Chapter 15: Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: You Can Only Write What Is Hot


Series Note: I am now working on updating each chapter and putting together this book, finally, after over 100,000 words that started back in 2009. So I am updating each chapter and putting it up here now for those who have not seen them.  One new updated chapter every few days will still take me all summer to finish. Feel free to make comments and talk about each topic.

And again, anyone who has donated over the years will get a free electronic version of the book when it is all done. Thanks again for the support!

The Myth: “To sell either to editors or on Kindle, you must write what is hot.”

This myth kills careers, this myth stops thousands and thousands of book sales, this myth destroys careers.

And it’s just stupid, even though the myth seems to have a logical base in publishing.

Out of the mouth of top professionals this myth spouts all the time in one form or another, and usually with the best of intentions. And it has for as long as I have been in this business.

But lately, with the advent of the slush-reading lower-level agents, this myth has taken on deadly consequences for many writers. Why? Because they believe it.

So as I do in these chapters, let me take a look at the origin of this myth first.

It Came From the Editors

Actually, the origin is simple. It came about because editors and agents and publishers want to make an easy sale.

Yes, editors sell books as well. They sell a book they love to their publisher, they sell the book to a sales force, and they ultimately are responsible for selling a book to readers. Books that are different, that don’t fit in what has been done before, are very, very difficult sales for editors and publishers and always have been.

And it has been proven that if a reader likes a certain type of book, they will look for that type of book.

Now remember, publishers need so many books per month in this churn of book lists, so they have to find books to buy, and when they can find an easy-sell book, it makes their job easier.

And it’s human nature to want to have your job be easier.

Of course, easy-sell books are usually pretty flat. (Not always, but usually.) They are often following a trend. The books tend to do little if anything new, which is why they are easy sells. Another book bought by a more gutsy editor has already paved the way. Easy-sell books are also easy to promote. “If you liked ‘X Book’ you’re going to love ‘X Book Same.’”

Easy sell. Editors love them.

Now understand, I wrote a ton of easy-sell books. Media books such as Star Trek have a pretty set audience a publisher can depend on. So when Pocket Books came to me to write some Star Trek novels, they knew exactly what the book would sell and so did I. Easy, no thought on the publisher’s part. What was a hard-sell book(s) was Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. It took John Ordover years of fighting to get that series going and the fact that Pocket Books kept it going for ten years was not because of sales, but reasons of relationships with readers and Paramount.

Interestingly enough, over the history of publishing, the really monster books, the ones that people talk about and remember for decades, were not easy-sell books. Often they would have fifty or more rejections before finding an editor willing to work for the book and a publisher took a chance. Then when the book became a hit it was called new and fresh and readers loved it.

And then that fresh idea, fresh book would spawn (like a bad horror movie) thousands of “easy sell” books.

But no one has made much of a long career writing only easy-sell books, because the target just keeps moving. One day one topic is hot, the next day the next topic is hot. As a writer, if you try to chase that “hot topic easy sell” thinking, you might sell a few books but are lost in short order.

But then comes editors and agents sitting on panels at writer’s conferences telling new writers what they are looking for, what’s selling, what isn’t selling. In all honest truth, as an editor, I didn’t know what I wanted to buy until I read it.

And as an editor for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds for ten years, I constantly told writers I hated the character “Q” from Next Generation. But I always ended up buying a “Q” story because some writer wrote one so well, with such a fun twist, that I couldn’t not buy it.

Attempting to write what is hot isn’t a new trend. It has been around since the beginning of this business. And the myth that you need to write what is hot, what is selling is as deadly today as it was fifty years ago. Honest, even in the new world of indie publishing, this myth will just kill you eventually.

So why is this myth so deadly?

The answer to that question is back in the writer’s office. Each writer is different. Every chapter in this book I have been pounding that simple fact home.

Every writer is different.

Let me say that one more time:

Every Writer is Different!!!!

And what makes your books interesting to readers is YOU. I have also warned about taking the YOU out of your work over and over in these chapters as well. You can’t see or hear your voice because to you it sounds dull because you hear it all the time. So when you say rewrite something to death, you are taking the “you” out of your work.

And your ideas might seem dull because guess why? They are yours!!! They are as unique as you are, as how you write the ideas down.

But then you go trying to imitate some other writer, try to write what is “hot” because some editor or agent told you that is what is selling. So what do you do? You take the YOU out of your work and it becomes mundane and just like everything else and won’t sell.

A SIMPLE RULE: In fiction, sameness and dullness do not sell.

