Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Don't be a slave ... the sandals are so uncomfortable

I sometimes mostly always think the general public have the wrong idea about what it means to be a published author in New Zealand. I guess that isn't so surprising. Only big successes get reported in the media here. Or articles talk about what is happening to overseas writers, where an advance for a first novel in the US is likely to be in the 5,000 to 10,000 dollar range (sometimes much more, although it can also be zero) and an american debut author can be whisked off to London on an author tour and be interviewed by the press. Its all so exciting. We don't generally get whisked off so perhaps we seem less real to the media and the public. I think the general rule is you need to be something to be aspired to, or warned away from, to get media coverage. I just don't want the public to have the wrong idea. Our population here means everything is on a much smaller scale. Print runs are smaller, advances are smaller, and getting whisked away might mean a trip to the publisher's offices or a local cafe. I am not complaining. I want to live here and things are smaller here and that naturally will have implications, but I just want folks to know that its not a flash, rolling in money and junkets kind of occupation is all. And writing isn't a holiday, its a job (and often a compulsion). I think I'm probably repeating myself on this topic but I still hear the same misapprehensions when I talk to folk so I guess it bears repeating.

I also wanted to say that I am changing my mind about writing rules and writing advice. Go check out this smart link over at writer Helen Lowe's blog on Ten Bits of Advice Writers Should Stop Giving Aspiring Writers (warning - lots of swearing). I especially like the one on show don't tell (2) and on watching what you say on the internet (4). I've always been one for keeping both show and tell in a story (I find reading all show gives me a headache). As the blogger says - both have their place. I think I want to change my stance on adverbs too. They can be a bit of a lazy option sometimes but sometimes they are the right word for the job.

There is heaps of advice out there and lots of rules and some of it is good but its important to not feel straitjacketed by it all. Advice and rules can be a comfort and sometimes a lifesaver - something to cling on to when the creative seas get rough. But they aren't a cure all or necessarily your saviour. Following them can help make you a better writer and can help you improve your understanding of writing and storytelling, but sometimes you need to ignore the advice and the rules and sometimes you have to break them. They're your friends, not your masters. Don't be their slave.


Helen Lowe said...

Glad you like the link to Nick Mamatas's article, Melinda. He's a take no prisoners kind of guy, but I think he makes some good points. In terms of the writer's life, to be honest, I don't think many US authors outside of the super A list get whisked away on tours or anyway at all very often. Not these days anyway. :)

Melinda Szymanik said...

The Canvas Magazine in the NZ Herald on October 13 had an article about debut American author Kevin Powers talking to a journo during a short promotional trip to London for his book The Yellow Birds (publisher is Sceptre) which kind of got me thinking on the whole topic to begin with. I'm sure its the exception rather than the rule but it does skew the public's view of what your average author experiences :)

Old Kitty said...

My published author friend has to pay for his flights and accomodation to promote his book where the foreign rights were sold! LOL! I'm always wary of writerly publicity - you know the kind that says "debut author signs £1 million book deal after working cleaning toilets" type thing.
:-) Hmmm.
Thanks for the link to Helen's blog! Very interesting!

Take care