Amusing little article in The Atlantic:
no, I’m talking about straight how-to books, most of which claimed to offer shortcut advice, practical instructions on “writing your say the genre,” and even in some cases “secrets” of the novelist’s or story writer’s or poet’s trade. That day, with Delores, I stood among the titles, amazed. Stack upon stack of them.
“These sell really well,” she told me. “You wouldn’t believe how many people want to be writers out there.”
I said, “Damn.” That was what came out of me. We were looking at 50 different titles—a lot. More than I would’ve believed existed. And in the next moment, she offered me $10,000 to write one. “Really,” she said. “These kinds of books sell better than the fiction books.”
“Well,” I said. “Lordy.” I picked one up and put it down, picked up another and turned it in my hand and put it down. “Lordy.”
“Ten thousand dollars,” she said. “And I’ve heard you lecture. You could knock one of these off in a few days, I’ll bet.”
I’ll be honest with you. I am not a fan of writing manuals, and articles like this don’t make me want to change my mind. There’s nothing so annoying as having someone tell you the right way to write a book, right? Because I don’t think there is one, you learn by doing, and I’ve always suspected there’s some kind of exploitative subculture on the fetish of being a writer.
I guess there’s some kind of therapeutic, we’re all in this together kind of value to be gleaned from such books, but hey – when it comes to doing it, there’s just your way, and what works for you, so I say ignore all this distracting white noise. The more time you spend worrying about writing, the less writing you do. Having said that, James seemed to enjoy this one.
How many writers actually use manuals, out of interest, and how useful are they to you? I mean, I could totally rant about how useless I’ve found them to be, but I’m sure I’ve annoyed enough people by now. I’m happy to be humbled and proven wrong on their true value.
I’ve had a few emails recently asking about getting published, and I hold my hands up and shrug. I can only talk about the things you can actually write about, things to increase your chances, but there’s no golden ticket, just years of graft. Admittedly I did write this post a year or so back, but the more I get into writing, the more awkward I feel about giving advice.
And enjoy it, yeah? That’s the fun part, the thinking-up-mad-shit.