Friday, December 19, 2008
The T Word and Stuff
I want to thank everyone who emailed me their thoughts on writing groups, and here is my collective response: writers' groups are great if they work for you. Maybe they support you in some way that is necessary for you to go on writing. They are just not for me, and I need to spend what little time I have actually writing. So while I appreciate offers to join online critique groups, I like figuring out how to revise on my own. Just the way I work. And I think I'm more ruthless on myself than nice people would be.
Besides, I have to spend my online time looking up obscure facts about polar bears and peacocks so I can look at the clock and think, "OMG, it's 1:45 and the boys will be home in 17 minutes, and I haven't started revising yet!" It makes me really use those 17 minutes constructively. Unfortunately, another way I work: the Internet is my endless encyclopedia of trivia.
And while I'm sort of on the subject of writing and writing groups, I had no idea so many folks out there are aspiring to be writers, and YA writers in particular. It seems to have exploded, and I feel like Rip VanWinkle. Where did all these people come from and what were they doing before?
In reading some of these emails, I found out a lot that I didn't know, so I started snooping around the Internet to see what they were referencing. Now, admittedly, I am not a writer involved in many literary social loops - okay, no literary social loops - but I discovered a huge business has sprung up to cater to the aspiration of being a writer. There are workshops run by editors and former editors who charge mightily to critique your manuscript and make it publishable. (Can/do they guarantee that? What if that manuscript is still lingering in your hard drive three years later? Do you get a refund?)
There are conferences and weekend retreats and retreats combined with spa treatments to relax you so you can write better. So a sea kelp facial and then a little plot tweaking? Oh, sure, I get that. And none of these are cheap.
Then there is a strange fellow termed "collaborative publishing" - which seems like an advanced form of Xeroxing. You pay someone to publish your book. That's putting it a little baldly, but that's what I gathered from reading their spiel. You get to say you're published even if you're out a couple of grand.
Through none of this does anyone mention talent. There is a conspicuous absence of the T-word in most publishing come ons, and there is this weird atmosphere around writing that if you work a manuscript to death, send it out enough, throw some cash at it, you'll eventually hit it right, quit your day job and start lunching with JK Rowling. Or something along those lines. The odds are never mentioned.
We live right near Atlantic City, sort of a subdued LasVegas with tons of casinos and gamblers. One of the things Gamblers Anonymous does is explain the incredibly low odds of making it big at a casino. It's logical, and mathematical, and inarguable. You would think all the examples would keep the gamblers away from the glittery lure of Harrah's. But it doesn't, and the casinos continue to thrive. They keep coming back and spending money despite the almost impossible odds.
The gamblers know there are so many gamblers and so few jackpots. And the casinos know exactly how few gamblers will accept that as fact.