Thursday, April 28, 2005

No One Ever Told Me...

No one ever told me that science fiction writing was easy. No one except me, of course, and I always go out of my way to prove myself wrong. Two years ago I decided that writing was my chosen profession. All I had to do, after all, was sit in a chair and write, two things I was champion at. I convinced my unwary step-sister to join me in the pursuit of the published word... and the firm squelching of our delusions. It would only take a year, I said benignly, to write our first novel. "A year?" wailed my co-writer. "But, I wanted a sports car next month!" Her enthusiasm and expectations for writing we a bit colored, shall we say.

But, undaunted determination drove us toward our goal. We would have that novel written within a year. Fighting against enormous odds - daily writer's block, our unparalleled talent at finding something better to do, our misunderstanding of literature - we strove for the one thing that really mattered: the money. No snippy artist's integrity here, we were on the scent of monetary gain.

Into the fourth rewrite of the eighth chapter we were seized with a sudden realization. We didn't know how to get "the book" published. With some joy we dashed from our typing room - what once had been known as 'the study' was now considered a chamber of horrors - and ran pell-mell to the library. We pored through books and books (and books) about writing. We begged the librarian to let us stay all night. Not to read, we said, but so that we wouldn't have to stare our typewriter in the face (or the keyboard) again. Our librarian thereafter regarded us as a sort of oddity.

Before that novel was finished, the constant strain was telling on us. We couldn't hold a level gaze against any book. We shielded our eyes from the friendly dictionary and thesaurus. We were ashamed of our ineptitude. We somewhat wished that an alien from one of our plots would come alive and kidnap us, taking us away from the Land of Constant Typing. Our perfectionism made us agonizingly rewrite the chapters "just one more time." We were exhausted, yes, but we could not stop.

I will have to say that in those two years our style has improved considerably (our typing definitely has). Our technique has soared to formerly unknown levels. Grudgingly, I admit that writing can be satisfying. The pay isn't in dollars and cents alone. One word to the amateur, though. If you are thinking of becoming a writer because it won't be a strenuous job ("hey, I think I'll write me somthing and make a few thou"), then think again. You would be better off becoming a marathon runner.

(c) Sue London, 1985

6 comments:

  1. One word to the amateur, though. If you are thinking of becoming a writer because it won't be a strenuous job ("hey, I think I'll write me somthing and make a few thou"), then think again. You would be better off becoming a marathon runner.

    Hallelujah and Amen, sister. Too many people start writing with that mindset. The only people who can afford to do that are celebrities. Any shlock they write sells. I tell everybody who asks, write because it does something for you, not to get rich.

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  2. And I forgot to add, thanks for the linkage. Two questions:

    1. Are you published?
    2. I'll trade ya one of mine for one of yours if you're interested?

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  3. 1. No. Which means that I'm about, oh, 18 years off my original goal. One day...

    2. Sure, but what am I trading...? (Sorry, just not clear what you are asking me to trade.)

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  4. Since the answer to 1 is no, no trade is possible. However, email me your mailing address and I'll send you one of mine.

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  5. Yeah, when I graduated from college, I thought I'd work until I sold a novel, then live easy. That was twelve years ago, and that novel never was written.

    I *did* get a very good rejection letter for a short story, though.

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  6. I've still got my old rejection letters in a file, including the one for this item in 1985. The good news is that I was 14 or 15 when I wrote this. The bad news is that my style hasn't changed dramatically. Oh well.

    One day we'll both be famous novelists. :)

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