Attacking that Pipe Dream Mario Style (with a little help from Robert Heinlein)

October 9, 2011 § 2 Comments

For a long time I didn’t tell anybody that I wanted to be an author.  Even now, I’ll mention to people that one of my short stories is being published in November, and they will say “Whaaaaa? I didn’t know you write.”  The big reason it took so long to tell people I wanted to be an author is that it feels like everybody wants to be an author.  I can think of a half-dozen people off the top of my head that have, at one time or another, mentioned that they have a book idea, partially completed manuscript, etc.  The fact that so many people say they want to be authors (preferably of the published variety) and so few ever get to that point makes writing feel like a pipe dream.  I hesitated to tell people about wanting to be a writer because A) half the time I felt like I didn’t stand a chance of my writing ever going anywhere, and B) I didn’t think people would take my aspirations seriously, which made me even more self-conscious.

The thing is that we have a certain amount of control over whether dreams are of the pipe variety or not.  Robert Heinlein, one of the three “fathers of science fiction,” once gave five rules to follow if you want to be a published author.  He said he didn’t have any concern about giving away the rules because he knew almost no one would follow them.  First, you have to write.  Second, finish what you write.  Third (and I’ve taken Robert Sawyer’s wording on this one) “don’t tinker endlessly with a story… stories are never finished, only abandoned — learn to abandon yours.” Fourth, put your story on the market.  Fifth, keep your story on the market until it sells.  And Sawyer added a sixth that I like as well: start working on something new.

Obviously there is a lot to writing beyond determination (like practice), but of all the people I know in my life who want to be published and aren’t, none of them have followed these six rules.  Robert Sawyer goes into a bit more depth on each of the rules, which I really appreciate, so if you’re interested, head over his way.

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§ 2 Responses to Attacking that Pipe Dream Mario Style (with a little help from Robert Heinlein)

  • Jay Swanson says:

    I know exactly how you feel. When I was writing my first book I never told anyone what I was doing. “Why are you sitting on your computer all the time?” “GAMBLING!”

    I still don’t tell people I’ve published a book (which I’m sure works wonders for sales). The thing is, it opens up a host of awkward conversations. “Oh I’ve been working on my book for years!” Which usually leads to a followup quetion out of politeness, like how far have they gotten or what’s it about. And the usual answers are “Oh, I have at least most of the first chapter done” or “well it’s about a girl who lives with her parents. I haven’t figured out what will happen yet, but she has a cat… I’m pretty sure.”

    What’s most awkward is that they feel like they’re peers with J.K. Rowling – and I’m afraid everyone will look at me the same if they find out I think I’m a writer. Which I don’t. But that’s a completely different mental problem.

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