Yet when a new writer hears an editor or agent tell them what they are “looking for” in books, the young writer goes home and attempts to imitate the book the editor said they are looking for. They create nothing unique, nothing new, nothing of themselves. They write the same boring old crap that has already been done to death.

And this gets even worse in the circle-jerk thinking of places like the Kindle boards. You see there and on other places just like it talk about writing what is selling the most at the moment. That is the quickest way to writer death I have ever seen.

So How Do You Solve This Problem?

Simple: Kick all the editor and agent voices out of your writing office and write what makes you passionate or angry or excited. Or as Stephen King has said, “Write what scares hell out of you.”

Some basic guidelines on how to do this:

1) Never talk about your story with anyone ahead of time.

Their ideas, unless you are very experienced, will twist the story into partially their story.

2) For heaven’s sake, never, ever let anyone read a work-in-progress.

Totally stupid on so many levels I can’t even begin to address. If you want to collaborate, make sure you have a collaboration agreement, otherwise, keep your work to yourself until finished. And wow does this apply to workshops. Never show a work-in-progress. Ever. Trust yourself for heaven’s sake and learn how to be an artist.

3) Never think of markets or selling when writing.

Enjoy the process of writing and creating story. When the story is finished, then have someone read it and tell you what you wrote and then market it.

4) Follow Heinlein’s Rules, especially #3 about never rewriting.

In other words, fix mistakes and then mail it and trust your own voice, your own work. Never rewrite to anyone’s suggestions, especially a workshop. (And never use the word “polish” in front of me. When you take a unique piece of work and polish it, you make it look like all the others. And that’s dull.)

5) When an editor says they are looking for a certain type of book, ignore it.

They are just trying to be helpful to all the new writers looking for shortcuts to getting published. There are no shortcuts. When agents say what they think will sell to editors, just laugh. They have less of a clue what will sell than anyone in the business bar none.

6) Get passionate and protective of what you write.

It’s your voice, your work, for heaven’s sake, grow a backbone and stand up for it. Sure, in the first million words you are going to need all sorts of help with craft and storytelling issues. Go learn that and take it in and study and practice and get feedback. But don’t rewrite it beyond fixing typos and mistakes. When you write a story or novel, trust yourself and mail it.

Protect it from all who want you to write what they think you should have written.

Summary

So, in short, I am telling you flatly and bluntly to ignore any advice from any person about what is selling, what is hot, what you should write.

Write your own stories.

And if you do write your own stories and believe in them and mail them to editors, you may be the next big thing and then thousands and thousands of writers will be trying to imitate you.

And they will fail, because there is only one of you.

————————————————

Copyright 2011 Dean Wesley Smith
————————————————–

Okay, I admit it, I had issues at first with putting in a tip jar in the Magic Bakery. It was one of the “I have it made, why do I need to support my writing with tips.” A minor myth, sure, but still one that took me a few days and some talk with Kris to get past back when I started this series.

And  speaking of the Magic Bakery, this chapter is now part of my inventory in my bakery. (Confused on that, read the Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing post about making money with your writing.  I’m giving you this small slice as a sample. I’m giving you a taste, but not selling any of the pie.

If you feel this helped you in any way, toss a tip into the tip jar on the way out of the Magic Bakery.

If you can’t afford to donate, please feel free to pass this chapter along to others who might get some help from it.

And I would like to thank all the fine folks who have donated over this last year. Once this book is done, I will send you a copy. The donations and the comments both after the posts and privately are really keeping me going on this. Thanks!

Thanks, Dean

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26 Responses to Chapter 15: Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: You Can Only Write What Is Hot

  1. Nancy Beck says:

    Yet another great post!

    Now remember, publishers need so many books per month in this churn of book lists, so they have to find books to buy, and when they can find an easy-sell book, it makes their job easier.

    Actually, this makes a lot of sense. Now I understand why I see so many of the same types of books year after year, and why I found it tiresome (esp. in a subgenre I’ve found I don’t really like).

    But no one has made much of a long career writing only easy-sell books, because the target just keeps moving. One day one topic is hot, the next day the next topic is hot. As a writer, if you try to chase that “hot topic easy sell” thinking, you might sell a few books but are lost in short order.

    And my thinking is, if you try to follow the trends, by the time your book is bought – if it’s bought – it won’t come out for 1-2 years, and that particular trend might/will be over.

    And as an editor for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds for ten years, I constantly told writers I hated the character “Q” from Next Generation. But I always ended up buying a “Q” story because some writer wrote one so well, with such a fun twist, that I couldn’t not buy it.

