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"Are You Still Writing?" [Jul. 8th, 2014|02:06 pm]
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Writers get a lot of routine questions, some of which we find amusing, some annoying, and some tiresome because we've answered them fifty million times already.    "Where to do you get your ideas?"  (They falleth like the gentle rain from heaven...)   "How much did you have to pay to get your book published?"  (Nothing--the publisher pays me for the right to publish it.)   "Do you make as much as Stephen King?"  (No.)   "J.K. Rowling?"  (No.)   "Have you been #1 on the New York Times bestseller list?"  (No, alas.  But I have crawled onto the lower rungs of the extended list a few times.)   That answer doesn't count with them.  The best question I was ever asked came from a first grader in an elementary school where I was spending the day being a writer in residence.   "Can you go to the bathroom any time you want to?"  (Yes!  Brilliant kid--goes right to the essence of what makes a writer's life great...we can indeed go to the bathroom--or get a drink of water--or stand up and move around--any time we want.   I did add that if I kept going to the bathroom and not writing, the book would never get done.)

But one I find personally annoying, because it comes from people who sorta know I'm a writer, but haven't learned anything about the life of a writer, is the "Are you still writing?" which is often given in the tone of someone who hopes the writer will outgrow that rather disreputable activity.   To such persons, apparently, the only reason someone would write all those books is (hopefully  temporary) insanity.  They would be glad to welcome me back to the land of the sane.   Upon my response, that yes, I'm still writing as I still like to eat and have electricity,  and expect the next book to come out in X months,  they give me a long hard look.  They used to suggest things I could do instead (none of which I'm any good at) but now that I'm almost 70, they've run out of economically feasible suggestions other than "You could teach writing."   No, I say, I could not.  I can teach things that I know well, and that are factual (geometry, for example, or how to turn the heel of a sock, or what keeps airplanes up in the air, or how to make bread) but writing is far more complicated than that.  Which makes their next comment even more galling, "So...you're just churning 'em out, are you?"

The urge to stuff the person into a butter churn and start churning--to teach them what churning is, and writing isn't, comes clearly before my eyes, but I know better.   They have the kind of mind that could churn forever and not find a plot if I threw it in the churn with them.   But that leads into statements that annoy writers, rather than questions, so just remember not to ask writers "Are you still writing?"   Most of us will be well-behaved, and you may not notice the gritted teeth even as we answer.  But someday, someone's going to snap...

Yes, I'm still writing.  I expect to be still writing until  I die (for writerly definitions of "die" which includes losing the ability to write.   I may not be writing the same thing, but I'll be writing.

[User Picture]From: kkatowll
2014-07-08 07:17 pm (UTC)

another question.... :)

I just wanted to share with you a conversation I had with my wife. We're reading the Paksenarrion series aloud to each other. I chose it; she'd never read it before. (We take turns choosing the next book to read.) I used to force people to wait a week between books 2 and 3, to simulate that very long wait (well, relatively) when book 3 was published months after book 2. But she couldn't wait, so I relented after about 12 hours. As I finished the first chapter, in which she goes back to Brewersbridge and everything is terrible, my wife asked if you ever came to DragonCon. I said yes; I've met you several times.
"Good," she said. "I can ask her why she hates me. And Paks."
"She'll be used to that," I said.

And this is BEFORE we get to the big climactic ending bit! Don't worry, we'll have it finished before DragonCon, so she won't be able to beg you to be nicer halfway through. (Are you going to DragonCon this year?)
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2014-07-09 04:47 am (UTC)

Re: another question.... :)

Yes, I will be at DragonCon this year. And I'm very glad you'll have it finished before then, so I won't have to wear armor just in case.
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[User Picture]From: elentarien
2014-07-08 08:14 pm (UTC)

Its actually quite amazing

how much flak writers get from those who either don't, or those who do it for. . .other reasons.

I'm a writer. I've been so as far back as I can remember. I live and breath my characters, and even if I'm not writing at the moment, stories, scenes, characters, explanations as to why someone does whatever it is they do, etc are brewing in my head. I can't help it. It seems to just be that way. Yet I am amazed at how often I'm judged for it!

Either I'm not in tune with reality (in tune, probably not. There are more pleasant, interesting places to be in tune with. . .), or I don't have a life, or I'm just wasting my time while THEY are doing important things.

I think that's what gets me the most. The condescension. As if, somehow, they are so much better for operating in whatever circle of reality it is that they operate in.

Sort of interesting to hear its not that much different, even if you DO actually make your living that way. So clearly its not the matter of making money or not. :P
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2014-07-09 04:49 am (UTC)

Re: Its actually quite amazing

True. Before I was published, if I let people know I wrote as a hobby, there was flak about it, though not as much. On the day my mother died, someone thought it the right time to tell me that everyone in town thought I was a bad mother because I spent time writing books and that's why my kid was autistic.
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[User Picture]From: med_cat
2014-07-08 08:43 pm (UTC)
Your post (and a great post, btw, very well-written :) reminded me of something a professional actor once said in an interview--this is after he'd been an actor for over 20 years--"when I visit my dad's family, they ask, 'Are you still playacting?'"

...The same attitude, you see, that such a profession cannot, by definition, be a serious one...
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2014-07-09 04:49 am (UTC)
Yup. I think it goes with professions that people expect the person to enjoy. So they think since you enjoy it (or part of it) it's not really work.
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[User Picture]From: sorceror
2014-07-08 08:47 pm (UTC)

"Are you still writing?" which is often given in the tone of someone who hopes the writer will outgrow that rather disreputable activity.

