Monday, December 31, 2007

Back and forth

I was going to do this post all about why writing SF&F is like being a billionaire - and I don't mean because neither one has money in their pocket - because the hardest part seems to be thinking big. This thought was occasioned by watching Top Gear which had a segment set on a race track built by an oil billionaire. Clearly whoever did that has grasped the magnitude of their wealth and run with it. Same goes with genre stories. It's the only literary form where bigger is better. Most modern fiction is set in a small town and about a small guy or gal and their small problems. By contrast SF&F can encompass the death of worlds, of everything and everyone.

But now I'm not going to write about that because I'm becoming increasingly unsure about the posts I've put on this blog. I'm doing it because I'm told I should have one - even though I don't have an audience as yet. But I'm still wrangling with what I want it to be.

At the moment all I know is what I don't want it to be. Perhaps its the built-in diffidence of being a Brit but I wince every time I read a blog post which screeches about that writer's award winning story or the places it has been published, or republished, or translated. If you met someone in the pub who talked about themselves all the time they'd be a boor - same goes online. I do not read the blogs of writers (and I don't read many) to hear about how great they are. I read to get more of a sense of who they are - their view of the world. Based on a reading of many writer's blogs you could be forgiven for thinking that they are all braying hoorays.

So I'm not going to be doing that. There are some blogs I want more of and I want to emulate their slice of life/tiny story post type thing. Hence the Train of Death post below. So I want to do more of that.

And, if I'm honest, I don't know enough about SF&F to compete with the lengthy essays put out by the best in the field. And I have a limited amount of time to write so don't really want to commit that to research to make those longer pieces better when I could be writing stories and learning my trade. So, not that either. Well, only every now and then.

I think what could be useful, to offset the rampant egoism of writing this, I'll put in stuff I'm learning about writing and the trade. And what I have learned leads me to the subject of this post.

The single most important trait a writer can have, as far as I know, is persistence/dedication. Success seems not to revolve (solely?) around talent. I'm not aware of anyone that broke through with a single story sale. Perhaps it's cruel of me to admit that I was heartened to read that even Ted Chiang regularly gets rejected. So battering away at editors with story after story, showing them that you are getting better seems to be the way to break through. Familiarity in this sense breeds contentment and the willingness to take a chance and print one of your stories.

All of which has led me to set myself some pretty steep objectives for 2008. I kind of did the same in 2007 and managed to send out more stories than ever before but my approach was pretty scattershot. I'm aiming to write a story a month next year but will settle for nine - pretty paltry when folk like Jay Lake claim to write one a week - but limited time etc etc. Plus I want to make a pro sale and/or sell enough stories to join these folks.

I know I can do it. If there is one other character trait (flaw?) that writers need it is for a boundless source of hope. It's that which makes me look forward to the post every day to see if I've got any acceptances, it's that which gets me up in the early hours to write down an idea or an outline that's been battering the inside of my head like a trapped moth, it's that which drives me day after day in the face of almost 100 rejections to keep at it. All I have to do is think big.

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