    I always thought of Q as an update of Harry Mudd from the original series; both (I think) are humorous rakes that you can’t help liking, although Q is more offputting than Harry Mudd ever was. But I digress…

    And what makes your books interesting to readers is YOU. I have also warned about taking the YOU out of your work over and over in these chapters as well.

    I think I’ve finally come to understand that, Dean, although it takes a while to get over obsessive rewrite mode. For my current novella series, I find it liberating to just take a few basic rewrites in, leaving the mood I wove into it intact. (At least, I hope I have, lol.) But once I’m done with that (and once the cover I contracted for is delivered), I’m uploading it.

    That to me is more freeing than the angsty waiting game writers have had to do for so many decades.

    And wow does this apply to workshops. Never show a work-in-progress. Ever. Trust yourself for heaven’s sake and learn how to be an artist.

    See, this was one problem I had early on; I should never have joined an online workshop so early in my writing life. I wrote a short story that I really enjoyed writing; it had a few tough spots, but I thought it was entertaining. Unlike you, I didn’t send it out ahead of the crits. I think it set back my writing for a while.

  2. Camille says:

    LOL. When I saw this headline I thought “I _wish_ I could have ever fallen for this one.”

    Indie publishing has done wonders in this area, though. Because even if the author didn’t believe in the myth, the editors did.

    I do think it’s good for a young author to try everything — including writing in some hot genre which doesn’t suit them. But that’s different than believing that you have to.

  3. Sam Lee says:

    So true, Dean. Every time I’ve tried to sit down and write something that’s selling right now, my mind immediately balked, blanked, or wandered off into whatever interested it more. I’ve learned to just write what I want to write, and tell the best story I can.

    I think I’d have a hard time writing for themed anthologies, too, because while I could do writing assignments, my brain always tried to play outside the lines. Heh.

    As Stephen King says about why he writes what he does, “what makes you think I have a choice?”

    • dwsmith says:

      Sam, actually, writing for anthologies is a great way to stretch. Even what seems like a tight themed anthology can allow the artist to really push and stretch and do their own work. Kris and I both love writing for them and both of us have done a ton of them over the years. And every year in late February or early March we do an “anthology” workshop called The Denise Little workshop. Denise Little, John Helfers, Kerrie Hughes, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and me all talk about each story from the perspective of a different editor. It’s great fun and stunning learning to hear five professional editors argue over your story and why some would buy it and others not. in 2012 that workshop is the first four days of March. Workshop information under the tab.

      But honestly, if you are true to yourself and set out to write for a themed anthology, you will write YOUR original take on the idea. For example, for a DAW Books anthology called Cosmic Cocktails, which Denise and I assigned at the workshop, professional writer Loren L. Coleman did a story that rocked us all. The theme was a science fiction set bar. Loren wrote the story from the viewpoint of the booze. Alcohol as sentient creature. Stunning story called “Drink, Drank, Drunk.” It’s worth the price of the book alone.

  4. Probably the only attention one should pay to “the market” is genre classification — and that’s after you’ve done most of the writing. By the time you’ve done the writing and the several synopsis levels (elevator speech to multi-page structure layout), you should be able to classify it fairly well.

    At least well enough that if you’ve done a “standard” Romance you don’t say it’s Soft Science Fiction. Genres can be slippery.

    Once you’re good, you might start lumping ideas/concepts into your genres.

    • dwsmith says:

      Bruce, exactly. The only time to pay attention to genre is after you are done writing and surface and think “What the hell did I just write?”

      And slippery with genre classification doesn’t begin to describe it. Most authors just don’t know genre at all, and with indie publishing that’s becoming critical.

      I should do a general post on the most misused genre labels. Hmmm, think I will do that.

  5. Wow again, Dean!!!

    I love how you debunk these myths. And I love how your chapters/posts appear just when I need them most.

    “Trust yourself for heaven’s sake and learn how to be an artist.”

    I need to tape this above my computer.

    Thanks so much!!!

  6. As a reader I’ve found visiting bookstores a depressing experience in the last couple of years for this reason. For example, I used to read a lot of horror when I was younger but today when I look at the horror shelf it’s all Twilight ripoffs, ‘Stephen Hawking: Vampire Hunter’ and ‘Moby Dick and Killer Cockroaches’ novels.

