Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

Looking at the Writing Advice

Very Seldom Do You Get a Stage Four Writer Being Honest…

Most either play into the myths for fear of hurting their own writing sales or they say nothing. Some figure their way of doing things is just their way and would never work for anyone else.

But Joe Lansdale, in a very simple article, sort of carefully told the truth about his writing.

If you haven’t read it yet either from an original source or my earlier post, do so now.

The Rules of Being a Professional Writer

He started off by giving only two simple rules that I completely agree with. One, you must read. Second, you must write.

It stuns me how many writers miss on both of these and yet claim they want to be professional writers. Can’t begin to tell you how many newer writers I run into that flat don’t read or haven’t read since they started trying to write.

And it stuns me even more (a topic around here regularly) how new writers think they can write very little, work on the same book for ten years, and get better. Doesn’t work that way. As Joe said, you must read and you must write.

Two simple rules.

He then goes on to talk about things that help. He starts off “You have to be excited about what you write.” I call that never writing to market unless you are passionate about the topic of the market. Write what you love, what entertains you. Or as Stephen King says, what scares you to death. Passion, excitement. Joe and I agree completely once again.

I say it in other ways as well. I warn people to keep the writing fun, keep the life events out of the writing, never call writing work. I spend a lot more time and words saying what Joe said simply. He’s good that way.

He tells you to not quit your day job at first. Yup. Kris’s column is about that this week in a way. Writing is a long-term learning experience, both on the business and the craft sides. Give it the time. Don’t put pressure on it at first.

Joe says he has a regular schedule, does regular pages.

And he flat says he avoids multiple drafts. That they confuses him. Yup, they confuse and bore me as well. And he had to learn how to teach himself to write when he traveled. You folks just watched me do that. (grin)

His “polish” at the end, as he says, is seldom a heavy rewrite. I agree. I fix typos and things Kris finds and cut out loops that don’t work. That’s my polish. Doesn’t take long and I agree, I never make any change Kris suggests that I don’t agree with.

And he doesn’t plot and he writes from his own life. Yup. Took a long time for Kris to pound through my head that my strongest stories were set right here in the world I know.

And he ends by saying to never write for other people. “Write like everyone you know is dead.”

Exactly. Write what makes you happy.

And damn, I think I just spent more words agreeing with Joe than he used writing the article. Go figure. (grin)


  • Linda Maye Adams

    When I started writing, I was eight, and I wrote because it fun having adventures. I could solve a mystery, have a little bit of danger, chase bad guys. I’m doing a novel set on a spaceship. How cool is that? Just like when I watched Star Trek–adventures in space. Except that they’re my adventures (and at the moment, not too good for the characters, but they’ll be okay).

    And I just saw a writer trying to define what success is by being a best seller or number of sales–all things they have absolutely no control over. Me? I want my sales to eventually be good enough that I can have fun writing more often. Blow up some aliens or monsters a time or two.

  • Maree

    I love what he said about dreams. I do that too. I have always been a very vivid dreamer. I set the story at the front of my mind before I go to sleep and when I wake up I have so many ideas.
    I never realised that this is why I don’t get evening writers. All the ideas are so distant from me by then. I find that I write from creativity in the mornings, fresh from dreams, and by the end of the day I write far more critically.

    And also why I think depriving yourself of sleep to write is crazy. I get my best ideas when I’m sleeping.

  • Sheila

    I really enjoyed reading this the other day. So much I could relate to! Linda, I started writing my stories down around age nine, but I’d been doing them in my head at least since age two. I was an avid reader from the moment I learned to read. I couldn’t get material fast enough!

    Multiple drafts make me crazy. I can’t bear the thought of them, even reading about others doing them makes me want to cry. I do like Joe, and Dean, and get one draft and make what few corrections need to be done at the end. It’s how I taught myself to write, and it’s how I’m happiest when writing.

    • dwsmith

      You have some sort of major crisis in your life, don’t drag that crisis into your writing, force your writing. Keep the writing a safe place, a fun place to escape to.

  • Mike Lawrence

    Hi Dean,

    Just found your website tonight and am cross-eyed from reading most of the sacred cows stuff. Very sobering and enlightening to hear so much detail from an old pro in the traditional world. Thank you for sharing all that! As an indie writer with three books in my inventory, I would like to know your thoughts on genre-locking. Do I really need to stick to a specific genre to build up a brand and audience or is this just another one of those “myths”? (Yeah, my three books are in three different genres.)

    Thanks again for sharing. Great stuff.

    • dwsmith

      Mike, as you read more here you will see that I push constantly that a writer only writes what they love to write, not to market. Just write the stories that you are passionate about, figure out the marketing after they are done. Never before.