Clowns To The Left of Me…

Jokers to the right…

Some classic music becomes the poetry of your now. Like the Steelers Wheel’s Stuck in the Middle With You lyrics.

steelers wheel

Spend a year feeling stuck in the middle, and you’ll see what I mean.

Publishing exploded last year. And it too often felt like all I could do is watch from the sidelines. People were talking writing and publishing and book deals (or the lack there of), and I didn’t have the energy to chime in.

The hardest part?

When I witnessed people who’d never published a piece of fiction suddenly promoting themselves as teachers and experts in writing craft all over social media. You know the ones I’m talking about.The spammers and yammerers and know-it-alls who are going to get you published, except when you look at their credentials, all they’re really qualified to teach you is how to promote yourself as wildly and creatively as they have.

Then there are the hard working writers. The women and men who’ve either made a career out of creative writing or who are fighting like a mad dog to do so. These are the experts. The in-the-trenches instructors you want. These are the genius minds that you want to the left and right of you.

If your dream is to write, to finally finish the book of your heart, or to publish in this crazy business I call home, you don’t necessarily want to be hanging with the group that shouts the loudest they they’ve got the golden ticket. The secret handshake. THE answers to all your questions, and all you need to do is come back to their site over and over so they can dole out tidbits of divine inspiration that they’ve more often than not lifted from someone else’s workshops or writing exercises. They’ve never attempted, completed or sold a work of fiction, but no matter. They have what you need to do it yourself.

You want to be following and working with writers who are currently fighting to do exactly what you are. You know them. They’re finishing their current piece of fiction, planning the next one, and, please Dog, hoping to find someone who will give them enough money to keep the creative train running just a little longer.

You want working fiction writers to show you how they write, how they make it work, and how they’ve learned over the years to explain their process to others. Not social media posers who post the rules, but never seem to find the time to apply them to their own art.

You want to get to know people like Jennifer Holbrook-Talty, who frequently shares about her process on her blog.

She’s one of the many talented authors who if you follow on facebook or twitter will shine their insight into your process and show you something you wouldn’t have seen on your own. I brainstorm with Jenni and a host of author multi-published professionals. I’m constantly going back to the well of these friendships and professional relationships to get the help I need to see better and write better and create even more fearlessly with each new book.

There are so many other great writing teachers out there. People like Bob Mayer, etc, who I regularly retweet and share links to on facebook and twitter. Bob’s craft updates on his Write It Forward blog are a must read.

Understand, I’m in no way saying that the people I respect in the “instructional” side of our business are THE people to listen to. I encourage you to seek out and find your own warriors to follow. But rather than point out the clowns and jokers, I wanted to keep things positive and blog about the cream of the crop today.

Jenni and I have decided to share a bit of our brainstorming experiences in our blogs each Wednesday (and trust me, the stories will be in turn both frustrating and comical, as all good brainstorming should be). Look for the fun to start next week in a thread we’ll share between our blogs called,  ”How We Write.”

But more importantly, look for the support you need in your own circle of writing friends. And be careful out there in your Internet social relationships. Be picky about who’s advice you follow. Know who you’re stuck in the middle with, and make sure you’re getting quality, original advice–NOT recycled musings replayed by someone who hasn’t even gotten as far as you have in their personal writing journey.

And if you’re interested, come on back and be stuck here and over at Jenni’s blog on “How We Write” Wednesdays, where we’ll talk about process and craft amongst ourselves and invite a lot of our writing friends to join in the chatter. We’d love to hear from everyone in the comments, newbies and veterans alike. Community and sharing amongst warriors–that’s how we all learn.

Let’s make this a year where we move forward. Let’s lift up the challenge of being the best unique writers (and unique people) we can be. Let’s be stuck together, and take the next step together, and make 2011 the year that we all achieve our wildest dreams!

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5 Responses to “Clowns To The Left of Me…”

  1. Comical and Frustrating…reminds of of one conference where the one of us kept asking “But what does she really want” and the other would reply “Blah, blah blah,” to where the other would reply “Okay, but what does she really want” with a happy smile and a “I’m going to get this out of you if it’s the last thing I do” look in her eyes.

    And with that thought….of to get her what she really wants….

  2. Anna says:

    Me? Giving you a look?

    Must have had something in my eye.

    You know, the eye that was twitching, while I waited for you to brain me with your laptop if i asked you what your heroine REALLY wanted again.