    This is probably why the big-sellers do seem to come out of nowhere, because many of us are looking for stories that no-one wants to sell because they’re not just like the stories everyone else is selling. Fortunately anyone can now put those stories on the digital ‘bookshelf’ as self-published novels, rather than trying to compete with the three million other authors who are trying to write the next Twilight ripoff.

  7. Ty Johnston says:

    Well, shoot. There goes my idea for a sparkling werewolf zombies erotic romance teen vampire thriller novel.

  8. Thanks for this post, Dean. As a reader, I completely agree that books that don’t follow a trend stand out when I’m picking something new to read.

    Reader markets aren’t the same as a market for say, bicycles. Should a store stock mountain bikes, or racing bikes, or cruisers? People who want to buy bicycles are using it for a specific purpose. Books aren’t like that. Books are meant to feed our brains, engage us, and speak to us in a unique voice. When they surprise us–they’re memorable. And we’re more likely to recommend those books to others.

  9. Glynn James says:

    Fantastic stuff as usual, and it looks like I’m back for another grilling. As usual I fail at at least one point in your articles every time.

    About writing what is hot, well I’m pretty sure I’ve got that one down (he says tentatively). Quite a number of readers of my books have said – oh it’s a bit Clive barker, or a bit Mad max, or it’s got hints of H P Lovecraft etc, but quite a number say it’s like nothing they’ve read. Now, I know that’s subjective, but I still think it’s a good sign. I’m not able to accurately pigeon hole my books.

    Now the bit about not sharing your work. Ah. (gulp…looks around at the other writers who are already ducking for cover)

    I’ve always been fascinated by the way Dickens wrote a number of his works. I don’t mean the subject or genre, I mean the serialised releases, cliffhanger endings etc.

    The first book that I released (no book plug here) was a challenge to myself. I would do it how Dickens did it. I would get the ideas in my head, get my rough plot and start with one episode. I wrote the book in twenty episodes, edited them every time I finished the next one for mistakes and typos, no heavy re-writes, and then I put them out for people to read. By the time I got to the last episode there were a lot of folks reading the episodes (roughly 3000 downloaded episode 20).

    The biggest challenge was that I couldn’t go back and fix plot later on. I had to go with what I’d released.

    I enjoyed the process enough that I’m doing the sequel in the same way.

    Another fail?

    • dwsmith says:

      Glynn, oh, heavens, serialized work has been done over the decades and many classics were written in such a fashion. But as you said, you have to be pretty darned sure of your craft because you can’t fix. Maybe those of you with rewrite problems should try this. (grin)

      There are a few keys to this:

      Key One: Have ZERO feedback loop, meaning no one reading is allowed to comment to you about the book, or if that’s not possible, have the ability to shut out all voices. Otherwise it becomes a group book and we all know what groups do to things.

      Key Two: Have some idea where you are going before you start. Unlike how I write many books with just typing into the dark, serialized novels with readers don’t allow you to just stop. Robert Sheckley, a good friend of mine and one of the most unique writers to ever live, did this for Pulphouse Magazine, writing into the dark and getting me new chapters for the magazine. He sort of drifted around until all of us were confused and he just stopped. The book never got published that I know of.

      But clearly this worked for you, so keep firing. But for us mortals out here, think twice before you try it. I’ve thought about it numbers of times and have never been able to deal with the first part. However, I may serialize a Poker Boy novel here because I need to force myself to fix the continuity issues. It’s the origin of the Poker Boy team story and since I have written twenty stories since I wrote that, I need to go back through the book and fix the continuity of the characters and that task just bores me, so I might force myself to do it by starting to serialize it here. That way I have a deadline to do a chapter or two of fixes. Sigh. I HATE going back over my own stuff.

  10. K. W. Jeter says:

    Good one, Dean, on the notion of “polishing” things until they’re dull. The metaphor I’ve been using, for both myself and others, is that what I shoot for in the kind of fiction I do is like a good bar band: whatever I screw up in the first set of the night, I’ll try to get it right in the second set.

    That, and the old gigging musician adage about tuning: if you get the skinny strings good, the fat ones will take care of themselves. :)

  11. Glynn James says:

    Thanks for the advice Dean – as always very much appreciated.

    I don’t have an absolute zero feedback loop, I get a lot of email about the series from readers (more than I deserve), and I enjoy talking to them too much to not reply, but I am (so far) able to block out suggestions and I’m writing 3 or 4 episodes ahead of publishing this time – and I know roughly where the book is going. I suspect I won’t be able to keep it that way indefinitely, so may not serialise the next one.

