Got a Letter Today…
A very real private letter from a very, very frustrated person who had just seen the Sacred Cow posts I did all those years ago. (Some are dated but they are all still here.) The writer was thanking me for talking sanity.
The letter was heartbreaking, described how it had taken a year-and-a-half to write the novel and two-and-a-half more years rewriting and the writer still wasn’t happy with it, but wanted to move on.
The writer was clearly having a long-held dream crushed by the myths that range from writing slow and sloppy to rewriting and needing editors and agents and so on.
Once again, reading that letter, I came to hate these myths that kill people’s dreams. And the myths are illogical and like cockroaches scuttle for shelter when a real-life light is shined on them.
Seems I was the light for this poor writer for a short moment. But I take no credit since most of you here know about trying to talk with someone who is buried in the myths. They will not listen and get angry at you. And wow have I had my share of people angry at me over the decades. I just shrug and keep doing what I do.
This writer today was open and willing to hear simply because the other way was about to crush the dream completely.
So folks, the lesson here is to never, ever let a myth in at any point of your career. They will kill you eventually. Crush them the moment you discover one impacting your life and writing. And unlike this writer who wrote me today, you might not know you are even being killed.
What myths am I talking about? How about just the four the writer who sent me the letter talked about.
— Writing slowly equals writing better and writing quickly equals writing poorly.
Stupid beyond words. All of us type about the same pace. Writing quickly means we spend more time writing, thus we get better. Duh. Called practice. The poor writer above spent 1.5 years writing a book first draft. Say the book is 100,000 words long. Divide that by say 500 days and you get the blazing speed of 200 words per day. Most people type longer emails or Facebook posts than that.
— Rewriting makes stories better.
The most deadly of all myths. This one not only kills productivity because instead of writing new books, you are screwing around with the old one. But mostly it tells your creative voice over time that it is valueless because you will fix it later. Thus your creative voice eventually refuses to show up and you are finished, the dream dead. Write and cycle and fix anything the first time through in creative voice only so when you are finished you are done. Then fix typos a first reader finds and typos a copyeditor finds, get the story in print, and move on to the next story.
— Agents will help you.
Head-shaking stupid. They help you in this new world sell all rights to your work and will rip you off. They had their place last century, but time to move into the new world.
— Traditional publishers will help you.
Nope. They will help you lose all your rights to your work and years and years of your time when you could be building an audience and writing more books and practicing and becoming a better storyteller.
I hope in my letter back I gave the writer the help needed to try to change the path and find the fun and the dream again. I kind of doubt it because any person that far down into the myths seldom recovers.
But I can hope.