Monday, October 15, 2012

Dean Wesley's Smith's words of wisdom

Some months ago I stumbled across the blog written by American author Dean Wesley Smith. Dean also has a web site which describes his thirty-year (and counting) career as a writer. Most of his output has, of course, been published in the pre-digital era, and the total so far is over 90 novels and 100 short stories. So he's a man of some experience.

I find that Dean has a habit of publishing blog posts which say exactly what I would say if I had the time and the energy (in addition to doing some fiction writing), so I thought I would just link to his sites and leave it to you to explore as you wish (or not).

If you are a wannabe writer, or even a published author with a book that you are trying to promote, there is much here for you to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest. (That last bit, by the way, is a quote from the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer, 1662 version. You may think it's a bit poncey of me to quote such stuff, but I heard it in church many times in my schooldays and it has kind of stuck. In any case, it neatly encapsulates my thinking, and advice, on Mr Smith's dicta.)

Dean's view is that the main thing you need to do as a writer is produce a substantial body of work. Stop pissing around, stop reading all that twitter rubbish, and get your head down for a solid ten years or so.

What prompted me to write this little recommendation was Dean's post of 15 October 2012. In it, he notes that all the professional marketing skills in the world will not help you if your novel is not, actually, very good. I have the distinct impression that one effect of the digital revolution is that some readers are not much influenced by reputation. In fact they may not even care that you have one. All they care about is the story. Does it grip at the start? Does it continue to hold their attention? There are numerous examples nowadays of ebooks which are, by normal publishing standards, semi-literate and unpublishable, yet they sell to readers who aren't too fussy about all that spelling and punctuation stuff but just wanna read a good story -- on their smartphone or tablet or whatever. Books? What are they? Oh, those funny square things people carry around.

Anyway, here's the sort of thing Dean has to say, and it's just as true of me as it is of him:
Folks, sorry, but if you have only written one novel or few short stories, promoting a pile of crap just won’t help you.

And trust me, I wrote some really heaping, steaming piles of crap when I started out. We all do. And my piles of crap were pretentious because I came from a poetry background and thought I knew everything about writing. They were rewritten to death because I believed that was the way to create art. They had zero thought to the art of storytelling or what a reader on the other side might be thinking when reading it.

They stank up the place and I had no idea at the time.

Looking back, I have no idea what would have happened to me at that point in the 1970s when I wrote those early stories if I had the modern world of easy access to publishing. I imagine I would have published and promoted them to death and wondered why readers were so stupid as to not understand my great art.

Luckily I didn’t, so I just sent them to editors who paid no attention and sent me form rejections.
Yup. Me too.


DF said...

Love Dean Wesley Smith because he gives me permission to write, which is what I love to do, rather than promote or edit to death, which is what I feel I should do.

pundy said...

Good advice indeed.

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