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Some Things I Think I Know
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Some people have been talking about things they've learned about writing, or the writing business. I'll join in with a few observations, in no particular order.

1. You can't please everybody, so you'd better please yourself.

2. Some other writers have processes that will seem utterly alien, even counter-productive, to you, but it doesn't mean their processes are wrong, and telling them they're wrong probably isn't a good idea.

3. You never know what's going to connect with the most readers. Your favorite story might not impress anybody, while something you consider minor gets reprinted and widely praised.

4. Awards are nice, and being in "Best Of" anthologies is nice, but you better not let that shit go to your head.

5. Even good writers write bad stories sometimes.

6. There is nothing wrong with writing as a hobby.

6a. But if you want your writing to be a business, and not a hobby, you need to treat it like a business. You can't provide hobby-level input and expect professional business level-output. (Some people manage to do just that, of course, but they're exceptions.)

7. Every new level of success brings with it a whole new set of potential neuroses.

8. A lot of readers seem to value compelling characters and an interesting voice over a cracking-good plot.

9. Once you get beyond the basic competencies (spelling, grammar, fundamental structure, etc.), the quality of a story is almost entirely subjective. One reader's favorite book will be another's most hated -- or, worse, will leave them indifferent.

10. The vast majority of stories by competent working writers are not bad -- they are merely boring. They are boring because they lack a compelling voice, or compelling characters, or because they cover territory that other, better writers covered thoroughly long ago. Try to think laterally. Try to find the unique thing you can provide that no one else can. (This isn't the same as trying to shock or write surprise endings.)

11. If you write a lot of stories, you probably have a better chance of writing some good ones, but not if you write the same damn stories over and over and over again.

12. The best path for you to find commercial success may not run parallel to the best path for artistic growth/satisfaction. You have to decide how much you're willing to shift one path for the sake of the other.

13. If you work in the SF/fantasy field, you'll be doing business, and spending time socially, with a lot of the same people for years and years and years. So be careful about being too big of an asshole, and be prepared to deal with the consequences of the friends, enemies, and ex-lovers you make.

14. Comedy is harder to write than tragedy, but it can slip inside a reader's defenses and deliver a powerful payload they don't expect.

15. You can be talented, and hard-working, and pour your guts out on the page, and give it your all, and be successful artistically, and still fail commercially. Nobody owes you anything, so you have to love the work for its own sake.



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