February 21, 2016

WRITING ADVICE #31: Writing and Air Quotes…

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7c/Air_Quotes.jpgIn September of 2007, I started this blog with a bit of writing advice. A little over a year later, I discovered how little I knew about writing after hearing children’s writer, Lin Oliver speak at a convention hosted by the Minnesota Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Since then, I have shared (with their permission) and applied the writing wisdom of Lin Oliver, Jack McDevitt, Nathan Bransford, Mike Duran, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, SL Veihl, Bruce Bethke, and Julie Czerneda. Together they write in genres broad and deep, and have acted as agents, editors, publishers, columnists, and teachers. Since then, I figured I’ve got enough publications now that I can share some of the things I did “right” and I’m busy sharing that with you.

While I don’t write full-time, nor do I make enough money with my writing to live off of it...neither do all of the professional writers above...someone pays for and publishes ten percent of what I write. When I started this blog, that was NOT true, so I may have reached a point where my own advice is reasonably good. We shall see! Hemingway’s quote above will now remain unchanged as I work to increase my writing output and sales! As always, your comments are welcome!

I am not “happy” with my writing “career”…

Hmmm. Two sets of quote marks in one short sentence – both of them not saying exactly what I mean. That IS why we do air quotes, right? We use them when we’re not using the words we should be using. Typically we’re using milder euphemisms when we want to tell someone something unpleasant but we still have to live with them or be friends with them afterward.

I’m supposed to be a writer…OK, rephrase that, I am a writer. I have work published in three of the best markets a writer can be in: ANALOG, CRICKET, and THE WRITER. I am published internationally: my ebooks are put out by a Canadian publisher, I have had two podcasts performed for a British publisher, I have a short story coming out in an Irish SF magazine, and I’m published in the US.

So let me parse that first sentence. “I am not happy”. What I mean is that I am frustrated that I can’t consistently write stories and articles that are published. A quick look at my publication list in the right column will attest to that. Roughly ten percent of what I write is published. So “I am really frustrated” is what I actually mean.

How about “with my writing career”?

While “writing” is self-explanatory – at least to anyone who reads my blog – the definition of career is less so. Google says that a career is “an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person's life and with opportunities for progress. Synonyms include: profession, occupation, job, vocation, calling, employment, line, line of work, walk of life, mĂ©tier .”

I never looked up the definition before today. I would have said that my career is my job as a teacher and guidance counselor. Job, though, is only one of the definitions and not the most significant at that. The first sentence is the one that grabbed my attention, and by that definition, I can remove the quotes in my opening sentence.

While the prosaic definitions are obvious to me, I never thought of writing as a calling or a walk of life. Clearly the first sentence of the definition fits me. I’ve been writing since I was twelve and seriously pursuing publication since…well, I DID write as a teenager and send out my stories. My first paid publication was in a local slick magazine called LITTLE BIT in 1974. But I’ve been consistently sending out stories since 1990 and my current submission list stands at 983 sent out as either paper or electronic stories or queries out of which 93 were accepted for publication. So let’s say that I’ve been writing for twenty-six years.

That would be a “significant period of a person’s life”. It’s certainly allowed me to progress, from a local slick magazine to major paper, online, and podcast publishers.

I’ve defined terms and clarified definitions, so now I should be able to write the following:

I am frustrated with my writing career.

Except, after this exercise, I find that I’m a whole lot LESS frustrated…comments anyone?

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