If you haven’t noticed, Nick Mamatas, whose new, highly recommended book Starve Better: Surviving the Endless Horrors of the Writing Life is now out, has been guest blogging at Booklifenow. In fact, he’s not just been guest blogging, he’s been blowing sh*t up.
The fact is, we all need a reality check every now and again. We also need to push back against received ideas and so-called commonsense advice. So here’s Mamatas with a series of Against posts that should shake you up and make you really think about your writing and your career. You may disagree with some of it, but that’s part of defining yourself as a writer, too. He’ll be posting at least one more this coming week.
“Professionalism is a complex of supposedly mandatory and proscribed behaviors that makes a writer “professional” regardless of their ability to write interesting material. Recently, at a science fiction convention I met a former student of mine, and he was very concerned about…his blog. Which he does not have. He was told, however, that today professional writers must all blog, but that these blogs must not offer up controversial political opinions, or negative reviews of popular books, or “ruffle feathers.” Everything must be “politically correct” he believed—to use that famously meaningless term I try so hard to get my students to stop using.”
“Writing is a balance between art and craft, but there is enough suspicion of art—it suggests snobbery, laziness, and even homosexuality in some of the more idiotically conservative quarters—that the stick must be bent in the other direction. Craft is a matter of artisanship, and artisanship is a matter of mastering a relatively small tool kit in order to solve a number of practical problems. These practical problems also allow for aesthetic flourishes to be added. You can thus have a basket with an interesting weave, for example, but you can’t have the weave by itself, without the basket.”
“What do people want? ‘A good story.’ How do we know? People can barely say anything else. When editors describe the sort of material they’re looking to acquire, they want “a good story.” Readers are always on the hunt for “a good story.” Good stories are also useful for shutting down a variety of discussions. Are there not enough women being published, or people of color? Who cares who the author is, so long as he or she writes a good story? Can writers do different things with their stories—create new points of view, structure words on the page differently, work to achieve certain effects not easily accessible with more common presentations? Why bother—a good story is the only important thing.”