A friend steered me to Karen Traviss, Science Fiction and Fantasy author, who appears to keep more than one blog – one on Livejournal that is kind of neat, and then one on a Star Wars site that completely rocks my socks off with her insights into writing and being a published author. I’ve posted the links to some of my favorite entries, though I’ll tell you now that the first, “Writing for a Living” is the one I like best, probably because I can totally identify with it:
There are no secrets to writing for a living. Like diets and giving up smoking, the answer is obvious but it’s also so hard to do that many people won’t manage it. Basically, you have to write and keep writing; write as much and as often as you can; submit stories for publication; and keep doing that until you sell them. Persistence is absolutely central to success. I know lots of good writers who will never make it because they give up when they get rejections, and they don’t make writing a core part of their daily routine.
A good story is any story you like. There’s no objective test of what is “good” in fiction. Despite the many thousands of analyses of literature, and the strong opinions in some quarters that some books are good and some are bad, this is a wholly subjective view. There’s no objective test. If any academic can come up with one, I’d love to see it, and so would some lit professor pals of mine.
And fanfic can teach you to write just as well as creating your own universes. Don’t believe anyone who says that it requires less imagination or skill. Fitting into a shared universe actually requires more craft skill, believe me. (And I’d love to see some of my literary colleagues cope with a continuity brawl like the kind we’ve been having recently. They have no idea.) You use the same techniques in fanfic as the most high-brow literature; plot, dialogue, characterisation, pacing, atmosphere, themes, challenging ideas. It’s real writing.
The point is that superheroes don’t give me much of a challenge. I’m the kind of writer who has to have characters struggle and solve big problems – and sometimes fail, but die trying. Too many superpowers make it all too easy. And I don’t like easy…The bottom line for me is this. We’ll never wake up to find we can use the Force. None of us. But courage, comradeship, humility and honesty are within everyone’s reach. And those are heroic values that interest me a lot more than swinging a lightsaber.
Writers write. Everything else is just detail.