (or something roughly like that) and the same goes for integrity. Cameos for friends can work & be fun, though, as long as they fit (John becomes Jonnic, that sort of thing).

Robert V.S. Redick said...

Totally agree, Stephen. Ultimately it depends on one's motivations, IMHO. Fun and impishness are good, because that's part of the writing process. But the general reader shouldn't be distracted by that stuff--shouldn't be forced out of the fictional dream.

To take an example from my series, I named a gang of thugs after one of my oldest friends. But the name works in its own right, and came to me early in the first draft of the first book. It's as organic as any detail.

Jon Burgess said...

Several years ago I happened to read a piece of gung-ho military sci-fi from a reasonably popular author. The author being a great fan of an online webcomic, the story repeatedly threw in references and not-so-subtle praise towards said webcomic. I had other issues with the series, but eventually it just became too much for me, and I put it down.

A perfect example, in my mind, of impishness going too far.

Robert, I agree wholeheartedly on #3. Orson Card gives me difficulties (I heavily disagree with many of his beliefs), but Frank Miller is harboring an infestation of alien brain-eaters.

RVSR said...

Brain eaters. It would explain a lot.

And yes, the example you start with is the sort of thing I'm talking about. Why force your reader out of the fictional dream you're working so hard to build? That's what all such intrusions do to me at any rate.

Sean Broderick said...

Hi Robert, sorry I'm posting this here, since it is defintiely not relevant to this thread, but I'm not sure where else to put it! Is there any update available on U.S. edition of Night of the Swarm? Amazon is always jumping around dates, and I figured you're probably the best source in terms of any type of reality! Thanks!

RVSR said...

Hey There Sean. As it happens I'm putting the same question to my publishers about now, as there seems to be some conflicting dates out there. I'm pretty sure the U.S. and U.K. editions will be released simultaneously. As soon as I get a definitive answer I'll share it here on the blog. Meanwhile, thanks for being a reader, and happy new year!

liz ryland said...

I really appreciate what you said in regards to other authors. It's like being in a restaurant where the manager yells at the employee. Ultimately, it just makes everyone feel uncomfortable and embarrassed. I like many different authors as well as genres, but after an author says something super negative about another author... it's hard for me to disregard that when I read their works. It ends up getting in the way of the story I'm reading.

Keep up the good work! I know I don't post very often, but I'm still reading and giving support where I can. ;-)

RVSR said...

Thanks for those comments, Liz! Slamming authors has definitely become part of the click-farming game. I have trouble with crass sensationalism in general, and particularly when it's at someone else's expense. I'm not on a tear about this, really--just trying to call it like I see it. All best to you & happy new year!

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