Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Writing Blather

I've decided that, from time to time, I'll run off at the mouth on the subject of writing. Heck, the only person reading this is my mother, and she doesn't mind.

Writers are funny people. But people who want to be writers are often really, really weird. Here's the strangest thing I've observed about them: some of them don't read. Yes, it is true. I know it's hard to believe. I've gone to conferences, met Writer X who is working on a mystery, and discovered that Writer X can't name a mystery writer other than him or herself. Kooky talk.

Here's where it really gets toxic: the erstwhile writer who hasn't read much since college. This is where you get novels replete with "reporter" characters, relating the actions of the main (interesting) characters. This worked for Pushkin and Balzac. Heck, it worked for Fitzgerald. You can stop now. Go out and buy some contemporary literature. Go read some Palahniuk, some Chabon, some Lethem, some Safran-Foer, some Steven Hall. See what's working for agents, editors, and readers today.

College professors just can't buy that many books.

1 comment:

Erik said...

I came to your blog via a comment left at Nathan Bransford's.

I'm one of those writers who don't read, or at least I went through a spell of it. The reasons are many, but for me the biggest problem was finding all writing inadequate.

It started by hating my own work. I would go through what I had written to edit or update it, and the whole thing just didn't capture the moment the way I wanted. Then I started noticing similar problems in other people's work.

Within a short time, I stopped reading anything contemporary. What basically happened is that I had become an editor, looking for mistakes and trying to find better ways of saying everything.

Recently, I dove into a project that required reading a lot of other people's stuff. For money, I forced myself past the parts I hated and found redemption eventually. I can read again.

But I do understand why some writers simply cannot. Good writing isn't for the squeamish.

Good luck with your career, and thanks for walking the picket lines. Writers everywhere appreciate your efforts, even if you do have to give it up and move on. We have to eat, and if the world doesn't value what we do we have to try something else. What counts is that you were there, something I can't say!