What I Learned About Writing in 2015

I hate “writing tips” – most are banal, tautologies at best, as are most “writing rules”. Writing rules are for people who believe – sincerely – that there is a magical formula and if they can just find it they’ll write a “best-seller” and reap considerable financial rewards and a fair amount of prestige thereby. These are the people that think of “writer” as destination and not occupation (i.e. “work”) and it is to be hoped that they’ll be first up against the wall when the revolution comes. Some people write, other people sit around thinking about what they’ll say in interviews when they are “a writer”.  Get your soft ass in a hard chair and start typing.

Nonetheless writing, the endless labor of drafting, editing, revising, re-revising and submission, rejection and acceptance does teach something. Here’s what I learned in 2015:

  1. People use “and” constantly when speaking but it does not make for good written dialogue.
  2. $3 is the most you should ever pay to submit fiction. It’s comparable to postage. Never pay a submission fee/reading fee on poetry.
  3. You can never have too many beta-readers.
  4. You have to have good work habits to be prolific, but you can be lazy as fuck and write a few things well.
  5. There is enough petty irony and cynicism out there already. Write about love, be unafraid. Love’s preface is hope and it’s epilogue scar. Save irony for boring your friends at parties.
  6. Getting poetry published is a crap-shoot but writing it can improve your fiction. Never pay a submission fee for poetry. (I know, I’ve said that twice.)
  7. Writing “rules” have their place but it’s not possible to reduce interesting writing to simple formulas.
  8. No one writes for prizes but it’s nice to be nominated for one. Makes you feel that someone out there read your stuff.
  9. The kind of vanity that says “I don’t care if anyone reads me” dwarfs the egotism of “Read me!” Give us a break. By admitting you write to be read you will drop a huge gorilla off of your back and you’ll write better.
  10. Its a good thing there’s an international market for fiction because my home and native land doesn’t love me.
  11. Contests are a crap-shoot and the winners often seem to disappoint while the runners-up often seem pretty good. Nonetheless a win will look good on a resume’ and you can do one or two per year.
  12. 2015: I did the best I could with what I had. 8 pieces accepted, a pushie nom, and a my heart removed from my body, spread on a piece of toast, and served back to me raw. Soooo … I put it on the page.

Stay salty comrades. 2016 is here.

Steve

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4 thoughts on “What I Learned About Writing in 2015

  1. I sometimes feel the urge to write poetry, but then give up because I’m simply not a poet.
    I’ve not thought of it as a way to improve my overall writing.
    Guess I need to become a little more fearless in 2016 — allow my heart to be served raw. (Love that image.)

    • “Poetry” is wide-ranging and subjective – my own is primarily narrative and “free verse” (it doesn’t rhyme.) What it teaches me is economy – how to present a narrative or image efficiently and with limited exposition.

      Raw hearts on toast is a reference to a scene in the 1982 Steve Martin/Carl Reiner classic “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” – I paraphrase it loosely. Also keep in mind there are three sides to every story – his, hers, and the truth … .. . 🙂

  2. I have read a lot of books and articles that address the subject of writing. This one hits the mark. And yes, having your heart served raw will likely inspire all kinds of imagery for poetry and otherwise.

    • Well, the thing is to live dangerously – or, if you don’t really live dangerously – to make something up to make it seem like you live dangerously. And use lots of em-dashes. I like ’em.

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