No Business Like Writing Business

Sarah is away from computer today, so we’re being helpful Mad Geniuses and posting this for her. Hopefully there isn’t a rain of carp in our future. Although with carp, I could make a few recipes… Anyway, she did put this up at According to Hoyt, but we thought it was good enough she should say it again over here. 

So, some of you know I finished the Superstars Writing Seminar this weekend, which is why this will be a very short post. There’s a field trip today and I’m going. (And yep, this afternoon will find me typing away on Through Fire, because I was writing by hand at the Seminar.)

Anyway, it occurred to me that writing is such a strange avocation, pulling things out of non-existence and putting them in someone else’s head that writers – by which I mean true writers, not people who write so that they can get their next promotion in academia or what have you, but people who are compelled to tell stories – need these seminars and workshops, even if they learned nothing new at them. Why? Because we spend three or four days in the middle of a bunch of our peers and we start thinking we’re not the cursed outliers of the human race.

Now this is the third year I’ve attended Superstars. I’m not going to say there was no information. Among other things, we had the inimitable Kris Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith as speakers, and even if you know the information, you always catch some nuance in what they say that lights up a lightbulb.

There was also a lot of info I’m not ready to use yet, and might never use – Hollywood, comics – but which is good to have in my quiver because one thing in this business your career is likely to do is take a sudden turn to the weird when you least expect it.

That’s all fine.

But the most important thing about it for me, this year, was feeling energized by knowing I wasn’t alone and even my peculiarities (writing a book while listening to talks) were shared by some of my peers.

After the seminar yesterday, a friend asked how she could finish her book really fast, and ramp up on her career (she writes romance) to where she’s making money.

I wished she’d taken the seminar (I tried!) but since she couldn’t this year, I am going to distill some stuff from the seminar for her.


  • Don’t stop. You can’t sell books you haven’t written.
  • Write through the distractions. There is never going to be a distraction free life while you’re alive and in the world.
  • Keep writing. Particularly in the indie game, but really in all of it, you need productivity to make actual money. As in, living and buying groceries money.
  • If at first you don’t succeed, pick yourself up and write again. This business is WEIRD and even the best get knocked down. The long-terms continue working through everything.
  • There is money in them there hills, but it is work to get there. So – as Kevin Anderson says – the books ain’t gonna write themselves.
  • Vary what you do. You never know what will hit. The more tickets you have the better the chance of winning the lottery.

And now, I’m going to go to my field trip and to write.

3 thoughts on “No Business Like Writing Business

  1. “writers – by which I mean true writers, not people who write so that they can get their next promotion in academia or what have you, but people who are compelled to tell stories –”
    Thirty years ago, I spent a near-wasted year in a doctoral program at one of the countries top universities. In these programs, the emphasis is on turning out researchers, not teachers. The coursework didn’t really matter, compared to the research paper, which was to be completed between the first and second years. We were given millions of bits of data concerning the need to generate research throughout our career, learned the mantra ‘publish or perish,’ had esoteric statistical analysis hammered through our unseeing eyes and deaf ears, and then at the end, we had this sprung on us: publishing just to publish produces bad papers. The best papers are generated when the researcher gets genuinely interested in something, and wants to find out an Answer, and then writes about it with joy.
    Now, I found that a year in that wasteland was all I could bear, so I bailed out and got a job, but before I did, I read HUNDREDS if not thousands of research papers, and I can testify that some, but not all, reeked of ‘crank-it-out-ness.’ The papers which were readable and interesting stood out like an oasis on Dune.
    So, I think there is a case to be made for academic writers to attend these conferences. Will they ever do it? Doubt it. Money and time are closely guarded resources in the academic field, and competition is cut throat & back stabbing, among students as well as among faculty. It’s too bad, because the indie writer has to go through the same process as the doctoral student and faculty member.
    I just realized that while there are many more things I want to say about this, it’s not going to be of value to anyone except prospective doctoral students, and only of minor interest to writers. So, I stop at this point; it’s time to get ready for church, anyway.

  2. I really need to review before publishing. I just found ‘countries’ where I meant “country’s” and I’m stopping there. Wish there was an edit function…

    1. At least in history, there’s a push by publishers (as in the U of [state] Press) to get academics to write more readable books, now that the presses have to (gasp) stop haemmoraging as much red ink. I had a reviewer say that I needed to write more like Stanley Vestal, which if you know anything about academic publications is enough to either cause you to faint, or to laugh like a hyena and reach for another beer. But yes. There’s a reason why I joke that my history work includes translating from engineering and academic into English.

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