Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Bouncing off Tom

By Rick Blechta

First, read Tom’s excellent post from yesterday. Even if you’re not a writer, you will find it interesting. His post lays out very clearly some of the things that writers go through before you get to see their (hopefully) deathless prose in print.

But especially read this if you are someone at the beginning of a writing career. Everything he says makes wonderful sense. Yes, there are tricks of the trade and Tom lays out the most important of them.

Back in the dim, dark past, I took a university-level creative writing course while at McGill. Basically, I needed one more general academic course for my Batchelor of Music degree and, well, this course fit into my schedule, plus the classroom wasn’t too far away from the Faculty of Music, so I signed up. The teacher was pretty good, but a lot of the heavy lifting was done during seminars by a teaching assistant who was pretty green, by my reckoning.

I learned a fair bit about the nuts and bolts of shaping acceptable prose, but when I finally decided to sit down and write some fiction, and actually turned out a novel, I found that I had zero information about what to do next. That I had to learn by myself — as so many of us have.

Same thing with my music studies. The performance students were taught everything they needed to know in order to perform. What they weren’t told was how to go about being a professional musician in a business sense. What are the protocols for auditioning, promoting yourself, preparing yourself for a performance past the technical aspects of your chosen instrument. (Fortunately, in recent years, my alma mater has instituted a course that all performance students must take that prepares them with all the “business tools” needed for a successful active career. Good for them!)

We writers are in the same boat. If a creative writing teacher is thorough, one hopefully gets some of this important information. There are some excellent self-help books (Read Judith Applebaum’s excellent How to Get Happily Published!) but I suspect most of us are left to our own devices when setting out down the book marketing trail. By the way, that’s one of the things Type M is designed to bring you: stories of our own author travails, which might actually help guide an aspiring author towards getting published. Tom’s post from yesterday is of that ilk.

I suppose the point of this post is that there’s so much more to being a successful writer/author than turning out a great novel. Don’t expect to write a terrific story and the (publishing) world will beat a path to your door. The days of throwing your manuscript “over the transom” are long gone — if they ever existed at all.

Remember, it’s very difficult to write a good novel, but it’s far more difficult to get it published. Prepare yourself for that, do your homework, be prepared for rejection, and get really good at waiting. With any amount of luck and perseverance you may be rewarded with seeing your name on the cover of a book!


Thomas Kies said...

Rick, Thank you for the kind comments!!

Rick Blechta said...

It was a really excellent post! Thanks for writing it.

Rick Blechta said...

And they weren't "kind", they were the truth.

Charlotte Hinger said...

I'm still amazed that I could make so many false steps and still survive in publishing.

Rick Blechta said...

Boy, Charlotte, I'm with you on that! It's tough learning the ropes when you have no idea what the rules are!