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4 responses to “What Do New Writers REALLY Need to Know?”

  1. Dick Cummins

    Here is some writing advice from an old pro, Eric. Ray Chandler lived down here in La Jolla for many years and was a prodigious letter writer, loved to discuss fiction writing versus the production of academic prose with other writers. This from a letter to Erle Stanley Gardner after reading a pompous screed in the Atlantic titled something like “The Literatuers,” I believe.

    “Thinking in terms of ideas destroys the power to think in terms of emotions and sensations … I have at times (had) a futile urge to explain (why) the whole apparatus of intellectualism bores me. The business of a fiction writer is to recreate the illusion of life. How he does it, if he even can do it, it does not in the least help him to know.”

    He mentions too that he is the kind of author who writes 30,000 words to get 5000 keepers and at one point complains of “plot constipation.” BTW, picked up The Simple Art of Murder from Amazon and will probably get some scribbling pointers from a “…writer of lively sensibility and a prose cadence to die for.”

  2. Eric

    Gosh, only 30,000 words to get 5,000 keepers? What I wouldn’t give to be that efficient. Your mention of The Simple Art of Murder rang a distant bell. Very distant. So I went scouting through various bookshelves on which are arranged in non-alphabetical disorder all sorts of books and sure enough, there was The Simple Art of Murder. Inside the front cover, I’d written my name and “San Francisco, August, 1977,” which prompted a stroll down memory lane, which for me is usually fog-bound, but this time the fog cleared briefly and I recalled buying the book at a small book shop on Clement Street, not far from the apartment Cheryl and I moved into shortly after returning to California from Iowa. I had underlined the following, about the detective in what Chandler called detective fiction: “In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption. It may be pure tragedy, if it is high tragedy, and it may be pity and irony, and it may be the raucous laughter of the strong man. But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man.”

  3. Darlene

    This is something film schools have struggled with in the past also. USC’s answer (in the ’80s) was to offer classes on how to pitch, how to take a meeting, etc., as writer/directors were woefully ill-prepared on how to talk to executives and producers. This evolved into a whole master’s program on producing and it lives side-by-side with the filmmaking program. UCLA on the other hand, didn’t bother with any of this, and I think it has been to the students’ detriment. Artists need to know how to sell their stuff. Not to become sales people themselves, but have a fundamental understanding of how the system they want to work in operates. Especially in publishing, with the changing landscape, it’s important that an author takes the lead in controlling his/her publishing destiny.

  4. Eric

    Darlene, thanks for your thoughts. I think USC’s model is what I had in mind, when I was thinking about what a workshop might offer. Certainly young writers, like artists, need to know something about promotion, given the fact that so many publishers these days don’t put much effort into marketing the books they publish, but for a few by the big names, maybe. Of course, the time a young writer spends pushing his or her book is time not spent writing. But a little information about best practices might help a writer promote his or her work most effectively with the least amount of time. Certainly the social media offer opportunities for getting the word out about a title. And these media can help a writer stay connected to an audience, which might even be energizing, leading to book number two, and three, and….

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