    Good times…

  3. Kristen Lamb says:

    I dunno. There is the old saying that, “Those who can do and those who can’t teach.” I have never published in fiction, but have won awards. I regularly blog on craft to help myself grow and get stronger. I dedicate time to help others who are running into the same pitfalls I did years ago, earlier on my journey. It is always a pleasure to be able to point new writers in the direction of the real experts like Bob. In fact, I regularly quote Bob and other industry professionals like James Scoll Bell, Blake Snyder, and Christopher Vogler. I feel I am an expert only in that I have edited literally hundreds of writers over the years.

    I know who you are talking about. The self-pubbed author who claims to be an expert, but wouldn’t know POV if it bit him on the foot.

    But, as an editor for nine years I think I can safely give advice. I also like to follow editor Jane Freidman from Writer’s Digest Magazine. There are a lot of agents who give great craft advice as well. I don’t even mind new writers giving advice so long as they are citing others. Sometimes they can present information in a different way where is sticks.

    I was thinking yesterday that my fiction would be so much farther along if I wasn’t taking so much time to teach and help others, LOL. I think the saying I mentioned at the beginning, in some cases, has to do with time and less with skill. Those who teach often and regularly often do so at the expense of their own writing time. I find there are a lot of fiction authors who have excellent advice, but they frequently don’t blog regularly and it is easy for them to fall off the radar.

    Thanks for the post!

    • Anna says:

      Great thoughts, Kristen. I do enjoy your blog. We can all learn from each other, whatever our place in our personal publising path. I, too, am a freelance editor. I was a senior tech writer with Fortune 500 corporations for ten years (and an analyst, systems designer, and project manager before that), and have ghost written for numerous non-fiction authors. All of which prepared me for the daily grind of a fiction writer. NONE of which could prepare me for the difficulty of finishing, revising, editing and promoting one fiction novel after another, on deadline, for demanding fiction editors who’s job was to make my art better, even if it killed me.

      Jenni and I have been working creatively together for years, working in each other’s projects, as we have with a host of other published authors. Not that I haven’t also worked with unpublished authors and newly published authors and those who are just thinking about publishing. I’ve taught all over the country. All of which I could have done before publishing, because, as you say, everyone has something to talk about that we can learn from. But until you’re creating on deadline, working from a fiction editor’s notes about how you’re going to have to totally revamp your vision for a book and pull a new character/story/plot thread out of thin air, ect., there’s no way you can truly know just how little you know about what you’re doing. There’s talking about it, then there’s the humbling reality of actually having to apply what you’re talking about. I’ve been humbled, countless times, but genious fiction editors. I guess you could say, now I’d like to share the joy ;P

      My intent wasn’t to point fingers at anyone (wasn’t sure if that’s what you were seeing), but to say that Jenni and I will be talking about our process out here on Wednesdays. And we’ll be inviting the authors we’ve worked similarly with to join us from time to time. To share stories and wisdom from the trenches. Not about POV or dialogue or line editing quick tips or how to use power verbs and active sentence structure or a lot of the “this is how you write strong characters” stuff that’s so frequently blogged about.

      As you say, you can get that anywhere now days, from a host of people basically repeating the same thing you used to have to take a creative or technical writing course to learn. Which is a great resource for any writer, I agree. But there’s so much of that, why keep putting the same advice up and telling readers it’s somehow new because you’ve said it? We didn’t want to do that. So this will be different.

      What we’ll be talking about out here is the more intimate journey into the second or third or fifteenth book you’ve written on contract, or the endless edits we’ve received, or how hard it is to hear what’s wrong with your WIP but how critical it is to have someone you can trust to say it to you before you send the work to your publisher. How important it is to get better at your craft, while you’re applying it, and the surprises that happen along the way as you move into the world of making fiction writing your career.

      Process things. Not the nuts and bolts details. Mining for the best creating you can do, and how having to do that over and over again might have given us more insight than someone who hasn’t been there could have.

      As you say, contracted fiction writers don’t always have the time in their writing schedules to post regularly about craft. Jenni and I clearly don’t, given the other demands on our plates. But talking writing community and creative process and how your professional relationships are some of your most valuable assets as a creative writer, and how to work together to make everyone’s process and books better–now THAT’S something we’re excited to make time for.

      Hope you can come back and join us!

  4. Kristen Lamb says:

    I totally agree and am glad you guys are giving insight into the process. It is a different animal and you are correct that it is a different world once you cross a certain professional threshold. I have experienced that from the NF side of things and having stuff due to WDW or to my agent.

    I know my favorite authors who talk on process or craft generally aren’t as regularly accessable, and we know why…they are writing more great books! I can always tell when Jen and Bob are working on fiction. I have to go look for a pulse. I envy their ability to focus and tune out the world.

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