    The other reason it really worked for me was precisely what you said about not stopping. I really think I finished the book because I’d put myself in a position where I had no choice, and I couldn’t leave it too long either because I got told off by readers if I was slow! It was the first story I ever finished.

    Am I sure of my craft though? I survived the first book and I’m being careful with the sequel, but cripes, this time it’s seat of the pants and people are watching and expecting.

    It’s a lot of fun.

    If I fail, I can always use a pen name from here on.
    You so get another paypal donation for tolerating me :)

  12. Rob Cornell says:

    The corollary to this is, “Don’t keep from writing a story simply because it’s similar to what’s hot and been done before.”

    If you really want to write that story, stay true to yourself and it will be original because you wrote it.

    These days it seems like everybody is writing urban fantasy. But I had an idea for a series with similar tropes. I decided to write it anyway and had the most fun I’ve ever had writing. And one thing I noticed is that my version of “urban fantasy” ain’t much like anything else out there (i.e. my vampires aren’t broody heart throbs, they’re freaking ugly monsters.) I just released the sequel and and have had a lot of positive feedback from readers.

    Never would have happened if I’d let current trends decide for me what I should write next.

  13. Sam Lee says:

    Oh, man, Dean! Now you’re going to have me hopping back and forth to Oregon again next year. :) I do see your point about themed anthologies, and I might be speaking from fear of failure. It’ll be fun to try, and see what happens.

    Loren’s story sounds fantastic! I see it’s available in ebook and will go grab a copy. :D

    As far as serialized stories go, I think I’ve just started one, and it’s freaking me out just a bit (in a good way). I don’t think I left a cliffhanger at the end of the first installment nor thought of it as an installment, but there are a lot of unanswered questions I set up that in retrospect I realized I didn’t answer, so I might as well write what happens next and see if readers who liked the first installment want to read the next developments.

    I learned about having a zero feedback loop on all unfinished works the hard way: getting crits on incomplete novels-in-progress as I wrote them on my second novel. That stopped me writing, dead cold, for at least a year until I realized what had happened. It was a boneheaded move, but I learned from it, lol.

    That would-be novel is still lying in pieces on some critique-autopsy table, by the way!

  14. JohnMc says:

    Reality ought to make this myth a dead duck. If a legacy publisher has a 6-18month time line for a book hitting shelves how could anything be hot today? The current generation of readers are working on Twitter time. What’s hot at 9am is boring and baked by 5pm with them. Six months is so next century for Millennials.

  15. Serial fiction is the most popular format in the free erotica story sites. It’s not entirely clear how it would make the jump to paid, though I’ve heard a little about some experiments both with erotica and science fiction that are promising

    The biggest problems with the serial fiction stories is that all too many times it becomes clear that the author is wandering and the story either just dies/is abandoned or wanders into the weeds. The authors who don’t do this are the ones who get all the accolades.

    And how do the best of them do it? They write the whole story first, and then just release it as a serial. That seems to not only be the strongest writing, but the best guarantee for the readers that the story won’t get abandoned.

    • dwsmith says:

      Big Ed, that’s exactly why I think I’ll release the Poker Boy novel that way. It’s already written and had stunningly fantastic rejections when I mailed it out six years ago. But as anyone who has read Poker Boy knows, it just don’t fit. (grin)

      So maybe this fall watch for that. Right now I have a short story challenge to get fired back up. Wow have I pushed this against the deadline. (grin)

  16. Cora says:

    Another great post, Dean, though it caused some uproar on the Kindleboards.

    Writing just to chase a hot trend has never really worked for me, as I found out the one time I tried to do it. And one of the biggest advantages about indie publishing is IMO that you can write and publish whatever you want to write without regard for trends, author brands, editorial preferences, etc… My bestselling e-book to date is a lesbian western romance, a story that was so niche it never fund a publisher after the anthology I originally wrote it for fell through. But now it’s selling and finding readers. At some point, I will probably also publish the short story that got glowing “Love this, but I don’t know what to do with it” rejections from every SFF mag on the market.

    Though, as Rob says above, the fact that something is popular shouldn’t stop you from writing in that genre either. For starters, if you get in early on the trend, writing in a popular subgenre because you want to write it might actually help you. Secondly, just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s bad. I’m very fond of urban fantasy, for example, and the current boom has made me a very happy reader indeed.

  17. MP McDonald says:

    I agree with most of what you said. I can’t count how many times my husband or someone else has said, “Hey, why don’t your write about *insert current best-selling genre*? I try to explain to them that there is no way I could sustain interest in writing something unless it comes from my own muse. I sometimes wish I could tweak the muse so it wants to write about vampires or boy wizards, but I can’t.

