Today’s post is inspired by an award-winning fantasy and science fiction author I interviewed during my cross-country road trip, Michael Swanwick. For a time in the early 2000’s he played a character online by the name of “Unca Mike,” who took a different approach to writing advice:
Most writing columns offer sound and useful advice to new writers, so they can accelerate the process by which they become successful, well-paid professionals. Unca Mike don’t play that. My advice is designed to cut new talent off at the knees and thus keep down the number of writers I have to compete against.
In that spirit, let me offer some advice to all of those creative souls out there yearning to grow as writers:
- Grammar and punctuation are so 20th Century: The goal of writing is to express yourself, and good writing only happens when you are true to who you are. So don’t confine yourself with rules. Embrace the modern culture of garbled spelling and syntax found in tweets and texts. Fight conformity!
- Don’t waste your time reading: You’ve got writing to do, book tours to plan, and Stephen Colbert interviews to imagine. What could you possibly gain by reading someone else’s words? Those authors should be reading you.
- Revision is a creativity killer: Writing is all about channeling your muse and allowing her to express herself through you. That magic occurs with the first draft. So why would you want to edit that magic, to strike out some passages, rewrite others, and add in still more material? Please submit your work to an editor or agent when it is at its most honest, directly after it’s typed.
- Let a potential agent or editor know your value: Nobody wants to work with an author who is crippled by self-doubt. So be sure, in your pitch letter to an editor or agent, to insist that you are the best writer they will ever be blessed to encounter. Let them know the phenomenal ignorance they will demonstrate if they decline to represent or publish you. They’ll be won over by your honesty, trust me!
- Focus on yourself: Who says creative writers are part of a larger creative community, and that we all benefit from connection and support in this community? Writing is a zero-sum game; someone else’s gain is your loss. When you realize this, you’ll know not to listen to the wisdom of other writers, whether found in a classroom, a writer’s group, a craft book, a writer’s magazine, or another blog. (Especially another blog: DO NOT READ ANY OTHER WRITER’S BLOG BUT THIS ONE!)
Any other solid-gold suggestions we can provide to aspiring writers? Share them below!