Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Writing Metric


Scott D. Parker

How do you talk about your writing with non-writers? And how do you keep track of your writing successes?

Among my family and friends, there is a nice group of people who always ask after my writing career. More often than not, these folks are the ones I don't see but once or twice a year. It's a nice thing to experience, except, of course, when it comes time for me to answer the question.

Unlike some of the other folks here at DSD, I've not published a novel…yet. Yes, I've had a few short stories published and I've helped David Cranmer edit an anthology or two. Of these, I'm proud and count them as part of the curriculum vitae of my fiction writing career.

Those of us who are writers and follow each other's careers, we know and appreciate these achievements as stepping stones to a longer, lasting fiction career. But, and this may only be my impression, I never get the sense that non-writers understand that these small steps are crucial to getting to where we want to be (usually novel writer) or, at least, assuaging that inner desire to tell stories.  I think non-writers are focused on the novel as a thing by which to measure one's progress. Think about it: With the proliferation of self-published book available on the internet, just about anyone can write a book and get it in front of the eyes of readers. Forget whether or not its good or not; anyone can do it.

Just last Sunday at a Super Bowl party--the event where I see a certain group of friends only once a year--I got asked by a couple of folks about my writing. For the one who has a Kindle, she mentioned that she reads a lot of books, way more than she used to. That is certainly a positive benefit of the ebook revolution. She mentioned the self-published thing and asked if I had anything up there or not. I said no…but then later got to wondering why not? Why not just put up glorified first drafts out for the world to see? Other people do. But, then again, I think lots of folks clog up the arteries of the internet with their self-published stuff, making it more difficult for better work to rise to the top.

Oh, you see what I did there? I basically implied my stuff's better than other stuff. I guess we all do that and then proceed to upload our books to the internet. I guess those folks count their success by how many things are available in novel form.

Another friend asked about the writing and I proudly let him know about my 2012 accomplishments: editing and writing. I told him that I was working on a new project, one that I plan on completing this year.

Of course, with luck and perseverance, perhaps I could have a common answer at next year's Super Bowl: I've written a book and it's online.

How do y'all measure your writing career? Do you do it by the number of short stories you publish or do you only keep track of the novels because that's how non-writers seem to keep track of things?


pattinase (abbott) said...

Although I have published short stories for a while now, I think I will never feel I can say I am a writer. It must be the novel thing. In fact, when people ask about my writing, I usually say, "My daughter is the real writer."

Dana King said...

If you didn't think your stuff was better than other stuff, why would you bother? That's not to say you think your stuff is the best; someone is always better. But there's a certain confidence you need.

I'd say to take something you're proud of, polish it until it's as good as you can make it, then go ahead and self-publish an e-book. (If you have something you like that's been rejected and you're not going send it out again, even better.) See what feedback you get. I self-published two novels after I'd decided to give 'p on getting a contract, but I didn;t want them to do nothing but sit on a hard drive. They didn't sell--possibly, in part, because I suck at promotion--but the response from writers I respect was enormously gratifying, and did lead to a contract.

What the hell? It doesn't cost. Just be sure it's something you're proud of, because it's going to create a first impression.

Joelle Charbonneau said...

Short stories are incredibly difficult for me to write. So, I am impressed and amazed by everyone who does them well. As for the rest, I measure by writing by--writing. Not necessarily by the number of finished manuscripts I have written. Each writer defines and measures their career in different ways just as each writer has a different process to get to the finish line of a story.