Wednesday, July 24

Dean Wesley Smith: How To Write And Have Fun

Dean Wesley Smith: How To Write And Have Fun


Another great post from Dean Wesley Smith! This time Dean gives us 10 ways to write and have fun while doing it: The New World of Publishing: Having Fun.

1. Dare to be bad


Problem:
If you find yourself getting halfway through manuscripts then abandoning them perhaps the problem is that you're thinking too much about what other people will think about your manuscript.

Solution:
If that's happening, the solution is to write the kind of story you want to write, no matter what your writer friends will think of it.

In other words:

Follow Heinlein's Rules, just as he wrote them. (Robert Sawyer has written a great blog post about Heinlein's Rules which takes things from a slightly different perspective.)

This means writing a story and sending it out when it's finished. Don't put it through a workshop, just send it out. As Robert Sawyer writes:
"And although many beginners don't believe it, Heinlein is right: if your story is close to publishable, editors will tell you what you have to do to make it salable. Some small-press magazines do this at length, but you'll also get advice from Analog, Asimov's, and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction." (On Writing)
Dean Wesley Smith agrees:
"Stop caring what other people think. Stop showing your work to workshops. Just finish and publish and never look at numbers or reviews or anything."

2. Learn what works for you


You've heard this before: Every writer is different, what works for one, often doesn't work for another.

What you might not have heard is that each book is different. Neil Gaiman said this in his wonderful hour-long chat with Connie Willis at World Fantasy 2011 (thanks Kim for the link!).

Learn what works for you, for this story. Be creative and be open to change. And trust yourself.

Problem:
You don't know when to let your stories go and either send them out to editors/publishers or publish them yourself. As a result you hang onto your stories too long, rewriting them until your voice has been written out and the piece has all the interest and vitality of cardboard. Dean says that this strengthens your critical voice and hampers your creative voice.

Solution:
Understand what works for you, for this book, and realize that your voice is unique. That's good, that's what you want. Some folks won't like your voice. That's fine.

Chuck Wendig over at Terribleminds has a unique voice and it's not everybody's cup of tea. That's okay. He's doing fine, as will you.

You need to develop your voice and find your niche. And you aren't going to do any of that if you keep re-writing your stories until they sound like everyone else's!

3. You don't have to outline


Some folks are pantsers not plotters. If you're a pantser, that's fine. That's great!

Don't try and make yourself be something you're not.

Myself, I'm more of a plotter than a pantser, but sometimes I won't outline, especially with my shorter stories. If I feel something's missing, I can outline after I've written it and look at the structure to see if I have to add a scene, take something away, add a character, etc.

Problem:
When you outline your story you lose all interest. Writing is as interesting as watching paint dry.

Solution:
Don't outline! There's nothing wrong with outlining, but if it's not working for you try winging it.

Experiment.

Remember, each book is different. Don't think that just because you wrote the last book one way that you have to write your current book the exact same way.

4. Your story is a book, not an event.


In April, Kris Rusch wrote a terrific post called, Book as Event. If you haven't read it and want to publish your writing, I highly recommend it.

Kris Rusch writes:
Finishing the first novel had felt like a fluke. I managed to get it done and it felt daunting. The second novel felt less daunting, but much more important.

Before I had believed that if I could do it once, then I could do it again. After I finished the second book, I knew I could do it again. And proceeded to do so more than a hundred times. (Believe me, that number freaks me out more than it freaks you out. Seriously.)

Finishing my first novel had been an event. A mountain climbed. A life goal achieved. It felt more important to finish than it did to publish the book. And the second novel, well, it felt even more important.

It did feel on par with giving birth to a wanted child.

Now, not so much. I’m still proud when I finish a novel, pleased at myself, pleased that something I imagined has become reality. But I also know there are more novels to write and more stories to tell and so much more to do. I’m actually more afraid of dying before I can finish writing all the projects I carry around in my head, and those projects increase exponentially as each year goes on. (See my Popcorn Kittens post. You’ll understand.)

Books sometimes are events and sometimes they aren’t. Before the rise of indie publishing, prolific writers understood this. (Book as Event)
Dean Wesley Smith writes:
"Books and stories are not events, they are just stories. Entertainment. Nothing more.  But if you believe a book or a story is an event, it takes on a huge level of “Importance” to you and thus that book or story is almost impossible to let go of, or stop working on."
Problem:
You're having a hard time moving onto your next book because you're discouraged by your previous books performance.

Solution:
Realize that a book isn't an event.

Write.

Write a lot.

As you write you'll get better and you'll develop a readership.

Dean goes on to talk about other points, but these four resonated with me, especially the first.

Dean ends by writing:
I sit alone in a room and make stuff up.
That’s my job description.
. . . .
Readers now decide if they like my story or not, not some editor. And I can write as much or as little as I want without anyone yelling at me.
And I can make my books look exactly as I want them to look.
But most importantly, I can entertain myself.
I have thousands and thousands of choices now with my writing.
I have control and I have freedom.
And for me, all that is great fun.
Go have fun.
You heard him, go have fun. Go write!

(Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations are from Dean's article, Having Fun.)

Photo credit: "Untitled" by Thomas Leuthard under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

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