Myths about writing



(Originally posted on the Ink Jerkers blog on 18 December 2019.)

While going through my old browser bookmarks, I found a series of links to equally old articles that aim to bust some myths about writing and/or publishing, and figured they're best shared.

First and foremost is Dean Wesley Smith's series titled Killing the sacred cows of publishing. My personal favorites are the one about rewriting and another about novel length. Indeed, as I wrote in 2017, every writer has personal ways to write, that they need to discover. If you feel the need to rewrite, then by all means do so. If you're happy with the way a story is coming along in first draft, and so are your beta readers? Great then, leave good enough alone! There's plenty of work to do as it is, from proofreading to ensuring consistency. As for length, are you surprised to find out that overly long novels that just drag on and on can be blamed squarely on the greed of publishers? My own Vryheid is exactly 35K words long, right up there with The Call of the Wild and The Time Machine. Clearly length is not needed to make a classic.

Lord of the Rings was way outside the norm, folks. About ten times over, in fact, by some measurements.

There's another, more recent write-up that touches on this subject and more besides, like what books can still offer in the age of games, and what other forms they can take, such as books made of blog posts, or short stories weaved together into one grand narrative. And there are many more literary forms that you can try with confidence. Yes, including interactive fiction, which is commercially viable again as of the 2010s. And it makes perfect sense in a day and age when we do everything on the web: a medium defined by links that we have to follow purposefully.

Of course, that's assuming you even worry about selling at all. Which might not happen at all (with or without a publisher), and you should be ready for that. Best to just self-publish and treat it as the new punk. Not to be confused with the various -punk flavors of genre fiction.

Speaking of which: another thing you shouldn't worry about is genre. Sure, categorizing genre fiction has its purpose, but mostly, sci-fi and fantasy are intertwined so tightly, trying to disentangle them is a fool's errand. And don't even get me started about historical accuracy (in a story with dragons and wizards in it, no less); there are whole blogs dedicated to myths people believe about the Middle Ages. Funny how those who turn the past into a fantasy always hold a specific type of reductionist view, isn't it?

Write the story you want to write, in the way you want. A good story will come to life anyway, and tell you what form it wants to take. So listen to it.


Tags: writing, philosophy