February 16th, 2009

(no subject)

I feel deeply philosophical today. One of my beta readers came back to me last night and said that she was enjoying the ghost novel but was rather surprised at it. I have to wait until she is finished before discovering what she means. I'm hoping it's good surprise.

Anyhow, to assist in my philosophical mode, here are a few things that writers have said to me in the last twelve months or so that have caused me to be surprised. They're not the actual words, only the sentiments. Most of these writers are... er... not published. I find this reassuring.

1. I don't care what the publisher normally takes, they will take my 200,000 word manuscript.

All I can say is that it had better be absolutely amazing, especially since more novels seem to be 300 pages and less than five years ago - might be the economic downturn hitting, or it might be that fewer readers buy big books. Might be both!

2. Gotta push other writers out of the sunlight - there are so few chances out there.

This is both inaccurate and nasty. Any writer who says this loses chocolate-rights in my life forever. The universe of the published is varied and complex and the only writers who compete with us directly are the ones who write exactly the same books for exactly the same market and who aren't co-authoring said books with us. If someone is writing exactly the same book as you and is not a co-author, then I suggest you have other problems than winning sunlight in a dark world. Being published is not a first-past-the-post race, anyhow: it's a complex relationship between writer/publisher/audience.

3. How will I get my story published if that editor yawned when I asked her a question at the last con?

I can teach you to read auguries in an Ancient Roman style if that will help. It bears about as much relationship to the quality of your writing, mostly, and it's a lot more fun than interpreting random yawns.

4. I never complain, but...

Too many possible endings - my current unfavourite is people who always have something negative in what they write in emails or say over the phone and always assume that I'm going to hate everything, and... if you need that much reassurance, constantly, wouldn't a counsellor be more effective than a Gillian? We all get miseries, but the forever-drain leeches life from me and I love it not.

5. I don't need to read to be a writer.

Mind you, I've had three students over the years who didn't feel they needed to write to be writers, either. It's apparently more of an attitude-thing. One of them defined it as sitting in a certain pose, holding the pencil over paper and waiting for the muse to come. If you do that for long enough each week, you can claim to be a writer, apparently.

6. Why didn't you publish/review/mention the story I liked rather than the story you liked?

7. You're joking, aren't you? No-one cares about how accurate the history/science/anything is. Readers don't take this stuff seriously.

We go to different SF conventions. We hang out in different net places. We are in different universes.

If anyone wants, I'll do a whole blogpost about why readers need writers to do that research. That isn't what gets me about this: what gets me about this is it always comes up in workshops devoted to creating worlds and to historical accuracy and to researching for writers.

8. All fantasy is based in the Middle Ages. My novel is too. I don't care if it doesn't look like the Middle Ages to you and if it has lots of steampunk and some doopy androids, it's still the Middle Ages. It has starving peasants.

Insert your own notes here. No, scratch that. I'll award a prize for the best annotation. I'll find a book from my library and post it to you. It's easier to go to the post office than to hit my head again a wall for three hours and twenty-six minutes, after all.

9. Will you beta read the first 4 volumes of my 9 volume epic? I need you to check all the history while you're at it, so I can finish the last 5 volumes. It's going to be published within two years and I can't send it to any publisher til I'm done. I'm not going to pay you or even thank you in the acknowledgements, but I'll invite you to the booklaunch.

Normally they want it by next week. What is it with these internal deadlines and vast notions of scale? Another person who lives in a different universe to me.

10. Grammar? Why do I need grammar?

At this point, I always tear hair out. Always.

PS I spent the morning in bed, fast, fast asleep. This is why all these negative vibes have infested my brain. I intend to do a brainwash straight after breakfast/lunch. I may also wash the dishes.