Issue # 3: 04/01/01
A Theory of Alternate History
I receive entirely too many letters from beginners with an
idea and a desire to get an agent, a publisher, and a contract - in that
order and right away. These
tend to be folks who haven't even done a few chapters of the book they
hope to sell yet. Many have
never really written anything.
But, armed with their idea, they're quite certain they're ready for
the big leagues.
This is no different than a person who has watched a bit of
baseball on television but has never played, deciding he wants to go pro
because he thinks he'd be good at it, and expecting agents, editors, and
publishers to take this display of hubris seriously.
But it also isn't the point.
Let's leave the agents and other pros out of the equation for a
moment, and just consider the poor, naive would-be writer. Here is someone seeking a career and hoping to acquire
obligations and a big financial debt (and if you sign a contract and
accept advance money, and then do not then deliver a completed and
professional manuscript, my friend, you owe that money back.) . . . and
they have no idea if they even enjoy the work.
What matters for beginners who think they want to be writers
is to find out if they like the work.
To those of you already write regularly, this may seem like an
obvious insight. Evidence
would suggest otherwise.
For those of you who think you would like to be writers, but
who don't yet know if you like to write, here is my recommendation -- find
out. Writing is not an easy
way to make money, nor is it the quick path to fame and fortune. It is hard, occasionally frustrating, frequently lonely work.
It is a LOT of work -- a single novel requires months and in some
instances years of focus and dedication,
and once completed may never sell.
And a single novel is just the first step in a career.
When you finish the first one, you start on the second.
And then the third. And
then . . . repeat, steadily, for the rest of your life.
Having an agent is essential to a career writer.
Contracts pay the bills, editors help you make your work as good as
it can be. But they aren't
the point. They aren't what
matters. Ultimately, what
matters is the writing -- you with a story or an issue or a
theme you are passionate, about, alone in a room with nothing but
your hunger for the words. The right words.
If you do not love the words, the hunger, the hunt, go find
something that does make you hungry, and that feeds your hunger at the
same time. Love writing if
you want to be a writer, because that which you will not do for love
alone, you should never do for money.
Down that road lies bitterness and disillusionment. And life is too short to walk such an ugly road by choice.
believe, and never give up on your dreams,
versions of Vision