Well, you know that Robert Heinlein quote (from the Notebooks of Lazarus Long): "Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of -- but do it in private, and wash your hands afterwards. "
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2014-07-09 04:53 am (UTC)
I remember that.
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From: geekmerc
2014-07-08 09:20 pm (UTC)
lol, I still write, and I'm not even published. Granted, I rarely write fiction, but that is probably because I have never dedicated myself to actually doing it. Writing a good novel is a lot of work. It requires knowledge and research in addition to a wonderful imagination. This is one reason why most writers are limited to a degree on their scope. You write what you know. A lot of your own experience shows up in your writing. My largest issues is that I'm a computer geek, but if I write stories, I don't write in a tech-savvy world. My life experiences don't bolster my stories. There are few people out there that would actually understand my characters.

I think it's a shame that so many people still don't know your books. In many ways, they remind me of Dune. I read Dune and Lord of the Rings around the same time when I was a little kid. While I'm sure Tolkien opened a lot of doors in the world of fantasy writing, it didn't touch me the way Dune did. I wish Frank Herbert had lived to write more. I hope I get 20 or 30 more years of books from you. I know you won't quit writing. May medical science continue to improve. :)

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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2014-07-09 04:53 am (UTC)
Yup, writers write...whether fiction or nonfiction, published or unpublished, we just DO it.
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[User Picture]From: harfafnor
2014-07-09 02:51 am (UTC)
I do have a few questions. I appologize if you've answered any of them that I missed at some point.

They have more to do with genre. I do love all your writings, fantasy and scifi, not sure how you personaly class Paks and say Vatta's War books.

Does one ever encroach on the other? I've known writers that have gotten taken over by other characters at times in the middle of a current book. Can you put the new stuff aside, jot down notes to come back to later and continue on?
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2014-07-09 04:52 am (UTC)
Usually I can keep things separated--very rarely does one story try to invade another. That did happen with Remnant Population, because Ofelia was so determined to be heard *right this instant*. And I was on the last galloping stretch of a novel on a tight deadline and had to make quick notes and put her aside. Then, when I could start the book, the notes had disappeared. I'm sure she erased the file while I was sleep-walking or something.

By my personal definitions, the Paks books are fantasy, and Vatta's War is science fiction.
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[User Picture]From: hairmonger
2014-07-09 01:04 pm (UTC)


Clearly, that was my problem back when I wrote fiction. (No, I'm not still writing! I'm fibre-art-ing.) My writing was long on description and conversation and short on plot. I needed a brain-churn to make the plot "come."

That first grader was so smart. Being able to go to the bathroom whenever you want correlates highly with job satisfaction.

Mary Anne in Kentucky
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[User Picture]From: thewayne
2014-07-09 03:26 pm (UTC)
I know a Big Name Author whose biggest brag is having appeared on the NY Times Bestseller list and having written Star Wars books. But I've read this author's work, and frankly, I don't find him all that impressive. Then I started looking at awards won, and this particular author hasn't won any. Nada. And I also heard how publishers can rig the way that pre-sales are calculated and sort of pop an author on to the list.

Every author whom I really like, like you, has won awards nominated and voted from peers and fans. High sales are good and fine and dandy and help to pay the bills, but are not always indicative of high quality writing. And sadly, high quality writing doesn't always produce high sales.

I can't correctly recall an old phrase about there are good authors who are undeservedly forgotten, but no bad authors who are undeservedly remembered. But then again, we're in the age of the interwebs where things have the potential to persist for a very long time.
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[User Picture]From: redvixen
2014-07-09 06:14 pm (UTC)
The biggest problem with the Bestseller List is that the only category that includes fantasy and science fiction is the mass market paperback list. Fiction is precisely that - fiction first and foremost although horror seems to slip in easily enough, not romance, not sci fi, not fantasy. A book in one of those genres has to have incredible sales to get onto the fiction list.

I look at it this way - if I have trouble finding the authors I like because their books are sold out then they are doing extremely well. I don't need a list which is really a popularity ploy to tell me who I want to read.
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[User Picture]From: redvixen
2014-07-09 06:23 pm (UTC)
*chuckles* I like that first grader. There's a sharp mind seeing the truth.

I find people tend to ask questions they can easily find the answers to if they did a bit of research first. They also don't think your job can be hard because they see you putting out book after book. The fact that they can't do the same means nothing - you find it easy therefore it has to be easy and thus it isn't a "real" job. Anyone who does anything creative gets that same sort of attitude from people who aren't creative.

Personally the question I like to ask is "Is there anything you've wanted to write about that you haven't had a chance to write about yet?"

I've been writing since I figured out what a story was. Life has gotten in the way of my writing but that doesn't stop me from doing it in my head. Unfortunately, I seemed to have picked up a determined internal editor who tries to edit as I write, making it difficult to write in the periods where Life leaves me alone long enough to write.
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[User Picture]From: kkatowll
2014-07-10 07:25 pm (UTC)
I strongly doubt she finds it "easy." Certainly the 30 years of begging for more Paks books while she was raising her son were not easy to endure! :)
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2014-07-22 06:39 pm (UTC)
It's other people who say things like "You really just churn/crank them out, don't you?"
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From: rhiannonmr
2014-07-11 06:24 am (UTC)
That you are still writing is a GOOD THING as far as I am concerned. But I understand that those who do not write and are not self employed(by definition writers ARE self employed) do not get it. I suspect they do not understand the work involved. Not your problem though.
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From: eyverska
2014-07-22 05:51 pm (UTC)


I am so glad you are still writing! Please keep doing so! I am also glad public libraries provide your books. My budget for books is limited to the public library and used book stores.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2014-07-22 06:38 pm (UTC)

Re: writing

I don't plan to quit, for sure. I understand about budgets, and used libraries and used-book stores heavily myself (now I live where I don't have access to a good-sized library and there are no used book stores within 50 miles.)

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