July 10, 2014 / 3 Comments

Reverse Engineering

            A quick tip for this week.
            When I was still a scrabbling writer looking for my first real success, I was sure there was some sort of trick to writing.  That it wasn’t about putting in years of work and getting experience, it was just about finding the right topic or the right genre.   I wrote lots of stories that focused on all the wrong things, because I was convinced it wasn’t how I wrote, it was what I wrote about.
            Needless to say, this wasn’t true.
            It wasn’t just me, though.  Lots of writers think this at some point in their learning curve.  They think success is some wave that all those other people are riding.  They figured out what was going to be hot this year and jumped on that wave.  Young adult stories.  Werewolf stories.  Space opera stories.  Western stories.  All I need to do is aim my story at the next wave and then I’ll be successful, too.
            Again… this isn’t true.
            A while back I saw Joss Whedon’s fun and super-low budget Much Ado About Nothing.  Some of the actors were there and did a little Q & A afterwards.  Someone asked Alexis Deinsof about the wisdom of deciding to do a slightly-updated Shakespeare play as a movie.  He smiled and said “You can’t start at ‘success’ and work backward to ‘What should I write about?’
            When a story finds a home with an editor or a producer or a reader, it’s not because of trickery.  It’s because that writer knew how to tell a story and that story appealed to said reader or editor at that particular time.  That’s all.  So copying a theme or a genre from something successful isn’t going to help me.  Rushing to copy the current “hot thing” isn’t going to help me. 
            The only thing I can do to improve my odds at success is be the best writer possible.
            Next time, because it’s always good to have your website noticed by lots of people in the NSA, let’s talk about nuclear weapons and blowing up cities.  We can watch the hit counter go crazy together.
            Until then, go write.

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