    I get the part about re-writing, but sometimes, I’ll read my stuff back and it sounds stilted initially. I think that’s when I’m so full of ideas while writing, I’m trying to get them all down as fast as I can before I forget them. Afterward, the writing almost reads more like an outline. So, I have to go back and re-write those parts to make them flow.

  18. Great advice, as always, Dean.
    I find that rather than writing whatever’s “hot,” I usually find myself writing what I can’t find on the bookstore shelves. Unlike Rob’s venture (above), my own foray into the urban fantasy realm almost immediately veered away from the current trends and into the more lighthearted – a sub-sub genre I’ve dubbed “suburban fantasy.”
    The first novel in this set isn’t leaping off the virtual shelves (people have to hear about it first), but the responses I’ve gotten have been positive, in the nature you were describing of people thinking that the world I’ve filled with goblins, trolls, dwarves and zombies is a fresh, original take on a genre that a lot of us are getting tired of.
    More important, I enjoyed writing the book a lot more than if I’d tried to force the story into the conventions of the “hot” trend. Letting go of the trend let me play, rather than work all through the writing of the book, so much that I’m now working to get some companion stories completed and up, too. (Should I admit that in public, that I had fun with the writing, rather than agonizing over every word? Ah, I don’t care. It’s a fun book and it left me wanting to write the next one!)
    – Liz

  19. Brandon Wood says:

    “Most authors just don’t know genre at all, and with indie publishing that’s becoming critical.

    I should do a general post on the most misused genre labels.”

    Yes, please! I know I would greatly appreciate it. The hardest part of e-publishing, for me, is when I have to define what genre it’s in. So important for people to find your book; so hard to do.

  20. Dean, this is one that really crawls under my skin: this obsession with Amazon sales rankings and the hyper-focus on having a best seller. And my pet peeve – “I’m a nobody. I have to give my work away to build up a readership.”

    I’m a nobody. My mother has 9 children. She usually can’t even remember my name. No one on the internet knows who I am. I don’t have a lot published; no novels yet. Late this year and 2012 is where the majority of my trade titles plus my self-pub stuff is going to get out.

    *YET*

    I still sell a little every month. My short stories, both epublisher and self-published ones alike, little a little every month. Every time I put out something new, I sell just a little bit more. I don’t play with pricing. I don’t try to stack the system. I don’t have very good Amazon ratings. I don’t really do all that much. Yet, I’m selling a wee bit.

    About a week ago, I was told to drop a book to $0.99 because “you’ll never make your money back at $3.99.” Well, actually, I will make my money back. I already have, in fact. I haven’t made back the time investment, but it’s slowly coming.

    In the meantime, instead of fiddling and going for the quick win, I’m writing my next novella. ‘Cause, that’s where I’m going to eventually be making my money. Having more titles, all well-done, and fairly priced for both me and readers.

  21. Carradee says:

    I’ve been chewing on this, particularly #1 & #2. I’ve long noticed that I’m evidently odd, because I’m actually helped by talking about things ahead of time and bouncing a WiP off someone else. (By “bounce off someone else,” I mean that I share, and the other person gives reactions or asks logic questions.)

    Now, I’ve also noticed that a lot of writers are hindered by sharing too much, so I’m careful when I chatter with fellow writers. If they’re stuck, I ask if it would help them to share it. If they say no, I move the discussion onto other writerly things, like techniques and treats. If they don’t know (or if I can tell they don’t know from how they talk about their story), I ask questions to focus the discussion on a specific thing they’re struggling with, whether it’s writing realistic-sounding dialogue or figuring out how to turn off that inner editor or whatnot.

    Is some of that critical brain? Maybe. We often discuss that, too.

    I forced myself to write a novel without any significant chatter about it while it was in progress, and considering some of the problems I got stuck on, I believe I could’ve completed it a lot faster if I’d handed it over while a WiP to one friend/beta of mine. She could’ve isolated what was niggling at me a lot more quickly than I did. (We’ve done that for each other before.)

    It’s possible that novel was a fluke, so I’ll be making myself try again to write a novel without an in-progress beta. I’m not looking forward to it, but I don’t use my friend as a crutch.

  22. Jeremy says:

    The nice thing about copyright lasting for life of the author + 70 years is that what you write will eventually be hot at some point during your (or your heirs’) ownership…probably more than once.

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