Somewhere around thirty years ago, I met Bruce Bethke for the first time – when I responded to an ad in a newspaper for a science fiction writers group seeking new members. I called, then sent in an “audition story” and was invited to join the group at the ORIGINAL, original Loft Literary Center (before grant money started flowing) in Minneapolis. One of THEM reviews books now, the other published a few books and short stories but no longer writes. Bruce doesn’t write much lately except for non-fiction; he is currently executive editor of STUPEFYING STORIES, an irregular anthology of new speculative fiction, he mostly works for a super computer company as well as presiding over Rampant Loon Press. These nuggets of wisdom can be found here: http://www.sfwa.org/2009/06/a-12-step-program-for-writers/. They are used with the author’s permission.
9. We have made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except for those talentless yutzes who will clearly never become an important editor or publisher. Oh, but they might become reviewers.
I’m looking at this from another point of view today.
Prior to this post, I’ve put up 99 bits of writing advice. Twenty-eight of them were advice from me.
Some of the advice I found frivolous, some of it inapplicable and some of it just plain bad. Despite that, everything I’ve written about, I have attempted to apply to my own writing and the blog was an attempt to report on how well the advice worked.
As a result of the advice of seven individuals: children’s book writer, SF writer, one-time-agent, Christian speculative fiction writer, multiple-genre and award-winning author and businesswoman, romance and “other” writer, and finally writer-turned-editor; I have grown in my skills and consistency as a writer. I am considering moving into writing my own advice, but I currently have one final advice-giver in mind I’ll be approaching soon before I begin to make my own way.
As I analyze these writers and etc., I seem to have found one common theme: they are ALL people of influence who are willing to help new writers.
Yep, until I wrote that sentence, I didn’t realize that that was their connection to each other. All of them posted – humorously or seriously or tongue-in-cheek or as a resource – the wisdom they’d accumulated. All of them said, “Sure!” when I approached them with the request to do this project (which I currently mine for TWITTER posts I’ve been doing called GleanedWritAdv (follow me on TWITTER – @gstewart75)).
I’ll not enumerate the individuals I approached who ignored me, but suffice it to say, I was turned down twice as often as I was welcomed. Remember, I wasn’t asking them to WRITE anything. I just wanted to take a list of advice they’d published online and comment on it.
All of this brings me back to #9 of Bruce Bethke’s TWELVE STEP program, obviously a parody of the Alcoholics Anonymous program and a barbed warning to all writers that our vocation or avocation is more than a job – it’s an addiction.
I know for fact that some of his advice is gleaned from his own experience as a writer. Some is gleaned from his experience as an editor. Some of it is just for fun. But as a recipient of a nasty email – which I reread again a week ago – and recalling another nasty email from an author who is no longer with us, I realize that I harbor extremely negative feelings toward these two people. Amends from one of them are impossible, amends from the other...well, unless the author has a conversion experience and my name is miraculously brought to that person’s mind...are just as impossible.
So, instead of leaving a trail of broken hearts and spirits, I do so solemnly swear that I will NEVER call someone a talentless hack, an arrogant b------, a worthless agent, crappy writer, stupid editor, or a rotten person.
I don’t WANT to have to make amends when the Great Spirit or Singularity or the Rapture comes a-calling. Besides, even reviewers can get into heaven!